“1 Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; 2 She has slaughtered her meat, she has mixed her wine, she has also furnished her table… 13 A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knows nothing… 16 she says, …‘17 Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’” Proverbs 9:1-2, 13, 16-17
Proverbs 9 contrasts two feasts and their fates or destinies. The first feast is offered by God’s wisdom which is personified as a dignified and responsible woman of character and wealth who has prepared an incredible banquet in “her house” with “seven pillars” (9:1). The “seven pillars” suggests wisdom’s industriousness and her house’s spaciousness and stability. Some suggest that the “seven pillars” refer to the seven days of creation alluded to in the previous chapter (8:22-31)  or to the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2; Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6).  The number “seven” indicates perfection and fullness in the Bible, so its use here could indicate wisdom’s sufficiency.
Lady Wisdom has butchered (“slaughtered”) animals and cooked their “meat” and diluted (“mixed”) “her wine,” having “furnished her table” with the finest utensils and decorations (9:2). Lady Wisdom then “sent out her maidens” to invite people to her banquet and she herself “cries out from the highest places of the city” where the invitation could be heard by many (9:3). Anyone (“whoever”) who is naïve or gullible (“simple”) and “lacks understanding” is invited to “turn in” to her house and “eat… and drink” what she has prepared for them (9:4-5). She beckons her listeners to “forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding” (9:6).
Lady Wisdom’s rival, Folly, is personified as a harlot (prostitute) inviting the naïve or gullible (“simple”) and “him who lacks understanding” to a sensual feast of “stolen water” (illicit sex – cf. 5:15-16) and “bread eaten in secret,” which only offer immediate pleasure (9:13-17) in contrast to wisdom’s long-term satisfaction (9:6-9). Though Folly’s invitation seems appealing and attractive, the end result is death – “hell” (Sheol) refers to the grave (9:18). This suggests that sexual immorality is the height of folly.
All of us desperately need God’s wisdom so we need to RSVP immediately to Lady Wisdom’s invitation and partake of her mind-blowing banquet She has prepared for us. Accepting Lady Wisdom’s invitation will keep us from dying an untimely death that Folly’s invitation would lead to. 
Satan has prepared his banquet to distract or draw us away from God’s. Satan’s party is hosted by Folly who is rowdy (“clamorous”), naïve or gullible (“simple”), and “knows nothing” (9:13). She is easily accessible (“she sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the heights of the city”) and heard (“to call to those who pass by”) (9:14-15). Although Folly’s feast appears “sweet” and “pleasant,” it will kill us if we respond positively to its invitation (9:7-18). Her guests are in the grave and will not come home from this party. 
In this Proverb, Solomon pictures a young man (“who is simple… and… lacks understanding”) being invited to two different parties. This young man is strutting his stuff down the street with testosterone spewing out both ears. He is an easy sexual target. Lady Folly could represent anything that is sexually enticing such as a porn site, hookup/dating site, strip club, massage parlor or even a neighbor’s wife that is irresistible to him. And Lady Folly knows it. This guy is an easy victim. As Solomon watches he knows what is about to happen. 
The young man fails to connect the choice to eat at folly’s appealing banquet table with the deadly consequences (9:17-18). Such is the case with many men today who are addicted to porn and sex. Satan is destroying their lives and relationships with those closest to them. But there is hope.
God has given us this Proverb to alert us to the many life-giving blessings of His wisdom and the death-dealing blight of folly. Accepting Lady Wisdom’s invitation to sit at Her banquet table will overwhelm us with God’s goodness and grace (9:1-11). It is there that we will enjoy “the fruit of the Spirit” which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23) and experience the abundant life the Spirit gives (cf. Rom. 8:5, 6b). Accepting Lady Folly’s invitation instead of Wisdom’s may feel good at first (as porn and illicit sex usually do), but the consequences are deadly (9:13-18).
May each of us guard our hearts from Satan’s deceptions and embrace God’s invitation to sit at His life-giving banquet table where we can enjoy close fellowship with Him and the life and peace He gives. Like a godly woman who has gone to great lengths to provide a delicious meal for those she dearly loves, so God has gone to great lengths to provide a smorgasbord of life-giving blessings for His dearly beloved children (cf. Ephes. 1:3-14).
If you are struggling with shame because of recent failures, please know that to eat at God’s banquet table, you do not have to have a perfect track record. None of us do (Rom. 3:23). That is why God has given His only perfect Son to be our Substitute Who died on a cross in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead so “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; I Cor. 15:1-6). If you have trusted Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life, your seat at God’s banquet table is ready for you to take your place so you can feast upon the life-giving blessings God has prepared for you.
Bob George shares a great story to illustrate how unnatural it would be to attend Lady Folly’s banquet when we can enjoy a grace-filled banquetwith the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ:
Imagine that you owned a fine cafeteria. One day, you hear this tremendous commotion out in the alley where the garbage dumpsters are. You open the back door to see what’s going on, and you see the most pitiful-looking human being you have ever seen in your life – me – fighting with several stray cats over food scraps in the dumpster. I am a virtual living skeleton. It’s obvious that I am living on the edge of starvation, and probably have been for a long time. There is nothing about me to provoke liking or affection in you, but you are moved to pity.
“Hey, hey!” you yell. “Get out of the garbage. Don’t eat that stuff! Come over here.” I trudge over to you, half-seeing you through hopeless eyes.
“Listen,” you say, “I can’t stand to see you eating garbage like that. Come into my cafeteria and eat.”
“But I don’t have any money,” I reply.
“It doesn’t matter,” you say. “My chain of restaurants has done very well, and I can afford it. I want you to eat here every day from now on, absolutely free of charge!”
You take my arm and lead me inside the restaurant. I cannot believe my eyes. I have never seen a cafeteria line before. With huge, unbelieving eyes I stare at the spread: vegetables… salads… fruits… beef… fish… chicken… cakes… pies…In my wildest dreams, I have never imagined that such things could be.
I look at you intently. “Are you saying I can eat anything I want?”
“Really, anything I want?” I ask again.
“Yes, I said anything you want,” you answer.
Then slowly, with a gleam in my eye, I ask, “Can I eat some garbage?”
What would you think of me? You would think I was insane, wouldn’t you? In the faceof all that delicious food, all I can think of to ask is whether I can eat garbage. But that is exactly how I feel when people ask if they can sin because they are under grace!
…The Christian world is obsessed with sin. It’s all we talk about. Most of our preaching and teaching is directed toward getting people to quit sinning. Are you ready for a really shocking statement? The goal of the Christian life is not to stop sinning! To use the analogy of the starving man, most Christian teaching is like a person following a starving man around saying, “You stay out of the garbage! Do you hear me? Don’t eat the garbage! You stay out of there!”
Look, when you’re truly hungry, you’ll eat anything – even garbage. What should you do? I promise you: If you will get that man into the cafeteria line, and he begins experiencing what real, good food is like, he won’t be nostalgically dreaming about the garbage out back.
…Why should I ever wallow in the garbage when the Lord has laid a banquet table for me? 
Lady Folly constantly invites us to feast upon her garbage every day in our sexualized society. Her garbage is disguised to look very appealing and attractive. But in the end, it leads to death. Lady Wisdom’s banquet is filled with life-giving blessings that God has prepared for His children to enjoy daily. Will you join me as I renew my commitment to sit at the Lord’s banquet table daily to feast upon His manifold grace?
The choice seems obvious, doesn’t it? But our enemies – our sinful flesh, Satan, and this fallen world – constantly seek to draw us away from God’s best to a feast that offers temporary pleasure that always leads to miserable consequences. Will we choose garbage or grace? Together, let’s choose God’s grace and sit at Lady Wisdom’s banquet table.
Prayer: All-wise Father in heaven, thank You for preparing a mind-blowing feast for us to enjoy at Your banquet table in contrast to Satan’s counterfeit feast that leads to death. Thank You for making us aware of the life-giving benefits of Your feast and the deadly consequences of Satan’s sensual feast. Unfortunately, we do not always apply Your wisdom to our lives. We have let our hormones influence our decisions instead of You and Your Word. Please forgive us for ignoring Your wisdom and yielding to our fleshly desires. Thank You for Your amazing grace that forgives and cleanses us for our past foolish choices so we may take our place at Your grace-filled banquet table. We need Your grace to enable us to feed our hearts and minds with the Holy Spirit’s teaching from Your Word so we can enjoy the many blessings You have already given to us in Christ. In the matchless name of our Savior and Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Proverbs, 2023 Edition, pg. 65.
 Ibid., pg. 66 cites Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon Vol. 1 Translated by M. G. Eason. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.), pp. 197-198.
 Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1295.
“22 Then they said to him, ‘Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’ 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:22-23
“A remarkable religious phenomenon broke out in the United States in the year 1948. It started in a tent near the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, under the preaching of a young evangelist by the name of Billy Graham. The crowds were a little sparse in that tent at first, but as the preaching went on, they began to grow. Finally, certain rather prominent Hollywood celebrities came to the meetings and were converted. At first, as often happens with gatherings of that sort, the press totally ignored them. But when some of the well-known names of Hollywood became involved, the media began to take an interest in what was happening. Eventually reporters were sent to investigate and to interview this rather strange young preacher, who dressed in pistachio-colored suits, wore flaming red ties, spoke with a pronounced Southern accent, and yet had incredible appeal to the masses. It was evident that God was doing something there. That was the beginning of Billy Graham’s career. As news of those meetings spread across the country, other cities invited him to come and preach. He went on to Boston, where all of New England seemed to turn out to hear him. Thus began the great Crusades that swept across America in the latter part of the ’40’s and ’50’s under Billy Graham’s ministry.
“As it was with Billy the Baptist in 1948, so it was with John the Baptist in the late ’20’s of the first century. He, too, was a young man, in his early ’30’s, six months older than Jesus. He, too, dressed rather strangely, even for that day. He did not wear green suits; he wore animal skins and ate a strange diet of grasshoppers and wild honey. This young man had a very powerful message, which seemed to have great attraction to people. At first, they came out by dozens, then by scores. and finally, hundreds and thousands forsook the cities of Judah and Galilee to hear this remarkable preacher out in desert places. Finally, the response was so tremendous. and this man became so popular, that even the religiousestablishment of Jerusalem had to take note. They sent a delegation toinvestigate this remarkable preacher.”
John records the event for us in his gospel. From this event, we will discover how we too, like John the Baptist, can be used greatly by God. To be greatly used by God we are to…
RECOGNIZE WHO WE ARE NOT (1:19-21). Drawing such a large following, John the Baptist naturally attracted the attention of the religious leaders of Jerusalem, who sent a delegation to question this desert preacher. They could not ignore someone who attracted such a large gathering. John was an enigma. He did not conform, so they wanted to know more about him. Whenever God begins to use someone greatly for Him, it gets the attention of the religious establishment. They are suspicious and want to control what is going on. They are also threatened.
1:19: The apostle John begins this new section with “Now this is the testimony of John” (1:19a). Earlier the apostle wrote that “John” the Baptist was “sent from God… to bear witness of the Light,” Jesus Christ, “that all through him might believe” (1:6-8). Now the apostle gives more detail about the Baptist’s “witness” or “testimony” (1:19-34).The term “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi) is used sixty-eight times in John’s gospel and refers to the Judean Jews. The apostle John was a Galilean Jew, so when he addresses opposition to Jesus, he uses this term.  In 1:19, the use of hoi Ioudaioi probably refers to the Sanhedrin, Israel’s highest religious/political court, who sent this delegation of “priests and Levites from Jerusalem” to investigate this preacher. 
“The priests were descendants of Aaron who took the leadership in matters of theological and practical orthodoxy, including ritual purity. The Levites descended from Levi, one of Aaron’s ancestors, and assisted the priests in their ministry, mainly in the areas of temple music and security.” 
When this delegation asks John, “Who are you?” the Baptist responds by vigorously telling them who he is not. 1:20: In John’s day, everyone was looking for the promised Messiah, so naturally
John’s actions and message created a lot of speculation as to who he was. Might he be the promised Messiah? John denounces any speculation regarding these messianic expectations. “I am not the Christ,” he asserts. Whatever John was, he was certainly not the Christ. There was a Christ, but he was not him.
We all need to be reminded that we are not the Messiah-God. We have limitations. We are only here because God spoke us into existence. Like John the Baptist, we need to know who we are not.
1:21a: The Old Testament prophesied that Elijah would precede the Messiah (Mal. 4:5). Perhaps John is the reincarnated Elijah. After all, his appearance is similar. His message is similar. Elijah did not die. Was this the great Elijah? People who believe in reincarnation say here is an example of it. They hold that here is a man who once lived on the earth appearing again as another man — Elijah reincarnated. But if you look closely at this text, you will see there is no substance to that claim. John says very plainly, “I am not.” His was not a reincarnate appearance. The Bible tells us that people die once and then they face God. “As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27). This is the only chance you have on earth to get right with God. While John did fulfill the preliminary ministry of which the prophets spoke (in the form of Elijah, he was not the actual prophet himself).
1:21b: Deuteronomy 18.15-19 speaks of a great prophet like Moses who would come and restore Israel. “The Jews” thought John the Baptist must be this “great prophet.” They failed to understand that this “great prophet” was the same as the Messiah (cf. John 1:24; 6:14; 7:40-41). To correct this misunderstanding, the apostle Peter would contend that the Prophet was equivalent to the Messiah (cf. Acts 3:22-26).  Again, with an emphatic, “No,” John the Baptist denounces this title. He was not the long-awaited Prophet any more than he was the Messiah or Elijah. As a proper witness, John recognized who he was not. His three-fold denial makes his witness clear.
We see that the Baptist was not comfortable talking about himself. For he was here to bear witness to Another Who was far greater and superior to him (cf. 1:1-5, 15). The increasing shortness of John’s successive answers cannot be missed here:
“I am not the Christ.”
“I am not.”
The Baptist seems to have a dislike for answering questions about himself. His mission was not to bear witness to himself. He was not comfortable talking more about himself than Jesus. His mission was to bear witness to the Light (1:6-8). He recognized who he was not. He was not the Messiah. He was not Elijah. He was not the great Prophet.
If we are going to be greatly used by God, we must recognize who we are not. We are not the Messiah. We are not the great Prophet. We are not Elijah. We cannot think of ourselves as more than what we are. It is not our glory, but His, we are to seek. We need to remember that we are not Jesus. We are not God. Nor can we meet needs that only God can meet. We are only witnesses. God did not call us to be someone else. He called us to be the person He made us to be. To be greatly used by God you must recognize who you are not. John knew who he was not.
Secondly, we must REALIZE WHO WE ARE (1:22-23). This religious delegation was not content with John’s denials. They must have some response to take back to their leaders, so they questioned him further 1:22:“Give us a break! Tell us something we can take back to Jerusalem. If you are not any of these people, then who are you? What do you have to say about yourself? Show us your résumé.” They turn the matter over to John.
Wow! What an opportunity. At this point, John could have said anything. He could have said, “I am the great forerunner or prophet or preacher! Look at how many baptisms I have performed. Look at how many people I have attracted. Wow! I must be awesome. I need to be leading church growth seminars or teaching preaching classes. I needto be invited to preach at evangelism conferences.”
But John did not flash his credentials. He did not flatter himself or promote his own name. He did not attempt to make himself great. John knew who he was. Look at his reply taken from Isaiah 40:3. 1:23: John says, “If you want to know who I am read the prophet Isaiah. It’s written there for you.” This indicates that John himself had learned about who he was and what he was to do by reading and studying God’s Word. Most likely when John asked himself, as he must have as a young boy, “Who am I?” he found the answer in the Word of God: “I am to be a highway builder. I am to prepare a highway in the desert for our God.” Not for people to get to God, but for God to get to people.
When John the Baptist was asked, “Who are you?” (1:22), he turned to the Word of God to reveal his identity (1:23). The only reliable and accurate source of information about us is God’s Word (cf. Heb. 4:12). The Bible tells us that our identity is determined by what God says about us, not what others say about us or even by what we do. Our spiritual birth determines who we are (I Pet. 1:3, 23), not our actions. We are who we are because we were born into God’s family through faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12-13), not because we worked our way into God’s family.
The Bible tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, all things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). When we believe in Christ, we become a new person. We are now part of a royal family—God’s family—the church (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:22-23; 3:14-15; I Pet. 2:9-10). Learning what that means takes time. We have been seeing ourselves through one set of eyes for so long, that it is hard for us to believe we are a child of the King. But God now says to you, “You are MY CHILD through Jesus and that makes you royalty.” God now says, “I not only want to be in a relationship with you, but I also want to change the way you see yourself; because if I can change the way you see yourself, you will live a radically transformed life.”
We are not the same person we were before we became a Christian. Some of you may ask, “If I am not the same person I used to be, why do I still practice the same old ways and habits?” Because the enemy of your soul, Satan, has deceived you into believing you are the same person you were before you came to Christ (Rev. 12:9-10). And we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be.
The Bible tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Our behavior does not determine who we are. How we see ourselves determines how we will behave. God tells us in His Word we become His child the moment we believe in His Son’s name (John 1:12; I John 3:1), and God wants us to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are. Changing our actions starts with clarifying our identity.
From the beginning of time, Satan has fought against us, knowing who we truly are in Christ. He does not want us to see ourselves as God sees us. He knows that if we start to see ourselves through God’s eyes, we will begin to live out God’s purposes for our lives which pose the greatest threat to Satan’s plan to “steal, kill, and destroy” us (John 10:10a; Ephes. 6:11-13; I Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:9-10).
Many of us have been told we are not enough, not doing enough, or not as valuable as others. We have been defined by lies that say, “You can never be free from your past,” or “You will always be stuck in a shame cycle that leads to more bondage and shame.”
God wants us to know that we are far more than what we have been told by Satan and other people. No one has the power to define us but the One Who created us and redeemed us.  God takes a lot of time in the Bible to tell us who we are when we become His children through faith in Jesus (John 1:12; I John 5:1). The phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” is used 120 times in the New Testament and refers to how God sees us after we become children of God by believing in Jesus. Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is what I will refer to as our new identity in Christ. To begin to understand your new identity in Christ, please seeMy New Identity in Christ post on this website.
John the Baptist discovered his identity as a highway builder in Isaiah 40:3. Isaiah goes on to explain how highways are built: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth” (Isa. 40:4). Check with a modern road builder and he will tell you that is exactly how a highway is built: the low spots are filled in, the high spots are leveled, the crooked ones are straightened out, and the rough ones are made smooth.
This beautiful description of John’s ministry to people is still the way repentance works in the human heart today. If you feel low and worthless, depressed, insignificant, your life is meaningless, you are in a valley — then transfer your trust to Christ and He will lift you up: “Every valley shall be exalted.” That is where Jesus will meet you. If you feel proud and self-sufficient, able to handle your own affairs, then come down: “Every mountain and hill brought low.” That is where Christ will meet you, and nowhere else.
If you are handling things in a crooked manner, if you are devious in your business dealings and untrustworthy in your relationships with others, then realize there is only One who can forgive your crooked ways – Jesus. “The crooked places shall be made straight.” That is what John the Baptist preached: “Repent”(Matt. 3:2, Mark 1:4; Luke 3:4). When John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and the people came to him confessing their sins (Matt. 3:5; Mark 1:4- 5), this was to prepare these self-righteous and self-reliant Jews to believe or rely on the coming Messiah for eternal life instead of themselves (John 1:6-7, 19-34; 3:22-36; cf. Acts 19:4). The verb “repent” means a change of mind (see comments on 1:7b). Hence, repentance in an evangelistic context is simply changing your mind about whatever is keeping you from believing in Christ and then believing in Him alone for eternal life (cf. Mark 1:15). Christ will meet you right there.
If you are given to riding roughshod over people, your life is filled with a lot of rough, tough situations, repent, change your mind and trust Christ to save you; decide to smooth out those places, deal with those things, and Jesus will meet you right there.
“And the rough places smooth.”That is a highway for God to come to you. That was John’s ministry all through his life.
John the Baptist knew that he was merely a “voice” (1:23). He is not an important person, like a prophet or the Messiah. He is a voice. Unlike the eternal Word of 1:1, a voice is temporary. A voice is fleeting. A voice is fading. And that is John’s view of himself. I am merely a fading voice that is crying in the wilderness.
John’s message is one of preparation: “Make straight the way of the Lord.” John summons the people to be ready for the coming Messiah. He is the one preparing the way for the coming King (an important role in ancient times involved leveling the land and clearing the road). He saw his role as the voice preparing the way.
When I played football in high school and college, some teams ran the single wing offense. One of the positions in the backfield was the blocking back. He never carried the ball, but just blocked for the ball carrier. He never received any glory, but he did it because he was a team player. That is what John was. John was like the old-time telephone operator – when they connected you to your party, they just got out of the way.
Even so, we are called to be voices. We are the temporary voice chosen to prepare the way in our generation. Each generation has a voice, and we are the voice for this time and this place. Our role is temporary, but it is essential. Without the voice, the people will not hear. And if they do not hear, they won’t be able to believe in Jesus for eternal life (cf. Rom. 10:14-15). .
We are to speak and live the message of Jesus before a watching world. So, if God is going to greatly use us, we must recognize who we are not and who we are. We are not Jesus. We are voices. We are to prepare people to believe in Christ. The final way to be greatly used by God is to…
POINT PEOPLE TO JESUS (1:24-34). John’s examiners are still not satisfied with his responses, so they question him further. 1:24: The apostle John informs us that this delegation was sent “from the Pharisees” to question John the Baptist.
“The ‘Pharisees’ were an important sect of Judaism. Theynumbered about 6,000 and were most influential. They held a strictinterpretation of the Law and embraced many oral traditions. The Pharisees were the only minor group to survive the Jewish war of A.D. 66-70, and their teachings formed the basis for Talmudic Judaism. Their question to the Baptizer was, in essence, ‘Since you have no official title, why are you baptizing?’” 
By mentioning “the Pharisees” here, the apostle seems to be preparing his readers for future interactions between the Pharisees and Jesus  (cf. 7:32, 45-48; 8:3, 13; 9:40; 11:46-47, 57; 12:19, 42; 18:3). 1:25: The Pharisees’ interest lay in John’s authority. “Since you are not the Christ, the Prophet, or Elijah, why are you baptizing? Who gives you the right to baptize?”
“Their question implied that it was inappropriate for John to baptize. The Jews practiced baptism for ritual cleansing, but in all cases the baptismal candidates baptized themselves.”
“There was no precedent for John to baptize other people, and the Jewish leaders did not regard themselves as needing to repent. This was something Gentiles needed to do when they converted to Judaism. Evidently, when Gentiles converted to Judaism the males of the family underwent circumcision, and all the members of the family, of both sexes, were baptized.” 
John’s response clearly reveals the role of the proper witness. What does John do when these men question by what authority he is baptizing all these people? The Baptist points them to Jesus. In essence John says, “This is not about me. It is not about the rite of baptism. It is all about Jesus.” John’s interest is in Christ and Christ alone. In accordance with the gospel’s purpose, John the Baptist’s testimony tells us who Jesus is.
HOW DO WE POINT OTHERS TO CHRIST? First, we must TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ SUPERIOR AUTHORITY (1:26-28). 1:26-27: John informs these interrogators that there is One Who “standsamong” them Whom they “do not know…, Whose sandal strap” he is “not worthy to” unlace. Loosing another’s sandal was the most menial of tasks. Only the lowest slaves would loosen sandals. Even disciples were not asked to loosen the sandals of their teachers. Yet John says, “I am unworthy to do the single most humbling task—loosen His sandals.” Why? Because of Jesus’ superiority.
John’s response implies that his authority to baptize others comes from an authoritative Figure Who was unknown among these Jewish religious leaders. This authoritative Figure possessed authority that is far superior to John’s or that of the religious leaders. This initial response by John the Baptist infers that he himself baptized with water under Christ’s authority. He stressed the superior authority of Jesus, by saying that he himself was unworthy to do even the most menial service for Him. 
Throughout this passage we see John’s humility. As the introducer to Jesus, John possessed a tremendous privilege, yet he did not let it go to his head.
“Those who become ‘successful’ in ministry, specifically those who attract a great following, face a particular danger. If they are not careful, they begin to believe their own press; that is, they allow the well-intentioned encouragement of others to become the basis of their own perspective. And it isn’t long before they believe they are indispensable to the Lord’s work…
“What about you? Are you serving on a committee and feel that it cannot function without you? Are you leading others and feel that the goals will not be met without your direct involvement? Must you have a hand in everything that occurs around you for fear that nothing will be done ‘right’ otherwise? Are you that controlling? How comfortable are you allowing subordinates to have a vision for your organization that is greater than your own? Are you one of those who justifies a non-stop schedule with the old excuse, ‘I’d rather burn out than rust out’?…
“John effectively fulfilled the role for which he was called by God,and he knew he was successful in completing the task given to him, yet he remained humble.
“Humility does not lead us to feel inferior or to doubt our ownworth. Self-loathing is not the path to humility. Thinking too little of ourselves is actually a form of pride. On the contrary, humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us. Humility is understanding our place in the Lord’s plan while giving preference to the welfare of others over self. Mostly, humility is recognizing the Lord as the one and only worthy object of worship.” 
God trusts the humble with great privileges because He knows they will not receive any glory for themselves. They will give God the glory. If you want God to use you greatly, you must get out of His way and humbly follow Him.
No one has greater authority than the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He possesses “all authority… in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The Greek word translated “authority” (exousia) in 28:18 refers to both the right and the power to do something.  This word is not merely power or might (dunamis), but the authority or right to use this power (exousia). 
For example, a 6’ 5” man weighing 300 pounds walks into a bank and steals over $5 million dollars. He has the ability or power (dunamis) to do this, but he does not have the right to do this. However, a 6’ 5” policeman weighing 300 pounds runs after this robber and tackles him to the ground and puts handcuffs on him. This police officer has both the power and the right (exousia) to subdue this bank robber.
In the context of Matthew 28, after Jesus rose from the dead, the Father gave His risen Son “all authority” to fulfill the making of disciples among all the nations. Jesus has both the power and the right to use that power (exousia) “in heaven and on earth” to advance the going, baptizing, and teaching involved in making His disciples among all the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). If we do not like to be told what to do, we are going to be resistant to Christ’s authority. Jesus not only has the power to command us to make disciples, He also has every right to do so.
The church must learn to appeal to Jesus’ absolute authority “in heaven and on earth” to open hearts and homes if we are going to fulfill the mission He has entrusted to us (Matt. 28:18-20). Satan is the ruler of this world, and he will use this world system to desensitize unsaved people to their need for the Savior (John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; 11:3-4; Ephes. 2:2). But the powers of darkness are no match for the absolute authority of the risen Lord Jesus. Christ has the authority to remove kings and raise them up (Dan. 2:21). He can open doors and slam them shut (Acts 16:6-7; 28:31; Col. 4:3). For Jesus to say that “all authority” has been given to Him “in heaven and on earth” is an astonishing claim – it is a claim only God could make.
Christ’s vision for the church involving His authority was stated earlier in the book of Matthew: “18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18-19). When Jesus asked His disciples who they say He is, Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15-16). Peter refers to Jesus as the promised Messiah (“the Christ”) – God (“Son of God”) Who would eventually save Israel and the entire world (John 1:29; Rom. 11:26) and bring them all under His reign (cf. Ps. 2; Rev. 19:11-20:6). Jesus concludes that His Father revealed this insight to Peter (16:17).
Then Jesus said, “And I also say to you [singular] that you [singular] are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (16:18). When Jesus said, “on this rock I will build My church,” He was not saying He would build His church on Peter and his successors, since the word Christ used to describe Peter is a different Greek word (Petros which is masculine) than He used to describe the church’s foundation (Petra which is feminine). Jesus called Peter by the word, Petros, which means a “single rock or stone;”  but to describe the foundation of the church, He used the word, Petra which means a “bedrock or massive rock formations,” “a collection of rocks knitted together to form a larger slab.” A petros would simply be a small portion of a petra.If Jesus meant Peter, He could have easily said, “…you are Petros, and on this petros I will build My church…” Instead, He said, “…you are Petros, and on this Petra I will build My Church. So, Peter was not the “rock” on which the church was to be built.
The Rock on which Jesus would build His church was the revelation God the Father gave Peter, namely that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16-17). Peter and the other apostles are little stones in the Church’s foundation, but Jesus is the Rock, the Chief Cornerstone, on and around which everything else is built as Peter’s and Paul’s later writings teach (I Pet. 2:4-8; cf. I Cor. 3:10-15; Ephes. 2:20). Hence, Jesus’ Church will be built on the solid foundation (Matt. 7:24) of Himself (Matt. 16:16, 18).
“Jesus’s church, then, would be comprised of His unified followers who confess Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, as Peter did.” 
The word “Church” comes from the Greek word ekklēsia which means “an assembly or gathering of people.”  To have a church, God’s people must gather. Technically, the word comes from two Greek words. First, ek, which is “out” and kalleō, which means “to call.” God’s people are called out from the world and called together around Jesus Christ.
Christ promises that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against” His church (16:18b). Gates are defensive weapons used in battle, not offensive weapons. No army carries its city gates into battle. So, the church is on the offensive and “Hades” or hell is on the defensive. Christ guarantees that hell shall not “prevail” or be victorious against the expansion of the church that Jesus is building. Hell cannot successfully resist the building of Jesus’ church. Christ envisioned an unstoppable church that would flatten the gates of hell and rescue people from an eternity separated from God through the preaching of the gospel. Jesus is not trying to stop the forces of Satan and hell; hell is trying to stop Him!
“The church is like an embassy. The U.S. has embassies throughout the world, and the people working at an embassy are to live out the values and laws of the U.S. as they represent their homeland in a foreign country. Each embassy, then, is a little bit of America a long way from home. Similarly, the church of the Lord Jesus is to adopt the agenda of its heavenly King and enact it on earth. Christ’s church is a little bit of heaven a long way from home, designed to withstand the authority of hell (its gates) (16:18). Hell’s attempt to stop the church’s progress in history is thwarted as the church executes heaven’s authority on earth.” 
Christ then said to Peter, “And I will give you [singular] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you [singular] bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you [singular] loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (16:19). “Keys” permit access or entrance into something. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ac. 2:14-47), which gave access to Christ’s kingdom authority to everyone who believed in Jesus. Later Peter used these “keys” to open the door to Christ’s kingdom when he preached the gospel to Cornelius and his household (Ac. 10:34-48). The truth is, not only Peter, but all the apostles and all believers have these “keys” to open Christ’s kingdom to the lost by preaching the gospel to them (cf. Mark 16:15). Binding and loosing refers to decisions that the early church leaders would make that would permit (“loose”) or prohibit (“bind”) certain teachings and practices in the building of Christ’s Church (16:19b; cf. Acts 19:39-41).
“God doesn’t leave his church powerless. The problem is that wefrequently don’t understand who we are and don’t access the resources available. Even though an American embassy is a small outpost surrounded by a foreign nation, it can be confident that America stands behind it because it’s connected to something that exerts a powerful influence. And though the church often seems small and weak, it’s connected to the ultimate power in the universe.
“What are these ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven’? They’re divinely authorized resources that grant us authority and access (see Isa. 22:22). Christians, through the church, have access to heaven’s kingdom rule. Your world isn’t supposed to be ruling you; you are supposed to be ruling your world. You’re supposed to be regularly utilizing heaven to help you live on earth—not merely visiting church on Sunday mornings. Believers are to study the Bible and gather with the church for a reason: to learn how to access the divine viewpoint and live out God’s kingdom rule in the world. You will never rule your world of relationships, emotions, employment, or finances if you continue to employ the keys the world offers you, or if you’re not connected to a local church that possesses and operates with the keys of the kingdom.
“Note that the word ‘keys’ is plural in this passage; that’s because the word gates is plural (16:18). For every hellish gate (the exercise of Satanic authority), there is a corresponding kingdom key designed to give the church access to heaven’s kingdom authority.
“To ‘bind’ and ‘loose’ is to restrain and to set free. The church is to use heaven’s keys (heaven’s viewpoint and spiritual resources on a matter), operate according to that perspective, and then call on heaven’s authority to bind and loose. It’s critical to understand that heaven is waiting on the church to act in the matter of permitting and releasing before heaven’s authority gets activated in history. Binding and loosing don’t imply you can make God do whatever you want. First, it must be in accordance with God’s will. You can only bind and loose what ‘will have been’ already bound and loosed in heaven. Second, know that answers to prayer are not for your sole benefit. They’re to benefit others. God calls his people to be a blessing.” 
The test of the church’s authority and power is whether hell backs up when the church shows up. If hell is winning, then we are not allowing Jesus to build His church. Instead, we are building our church using Christ’s name. Too many Christians are saying, “Well, I’m just trying to keep Satan from defeating me.” That’s “Backward, Christian Soldiers!” The church is to be on the offensive in the world.
So, we go to those gates in the power of the Holy Spirit. We challenge them. We storm them. And we tell the prisoners of death the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-8). Understand this… the gospel message is true! It is powerful (Rom. 1:16) and it cannot be overpowered! No matter how bad the news is in this world, the good news of Christ is the most powerful!
For generations we have taken the rest of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 to say that God’s little church will be beaten and battered. Satan will kick it around and have his way with it at times, but in the end if we hold on long enough, God will come back and rescue His bruised and abused little church. Folks, Jesus did not die to buy a powerless church! Instead, He has brought together a people for God, a people who are designed to be strong, mighty, and victorious in Christ. Christ’s Church can meet Satan head on in battle and win so long as Jesus and His power is in their midst.
In summary, Christ wants to build His Church through the disciple-making process which He described in Matthew 28:18-20. On the basis of the Rock’s (Jesus’) all-encompassing “authority… in heaven and on earth” (28:18), we are to “go” into all the world and preach the gospel to the lost (28:19a; cf. Mark 16:15). Then we are to “baptize” with water those who believe the gospel, so they can express their commitment to follow Jesus as His disciple no matter what the cost (28:19b; cf. Luke 14:25-33). Then we are to “teach” them to “observe” or obey (not just hear) all of Christ’s commands (28:20; cf. James 1:22). This is Christ’s one and only plan to build His Church and reach all the world with His gospel message. Will we join Him?
Look at the following chart that contrasts a church on the offensive with a church on the defensive:
A Church on the Offensive…
A Church on the Defensive
Invades Satan’s territory
Protects its own territory.
Plays it safe.
Takes the gospel to the world.
Expects the world to come to them.
Asks, “What can be?”
Asks, “What can go wrong?”
Asks, “What can we do next?”
Asks, “What have we done in the past?”
Views failure as a steppingstone.
Views failure as a tombstone.
Views opposition as an opportunity
Views opposition as an obstacle.
Is not thinking about conversions.
Sacrifices to reach the lost.
Is satisfied without the lost.
Measures success by its sending capacity.
Measures success by its seating capacity.
Walks by faith.
Only talks about faith.
The apostle John now tells us where the exchange between John the Baptist and the religious delegation took place in John 1. 1:28: The majority of original manuscripts read “Bethany”instead of the New King James’ “Bethabara.” The word “Bethany” may come from bet aniyyah, meaning “house of the boat/ship.” This reference to “Bethany beyond the Jordan” would be a very suitable name for a small ford community on the east bank of the Jordan River where John the Baptist started his ministry. It was known as a refreshing place for weary travelers.  This was not the “Bethany” near Jerusalem, but the Bethany of Perea which was east of the Jordan River (see map).
TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ SACRIFICE (1:29). John’s public testimony continues the following day (“the next day”). As the Baptizer ministers, he sees Jesus coming toward him and makes one of the great statements of the New Testament. 1:29: The word translated “Behold” is a favorite expression of the apostle John’s. It means “to point out something to which the speaker wishes to draw attention. Look! See! Pay attention!”  Of its twenty-nine New Testament occurrences,  John uses it fourteen times in his gospel (cf. John 1:29, 36; 3:26; 5:14; 7:26, 52; 11:3, 36; 16:29; 18:21; 19:4, 14, 26-27). 
What is John the Baptist saying here? If you read through the Old Testament, you will find it is filled with many blood sacrifices which were all foreshadows of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. God graciously provided the proper covering for Adam and Eve when He “made tunics of skin” through the death of an innocent animal (Gen. 3:21). By providing a covering with animal skins, God provided forgiveness through the “shedding of blood” (Heb. 9:22). Abel, the son of Adam, offered a lamb to God and God smiled upon that sacrifice (Gen. 4:2-4). Later Abraham made offerings to God (Gen. 22:13; et al.). Then the children of Israel were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, so the angel of death would pass over their family without killing the firstborn (Exod 12:3-28). Israelites were also taught at the foot of Mount Sinai to bring certain animals to slay and to offer the blood and meat of those animals to God (Exod. 24:1-8; cf. 29:1-46; 30:10; Lev. 1:1-17; 3:1-7:21; et al.).
Many are offended by the fact that the Old Testament is replete with animal sacrifices, of actual blood being spilled. Every morning and every evening there were animals slain in the temple in Jerusalem. On the great feast days of Israel thousands of animals were sacrificed. A stream of blood runs all through the Old Testament.
Every Old Testament blood sacrifice was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Like that first animal that was sacrificed for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21), Jesus would also be innocent and without sin because He was and is God (John 1:1, 14, 17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18). And like that first sacrificial animal, Jesus was born to die in the place of others, the just for the unjust, the Sinless for the sinful (John 1:29; Matt. 1:21; Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 318; I John 4:9), so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Since God is always “righteous” and “just,” His judgments are always an expression of His righteous and just standards (Rev. 16:5-6; cf. Rom. 6:23). And because God is eternal, He never lowers those standards. We must either meet God’s righteous and just standards ourselves or have a Substitute who meets those standards. Since none of us can live up to God’s standards (Rom. 3:9-23), God provided a Substitute for us in the Person of Jesus Christ Who lived up to God’s standards because He Himself is God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ for His gift of salvation, God imputes His righteous life to that believing person’s account; thus, that person is counted as having met God’s standard (Rom. 4:5). Those who refuse to believe in Christ as their Substitute on the cross, will get what they deserve for their decisions and actions. 
Every Old Testament sacrifice was a testimony that Someone was coming Who would supply the explanation for all the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament. Now, at last, there is an answer to the cry of Isaac, as Abraham his father was taking him upon the mountain to offer him, “Where is the lamb?” and Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb”(Gen. 22:7-8). Centuries later, as John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him, knowing Who He was, having baptized Him six weeks earlier, he says to the crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Here is the One Who will satisfy God’s demand to punish our sins.
“The question in the Old Testament is, ‘Where is the lamb?’ (Gen. 22:7). In the four Gospels, the emphasis is ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ Here He is! After you have trusted Him, you sing with the heavenly choir, ‘Worthy is the Lamb!’ (Rev. 5:12).” 
John states that the sacrifice of this Lamb “takes away” the sin of the world, not just the Jews.  The verb used here symbolizes more than just “covering” (to cover something means it is still there). When John says the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world, it means that He removes it.
The writer of Hebrews informs us that the Old Testament blood sacrifices could not perfect the worshiper because they could not “take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4; cf. 9:11-15), but only cover them. Only the sufficient sacrifice of the perfect God-Man could remove sins once and for all (Heb. 7:26-28; 9:11-15, 24-28; 10:10-18). The perfect Lamb of God was the only One qualified to address the sin of the whole world (I John 2:2).
Before Jesus died on the cross, believers in Jesus went to a place called “Paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22; 23:43) and unbelievers went to a place called “Torments” in Hades (Luke 16:23), both of which were in the underworld. When Jesus died on the cross, He released the souls and spirits of believers in Abraham’s bosom (Ephes. 4:8-10) to go to God’s home in the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4; cf. John 14:2-3; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 4:1-5:14).
Just before Jesus died on the cross, He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Then “He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46). John writes, “bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus’ spirit went to His Father in heaven when He died, and so does a believer’s spirit after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For example, while he was being stoned in Acts 7, Stephen prayed, “‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Now Saul was consenting to his death.” (Acts 7:59-8:1). When Stephen died, he understood that his spirit would go to be with the Lord Jesus who was standing at the right hand of God the Father in heaven (Acts 7:55), not in Abraham’s bosom. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Bible says, Jesus was “taken up … toward heaven” (Acts 1:9-10), not down toward Abraham’s bosom in the underworld.
Prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, Old Testament believers could not go to the third heaven because Jesus’ blood had not removed all their sins yet. The Old Testament sacrifices had only covered their sins, not removed their sins (cf. Heb. 10:1-4; cf. 9:11-15). Only the blood of the Lamb of God could take away their sins forever (John 1:29; Ephes. 1:7; 2:13-18; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 9:11-15; 10:10-22). After Christ’s death and resurrection, when a believer in Jesus dies, his spirit and soul go to the third heaven to be with Jesus (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23) while his physical body sleeps in the grave (cf. John 11:11-13; I Thess. 4:14, 16). But after Jesus’ death and resurrection, all believers who died prior to Christ’s crucifixion were released from Abraham’s Bosom and taken up to the third heaven where Christ currently lives (2 Cor. 12:1-4; cf. John 14:1-3; Acts 7:55-59; Ephes. 4:8-10).
When I shared this message in a church in South Des Moines, Iowa, we had an individual wearing a T-shirt with the word “SIN” taped on it. They tried praying and reading their Bible, but the “SIN” label was still there. The person tried to wear a jacket to cover the sin. Others may not see his sin, but God still sees it. Another person came representing Jesus. The “SIN” label was then placed on him. Only Jesus’ blood can remove the stain of sin in our lives. No amount of good living on our part can remove the stain. Only Jesus can do that. Have you believed in Him; trusted Him to forgive all your sins? If you have, you are now God’s child.
Furthermore, this sacrifice is sufficient for “the sin,” not sins “of the world,” by which the apostle meant the totality of the world’s sin (all human rebellion against God), rather than a number of individual sins.  It is comprehensive in its nature. In other words, when Jesus died, His sacrifice was completely adequate for the needs of “all” people (I Tim. 2:4-6; I John 2:2). It was sufficient for all.
“Jesus at the cross actually took away the judicial barrier which made it impossible otherwise for sinners to have eternal life. The basis of eternal condemnation is thus not one’s sins, but one’s rejection of the life of God (cf. Rev 20:15; see also John 3:18; 5:24). This does not mean that all sins are forgiven (cf. Acts 10:43; 1 John 1:9). It means that sin is no longer a barrier, and all are now savable.” 
Christ’s death makes all people savable. But only those who believe in Him for His gift of eternal life can truly be saved (Acts 16:31; John 3:15-18) or benefit from His death. No further sacrifice is required. Christ’s sacrifice was all that is needed. Thus, we are to tell others of Christ’s sacrifice, a sacrifice that is both substitutionary and sufficient.
“He is a very great Savior for He is the Lamb of God. He is the complete Savior because He takes away sin. He is the Almighty Savior because He takes away the sin of the world. He is the perpetual Savior because He ‘taketh’ away— present tense. Anyone can come to Him at any time.”
TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ PRE-EXISTENCE (1:30). 1:30: John returns to a statement made earlier in the first part of the book regarding the pre-existence of the Son of God (1:15). Jesus is greater than John because He has always existed. He is the eternal Word. And because Christ is eternal, without beginning or end (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13), He alone can freely offer life that never ends to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).
TELL OTHERS OF JESUS’ DEITY (31-34).1:31-33: While the apostle John does not record Jesus’ baptism in his gospel, he does refer to John the Baptist’s testimony which states that Jesus was reavealed to him as the chosen Messiah-God when the Baptist baptized Christ in the Jordan River. Why would John the Baptist say he “did not know” Jesus (1:31)?
“Though John and Jesus were related, as Mary and Elizabeth wererelatives (Luke 1:36), nothing is known of any contacts between them in their years of childhood and adolescence. John did not know that Jesus was the coming One until He was revealed by the Father. All John knew was that he was to prepare the way for Him by baptizing with water. God would send His Man to Israel in His good time.” 
Do you remember what happened at Jesus’ baptism? The Father testified from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus to confirm Him as the Messiah (Matt. 3:16-17). God approved the ministry of Jesus. When John “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove” at Jesus’ baptism, he notes twice that the Spirit “remained upon” Jesus (1:32-33). God’s Spirit would continually empower Jesus for His ministry as the prophet Isaiah foretold (Isa. 11:2; 42:1). Thus, while John would “baptize with water,” Jesus would baptize “with the Holy Spirit” (1:33). He is the Giver of the Spirit. Jesus came that people might be brought into contact with God the Holy Spirit.
Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, people have longed to be free from the struggle with evil. Some of us today wish we could eliminate our struggle with sin, selfishness, and self-centeredness. There have been times when I wished I could have had a surgical operation to remove my tendency to be stubborn, critical, and selfish. When I saw the hurt I caused, I wished somehow to be able to stop doing those kinds of things.
The Bible tells us that it takes God Himself to do that. The work of the Spirit is to do that very thing. What John is saying is, “I deal with the external (water)… that is as far as I can go. But, when I baptized Jesus, I saw the Spirit coming down like a dove and lighting on His shoulder. The One Who sent me to baptize had said to me, ‘When you see that happening, that is the One Who will not only change men on the outside, but will also change them on the inside, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.’ When that happened, I knew Who He was. My own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, was the One Who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.”
When we believe in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit places us in the body of Christ, the Church (Acts 1:5; 10:43-48; 11:16; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27). That is Spirit Baptism. He comes to live inside us forever and wash us clean (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Tit. 3:4-7). He gives us the power to overcome sin in our lives as we depend upon Him (Rom. 8:10-11; Gal. 5:16-23). Water baptism, however, does not cleanse us spiritually.
When we baptize believers, we do it by immersion because Jesus was baptized that way. In fact, every water baptism in the New Testament was by immersion. The Greek verb John uses for water baptism  in these verses means “to plunge, dip” or “submerge” completely under water. The Greek word for sprinkling  is never used of water baptism.
This is significant. Water baptism by immersion best pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:3-6). When a believer stands in the water, it pictures Jesus hanging on the cross (Rom. 6:3). When he is submerged under the water, it pictures Christ’s burial (Rom. 6:4a). And when the believer is brought up out of the water, it pictures Jesus’ resurrection (Rom. 6:4b).
Why was Jesus baptized in the Jordan River? Did He need to be saved? No. He was perfect. When John the Baptist tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized by him, Jesus said to John, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15). Christ’s water baptism fulfilled “righteousness” in several ways: 
1. By His baptism, Jesus was identifying with the righteous remnant of Israel. This is a reference to experiential righteousness.
2. Jesus was identifying Himself with the sinfulness of His people even though He was not sinful (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18). In this case the righteousness spoken of is positional and anticipates the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, He took away the sin barrier (John 1:29) and made it possible for all who believe in Him to have eternal life and positional righteousness (2 Cor 5:21; Rom. 4:5).
3. By His baptism, Jesus confirmed the righteous ministry of John the Baptist.
4. The event provided a true public testimony to the sinless character of Christ with the divine witnesses of God the Holy Spirit and God the Father present (cf. Matt. 3:16-17).
The Lord Jesus was baptized because it pleased His Father in heaven and provided an example for us to follow. Christ’s water baptism launched Jesus into His public ministry (cf. Matt. 3:13-17ff; Mark 1:9-15; Luke 3:21-23). Likewise, when a believer is baptized with water, it is meant to launch him or her into their public minstry. So, every time a believer is baptized by water, it puts a smile on God’s face.
1:34: John’s public testimony climaxes in his identification of Jesus as “the Son of God.” Jesus is God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14). He is fully human and fully God. He is the One Who was “with God” and who “was God” (John 1:1-2).
“Nowhere in the Fourth Gospel is the term son (huios) used to refer to believers (though see Gal. 4:6-7; 1 Thess. 5:5; see also Rev. 21:7, used of overcomers). Rather they are called children (tekna) of God (1:12). Jesus alone is called the Son of God in John’s Gospel.
“The Jewish people expected the Messiah to be the final and ultimate Son of God. All the kings of Israel were called sons (representatives) of God at their inauguration (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14). Of course, the ultimate fulfillment of those sons was the one and only Son (Ps. 2:7).” 
What a testimony! What a witness! What a voice! John points people to Jesus. He recognizes that it is not about him. He understands both who he is not (the Christ) and who he is (a voice). He understands his role: point people to Jesus.
Understand who Jesus is, so that you might believe on Him, and believing you might have life in His name (John 20:31). Recognize who you are not. This takes humility. Also recognize who you are. This takes confidence. You are a voice, a highway builder. Tell others of Jesus. Do not be ashamed. You and I are to be like bird dogs. Just as they point to a group of birds, we are to point people to Jesus, Who is the Lamb of God.
A father and his small son strolled down the street in Chicago past the place where a skyscraper was being constructed. Glancing up, they saw men at work on a high story of the building. “Father,” said the little boy, “What are those little boys doing up there?” “Those are not little boys, son. They’re grown men.” “But why do they look so small?” “Because they’re so high,” his father answered. After a pause the boy asked, “Then, Father, when they get to heaven there won’t be anything left of them, will there?” It is so true, the closer we get to Christ, the less others see of us and the more they see of Him. Point them to Jesus.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for revealing through John the Baptist who we are not. Help us to humbly accept that we are not more or less than what You say about us. Thank You for revealing who we are in Christ. May Your Holy Spirit give us confidence to be Your voice to this generation of lost people who need to hear of the greatness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. Lord Jesus, You have absolute authority in heaven and on earth to empower Your church to storm the gates of hell and rescue people who are bound for hell without Christ. Lead us in the power of the Holy Spirit to point others to Jesus with our lives and our lips so they may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing they may have life in His name. In the mighty name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 53 cites Christopher W. Skinner, “Another Look at ‘the Lamb of God’,” Bibliotheca Sacra 161:641 (January-March 2004):89-104, for a review of nine views of the referent behind the “Lamb.”
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 53 cites Morris, The Gospel According to John, pg. 130.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 181.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 54 cites J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. Vol. 4 (Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983), pg. 375
 Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 550.
 Hal Haller, Jr., Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. “Matthew,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 17-18.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pp. 181-182.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
From the opening section of the gospel, John addresses this question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” John focuses upon the central fact of our Christian faith: Christianity is not about philosophy; it is about a Person.
While other world religions focus upon rules and regulations, Christianity focuses on a personal relationship with Christ. That is why Jesus Christ is the most widely acclaimed individual in human history. More books have been written, music composed, pictures painted, and dramas performed about Jesus than any other person. Why?
Why did other great figures come and go? Why do others fade into the annals of history but Jesus Christ looms as large in modern society as He did two thousand years ago? Why is He the most powerful Personality to ever appear on this planet? That is the question John answers in these first few verses: Who is Jesus Christ?
We are going to examine the first five verses of John’s gospel in this chapter, and in so doing, we will answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” in these verses and as we uncover who Jesus is, we will be challenged as to why we should believe in Him. Let’s examine three reasons why we should believe in Jesus for eternal life; why we should trust in Him alone to get us to heaven.
BELIEVE ON JESUS BECAUSE HE IS GOD (1:1-2). John begins his gospel in an unusual way. Unlike the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who begin their accounts of Jesus in an historical context, John opens his gospel in eternity. Unlike Matthew who begins his gospel with the genealogy of Abraham and Mark who begins with the story of John the Baptist, or Luke who starts with a description of John and Jesus’ birth. John moves beyond human history. 1:1a: Do the words, “In the beginning” sound familiar to you? They take us back to Genesis 1:1:“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John starts with God. In the Bible, you cannot go any further back than God, and that is where John begins, in eternity past with God’s eternal purpose.
And what does he tell us? 1:1ab:“In the beginning was the Word.” The term “Word” is used by John to refer to the Person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 17). A Word expresses a message. Jesus was God’s message to the world. He was and is the perfect expression of God.
What does the Bible tell us about the Word? 1:1ab: HE IS ETERNAL. In the beginning of time and space, the Word already “was.”The Word really had no beginning. There has never been a time when “the Word” was not, because He is eternal. The Word has existed from all eternity. At creation, the Word was already present. He is not a created being as some false religions teach. He has no beginning because He is eternal.
1:1c, 2: HE IS RELATIONAL. The phrase “and the Word was with God” refers to the Word being “with” God the Father in a “face-to-face” relationship. 1:2:“He was in the beginning with God.” Jesus Christ has always enjoyed a personal relationship with His Father. They had perfect fellowship with one another. The word “with”  also distinguishes the Word from God the Father. Jesus is separate and distinct from His Father. He has a separate identity. Jesus is a Person, not a principle or Star War’s force. Because Christ is eternal and relational, we can conclude that He desires eternal relationships with those He created.
1:1d:“and the Word was God.” The Word was not “agod” as some false religions mistranslate. The Greek grammar does not allow this.  The Word is GOD. These last five words are some of the most important words in all the Bible concerning who Jesus is. He was and is God. Whatever God the Father was, the Word was. Everything that makes God-God, the Word possesses. Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. When you look at Jesus Christ, you are looking at God in human flesh. Only God can give us life that never ends.
“In other words, the Father and Son are not two distinct gods. Rather, the Son shares the divine nature. Theologically speaking, the Father, Son, and Spirit are co-equal members of the Trinity. Our one God (see Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:6) exists in three co-equal Persons (see Matt. 28:19).”
Christianity has always taught and believed there is only one God. The difference between our monotheism and other monotheists is not on the number of gods, but on the concept of God’s Personhood. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the one God exists as three Persons. This is not a self-contradiction as some charge because person is not the same as being. Your being is the quality that makes you what you are, but your person is the quality that makes you who you are. For example, we are humans. That is what we are. That is why we are called human beings. But what we are is not the same as who we are. If someone asks, “Who are you?” I would not respond by saying, “A human.” That answers the question of what I am, not who I am. Who I am is Jeff; that is my person. What I am is a human; that is my being. Being and person are separate. 
Unlike a human being, which has only one person, God has three Persons. He is one being, Yahweh, in three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. He is more than able to exist like that because He is God. If we say God must have only one Person, like humans, then we are making God in our image. Who are we to limit God? It is up to God to tell us who He is, and He has in the Bible. 
Our human reason alone cannot dictate or even decipher the nature of God. God is far greater than we can possibly conceive and more complex than we could ever hope to grasp. We are in no position to determine the intricacies of God’s nature. If He were to inform us He is one Being in one Person, we are obligated to believe Him. If He tells us, “I am one Being in three Persons,” who are we to say no to God? As believers in revelation, we must turn to divine Scripture to learn about God.
Both the Old Testament (Gen. 1:2, 26; Deut. 32:6; Psalm 2:6-7, 12; 45:6-7; 139:7-12; Isaiah 9:6; 11:2-3; 63:10, 16; Zech. 4:6; Mal. 2:10) and the New Testament (Matt. 3:16-17; John 14:16-17, 26; 2 Cor. 13:14) teach about the distinction between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each Person of the Trinity is equal in every way having the same divine nature, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity.
We see in the chart above that the Father is God, but He is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the Son is God, but He is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is God, but He is not the Father nor the Son. All three Persons of the Trinity have the same divine nature. They are one being, yet they exist eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Constable writes, “There is probably no fully adequate illustration of the Trinity in the natural world. An egg consists of three parts: shell, yolk, and white. Each part is fully egg, yet each has its own identity that distinguishes it from the other parts. The human family is another illustration. Father, mother, and child are all separate entities—yet each one is fully a member of his or her own family. Each may have a different first name, but all bear the same family name. Light, when passed through a prism, is seen to be composed of three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. Similarly, the person of God, when revealed in Scripture, is seen to consist of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hydrogen dioxide can be water, ice, and steam and still be H2O.” 
Another example of the Trinity is seen in every human being. First Thessalonians 5:23 tells us that every human is comprised of three parts: “spirit, soul, and body.” While each part is fully human, each part is separate and distinct from the others.
The Word is “with” God (separate from Him), yet at the same time, He is fully God. So, John informs us that the Word is God. If we cannot or do not believe this basic truth, we will not have enough faith to trust our eternal destiny to Him. Who is Jesus? He is God. Believe in Him. He wants you to spend eternity with Him in His heaven (cf. John 14:1-3).
BELIEVE ON JESUS BECAUSE HE IS THE CREATOR (1:3). Not only was the Word present at creation, He was also the agent of creation. 1:3: “All things were made through Him.” Does John say that all things were made through evolution? (Pause). No! All things were made through Christ (cf. Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2)! Everything that exists owes its existence to the Word. He is the Creator. Apart from Him, there is no existence. Jesus Christ created this universe. I believe in the Big Bang alright. God spoke (BOOM) and the universe came into being (Gen. 1-2).
Through Jesus all things “were made,”  but He always “was.” Any being “not made or created” or not brought into being because He already existed is God. Three times John uses the word “made” (1:3). Anything that is made has a beginning. At some point in time it did not exist, and then it began to exist. John wants to establish that the Word already existed when He made all things. The Word never had a beginning because He is God. 
This is very important to understand because in John’s day to the present, there have been many false religions and teachers who insist that Jesus Christ is not God because He had a beginning. They teach that Christ was the first created being by God who then created everything else. For example, Arius, a third century false teacher, was fond of saying, “There was a time when He [Jesus] was not.”
Swindoll notes that “this teaching continues today as official doctrine for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and both organizations have translated John’s prologue to suit their theologies.” 
John refutes these false teachings at the beginning of his gospel. But the apostle also wants to emphasize that the Creator knows our inner workings better than anyone; He knows our needs and what it will take to reach us.
A doctor had hired a new secretary. She was pretty and thin. Part of her responsibilities was mailing out the bills to all the doctor’s patients. The doctor began to notice that it was taking more time than should be necessary for her to fulfill this task, and so he observed her one day. He discovered that rather than using the wet sponge to seal the envelopes, she was licking each one. This took a long time. The doctor asked her to use the sponge instead of licking each one, but the new secretary said that she would rather do it the other way. The doctor tried all kinds of motivations to try and convince her to do things his way. He tried telling her how much quicker it would be, he told her that her mouth wouldn’t get so dry. He even tried switching the type of envelopes that he used to one of those kind that had nasty-tasting glue. Nothing worked.
One day, a patient came to her window to pay her bill and noticed that the secretary was licking the envelopes. She said to her, “Did you know that each envelope has about 1 ½ calories?” The secretary immediately stopped and began using a wet sponge. Sometimes it takes a woman to communicate in a woman’s language. Likewise, it takes the Creator to communicate in His creation’s language. Christ spoke to us with love when He took our place and punishment on the cross for our sins (cf. Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9-10).
BELIEVE ON JESUS BECAUSE HE IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF ETERNAL LIFE (1:4-5). John moves now from creation in general to the most significant element of creation – people. 1:4:“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Christ created you and me so that we could enjoy a personal relationship with Him. The word “life” in the gospel of John can refer to physical life (1:3) and spiritual life (1:12). Most often it refers to eternal life in John (3:15-16,36; 4:14, 36; 5:24, 39; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 58, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2-3). Jesus defines eternal life as knowing the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ personally in a forever relationship (17:3). Jesus was God’s way of meeting us where we were to take us where we could never go.
Before we come to know Jesus Christ, we are merely existing. We get up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home from work, eat supper, watch TV, and go to bed. Then we repeat the same cycle the next day. That is merely existing. We don’t start living until we enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by believing or trusting in Him alone for His gift of eternal life.
When the Bible says, “the life was the light of men” (1:4), it is referring to the hope (“light”) that Christ’s message of eternal (“life”) brings to people in darkness. Also, when we enter a relationship with God (“life”), we become aware of God’s holiness and righteousness (“light”). Life is the foundation for growth in the light (cf. I John 1:5-10).
1:5: John contrasts “the light” of God with “the darkness” of sinful humanity. The word “comprehend,” can also mean “overtake.” The darkness of this world cannot overcome or extinguish the light of Jesus Christ. This contrast between light and darkness represents spiritual conflict. The light of Christ has and will overcome the darkness of sinful people.
“John did not view the world as a stage on which two equal and opposing forces engage in battle; he was not a philosophical dualist. He viewed Jesus as superior to the forces of darkness that sought to overcome Him but could not. This gives humankind hope. The forces of Light are stronger than the forces of Darkness. John was here anticipating the outcome of the story that he would tell, specifically, Calvary. Though darkness continues to prevail, the Light will overcome it.” 
“Because of the temptation of Satan, humankind has fallen into the darkness of sin (see Gen. 3). He has blinded the minds of people to keep them from seeing the glory of Christ (see 2 Cor. 4:4). But Jesus has come to bring illumination so that people can see things as they truly are. John’s Gospel shows us how Jesus was continually rejected; nevertheless, the darkness did not overcome His light (1:5). Though His enemies crucified Him, He was actually glorified in His death on the cross (see 13:31-32) and victorious in His resurrection, resulting in the provision of salvation for all people (see John 3:16; Rom. 5:18; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2).”
Remember, John is writing this gospel after the resurrection. He knows that Jesus Christ could not be overcome by the spiritual darkness of this world. He is the winner. The light shines (continually) in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. A single light penetrates fifty miles of darkness. Darkness cannot overcome light.
Christian author Max Lucado tells the story about a tribe of people who lived in a dark, cold cave: “The cave dwellers would huddle together and cry against the chill. Loud and long, they wailed. It was all they did. It was all they knew to do. The sounds in the cave were mournful, but the people didn’t know it, for they had never known life.
But then, one day, they heard a different voice. “I have heard your cries,” it announced. “I have felt your chill and seen your darkness. I have come to help.”
The cave people grew quiet. They had never heard this voice. Hope sounded strange to their ears. “How can we know you have come to help?”
“Trust me,” he answered. “I have what you need.”
The cave people peered through the darkness at the figure of the stranger. He was stacking something, then stooping and stacking more.
“What are you doing?” one cried, nervous.
The stranger didn’t answer.
“What are you making?” one shouted even louder.
Still no response.
“Tell us!” demanded a third.
The visitor stood and spoke in the direction of the voices. “I have what you need.” With that he turned to the pile at his feet and lit it. Wood ignited, flames erupted, and light filled the cavern.
The cave people turned away in fear. “Put it out!” they cried. “It hurts to see it.”
“Light always hurts before it helps,” he answered. “Step closer. The pain will soon pass.”
“Not I,” declared a voice.
“Nor I,” agreed a second.
“Only a fool would risk exposing his eyes to such light.”
The stranger stood next to the fire. “Would you prefer the darkness? Would you prefer the cold? Don’t consult your fears. Take a step of faith.”
For a long time, no one spoke. The people hovered in groups covering their eyes. The fire builder stood next to the fire. “It’s warm here,” he invited.
“He’s right,” one from behind him announced. “It’s warmer.” The stranger turned and saw a figure slowly stepping toward the fire. “I can open my eyes now,” she proclaimed. “I can see.”
“Come closer,” invited the fire builder.
She did. She stepped into the ring of light. “It’s so warm!” She extended her hands and sighed as her chill began to pass. “Come, everyone! Feel the warmth,” she invited.
“Silence, woman!” cried one of the cave dwellers. “Dare you lead us into your folly? Leave us and take your light with you.”
She turned to the stranger. “Why won’t they come?”
“They choose the chill, for though it’s cold, it’s what they know. They’d rather be cold than change.”
“And live in the dark?”
“And live in the dark.”
The now-warm woman stood silent. Looking first at the dark, then at the man.
“Will you leave the fire?” he asked.
She paused, then answered, “I cannot. I cannot bear the cold.” Then she spoke again. “But nor can I bear the thought of my people in darkness.”
“You don’t have to,” he responded, reaching into the fire and removing a stick. “Carry this to your people. Tell them the light is here, and the light is warm. Tell them the light is for all who desire it.”
And so, she took the small flame and stepped into the shadows.”
Why should I believe on Jesus? Because He is the only source of eternal life. He gives forgiveness instead of fear… grace instead of guilt… cleansing instead of condemnation… mercy instead of misery… life instead of death… hope instead of despair.
One thing we will be constantly reminded of in John’s gospel is that the message of Jesus demands a response: a response of belief or unbelief. Ninety-nine times in the Greek Majority Text John uses the word “believe.”  The biblical meaning of the word “believe” conveys absolute certainty. When studying the gospel of John, we discover that saving faith consists of three components:
1. KNOWING THE GIFT OF GOD AND THE GIVER OF THAT GIFT. I cannot receive a gift until I know about that gift and the giver of that gift. This is why Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Before she could ask for the gift of God from the Giver of that gift, she needed to know what the gift was and the identity of the Giver. What is it that the apostle John wants a lost person to know about the gift of God?
a. The gift of God is eternal life (4:14a).
b. Eternal life is knowing God personally forever through Jesus Christ(17:3).
c. Eternal life cannot be lost because the believer can never thirst again for it (4:14b). How is this possible? When a person believes in Jesus, He digs a well in the human heart that continuously meets the needs of the one who drinks from it. But Jacob’s well was in the earth and the drinker of it must return again and again (4:12). Men dig wells in the earth, only Jesus Christ can dig a well in the human heart so that it gushes up into everlasting life. Jesus’ well never runs dry.
What is it that the apostle John wants a lost person to know about the Giver of the gift of God?
a. He is Jesus Christ (4:16-26).
b. He is fully God (John 1:1, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 11:27; 20:28)
c. He is fully man (John 1:14; 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28)
d. His death and resurrection (John 2:19, 22; 3:14-15; 12:23-24, 27-33; 10:11, 17). Jesus’ death and resurrection are called the gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-8. His death and resurrection make it possible for Him to offer eternal life as a free gift.
2. A CONVICTION ABOUT CHRIST’S PERSON AND WORK. The information received about Jesus must be accepted as true. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world’” (John 11:25-27). Martha believed – she was convinced Jesus was speaking the truth. The most basic meaning of the Greek word translated “believe” is “to consider or be persuaded something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust”  and the word translated “faith” is the “state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted, trust, confidence, faith.”
Charles Pittman, a trial lawyer for over 40 years writes:
“I dealt with evidence all the time; I know something about evidence. I have examined the evidence: Jesus died – He was killed by professional executioners; He was buried in a tomb which was sealed, guarded and made secure as possible on Pilate’s orders; the tomb was empty which is undisputed; no dead body was ever produced; Jesus was seen alive by many people at different times and places over the next 40 days. The evidence convinces my mind that Jesus is God, He died taking the punishment for my sins, and God raised Him from the dead. Based on that truth, I chose or exercised my will to believe in Jesus and to trust Jesus and Jesus alone to forgive my sins and grant me eternal life in heaven.”
Unlike Pittman, however, many people have heard of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but they are not convinced that they really happened.
3. TRUSTING IN JESUS ALONE FOR EVERLASTING LIFE. The two Greek words translated “believe” and “faith” include the idea of “trust.”  The gospel of John emphasizes this often by placing a preposition after the word “believe.” For example:
“Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” John 3:36
“Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life.” John 6:40
“He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47
“Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” John 11:26
When an unsaved person understands that Christ died for his sins and rose from the dead and even accepts it as being true, yet still trusts in his good works to get him to heaven, his faith is not saving. Saving faith understands that Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead, is convinced that this is true, and personally chooses to believe or trust in Christ alone for the free gift of eternal life.
For example, I remember a woman, named, Michelle, in our church plant in Des Moines, Iowa, having her car break down during the summer on her way to work. It looked like she would be late for work. But then along came a lady from Missouri who offered her a ride. What did Michelle do? She was convinced this woman could get her to work, so she trusted that woman, a person, to get her to work. When Michelle offered to pay her, she refused to take her money. Michelle’s trip to work was free.
Likewise, God is asking us to believe or trust a Person – His Son, Jesus Christ, to give us a free ride to heaven. It is free to you and me, but it cost God the life of His Son. That is what believe means. When you believe in Jesus to get you to His heaven, you are telling God you are depending on His Son alone to get you to His heaven.
John’s gospel demands a response to Jesus Christ. Will I believe in Christ alone to get me to heaven, or will I reject Him and spend eternity separated from God? To reject Christ is to turn from God Himself, the Creator of the world. To deny Christ is to continue in spiritual darkness and death. Only Jesus Christ offers everlasting life freely. Do you have a personal relationship with the Creator God… the only One who guarantees eternal life to those who believe in Him? If not, why not begin a never-ending relationship with Him today? Simply take Christ at His Word when He says in John 5:24: “Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has everlasting life and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” What does Jesus say you must do to obtain eternal life? “Hears … and believes.” Hear His promise of eternal life and believe Him to give it to you. You will never regret doing this.
If you believed or trusted in Jesus alone to give you everlasting life, you can tell God this through prayer. But remember, praying a prayer is not what gets you to heaven. Only believing in Jesus gets us to heaven. This prayer is a way of telling God you are now believing or trusting in His Son alone. You can say this to God:
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I come to you now as a sinner. I cannot save myself. Nothing I am or do makes me deserving of heaven. I believe You died for me on the cross and rose from the dead. I believe You alone can guarantee me everlasting life, a judgment free future, and passage from death into life. I am now trusting in You alone Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to save me from hell forever and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the eternal life I now have and future home I will have in Your heaven. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” that you have eternal life. “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). The Bible does not say you may “think” or “hope” that you have eternal life. It says you can “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours.
Prayer of thanksgiving: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing that You are the eternal God, the Creator God, and the only Source of life that never ends. Therefore, we can trust You not only to get us to heaven, but to meet our needs here on earth. Because You are our Creator God, You have the power to take care of all of our needs. You have the ability to change us from the inside out as we learn to trust and obey You. Thank You for walking with us on this journey called life. You are an amazing Friend! Always full of grace and truth. Always faithful and trustworthy. There is no one like You in the whole universe! We bow our hearts before You and worship You, our Lord and our God! We love You, Jesus. Thank You for loving us more than we ever thought possible! In Your name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
 The translation of John 1:1c, “And the Word was God” (kai Theós ēn ho Lógos), is based on the Greek rule of grammar (Colwell’s rule) which states that the definite predicate nominative, “God” (Theós), in front of the verb “was” (ēn), will not have the article. See E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933), pp. 12-21. In Koine Greek, word endings determine the subject. But since both “Word” (Logos) and “God” (Theos) have the same ending, John added the article (ho) to Logos to identify it as the subject of the sentence.
 Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1746.
 Adapted from Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 55-56.
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 519-520; cf. 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. 179.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 27 cites David J. MacLeod, “The Creation of the Universe by the Word: John 1:3-5,” Bibliotheca Sacra 160:638 (April-June 2003):187-201.
 Tony Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 1747.
 Taken from https://maxlucado.com/woodcutters-wisdom-and-other-favorite-stories/.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 816-19.
 Ibid. Bing states that “after noting every use of pisteuō in the gospel of John (pisteuō eis with accusative – John 1:12; 2:11, 23; 3:15,16, 18a, 18c, 36; 4:39; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:30; 9:35, 36; 10:42; 11:25, 26a, 45,48; 12:11, 36, 37, 42,44 [twice], 46; 14:12; 16:9; 17:20), pisteuō with dative – John 2:22; 4:21, 50; 5:24, 38, 46 [twice], 47 [twice]; 6:30; 8:31, 45, 46; 10:37, 38 [twice]; 12:38; 14:11a), pisteuō hoti – John 4:21; 6:69; 8:24; 11:27, 42; 13:19; 14:10; 11a; 16:27, 30; 17:8, 21; 20:31a, pisteuō absolutely – John 1:7, 50; 3:12 [twice], 15, 18b 4:41, 42, 48, 53; 5:44; 6:36,47, 64 [twice]; 9:38; 10:25, 26; 11:15, 40; 12:39; 14:11b, 29; 16:31; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29 [twice], 31b), pisteuō with neuter accusative (John 11:26b), Schnackenburg concludes, ‘In many texts, pisteuō eis is on the same footing as a hoti-clause…’ and ‘Often the absolute pisteuein means the Johannine faith in the fullest sense…’ Thus one should not so easily delete the soteriological significance of pisteuō plus hoti – in John. This is the construction found in clear salvation verses like John 8:24, ‘believe that I am He,’ and 20:31, ‘believe that Jesus is the Christ’. Likewise, pisteuō plus the dative without a preposition is used in a clear salvation verse, John 5:24, “believes him who sent me” (NIV).’” (Dr. Charlie Bing, “Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response. GraceLife Edition, 1992, pp. 18-19). The Biblical evidence shows that to “believe in” and to “believe that” are used interchangeably by John for saving faith.
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” I John 5:20.
This will be our last lesson on the book of I John. As we have stated several times before, this book is about fellowship with God (1:3-4). Being in fellowship with God depends on walking in the light as He is in the light (1:7), confessing our sins (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), 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).
As the apostle John concludes his letter, he is seeking to encourage his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) who may be moving deeper into darkness along the path of sin or they may know of other Christians who are, and therefore, may be in danger of a premature physical death (5:16-17; cf. Acts 5:5-10; I Cor. 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30). John already presented two unchanging certainties in 5:18-19 beginning with the phrase “we know that…” (oidamen hoti). He wants his readers to know that no matter how far down into darkness a Christian brother or sister has traveled, they are still God’s child at the core of their being because His sinless seed remains in them (5:18; cf. 3:9) and he or she is on God’s side whether they consciously sense that or not, and will therefore feel like a foreigner in this Satanically controlled world (5:19; 2:16-17). 1
We are now ready to look at the third encouragement from the apostle in 5:20. This is one of the clearest verses in the Bible concerning the deity of Jesus Christ. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (I John 5:20). Again, we see the phrase, “we know that…” which reminds us that what John is about to say is absolute truth from God the Holy Spirit.
What is it we can know with certainty? “That the Son of God has come…” (5:20a). John and the other apostles were eyewitnesses to the coming of God’s Son in the first century (cf. 1:1-5; 2:7; 4:14). Jesus is not some mythical person. History attests to the fact that Jesus Christ was a real Person Who was born before King Herod’s death.
Luke 2:1 states that Jesus was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus (who reigned from March 15, 44 B.C. to August 19, A.D 14). Matthew 2:1 and Luke 1:5 inform us that Christ’s birth came before King Herod’s death. Herod’s death can be determined with certainty. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus (Antiquities 17.6.4), an eclipse of the moon occurred on March 12/13, 4 B.C. before Herod’s death. 2 Josephus also records (Antiquities 17.9.3; The Jewish War 2.1.30) that the Passover celebration that took place after King Herod’s death occurred on April 11, 4 B.C. 3 Hence, Herod must have died between March 12 and April 11, 4 B.C. Therefore, for these reasons Christ could not have been born later than March/April of 4 B.C.
Every time we write down today’s date, it goes back to Jesus. Today is May 11, 2023. Two thousand twenty-three years from what? From A.D. which stands for Anno Domini, which is Latin for “year of our Lord,” and it means the number of years since the birth of Jesus Christ.
“It might sound strange to suggest that Jesus Christ was born no later than 4 B.C. since B.C. means ‘before Christ.’ But our modern calendar which splits time between B.C. and A.D. was not invented until A.D. 525. At that time, Pope John the First asked a monk named Dionysius to prepare a standardized calendar for the western Church. Unfortunately, poor Dionysius missed the real B.C./A.D. division by at least four years!” 4
In addition to the historicity of Christ’s birth, there is also ample historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Josephus also wrote of Jesus’ death,“Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross.” 5 Roman historian,Cornelius Tacitus, wrote, “a wise man who was called Jesus…. Pilate condemned Him to be condemned and to die.” In addition, he said that Jesus’ disciples “reported that He had appeared to them three days after His crucifixion and that He was alive.” 6
A Roman writer,Phlegon, referred to Christ’s death and resurrection in his Chronicles, saying, “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death, and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” 7
In addition, Phlegon spoke of “the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquakes which then took place.”8
The historical evidence for Jesus’ death is so overwhelming that even a Muslim scholar, Reza Aslan, who wrote the book, Zealot, was persuaded to conclude Jesus “was most definitely crucified.” 9 Despite the fact that the Quran denies Christ’s death (Sura 4:157),the historical evidence persuaded Aslan to conclude that Christ truly did die on the cross. “He believes so strongly in Jesus’ death by crucifixion that he uses it as the foundation for his entire theory of Jesus’ life.” 10
Just as history proclaims that George Washington was the first President of the USA, so history proclaims that Jesus Christ was born in 4 B.C., and thirty-three years later died and rose from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the most attested fact of ancient history. Thomas Arnold authored a three-volume history of Rome and was appointed to Oxford’s Chair of Modern History. Concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, “I have been used for years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than that Christ died and rose from the dead.” 11
Frank Morison, a British trial lawyer, vowed to write a book disproving Christianity and committed to base his book on a collection of facts. Using a critical method of evaluation and despite his initial beliefs, he concluded that Christianity is true. The resurrection convinced him, and he wrote a book entitled, Who Moved the Stone? which begins with the chapter, “The Book that Refused to Be Written.”
Former atheists Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Christ only to be persuaded by the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. You can read about the evidence that persuaded them to believe in Jesus in their books: McDowell ‘s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (1999) and The Resurrection Factor (1981); Strobel’s The Case for Christ Revised (2013) and The Case for Easter (2004).
John states that Christ came “and has given us an understanding” (5:20b). The Greek word for “understanding” (dianoian) refers to “comprehending,” or “insight, intelligence.” 12 This is the only time John uses this word in his epistle. Christ’s coming provided the giving of the Holy Spirit or “the anointing” (2:21-20, 27) to all who believe in Jesus (John 7:37-39; Acts 10:43-48; 11:15-17; 15:7-11; Rom. 5:5; 8:9; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2-3; Ephes. 1:13-14; et al.).
In his gospel, John records that the night before His crucifixion, Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would “dwell… in” them (John 14:16-17; cf. I Cor. 3:16; 6:19), “teach” them and bring to “remembrance all” that He taught (John 14:26), and “guide” them into “all truth” to “glorify” Jesus (John 16:13-14).
John informs us that this “understanding” the Holy Spirit gives believers (cf. I Cor. 2:9-16) enables them to “know Him who is true” (5:20c). The word “know” (ginōskōmen) refers to experiential knowledge (see comments on 2:3-4, 12-14). The coming of the Son of God has given believers the comprehension or intelligence necessary to “know Him” experientially “who is true.” This experiential knowledge is the result of obedience to God’s commands (2:3-4; c. John 14:21, 23). 13
“Christian love (obedience) is never absent where God is truly known (cf. comments on 4:7-8). There could be no true understanding of love or of God had not the Son of God come and died to reveal God’s love. Through His death the Son has given us an understanding (an intelligence) by means of which we may know God. The obedient Christian possesses the necessary spiritual capacity to know God.”14
When John states “and we are in Him who is true” (5:20d), we are reminded that he equated being “in Him” (God) to “abiding” in Him (cf. 2:5-6), just as Jesus taught the branch is to abide in the vine (cf. John 15:1-8).Christ said that “abiding” is necessary to be a “disciple” who “bears fruit,” experiences answered prayer and “joy,” and glorifies “the Father” (John 15:1-11). To be “in Him” is equated to having fellowship with God. 15 Hence, John is not talking about our position or salvation in I John 5:20 when he speaks of being “in Him,” he is talking about our condition or fellowship with God. Being “in Him” refers to “abiding” in Him. 16
John then identifies the One “who is true” when he writes, “in His Son Jesus Christ” (5:20e). John heard Christ say the night before His crucifixion, “I am… the truth” (John 14:6). There is nothing false or misleading about Jesus Christ. He is the truth.Some suggest that the first “Him” in 5:20 refers to God the Father (“that we know Him who is true”) and the second “Him” refers to Christ(“and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ”).
“But to be in Him, that is, to abide in Him, is not only to abide in Him who is true (as John has just described God), but it is also to be in His Son Jesus Christ. There is no and between the phrases in Him and in His Son. To abide in God and to abide in Christ are the same thing.” 17
John then makes one of the clearest proclamations of the deity of Christ in all the Bible in the last part of the verse. “This is the true God and eternal life.” (5:20f). Clearly the nearest antecedent in 5:20 for the pronoun “this” (houtos) is Jesus Christ (Iēsou Christō) which agrees in gender (masculine) and number (singular). Christ is the main focus of this verse. John clearly states that Jesus Christ is “the true God and eternal life.” There is no other possible antecedent in this verse.
Someone might ask, “Didn’t Jesus deny that He was the true God when He prayed to His Father in heaven and addressed Him as the only true God in John 17:3?” Christ prayed to His Father in heaven, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). Jesus was not denying He was the “true God,” but was praising His Father as such.
The very next words after this verse are: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:4-5). Jesus said He shared the glory of God the Father before the world was. But the Yahweh of the Old Testament says, “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 42:8). How can Jesus claim to have the glory of His Father before the world was if Yahweh says He will not give His glory to another?
Because Jesus is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. He has the same divine nature as His Father. Jesus identifies Himself with the Father. Jesus “is in” the Father, and the Father “is in” Jesus (John 10:38). Jesus is “one” with the Father (John 10:30). They are not divided in essence. So, in one sense Jesus is in the Father; and if the Father is the only true God, then Jesus is also the true God.
The Greek word translated “only” (monos) in John 17:3 does not always refer to absolute exclusivity. For example, monos is used in Jude 1:4 of “the only” Lordship of Jesus Christ, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only [monos] Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude is not excluding God the Father when he refers to “the only” Lordship of Jesus Christ. Other verses in the Bible confirm the Lordship of God the Father (Psalm 2:7; 110:1; Isaiah 63:16; Mark 13:20; Luke 10:21-22) and God the Son, Jesus Christ (Psalm 110:2; Luke 6:5; 19:31; John 13:13; 20:28; Acts 2:36; 10:36; 16:31; Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 17:14).
To say that Jesus denies He is God in John 17:3 would contradict the entire message of the gospel of John which begins (John 1:1-18) and ends (John 20:28-31) with the fact that Jesus is God.
In John 17:3, Jesus was not creating a point of distinction between Himself and the Father in the expression, “only true God”, but between the Father and any other “so called god” such as idols. Christ had lived among the Romans with their many competing gods and Jesus was addressing the Father with these idols in mind.
This understanding is substantiated further by John in his epistle when he identifies Christ as “the true God” (5:20f). John clearly states that Jesus Christ is the true God. He then writes, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (I John 5:21). John affirms that Jesus “is the true God” and then immediately warns his readers to guard themselves “from idols” or false gods.
In I John 5:20 the apostle also declares that Jesus Christ is “eternal life,” which connects back to the prologue (1:1-4) where the subject matter of John’s epistle was identified as “that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (1:2b). This supports the final statement in verse 20 as a reference to Jesus Christ. Taken together, 1:2 and 5:20 provide bookends for what John wrote. By saying Jesus is the “eternal life,” John has fulfilled his intention to “declare” to his readers this “eternal life” (1:2). 18
“He has shown them that by ‘abiding’ in Him who is true (which is also to abide in His Son Jesus Christ), they can experience eternal life. That life, expressed in love toward their Christian brothers and sisters, springs out of the sinless inner self (5:18). It marks their life and experience as being of God rather than of the world (5:19), and expresses the spiritual understanding that the Son of God came to give them (5:20a).”19
As we mentioned in our previous lesson, some of you may have a Christian spouse or child whohas pursued the lusts of this passing world (2:16-17). They have been so twisted by the godless values of this world system that they are doing things that are contrary to their Christian beliefs and values. Because of their prolonged plunge into the deep darkness of sin, you have lost hope that they will ever return to fellowship with God and His people.
John wants to encourage us in 5:20 with this “spiritual radar system or search light the Holy Spirit uses to direct us to the true God. There are many false gods in the world (as the next verse warns), which can lead us far from the path of God. This internal guidance system can help bring us home. It’s what Paul would call the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:15-16).” 20
In stark contrast to the Lord Jesus Christ who is “the true God and eternal life” (5:20), John concludes his epistle with a final admonition to avoid false gods: “Little children,keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (I John 5:21). John begins this verse with “Little children” (teknia, “born-ones”; cf. 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4) 21 which expresses his fatherly love and concern for these believers.
This concluding verse may seem out of place to us at first, but in view of John’s previous discussion on prayer for a sinning believer (5:16-17) and his three encouragements (5:18-20), the last of which uses the word “true” three times to describe our “God” (5:20), this is a very pertinent conclusion to the apostle’s epistle on fellowship with God and other believers.
The opposite of true is false. Our God is true (5:20), but “idols” are false gods (5:21). “There is no need to take ‘idols’ in a figurative sense. In the Greco-Roman world of John’s day, any moral compromise with worldly perspectives was likely to lead to some involvement with idolatry, since idolatry permeated pagan life at every level.”22
Our spiritual radar system (intelligence given to us by the Holy Spirit – 5:20), can help us recognize the true God (Jesus Christ) in contrast to the false gods of this world. False gods can destroy our fellowship or closeness with God and other Christians. 23
Anderson observes that “we don’t have to study the Old Testament long to see that while kings ruled in Israel, idolatry reigned in the temple more years than Yahweh. God used the Assyrians and the Babylonians to purify His people from their idols. And since it was King Solomon who introduced idolatry into Israel through his intermarriage with foreign wives, we see how easily idolatry can creep into the life of a wise man who was even used by God to write inspired revelation.
“Idols are usually good things. The bronze serpent (Num. 21:4-9) was initially used by God to heal the Israelites from snake bites. But eight centuries later (2 Kgs. 18:4) Hezekiah had to destroy the bronze serpent, for it had become an idol called Nehushtan (piece of bronze) to which they burned incense. Our idols are usually not evil things, but rather good things: our possessions (cars, houses, even yards), our retirement accounts, our bodies, our success—you name it.” 24
How do we identify an idol? It has been said that “an idol is like an eclipse of the sun— the moon gets in the way. When something gets between us and God’s light, then darkness creeps in and whatever is blocking that light is an idol. Beware! Solomon was no dummy. He thought he was doing something good by expanding the land of Israel out to the borders promised by God to Abraham. But he had to compromise the guidelines laid down by God for a king (Deut. 17:17) in order to do it.”25
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is it taking the place of God in my life? Is it becoming more important to me than spending time with the Lord Jesus?
Is it more important to me than my family, my Christian friends, and my ministry?
What do I turn to other than God to medicate my feelings of anxiety, boredom, depression, exhaustion, loneliness, self-doubts, or stress?
What do I turn to other than God to celebrate or reward myself for an accomplishment or achievement?
If you answered these questions honestly, you probably have a good idea of some idols in your life. An idol could be alcohol, your cell phone, drugs, entertainment, fame, feelings, intellectualism, novels, pleasure, possessions, power, sex, social media, sports, success, work, etc.
I believe one of the most dangerous and destructive idols for believers of all ages in the church today is pornography.26 Yet most churches do not know how to address it in a way that offers hope and healing for those enslaved to it. 27 Churches often preach against the problem of pornography without providing a safe environment to address the real problem which is a deeper hurt in the hearts of those hooked on porn. Pornography is simply a surface coping mechanism for a deeper wound. Unresolved pain or trauma from our past is often what drives addictions of any kind.
The solution to overcoming pornography or any addiction for that matter, is to look to Jesus Christ, the true God and eternal life, to heal the pain that drives the addiction (I John 5:20). This is done through the discipleship process whereby a believer in Jesus learns to abide in Jesus’ word along with other believers so they can know the truth that sets them free from the lies that drive their bondage to sin and shame (John 8:31-36). As a believer identifies the lies that drive their addiction, they can learn to replace those lies in the power of the Holy Spirit with the truth of God’s Word that brings freedom from bondage to sin (cf. Psalm 119:28-29). This is to be done in the context of a loving community of like-minded believers who can encourage and empower each other on their journey to freedom (2 Tim. 2:22).
If you do not know for sure you have eternal life and a future home in Jesus’ heaven, you need to start with understanding that Jesus Christ is the only source of eternal life. The bookends of I John (1:1-3; 5:20) have informed us of this. To have eternal life in one’s life, you must have Jesus Christ, Who is eternal life (5:20), in your life (5:11-12). How do you get Christ in your life? John wrote, “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). To “know” with absolute certainty, not guess, or hope that you “have eternal life,” you must “believe in the name of the Son of God.” There is no mention of having fruit, obedience, or a changed life to know you have eternal life. The only condition is to “believe in the name of the Son of God.” This is so simple that many adults miss it.
In this context, to “believe in” (pisteúō eis) the name of the Son of God means to be convinced or persuaded that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life (5:20) Who will give you eternal life as a free gift the moment you believe in His name. 28 Are you convinced or persuaded that this promise of God is true? If so, then you can “know” with absolutely certainty that you now have eternal life. And 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 Who is the true God and eternal life (I John 5:1, 13, 20; cf. John 14:1-6). Christ cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). His promise is as true as He is true.
If you or a fellow believer close to you find yourselves moving deeper into darkness on the pathway of sin and there seems to be no hope of returning to fellowship with God and His people, I pray that God’s encouraging promises in John’s final words in his letter (5:18-21) will give you the assurance and guidance you need. These promises include… 29
1. God’s sinless seed (divine nature) remains in youor your loved one so that you (or he/she) are still the same holy child of God who remains untouched or harmed by evil or the evil one no matter how badly or long you (or he/she) have sinned (5:18; 3:9). This unchanged seed remains a base from which the Holy Spirit can work within you (or him/her) to bring healing to you (or him/her) so you can return to fellowship with God and His people.
2.You (or he/she) are on God’s side and will never be completely comfortable living for this world (5:19). As a child of God, you (or he/she) are totally separate from the whole world that lies under the influence of Satan, and to some degree you will never feel completely comfortable in this sin sick world. God can turn your (or his/her) discomfort into disgust so you (or he/she) will turn towards home (God).
3. God’s search light (inner, spiritual intelligence) within you (or him/her) can be used by the Holy Spirit to guide you(or him/her) back to the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ (5:20-21). God’s Spirit can whisper what is right in the ear of a wayward believer whose fellowship with God and other Christians has been cut off by their focus on the idols of this world, so he or she will return to the only true God Who alone can give them fullness of joy as they resume fellowship with Him and His people.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the book of I John which was written to help believers experience the joy of close fellowship with You and Your eternal Son, Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are many false gods or idols in the world that seek to draw us away from You and Your Word. Some of us or those we love, have become enslaved to these idols and we are in desperate need of Your Spirit to turn our discomfort in this sin sick world into disgust so we may return to the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ. Forgive us Father for turning to the things of this world to medicate our pain instead of looking to Jesus, Who can heal us and satisfy our deepest needs. Thank You for the encouraging promises You have given us at the end of John’s epistle which offer us assurance and guidance. Help us to express our new nature and separateness from this Satanically controlled world system by guarding ourselves from the false gods of this world. Rescue us, restore us, and renew us, we pray. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 265.
2. Retrieved on May 11, 2023, from Daniel B. Wallace’s article entitled “The Birth of Jesus Christ,” at bible.org and from the Biblical Archaeology Society Staff’s December 15, 2022, article entitled “Herod’s Death, Jesus’ Birth, and a Lunar Eclipse at biblicalarchaeology.org.
4. Wallace, “The Birth of Jesus Christ,” at bible.org.
5. Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross,Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), pg. 236 cites Flavius Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews,” 18:3; trans. William Whiston, Josephus: Complete Works (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1963), pg. 379.
6. Ibid. cites Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55? – after 117), Annals, 15.44.
7. Ibid., cites Phlegon, “Chronicles,” as cited by Origen, “Against Celsus” from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), vol. 4, pg. 455.
9. Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pg. 179 cites interview with Lauren Green.
11. Thomas Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close, 6th ed. (London: T. Fellowes, 1859), pp. 14-16.
12. 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. 234.
13. 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. 604.
14. Ibid., pg. 606.
15. See Dillow’s thorough discussion of John 15 in Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 611-626.
16. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
17. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 606.
20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
21. 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 4130.
22. Ibid., Kindle Location 4130 to 4135.
23. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 266.
25. Ibid., pp. 266-267.
26. Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted – see Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series: The Battle Plan For Purity Study Guide, Vol. 1 (Stuart FL: KingdomWorks Studio, 2017), pg. 21; young people are also struggling with watching pornography online as young as four years of age and older because it is so accessible, addictive, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing (see Christian apologist and author Josh McDowell’s very informative and staggering videos on October 7, 2018 at Denton Bible Church entitled, “Breaking Free from the Porn Epidemic w/ Josh McDowell” at https://vimeo.com/294241982 and on August 3, 2021 with Pure Desire Ministries entitled, “The Effects of Pornography with Josh McDowell” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3sRmLFarZc .” Christians who are hooked on pornography have less spiritual interest in attending church, reading their Bibles, prayer, and hanging out with other Christians.
27. Less than 7% of pastors in America provide solutions to help their people break free from porn (see Ted Shimer, The Freedom Fight: The New Drug and the Truths that Set Us Free (Houston: High Bridge Books, 2020), pg. 89 cites Barna Survey at https://www.charismnews.com/us/73208-15-statistics-about-the-church-and-pornography-that-will-blow-your-mind. However, Shimer also provides practical suggestions in his book on how churches can overcome the obstacles that keep them from addressing pornography in helpful and healthy ways (pp. 91-99).
28. The phrase to “believe in” (pisteúō eis) basically means to be convinced or persuaded that something is true and therefore is worthy of your trust – see Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 816-817.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” I John 5:18
As the apostle John concludes his letter, he reviews and reinforces truths he has shared throughout his epistle. John just focused on praying for Christian brothers and sisters who had wandered far away from God and His people on the path of sin (5:16-17). Some of these sinning believers may be close to departing from this world through a premature death (cf. Acts 5:5-10; I Cor. 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30). 1
John’s readers (including you and me) may have wondered, “Is there any hope that these sinning believers can be restored to fellowship with God and us? Is it still possible for them to resume walking in the light of fellowship with the Lord and His people after wandering so far into darkness?”
Or maybe some of his readers were asking, “Is there any hope that I can be restored to fellowship with God after wandering aimlessly for so long in the depths of darkness? Does God still love me and want to be close to me?”
I believe the apostle John would say, “Yes, a thousand times, Yes!!!” In the next three verses John will focus on three certainties. Each of the verses in 5:18-20 begins with “We know that …” (oidamen hoti). In the New Testament the Greek word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 2 “This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.”3 It is also important to observe that this Greek verb is in the perfect tense (oidamen) which means John and his readers knew these truths in the past and they continue to know them to the present. These are not guesses or mere human opinions, they are absolute unchanging truths from God that the apostle and his readers can be sure of no matter what they or other believers are facing or feeling.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” (I John 5:18). We have already learned that the phrase “whoever is born of God” refers to the divine or born-again nature we receive from God when we believe in Jesus as the Christ for everlasting life (cf. 3:9; 5:1, 13). The Greek participle translated “is born” (ho gegennēmenos) is in the perfect tense which means the new birth took place in the past and continues to the present. Since God cannot sin, the divine nature He places inside His child “does not sin” either (5:18b). A sinless Parent cannot beget a sinful child. So, sin is never an act of the born-again nature inside the believer because it is incapable of sinning (cf. 3:9).
“This divine nature is portrayed as a person (a figure of speech known as personification, that is, to treat something which is not a person as though it were, like calling a ship ‘she’). That’s why this nature is called ‘whoever,’ ‘he,’ ‘himself,’ and ‘him.’”4
The apostle Paul spoke of this new nature as the “new man” when he writes, “And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephes. 4:24; cf. Col. 3:10). This new nature or “inner man” is strengthened by the Spirit of God (Ephes. 3:16) and has the capacity to resist the corruption and sinful lusts of this passing world which is under the control of Satan (I John 2:16-17; 5:18-19; cf. John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13a). 5
Hence, John says, “he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” The word “keeps” (tēreō) means to “watch over, guard, protect, or keep unharmed.” 6 The recipient of this protection is the born-again person (“himself”).
“In saying that the regenerate inward person (cf. Rom 7:22) ‘keeps himself,’ John is not saying that one’s inner self can somehow prevent all sin in the Christian life (cf. 1:5-10). What John means is that God’s ‘seed remains in’ the regenerate inner self (cf. 3:9) as the controlling element of his born-again nature and is impervious to even the slightest contamination from the wicked one. Believers’ failures are due to the sinful ‘programming’ of their earthly bodies, as Paul himself taught in Rom 7:7-25.” 7
Even though Satan uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to sway believers away from God (2:16; 5:19), John assures us “the wicked one does not touch him,” that is, the born-again self (5:18c). The word “touch” (haptetai) means “to touch with the purpose of harming, to injure.” 8 Satan and the world he controls, cannot harm the born-again self.
This is important for all of us to remember about ourselves or other believers when humbled by sinful failures. The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that a Christian who continually walks in the darkness or repeatedly struggles with the same sin is not really God’s child which can lead them to more sinful failures. The Bible tells us we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7). If I am convinced I am not really saved because of my repeated failures, then I will be more inclined to live like a nonbeliever.
But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (I John 1:9), knowing we are the same inwardly holy children of God we were before we sinned. So, whatever we or another Christian have succumbed to in the world, John wants us to know that who we are at the core of our being has not changed. We are still a holy child of God because God’s sinless seed remains in us (3:9).
Zane Hodges says it like this: “At the very moment we are most humbled by our sinful failures, and when we confess them, it is helpful to be confident that those failures have not really changed what we are as children of God. The enemy, try as he might, cannot really touch us. He can only attempt to persuade us that he can or has. But if we know the truth stated in this verse, he will not be able to deceive us. For if we let him, Satan will use our failures to lead us to further failure. So, after every sin, deeply though we may and should regret it, we ought to rise from our confession to God knowing that we are the same inwardly holy persons we were before we failed!” 9
Some of you reading this may have a Christian spouse or child who has pursued the lusts of this passing world (2:16-17). They have been so twisted by the godless values of this world system that they are doing things that violate their Christian beliefs and values. Perhaps they have succumbed to the allurement of alcohol, drugs, gambling, materialism, pornography, or sex. Or maybe they have developed an acute mental condition such as severe depression or a phobia. They are in bondage to such things. Please do not give up or lose hope.
If your spouse or child is a believer in Jesus Christ, he or she is still a child of God at the core of his or her being and cannot be touched or harmed by evil or the evil one (I John 5:18; cf. 3:6-9). The “seed” or divine nature of God within him or her remains unchanged. It cannot be altered or even tempted. It remains a base from which the Holy Spirit can work within this loved one to bring healing to him or her, and to bring them back to fellowship with God and His people. 10 As long as that seed remains (and it will), “it can be watered by your prayers. As long as that seed remains, it can still grow. As long as that seed remains, it can blossom, and eternal fruit can be born. Do not give up.” 11
The restoration of fellowship for wayward Christians is based on walking in the Spirit, relying on Him to express God’s sinless born-again nature in them (I John 3:6-9; 5:18; cf. Gal. 5:16-25). It is not based on willful determination, on keeping New Year’s resolutions, or the power of positive thinking. 12
But it doesn’t stop there. Not only does a child of God have God’s sinless seed that remains in him or her, but he or she is also on God’s side and God is on their side. 13 He has not given up on them. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (I John 5:19). Again, John begins with “we know that…” (oidamen hoti) to convey the absolute certainty of what he is about to say. This is not mere speculation; it is absolute truth.
The phrase “of God” (ek tou Theou) refers to being on God’s side in I John. 14
“To be ‘of’ something in 1 John is to be on the side of the something. We saw this in 1 John 3:10b, 19 and 4:4. In reference to believers it means to have a dynamic, spiritual link to God, Who is obviously capable of giving us victory over the world. To be ‘of God’ means we are on His side, and He is on our side. The world lies like a limp puppet in the lap of the evil one, ready to be filled with his power. On the other side, we lie in the lap of the Lord, ready to be filled with His power.” 15
The phrase “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (ho kosmos holosen tō ponerō keitai) “suggests that the world passively rests within Satan’s operative sphere. By contrast, the phrase ek Theou (‘of God’) means being ‘from’ God. The Christian should be aware of his own sinless inward man (5:18), and he should also be aware of his utter separateness from the whole world that lives under Satan’s sway. Believers, whom the enemy cannot ‘touch’ (5:18), are not a part of the world, which lies passively in the wicked one. Thus, believers must not ‘love the world or the things in the world’ (2:15-17) and they must resist the ideas that the world promotes (cf. 2:18-19).”16
John wants to “reinforce the readers’ consciousness that they are distinct from the satanically controlled world system and basically free from its power. They need not listen to the worldly ideas advanced by the antichrists (3:7-8). Nor need they succumb to worldly desires (cf. 2:15-17).”17
Since a believer’s regenerate self (3:9; 5:18) and conduct is sourced in God and is free from the power of Satan and his world system (5:19), there is still hope for a Christian who has been in bondage to sin for a prolonged time. Hence, if your Christian spouse or child has been living like the devil, please know that they do not belong to the evil one nor his world system.
What this means is your sinning Christian spouse or child does not belong to Satan’s world, and he or she will always to some degree feel like a foreigner in this world system. Your loved one will never feel completely comfortable in this sin-sick world. This world is not a Christian’s home, we are just passing through; our home is way out there, somewhere beyond the blue. The child of God who wanders about aimlessly in darkness will always have a degree of discomfort. They will always know something is wrong, something just isn’t right. This is not who I am in Christ.
The good news is God can turn discomfort into disgust. When your loved one’s discomfort turns to disgust, he or she will turn towards home (God). Regardless of what this person tells you, if he or she gets sucked into the sewer of this world system, they are acting out of character, and they will never be completely comfortable. Don’t listen to their lies. Keep praying that their discomfort will turn to disgust, and God will restore them back to fellowship with Him. When they finally realize that they are wasting their life eating slop with the pigs in the pig sty, they will turn their eyes toward home (cf. Luke 15:13-17).
Because of God’s seed within your believing spouse or child, he or she is on God’s side whether they consciously sense that or not, and they will feel like a foreigner in this world. God can turn this discomfort into disgust so that they will want to come home to fellowship with Him and His family. Next time, Lord willing, we will discover how to get there. 18
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, oh how we needed to hear these encouraging words about Christians who are living in the depths of darkness and appear to have no hope of returning to fellowship with You and Your people. Thank You for reminding us that no matter how much we or our loved ones have embraced the lusts of this passing world, if we or they are a believer in Jesus, Your sinless nature remains inside us and is not touched by evil or the evil one. We are still children of God at the core of our being, and to some degree there will be discomfort with our sinful lifestyle and choices. Please oh Lord, turn this discomfort to disgust so all of us living in the darkness will return home to fellowship with You and Your people. Help us to rely on Your Holy Spirit for the power to live out these unchanging truths in our daily Christian lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 261-262.
2. Ibid., pg. 124.
4. Ibid., pg. 263.
6. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1002.
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. 604.
8. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 126.
9. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 263-264 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 242-243.
10. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2953.
13. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
14. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
15. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 264-265.
16. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
17. 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 4126.
18. The last three paragraphs are adapted from Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
“This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness because the Spirit is truth.” I John 5:6
Like lung cancer which attacks the body’s air supply, the two primary lungs that the enemies of Christ or antichrists have attacked in the body of Christ are God’s Work (I John 5:6-9) and God’s Word (I John 5:10-13). 1 Today in our study of I John we will look at the attack on God’s Work.
Last time in our study we looked at the single act of faith in Christ at the moment of our salvation which is the victory that has overcome the world that is blinded to the gospel and opposed to people getting saved (I John 5:1-5; cf. 2 Cor. 4:3-6; 11:2-3). Just as faith provided our first victory over the world at our conversion, it can also continue to provide victory in our daily Christian lives as we rely on Christ Who lives in us through His Spirit (Gal. 2:20).
John then expounds upon the object of saving faith, namely “Jesus… the Son of God” (5:5b). The Person and Work of Jesus was vehemently attacked by false teachers during the time of John’s writings. One of those false teachings that the apostle John had to deal with was spread by Cerinthus who taught that Jesus was merely a man and the divine Christ descended on the human Jesus at His baptism but left Him when He hung on the cross to die. Thus, according to Cerinthus, only the human Jesus died and rose from the dead, not the divine Christ. 2
The apostle John refers to “Jesus… the Son of God“ (5:5b) in verse 6: “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness because the Spirit is truth.” (I John 5:6). The “water” refers to the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the Jordan River which inaugurated the public ministry of the Messiah-God (cf. Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). 3 The “blood” represents the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross when darkness covered the land, the earth quaked, and the temple veil split in two (Matt. 27:45, 51). 4
When John says, “it is the Spirit who bears witness” he is referring to the role that God the Holy Spirit had at Christ’s baptism. Matthew informs us that when Jesus came up out of the water, John the Baptist saw “the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon” Jesus (Matt. 3:16). John wants his readers to understand that the Spirit of God is not the same as the divine Christ. The Holy Spirit was a “witness” to Jesus at His baptism (I John 5:6b), but He remains a distinct Person not to be identified as the Christ. 5
In addition, the Holy Spirit’s “witness” is reliable “because the Spirit is truth”(5:6c), much like the statement, “God is love.” The very nature and character of the Spirit is to be truthful so His testimony can be trusted. 6 John affirms that the Spirit is reliable—He “is truth” – and this is because His testimony follows the Biblical law of verification which required two or three witnesses (cf. Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17-18). 7
We also know from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism that God the Father spoke from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (3:16-17). Not only did the God the Holy Spirit testify at Christ’s baptism, but so did God the Father.
“The Holy Spirit was not the divine Christ coming upon Jesus, the man. The Spirit was distinct from Christ and came upon the God-Man, Jesus Christ.” 8
Considering I John 5:6 and other verses in I John, we can ascertain what the antichrists believed about Jesus. They claimed that Jesus was not the “Christ,” the Messiah-God (cf. I John 2:22). They may have taught that He was a spirit being, rather than fully God and fully human, who descended upon Jesus at His baptism but abandoned Him to die alone on the cross (I John 5:6). Hence, according to these false teachers, the work of the Cross was not a sufficient sacrifice offered up by God’s Son, but the death of a mere man which had no saving value. 9
According to this false teaching, those who believed that Jesus is the Christ would then be believing a falsehood. Hence, they were not born of God, as the apostles taught that they were (I John 5:1). This was a serious challenge to Christianity. If the false teachers believed Jesus is not the Son of God (cf. 5:5), then there was no victory over the world through faith at conversion (cf. 5:4-5). Nor was there any hope of continued victory over the world in their Christian lives. 10
John refutes such false notions and establishes that saving faith is found in one Person, “Jesus Christ,” Whose public ministry began at His “water” baptism and ended when His “blood” was shed on a cross for all the sins of the world. The apostle then writes, “7 For there are three that bear witness: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” (I John 5:7-8). 11 Through Christ’s baptism (“the water”) and His death on the cross (“the blood”),God gave testimony to the truthfulness of His Son and His mission. The third witness is “the Spirit,” Who confirms on the inside what God does on the outside. 12
“The Spirit’s witness may be thought of as coming through the prophets (including John the Baptist). The Spirit’s witness, then, was augmented by the historical realities involved in ‘the water’ and ‘the blood.’ Both the baptism and the crucifixion of Jesus are strongly attested historical facts (cf. John 1:32-34; 19:33-37). All three witnesses (‘water’ and ‘blood’ are personified) ‘are in agreement’ that a single divine Person, Jesus Christ, was involved in these events.” 13
“Behind John’s words stands the fact that at the baptism God declared, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matt. 3:17). John the Baptist personally ‘bore witness’ to this event (cf. John 1:32-34). In addition, the crucifixion was foreseen by the Scriptures (cf. John 13:18; 19:24, 28, 36, 37) and was attested by apostolic witnesses (John 19:35; 21:24, note the words ‘we know). Thus, the water and the blood are fully attested in their own right, both by divine testimony and by witnesses.” 14
“In a court of law, the Holy Spirit would be put on the stand as a character witness; the water and the blood would be entered as Exhibit A and Exhibit B. All three gave credibility to the Person and Work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If a case among men is established by the word of two or three witnesses (Matt. 18:16), then two or three divine witnesses should be even more reliable: the Spirit, the water, and the blood.” 15
In the next verse John will look back at the testimony mentioned in 5:7-8 and forward to the witness of God in 5:11-12: “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.” (I John 5:9). The phrase, “If we receive the witness of men,” refers back to the requirement of two or three witnesses for the statement to be considered valid (5:7-8). The idea is since we do receive human testimony as valid under certain conditions, how much more are we to receive “the witness of God” which is far “greater.” 16
“A basic principle of God’s Word is that a ‘matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’ (2 Cor. 13:1; see Deut. 19:15). The tragic truth is that in spite of the threefold testimony God has provided (5:6-8), too many believe man rather than God.”17
In John’s day (and ours) many people believe the false teachers’ witness (man’s) instead of God’s witness (the Spirit, water, and blood) concerning the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Through Christ’s baptism (“the water”) and His death on the cross (“the blood”),God’s “Spirit” bore witness to the identity of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in Him may have everlasting life and complete forgiveness of their sins (I John 5:10-13; cf. John 3:14-16; 20:31; Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14).
Unfortunately, today we have many teachers who deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (I John 2:22; 5:5-8) or they deny He paid the full penalty for all our sins (John 19:30). Regarding the latter, there are people who trust their good works alone to get them to heaven and basically are saying that Christ failed to pay any of their sin debt when He died on the cross, so they must pay it all with their good works. There are others who trust Christ plus their good works who are saying that Jesus only paid part of their sin debt, but they must pay the remainder. Those who fall in these two categories are listening to the testimonies of humans instead of the testimony of God.
God testifies that Christ paid our sin debt in full so all we must do is believe or trust in Jesus alone (not our good works, good life, or religion) for His gift of eternal life (I John 5:1, 9-13; cf. John 3:14-16; 19:30; 20:31). John writes, “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” 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.
Those who are trusting in their good works or in Christ plus their good works to get them to heaven, are telling God the Father that Jesus’ death on the cross failed to pay their sin debt in full. However, since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for the sin of the world (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), we must also be satisfied with what satisfies God. God cannot accept anything we do as payment for our sins because He has already accepted His Son’s payment for all our sins when He died in our place on the cross.
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. 18 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).
Another way the enemies of Christ attack God’s work is seen in its assault on God’s work in creation. The world teaches that we arrived by chance into this world and only the evolutionary forces of the natural world created human beings.
Anderson writes, “It’s interesting, but the Ph.D.’s in biology on our university campuses won’t even come to the debates on evolution anymore because they realize their theory is more religion than science.” 19
“It always amused me that they call evolution a theory and treat it like a fact. According to the scientific method, it doesn’t even qualify as a good hypothesis. Why? Because in the scientific method we must begin with an observation. And the most important observation for evolutionary theory has never been made—a positive mutation from a lower species to a higher. Of course, for evolution from the primordial mess to human mass we need tentontrillion positive mutations going from lower to higher. We have never observed even one. For Newton to come up with his law of gravity, he first observed the apple falling from the tree. Positive mutations, which are very rare, within a species do not count.”20
But the Bible is clear that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), including human beings (Gen. 1:26-27). We know that Jesus believed in the Genesis creation account (Matt. 19:4-5) and so did the prophet Malachi (Mal. 2:15) and the apostle Peter (2 Pet. 3:4-5).
The day is coming when there will be an unprecedented judgment by God upon the world known as the Tribulation period (Rev. 6-19). Prior to John’s description of this severe judgment, there is a parenthetical break in heaven where we discover why the Lord will judge the earth. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (Rev. 4:11). God’s severe judgment of the earth will be just because everything belongs to the Lord Who created the earth and all its inhabitants. The Creator has every right to do with His creation as He desires, especially if it has rejected Him. 21
You do not have to face this severe judgment on the earth. God promises to remove His church consisting of all who believed in Christ for eternal life prior to the Tribulation period (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11; John 14:1-3; et al.).
If you do not know for sure you have eternal life, take God at His Word when He says, “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). This one verse is written to “you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Do you believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for all your sins and rose from the dead, proving His claims to be God are true (cf. John 20:31; Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6)? If you do, the Bible guarantees “you may know that you have eternal life.” It does not say you may “think” or “hope” or “guess” you have eternal life. It says you may “know” with absolute certainty that eternal life is yours. Because Jesus Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), you can be confident He will keep His promise of eternal life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 3:15-16).
Do you now know for sure you have eternal life and a future home in Jesus’ heaven? If you do, you can tell God this through prayer.
Prayer: Dear Lord God, thank You so much for providing a threefold witness to Your Son, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, Christ’s water baptism, and His shed blood on the cross for all my sins. I acknowledge that I have been deceived by false teachers in the past regarding Jesus’ true identity and the way to heaven. Thank You for revealing the truth to me about Your Son. I now come to You as a sinner who cannot save himself. I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Who died in my place on the cross and rose from the dead. As best I know how, I am now believing or trusting in the Son of God, Jesus Christ alone (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers), to give me everlasting life and a future home in His heaven. Thank You for the everlasting life I now have and that I will not have to face the terrible judgment that is coming upon the world during the Tribulation period. Please use me now to tell others about Jesus and His free offer of everlasting life so they may also escape the coming Tribulation judgment and the horrific eternal judgment that will follow. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 238.
2. See 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. 602; Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 109 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 219, footnote 10.
3. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602; 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 4045 to 4050.
4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019, pg. 2951.
5. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602.
8. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 238.
9. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602.
11. The NKJV of I John 5:7-8 reads, “7 For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.” It is important to acknowledge that the words from “in heaven” (5:7) to “on earth” (5:8) are “well known because they were first introduced into an early printed edition of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus. They then became part of the KJV, but they are not found in the vast majority of the surviving Greek manuscripts of 1 John,” (Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 602). Hence, these words are omitted in the text.
12. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2951.
13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 4054 to 4059.
14. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
15. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 239.
16. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
17. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2951.
18. 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.
19. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 239 cites personal interview with Kirby Anderson, Trinity Pines, TX, November 17, 2001.
20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 239. 21. Ibid., pp. 239-240.
“No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” I John 4:12
When people go through severe trials, they may ask themselves, “How can a God of love permit me to go through such a horrible experience? I feel abandoned by God, not loved by Him.” Even Christians who have spent their lives loving and serving the Lord have felt this way when they are blindsided by a debilitating disease, a financial collapse, children who have rebelled against God and have no contact with them… you name it. 1
Several years ago, my wife and I felt called by God to start a new church on the south side of Des Moines, Iowa. We resigned from our current church outside of Des Moines to live in an apartment with our three daughters in a nearby town for fifteen months while we received training from the mother church of the church start. Near the end of the training, we bought a new home on the south side of Des Moines with the intent of living there the remainder of our lives if God permitted. At our grand opening in an elementary school, we had over 160 people attend, and several people professed faith in Christ. We were off and running! It was a dream come true.
Fast forward three years. The church had shrunk to about thirty people. We announced to our church family that we were going to resign from the ministry. My wife and I were burned out emotionally and spiritually. For the past year I had been crying out to God for additional Christian leaders to help us in the work of the ministry. When nothing happened, I felt abandoned by God. “Lord,“ I cried out to Him, “We left everything to serve You, and now we are having to step away from the ministry. Where are You in all of this? Don’t You love us anymore?” I knew intellectually that God loved us, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t experience it.
I share this with you because the apostle John is going to share some important truths that relate to that situation and any situation for that matter where Christians are prone to doubt God’s love for them. John emphasizes seeing God’s love through our relationships with His people (4:12-16). You may recall that in 4:7-11 John exhorted his readers to love one another the way Christ had sacrificially and selflessly loved them. Now he is going to talk about perfecting that love in our relationships with one another.
John writes, “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” (I John 4:12). You may wonder, “How can John say no one has seen God when the Bible speaks of people seeing God?”(e.g., Exod. 33:21-23; Isaiah 6:1-5; Rev. 1:10-18). Those encounters with God did not reveal the fullness of His glory or His unveiled divine essence. If people saw God’s unveiled glory or divine essence, they would not live (cf. Exod. 33:20).
This invisible God, Whom no one has seen, “abides” (menei) in believers who “love oneanother” (4:12b). 2 Loving one another is a condition for fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. Jesus never said, “Whoever loves one another should not perish but have everlasting life.” He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). Belief in Christ alone results in eternal life. Loving one another results in God abiding in fellowship with Christians and being Christ’s disciple (cf. John 13:34-35). The Lord is at home in the believer who shares God’s love with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Furthermore, when we “love one another,” God’s “love has been perfected in us” (4:12c). The Greek words translated “has been perfected” (teteleiōmenē estin)“are in a form (perfect tense) that suggests His love resulting in Christian love. God’s love achieves its goal and reaches its full measure in believers when that love is reproduced in them and reflected through them by loving one another.” 3
God’s (agapē) love is produced by God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). It is not something we can create on our own. It is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:21). The moment a person believes in Christ for His gift of eternal life, He receives the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Gal. 3:2; Ephes. 1:13-14) and can begin to enjoy and share this agapē love.
John reminds us, however, that God’s agapē love is not static. It can be “perfected” or reach completeness 4 in a believer which suggests a deeper and fuller experience of that love (4:12; cf. 4:17). 5 God’s love can mature or grow up. For this to happen, we must be in community with other Christians. 6
“We might parallel this to what James tells us about sin in James 1:14-15. He says sin begins as a temptation in the mind. Then when our own lust of our heart merges with the temptation in our mind, Sin is conceived in the womb of our soul. After a gestation period, baby Sin is born into the world of our actions. With exercise and food, baby Sin grows up. When Sin becomes a full-grown adult (mature), she produces death. The point is that for Sin to mature, it must be born into the world of action. With repetition it grows up to maturity.
“Divine love is the same way. It may begin with a good intention in the womb of our spirit, but at this point it is only an embryo of love. For this love to be fully developed, it must be born into the world of our deeds, our actions. Properly nurtured and exercised, love becomes a full-grown, mature, and attractive young woman. And the world takes a look.
“So, this kind of love needs external expression to become mature. That’s why Jesus said He gives His disciples a new commandment to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ That commandment is like a golden parrot hopping from branch to branch in this book, repeating itself over and over. Jesus says when we learn to love each other this way, then the whole world will know that we are His disciples (His fully-devoted followers). This is mature, perfect love.” 7
Even though a devastating trial can overwhelm a Christian and cause them to doubt God’s love for them, it is in the context of a community of believers who sacrificially and selflessly love one another that their confidence in God’s love for them can be restored (4:13-16). John writes, “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (I John 4:13). The words “By this” refer to the previous verse and means we can “know that we abide in Him, and He in us” when we love one another in Christian community. That is, we can know we are having close, intimate fellowship with God when we are loving one another.
When John states “because He has given us of His Spirit” (4:13b), this reminds us of his words in 3:24, “And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” The Greek construction translated “of His Spirit” (ek tou Pneumatos) in 4:13 is the same for the words translated “by the Spirit” (ek tou Pneumatos) in 3:24. This “suggests participation in the Spirit of God, literally, ‘He has given us out of His Spirit…’ When a believer loves, he is drawing that love from God’s Spirit (cf. Rom. 5:5), Who is also the Source of his confession of Christ (1 John 4:2). Thus, both the faith and the love enjoined in the dual ‘command’ of 3:23 are products of the Spirit’s operation in a believer. A believer’s Spirit-led obedience becomes the evidence that he is enjoying the mutual abiding relationship with God that John wrote about.” 8
John has just told us “if we love one another,” then the God Whom “no one has seen… abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” through “His Spirit” (4:12-13). As a result of this experience, John writes, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (I John 4:14). This is considered by some to be the most important verse in all of I John to understand. 9
The “we” in 4:14 does not refer only to the apostles as it did earlier in the epistle (1:1-5; 2:19; 3:14; 4:6). In all those places there was a contrasting “you” (1:2-4; 2:20; 3:13; 4:4; et al.). But in 4:7-14, there is no contrasting “you,” so the first-person plural (“we” or “us”) includes the apostles and the readers. 10
This is significant because in the first verses of the epistle, John said that he and the other apostles (“we”) have “seen” (heōrakamen), “looked upon” (etheasametha), and “handled” the “Word of Life” physically (1:1). They have “seen” (heōrakamen) and “bear witness” (martyroumen) to his readers about that “eternal life,” Jesus Christ (5:20), Who “was with the Father and was manifested to” them physically (1:2). John wrote of what they have “seen” (heōrakamen) so his readers “also may have fellowship with” the apostles and “with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3).
While John’s readers could not see and touch the physical Jesus as the apostles had, when they love one another, John could say have they “seen” (tetheametha)and “testify” (martyroumen) “that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (4:14). When we observe sacrificial and selfless love in the community of Christians, John seems to be saying that we can see the Father’s love which was a perfect love, a love that sent His only begotten Son into the world to save the world through His own sacrificial and selfless love on the cross. 11
“The Church has no more effective way to testify to the world about the Saviorhood of Jesus than by the re-display of the Savior’s love in the fellowship of His disciples.”12
Let’s summarize what John is saying: Although no one “has seen” (tetheatai) God (4:12), Christians who “abide” in Him (4:13) “have seen”(tetheametha)the Son spiritually as His life is manifested among loving Christians.Believers who observe this manifestation have in fact “seen” and can “testify” to the Saviorhood of Jesus (4:14). 13
By loving one another, John’s readers could enjoy fellowship with the apostles in what the apostles “have seen” (heōrakamen) which is exactly why John wrote his epistle (1:1-3a). This is equivalent to having fellowship “with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3b). 14
But John also desired that his readers not only have fellowship with him and the other apostles in what the apostles had “seen,” but also in what they had “heard” (akēkoamen) about Jesus Christ (1:1-3a). 15 John writes, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (I John 4:15). Once again John uses the word “confesses” (homologēsē) which means to “to speak the same,” “to agree, confess, acknowledge… in public.” 16 Confessing “that Jesus is the Son of God,” is also another condition for fellowship or intimacy with God (“God abides in him, and he in God”). When Jesus is confessed as “the Son of God,” He is also confessed as “Christ come in the flesh” (4:2) and as the One Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 11:25-27). 17
The wording of 4:14 (“we have seen and testify”) reflects the words of John the Baptist when he said of Jesus, “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). So, in the context of the Christian community, John is speaking of the visible manifestation of Christian love accompanied by the verbal confession of Jesus as the Son of God (4:12-15). Both these fundamental expressions among God’s people reproduce what the apostles themselves had “seen” in Jesus and what they had “heard” about Him from His forerunner, John the Baptist (cf. John 1:32-34). 18
Regarding John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:32-34, Yarbrough states: “God’s Spirit descended and ‘remained’ on Jesus, according to John the Baptist (1:32, 33). The Spirit was Jesus’s constant companion. To ‘remain’ or ‘abide’ in Jesus’s teaching is to be His true disciple (8:31). A disciple will be informed and steered by all that Jesus commanded and taught. God the Father ‘remained’ or ‘abode’ with Jesus during His earthly days (14:10). The Father was the source of the very words He spoke, and Jesus ‘remained’ continually in the Father’s love (15:10b. ‘Abiding’ describes a reality involving Father, Son, and Spirit.”19
When believers live in an atmosphere of mutual Christian love (4:12-15), they can say along with the apostle John, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16). The Greek words translated “have known” (egnōkamen) and “believed” (pepisteukamen) are in the perfect tense. Since these are stative verbs in the perfect tense, they refer to a state of intimate knowledge and total trust that God loves us (see comments on 2:3). 20 Since “God is love,” the Christian “who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
When Christians face painful circumstances, it can be easy for us to doubt God’s love for us. The apostle John says the best way to restore our confidence in God’s love for us is to see and hear His love expressed in a Christian community.
Let me return to my opening testimony. After the closure of the new church in south Des Moines, I was devastated. I doubted that God truly loved me. I felt like a total failure and that God would never use me again to advance His gospel. I had given up on God’s love for me and I assumed He had given up on me as well.
A few months after the church closed, God led my family and I to a church where we encountered His amazing love. The people welcomed us with open arms and came alongside us to help us see ourselves as God’s beloved children. The pastor there had been through a similar church planting experience, and he understood how we felt. He knew how to minister God’s love to us in practical ways that were meaningful to us. Instead of exhorting us with Scriptures, he listened to us and spent time with us. We also got plugged into a small group of believers who loved on us and accepted us as we were.
As we saw and heard the amazing love of Jesus Christ in this Christian community, gradually our confidence in God’s love for us was not only restored, but it was deepened and intensified. We were able to experience the kind of intimate fellowship with God that the apostles experienced.
I don’t know what you are facing right now, but I would guess that some of you are where I was at a few years ago. Perhaps you doubt God’s love for you because you or someone close to you has a debilitating disease or the loss of a job. Maybe after serving God sacrificially and selflessly for years, you were deeply hurt by an unloving Christian. As a result, God’s love seems very distant and invisible to you.
Whatever pain you are carrying, please know that God wants to reveal His love to you through His people. Just as we cannot see the wind, we can see its effects. We cannot see God, but we can see His love operating through Christians when they love one another. 21 His children are not perfect. But if they are enjoying intimate fellowship with the God of love, they will be able to share that love with you. And if you will let them do that, your knowledge and faith in God’s love for you will be restored and deepened.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for making Your sacrificial and selfless love visible to us through Your only begotten Son Whom You sent to die on a cross for all our sins. Such love may be difficult for us to believe when we encounter severe trials and disappointments in life. We may doubt Your love for us when we experience suffering and pain. But You never intended for us to face that pain and suffering alone. Thank You for providing an atmosphere of mutual Christian love in churches that abide in You and Your Holy Spirit. Use us to be a channel of Your love to those who doubt Your love for them. May each of our churches reflect the love of the Savior as we love one another. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Adapted from David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 212.
2. The phrase, “If we love one another” (ean agapōmen allēlous) is a third-class condition and refers to a general truth at the present time. SeeArchibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 207051.
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. 600.
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. 996.
5. 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 3973.
6. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 212.
8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3974 to 3979.
9. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 99 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 192; Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
10. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
11.Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 214.
12. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, pg. 99 cites Hodges, The Epistles of John, pg. 192.
13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3985 to 3990.
14. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
16. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 708.
17. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
19. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, pg. 100 cites Robert W. Yarbrough, 1—3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pg. 252.
20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 216.
21. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2948.
“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” I John 2:18
A few years ago, when I was at a travel agency’s office in a mall near Metro Manila in the Philippines, I met a Muslim man who was also there to purchase plane tickets. As I conversed with him, he made a statement that shocked me. He told me that America’s government leaders orchestrated the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City to cause the rest of the world to turn against Islam and its leaders. When he said this, I thought at first that he was joking. But he wasn’t. He was serious. He told me that there was no evidence whatsoever that the bombings of the WTC were linked to Osama Bin Laden and Islam. At that time, I did not understand how extensively Islam brainwashes its followers from an early age to believe such things.
Anderson illustrates this from the life of former NBA star Chris Jackson, now known as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: “He had broken the single game scoring record of Pistol Pete Maravich at LSU and went on to lead the Denver Nuggets for several years. Then he converted to Islam, changed his name, and refused to stand during our national anthem. He walked over and sat on the bench in protest. After several trades he is out of the NBA. He has built his own mosque in Louisiana where he leads prayer to Allah five times a day. In an interview he claimed there is no evidence that Osama is responsible for the New York tragedy. He said, ‘As a matter of fact, there were thirteen Jews found standing on top of a building filming the event, and I think the Jews are responsible.’ The interviewer looked at Chris Jackson and said, ‘You know, you’re crazy.’ And this American citizen said, ‘Well, that’s what they said of our great prophet Mohammed, and I am glad to identify with him.’”1
With Islam growing in popularity around the world, we will see more people sharing Chris Jackson’s views. 2 Please understand I am not just talking about the refusal to stand for our national anthem or attributing the terrorism of 9/11 to America or the Jews. I am also speaking of Islamic teachings which reject three of the most important fundamentals of the Christian faith:
1. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God (Matt. 5:18; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). Islam teaches that the Judeo-Christian Bible is corrupt and untrustworthy except for the portions which support Islam. 3 The reason Muslims make this accusation is “because the Qur’an says it teaches the same thing as the Bible, confirming the Torah and the gospel, yet the teachings of the Bible are clearly different.”4
2. The deity of Jesus Christ. Islam’s sacred Scripture, the Qur’an, denies that Jesus is the Son of God or God Himself. According to the Qur’an: “No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him” (Sura 23:91; cf. 25:2); it is blasphemous to say that Allah (God) is the Christ (Sura 5:19, 75); Allah cannot have a son because he has no consort or partner (Sura 4:171; 5:101). “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Sura 112:1-4). The Qur’an also teaches that anyone who says Allah has begotten a son will be driven to hell (Sura 19:86-88). According to Islam, since God cannot have a Son, He cannot be a Father. So, Islam also rejects the Trinity – one God in three Persons. 5
3. Christ’s death and resurrection. The Qur’an rejects that Jesus died on the cross and therefore rejects His resurrection. “That they said [in boast], ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:” (Sura 4:157). 6
Should these Islamic teachings surprise us? Not if we have read the apostle John’s first century letter known as I John. We have already learned in our study of this epistle that there are different barriers to our fellowship with God: personal sin (1:5-2:2), an example of which is hatred for our Christian brothers or sisters (2:3-11), and the world (2:15-17). Now we will begin to look at a third major barrier to our fellowship: the Devil and his false teachers (2:18-27).
It is not surprising that John’s warning against the enticements of the world (2:15-17) is followed by a warning against the antichrists (2:18-27). These antichrists or false teachers were promoting a worldly lifestyle which would entice his readers no matter how spiritual they may have been (2:12-14).
John writes, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that theAntichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (I John 2:18). Once again John addresses his readers as “little children” (paidia) which means “taught ones”7 and can refer to “one who is open to instruction.”8 His readers need to learn what he is about to reveal.
One of the signs that “the world is passing away” (2:17) is the appearance of false teaching or “antichrists” and “the Antichrist” (2:18). While the Greek word for “hour” (hōra)can refer to a part of a day (e.g., John 1:39; 4:6; 11:9), it also is used in reference to an undetermined length of time (e.g., John 2:4; 4:21, 23; 5:25, 28; 16:25; etc.). 9 The phrase “the last hour” refers to a climactic era in history between the First and Second Comings of Jesus Christ.
“Throughout the New Testament the writers regarded the present inter-advent age, after the Incarnation and before the Lord’s return for His own, as the last hour or the last days. This is the final period before the Lord Himself breaks into history again and raptures the church. Then the first stage of the new era will be judgment (the Tribulation), and the second stage, blessing. In the second stage, Jesus Christ will rule directly over human beings, first in the Millennium, and then in the new heavens and the new earth.” 10
John and the other authors of the New Testament believed Jesus Christ would return for His own in their lifetime (cf. Matt. 24:36-51; Luke 12:39-40; I Cor. 1:7; 15:51-52; Phil. 3:20; I Thess. 1:10; 4:13-5:11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; I Pet. 1:13; 2 Pet. 3:10; Jude 1:21), thus John refers to this period of time before Christ’s return as “the last hour.” Two thousand years later Christ still has not returned for His church. Does this mean the Bible has errors because the writers of the New Testament believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes, and they were obviously wrong?
Zane Hodges points out in his commentary on 1 John, that the Bible predicted that scoffers would come “in the last days” who would deride believers for their doctrine that Christ could come at any moment 11 like “a thief in the night” (2 Pet 3:3-4, 10). “3 Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Peter notes that the coming of “scoffers” is a sign of “the last days.” This is similar to what John is saying in I John 2:18-19. The appearance of “antichrists” or false teachers is indicative of “the last hour” leading up to the manifestation of the ultimate “Antichrist” who will claim to be God and rule the world during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-22; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 13:1-10).
The skeptics Peter mentions erroneously assume that “all” the processes we observe in our present world are the way “things” have always been (2 Pet. 3:4). This is also known as uniformitarianism. Such false assumptions overlook the fact that God has supernaturally intervened in the past when He spoke the universe into existence (2 Pet. 3:5; cf. Gen 1-2) and judged humanity through a global flood (2 Pet. 3:6; Gen. 6-8). The “same word” that supernaturally intervened in the past will also intervene in the future when God destroys the present heavens and earth with fire (3 Pet. 3:7).
Peter responds to these skeptics who doubted Christ’s coming by saying God does not view time as we do. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pet. 3:8). God is not limited to our linear view of time since He created time. Time for God may be a different dimension. 12 So, when Peter refers to “the last days” and John speaks of “the last hour,” they are not in conflict with God’s view of time. An hour or day to God may be two thousand years for us.
John and his readers knew that “the Antichrist” was destined to appear on the world stage more than three-and one-half years prior to Christ’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. His readers now needed to be aware of the “manyantichrists” who had already appeared. The Greek compound word translated “antichrist” (antichristos)means “against” (anti) + “Christ” (christos). These are people who oppose Jesus Christ and His teachings, or they claim to be the Christ or Messiah. 13
“An ‘antichrist’ opposes and replaces Christ with the goal of distracting and derailing Christiansfrom pursuing Christ.”14
Speaking of these antichrists, John writes, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (I John 2:19). The word “us” (hēmōn) is used four times in this verse and most likely refers to the apostolic eyewitnesses (cf. 1:4-5; 4:6). It stands in contrast to the “you” in I John 2:20-21 which refers to John’s readers. Here we see for the first time the “we”–“you”–“us” contrast (cf. I John 4:4-6). 15 John wants his readers to know that these false teachers defected from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea (“They went out from us”) and sought to spread deception among John’s Gentile readers.
“It does not make sense that the false teachers had left the churches to which the readers belonged. If they had, how were they still a problem? On the other hand, if, like the legalists of Acts 15, they had seceded from the apostolic churches of Jerusalem and Judea, then they were a particular threat to the readers because they came to them claiming roots in the soil out of which Christianity arose. Thus, John was eager to deny any connection with them.”16
John wants his readers to know the antichrists were not in agreement with apostolic teaching (“they were not of us… none of them were of us”). If they had agreed (“if they had been of us”), they “would have continued with the” apostles (“us”) and their teaching. But since God’s truth could not be changed among the apostles, these false teachers departed. They were unwilling to submit to the final authority of God’s Word, so they went out to deceive John’s readers by claiming to be from the same fellowship as the apostles. John wants his readers to know this so they will not listen to them and be deceived.
Were these antichrists believers in Jesus? It is possible they were saved and then denied the truth they once believed (cf. I Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). A person can still be saved after falling away from the faith. We can lose our faith, but God never loses us. If He did, then Jesus would have failed to do the Father’s will (John 6:38-39).
John’s readers were not defenseless against these antichrists: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” (I John 2:20). The “anointing from the Holy One” is God the Holy Spirit since we are told that the anointing “teaches” (I John 2:27). This strongly suggests that the anointing is a Person. 17 Christ promised that the Person of the Holy Spirit would “teach” His disciples “all things” (John 14:26; cf. 16:13-14).
“’The anointing’ is not some special gift shared by only elite clergy. John is addressing spiritual ‘children’ (2:18). Every Christian has the anointing: the internal teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit who illuminates the believer’s mind to understand and apply God’s truth, as well as to detect deception. Paul refers to it as having the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2:16).”18
When does one receive this anointing? The moment he or she believes in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 7:37-39; cf. Acts 10:43-45; 19:2; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:2, 26-27; Ephes. 1:13-14). God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in a person’s body when he or she comes to faith in Christ (I Cor. 6:19-20).
The result of this anointing is “you know all things.” The Holy Spirit enables believers to adequately know and understand Christian truth. The antichrists may have told John’s readers that they or their church leaders lacked a special knowledge which only they could give them.
John assures them they had adequate instruction in the truth of God. “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” (I John 2:21). John does not write to his readers because they are ignorant of the truth as the antichrists may have told them. The apostle writes to them precisely because they do “know” the truth and they know “that no lie is of the truth.” This suggests that the false teachers may have told John’s readers or the church leaders that their understanding of the truth was inadequate, and they needed to be enlightened by them. But John says, “You already know all things. You know the truth. And you know that the truth is never to be confused with a lie. So, there is no need for any of you to listen to these false teachers. Your church leaders are competent to teach the whole body of Christian truth.” 19
It is important to recognize that the word John uses for “know” (oida) in I John 2:20-21 is different than the experiential knowledge (ginōskō) he spoke of earlier (2:3-4, 12-14). In the New Testament the word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 20 “This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.”21
The key to resisting false teaching is to “know the truth” of God’s Word and depend upon the Holy Spirit to do what the Word says. Jesus said, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13). God the Holy Spirit gives us direction from the Word of God. “The Spirit of truth” guides us “into all truth.” The Spirit communicates to us through the written Word which is the truth (John 17:17). Walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) means to depend on the Spirit to do what the Word says. We are to depend upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word and obey it as we expose ourselves to it. So, as we become more familiar with the truth of the Bible, we can detect the deceptions of the antichrists by contrast.
There are some who try to cast doubt on the truth of the Bible to make the church more open to doctrinal deviations. For example, Islam does this by telling Christians that the New Testament was corrupted by the apostle Paul and therefore is no longer trustworthy. 22 The Jehovah Witnesses have retranslated John 1:1 in their New World Translation to say that the Word, Jesus Christ, is “a god” instead of “God.”23 John would have had zero tolerance with anyone who praises a false idea as “insightful” or “worthy of dialogue” no matter how far it is from the truth of God’s Word. 24 Christians today also need to have the same zero tolerance for anyone who rejects or distorts the truth of God’s Word.
What lies will these antichrists teach? “22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; hewho acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23). The main lie that John has in mind is the denial “that Jesus is the Christ.” For the apostle John, belief “that Jesus is the Christ” is saving: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1a; cf. John 20:30-31).
Believing “that Jesus is the Christ” in John’s thought means to believe that Jesus is the One Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-27). The person who denies this truth about Jesus “is a liar” who undermines the very basis on which anyone is saved. 25 Hence, these false teachers were denying that John’s readers had eternal life (cf. I John 2:25). If Jesus is not the Christ, as the antichrists taught, then John’s readers had no assurance that they possessed eternal life by believing in Christ. If their assurance disintegrated, so would their fellowship with God. 26
Denying that Jesus is the Christ is also a denial of “the Father and the Son” (2:22b) because “whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; hewho acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (2:23). To deny One is to deny the other and to acknowledge One is to acknowledge the other because Jesus perfectly reflects God the Father. Both the Father and the Son are God.
If we apply this lie detector test to Islam, we can quickly see that Islam denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and it also denies that God is the Father (see previous comments). According to I John 2:18-23, what do we learn about any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father? First, we learn that it is a lie. And second, it is from the Antichrist. To put it bluntly, any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is from the Devil. 27
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for providing tests to help us discern truth from error. We are living in a world that is filled with deception and false teachers who claim to be Christians but deny that Jesus is the Christ Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him. Thank You for the anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables us to understand and apply the truth of Your Word, and to detect deception. Any religious system that denies Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and denies God is the Father is a lie and is from Satan. Grant us the courage and discernment to apply these truths from I John to our daily lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 119.
2. An April 2, 2015, Pew Research Report entitled, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050” at https://www.pewresearch.org states that Islam is projected to grow faster than any other religion. “Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35% increase. Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73%. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35%) as the global population overall. As a result, according to the Pew Research projections, by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history.”
3. See Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 117-118 and Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pp. 7, 34. When witnessing to a Muslim, show them that the Bible claims to be the perfect Word of God (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), encouraging them to read it. If Muslims say they cannot read the Bible because it is corrupted, remind them that the Quran promises, “there is no change to the word of God” (Sura 10:64). If God can preserve the Qur’an, He can preserve the Bible which the Qur’an encourages Muslims to read (cf. Sura 3:3; 5:36-38, 66; 12:111; 20:37; 29:46; 35:31; and 10:94). Surely Allah would not command his people to read the Bible if it was corrupted. In Sura 10:94, the Qur’an tells Muslims that if they are in doubt about anything in the Scriptures, they should ask those who have received the book that was given before, such as the Tauret (the books of Moses), the Zabur (the psalms of David), and the Injil (the Gospels). – See Janosik, pg. 44.
4. Qureshi, pg. 117.
5. When witnessing to a Muslim about the deity of Christ, explain to them what the term “Son of God” means in its historic and biblical context. Never does it mean that God has a wife and produces offspring as Muslims believe. “Son of God” is an analogical term that indicates the relationship that the Second Person of the Trinity has with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not inferior to the Father; for He claims that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), as well as if they have seen the Son then they have also seen the Father (John 14:9). Jesus also performed unique miracles that confirmed that He was the Son of God (John 20:31). Thus, the Son is not “another” god, but rather the second Person of the One God. In addition, Christians should realize that the reference to Jesus as the “Christ” is a title given to the heavenly, eternal Son Who is equal to God the Father (John 5:18-24). Christians should also explain the limitations that the Son took on Himself in order to become a Man. If He did not become fully Man (John 1:14; I Timothy 2:5), then He could not truly die in our place and bring us redemption from our sins (Phil. 2:5-8) (Janosik, pg. 271).
6. When witnessing to a Muslim about the death and resurrection of Christ, Christians need to understand that from an historical point of view, the claim by Muslims that Jesus Christ was not crucified was made 600 years after the event and has no historical support from the first century. (Janosik, pg. 284). Perhaps one of the best ways to help Muslims understand the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be to use Dr. Gary Habermas’ “minimal facts” argument (Janosik, pg. 284 cites Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection [Kregel, 2004]). The five essential facts to relate are:
a. Jesus died by crucifixion. Most historians accept the fact that a man named Jesus Christ lived in the first century and died by crucifixion.
b. His disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them. Whether or not Jesus actually rose from the dead, His disciples were so persuaded of this fact that they spent the rest of their lives telling this story. None of them ever denied what they had witnessed firsthand.
c. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. The apostle Paul first tried to destroy the early church, but after his encounter with the risen Jesus Christ he became the chief evangelist for the church.
d. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. Something transforming happened to James that turned him completely around so that he became one of the great leaders of the early church. Experiencing his half-brother, Jesus, resurrected from the dead could do this.
e. The tomb was empty. There have been many attempts to discount this fact, but they all fall far short of the simple explanation that Jesus, who had been crucified and died, had risen from the dead and exited the tomb (Janosik, pg. 284).
7. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pp. 45, 55.
8. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 749.
9. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 592.
10. Constable, pp. 55-56.
11. Anderson, pg. 121 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 106-107.
12. Anderson, pp. 122-123 cites Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Comos (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993), pg. 76.
13. Constable, pg. 56.
14. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2940.
15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.
16. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3719 to 3723.
17. Ibid., Kindle Location 3728.
18. Evans, pg. 2940.
19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.
20. Anderson, pg. 124.
22. Qureshi, pp. 196-198.
23. The translation of John 1:1c, “And the Word was God” (kai Theós ēn ho Lógos), is based on the Greek rule of grammar (Colwell’s rule) which states that the definite predicate nominative, “God” (Theós), in front of the verb “was” (ēn) will not have the article. See E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933), pp. 12-21. In Greek, word endings determine the subject. But since both “Word” (Logos) and “God” (Theos) have the same ending, John added the article (ho) to Logos to identify it as the subject of the sentence.
24. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 593.
This is the sixth video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles to defeat your worst fears.
All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from BiblePathwayAdventures.com, Goodsalt.com, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Wycliffe BibleTranslators of Russia, or they are creative common licenses.
“Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:9
I have known Jesus Christ as my personal Savior for over forty-three years, and yet I still have a lot to learn about what it means to worship Him. Most Christians know they will worship God in heaven, but many of us fail to grasp how thrilling this will be. We may think that worship in heaven will be boring and monotonous.
One reason we don’t look forward to worshiping God in heaven is because of the bad worship experiences we’ve had on earth. We think in heaven we are going to sing a few songs, hear a sermon, eat a snack, and go home, and repeat this monotonous routine throughout eternity. While things on earth can become less interesting over time, including worship services, in heaven focusing on God all the time will be fascinating, not boring! Those of you who know the Lord intimately understand what I am talking about.
The book of Revelation has a lot to teach us about the worship of God. While one of the primary themes of this book is to inform us of future events, we are told at the beginning of Revelation that its main subject is Jesus Christ. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place.” (Revelation 1:1a). The apostle John immediately alerts his readers to the Source of this book’s information when he writes, “The Revelation of [about or from] Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the Giver of this revelation, and He is its MAIN SUBJECT.
As the prophetic events have been chronologically revealed in this book, leading up to the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His eternal kingdom, we have learned more and more about the Lord Jesus. Our view of Christ has become clearer as He disclosed more of Himself and His redemptive plan in this book. The more we encounter Jesus in the pages of the book of Revelation, the more we want to worship Him! This is what happened to the apostle John.
After the apostle John saw the original angel who spoke to him (22:6; cf. 1:1) and then heard the voice of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he mistook the angel for the Lord Jesus. “Now I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things.” (Revelation 22:8). John now resumes addressing his readers in the first person, directly, which he had not done since the first chapter (cf. 1:1, 4, 9). 1 John had personally “heard” and seen “these things” that he had recorded. He was an eyewitness. When John “saw” the angel (22:6) and “heard” the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ (22:7), he may have concluded he was worshipping Christ. 2 The apostle’s strong response further attests to the genuineness of the profound revelations he had received. 3
Immediately the angel corrects John: “Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” (Revelation 22:9). The angel’s words, “See that you do not do that,” remind us thatthe worship of angels is forbidden in God’s Word (cf. Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18). No matter how glorious an angel is or exalted a servant of God is – for that matter – they are never to be worshiped.
The angel reminds John (and us), “I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book.” The reason the angel was not to receive worship is because he is a “fellow servant” of John’s; they both serve God. He also said he served the other “prophets” in addition to John, as well as all believers who “keep” or obey “the words of” the “book” of Revelation.
The angel emphatically says to John, “Worship God!” This is the most appropriate response to all that God has revealed in the book of Revelation. Throughout the book of Revelation, we see that God alone is to be worshiped. In God’s heavenly throne room prior to the beginning of His horrific Tribulation judgments on the earth, the angelic and human inhabitants of heaven are so overwhelmed with God’s holiness, power, and eternality (4:8-10), they fall on their faces saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” (4:11).
After the Lamb and Lion, Jesus Christ, takes the scroll containing the seal judgments from the hand of God the Father in heaven’s throne room, the four angelic creatures and redeemed people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” worshiped Jesus Christ by singing a new song of praise for His work of redemption (5:8-10). Then an innumerable host of “angels around the throne” now join this group ascribing worth to “the Lamb who was slain” Who deserves “power… riches… wisdom… strength… honor… glory… blessing” to be given to Him at the beginning of His reign on earth (5:11-12). Then every creature, saved and unsaved, angelic, and demonic, will join in giving God the Father(“Him who sits on the throne“) and “the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, “the blessing and honor and glory and power” they deserve (5:13). Then we see the four living creatures and twenty-four elders continue their unceasing worship of God in His heavenly throne room (5:14).
During the interlude between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, the apostle John receives a vision of God’s great mercy involving the salvation of Gentiles and Jews from every nation who are taken to heaven (7:9-17). An innumerable group of saved people from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” will be in heaven praising God, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (7:9-10). In addition, “11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (7:11-12). Imagine being in God’s throne room with an innumerable group of redeemed people from all over the world together with all of God’s angels falling on our faces because we are so overwhelmed with the goodness and greatness of God!
When the seventh trumpet sounded and the inhabitants of heaven announced the future eternal reign of Christ on earth in the past tense as if it has already taken place (11:15), “the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God.” (11:16).
During the last half of the Tribulation when the beast and false prophet blaspheme the true God and blame Him for all the calamities they are experiencing on the earth, an angel will be sent to nonbelieving earth-dwellers saying, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (14:7). They are to“fear God and give glory to Him” because the reason for all the worldwide death and disaster during the last half of the Tribulation is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (14:7a). When people on the earth understand why all the calamities are taking place during the Tribulation, they may be more likely to believe in Jesus for His gift of everlasting life.These earth-dwellers are also to “worship” God because He “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (14:7b). God is worthy of worship because He is the Creator, and He has the right to judge what He has created.
In Revelation 15, the apostle John has a vision of believers who were martyred during the last half of the Tribulation who are now in God’s throne room in heaven, singing “the song of Moses… and the song of the Lamb, saying:‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the nations!’Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.’” (15:3-4). It does not matter if the songs are old (“song of Moses”) or new (“song of the Lamb”), the purpose of worship is to “glorify” God for His awesome Person (“Lord God Almighty…You alone are holy”) and His “great and marvelous… works.”
Following the destruction of the great harlot (Rome) which caused the people of the world to grieve deeply and be distressed (18:1-24), we see a much different response to Rome’s destruction in heaven (19:1-10). All the inhabitants of heaven are praising God for what He has done to Rome, “1 saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! 2 For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’” (19:1-2). The “twenty-four elders” representing the church in heaven (cf. 4:1-4) and “the four living creatures” representing angelic beings (cf. 4:6-8), “fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne,” crying out, “Amen! Alleluia!” (19:4). In saying “Amen” (lit., “so be it”), they were giving their wholehearted agreement to the praise already given to God.
This last worshipful scene in heaven (19:1-4) which is contrasted with the mourning that will take place on the earth for Rome’s (“Babylon”) destruction (Revelation 18:9-24), reminds us that God is still worthy of praise no matter what we face in life. All God’s decisions are “true and righteous” (19:2) even when a romance does not blossom as we had hoped, or a job interview does not turn out the way we thought it would. It is important to remember that God is worthy of our admiration and trust even when the effects of sin endanger our families, when pain drives us to our wits’ end, or when misfortune is about to push us over the edge. God gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). He is honored when we return to Him, when we release our worries to Him, and when we rest in Him.
From this survey of the book of Revelationwe learn that in the current heaven, everyone worships Jesus Christ, including all the angels and God’s redeemed people. No one says, “Now we’re going to sing two hymns, followed by announcements, and prayer.” The praising of God is not ritual, it is spontaneous. 4
Alcorn writes, “If someone rescued you and your family from terrible harm, especially at great cost to himself, no one need tell you, ‘Better say thank you.’ On your own, you would shower him with praise. Even more will you sing your Savior’s praises and tell of His life-saving deeds.
“In 2003 when Saddam Hussein’s statues were being torn down in Baghdad, a television commentator said something so striking that I wrote it down. He said, ‘These people are used to coming out in the streets and praising Saddam. If they didn’t, they were punished. He had a policy of compulsory adulation.
“God seeks worshipers (John 4:23). But He has no policy of compulsory adulation. His children’s response to Him is voluntary. Once we see God as He really is, no one will need to beg, threaten, or shame us into praising Him. We will overflow in gratitude and praise. We are created to worship God. There’s no higher pleasure. At times we’ll lose ourselves in praise, doing nothing but worshiping Him. At other times we’ll worship Him when we build a cabinet, paint a picture, cook a meal, talk with an old friend, take a walk, or throw a ball.” 5
People all over the world today “are always striving to celebrate – they just lack ultimate reasons to celebrate (and therefore find lesser reasons). As Christians, we have those reasons – our relationship with Jesus and the promise of heaven.”6
In the final stage of heaven when King Jesus rules the new heaven and new earth from the New Jerusalem, we read, “3 Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3). In this final stage of heaven, believers will enjoy a new intimacy with God which is impossible in a world where sin and death are still present. God will finally “tabernacle” or dwell among His cleansed and forgiven people, and they will experience perfect fellowship with Him on the new earth.
I want to conclude with Randy Alcorn’s description of worship in this final stage of heaven on the new earth:
“Does this excite you? If it doesn’t, you’re not thinking correctly.
“I find it ironic that many people stereotype life in Heaven as an interminable church service. Apparently, church attendance has become synonymous with boredom. Yet meeting God – when it truly happens – will be far more exhilarating than a great meal, a poker game, hunting, gardening, mountain climbing, or watching the Super Bowl. Even it if were true (it isn’t) that church services must be dull, there will be no church services in Heaven. The church (Christ’s people) will be there. But there will be no temple, and as far as we know, no services (Revelation 21:22).
“Will we always be engaged in worship? Yes and no. If we have a narrow view of worship, the answer is no. But if we have a broad view of worship, the answer is yes. As Cornelius Venema explains, worship in Heaven will be all-encompassing:” 7
“No legitimate activity of life – whether in marriage, family, business, play, friendship, education, politics, etc. – escapes the claims of Christ’s kingship… Certainly those who live and reign with Christ forever will find the diversity and complexity of their worship of God not less, but richer, in the life to come. Every legitimate activity of new creaturely life will be included within the life of worship of God’s people.” 8
Alcorn then says, “Will we always be on our faces at Christ’s feet, worshiping Him? No, because the Scripture says we’ll be doing many other things – living in dwelling places, eating, and drinking, reigning with Christ, working for Him. Scripture depicts people standing, walking, traveling in and out of the city, and gathering at feasts. When doing these things, we won’t be on our faces before Christ. Nevertheless, all that we do will be an act of worship. We’ll enjoy full and unbroken fellowship with Christ. At times this will crescendo into greater heights of praise as we assemble with the multitudes who are also worshiping Him.
“Worship involves more than singing and prayer. I often worship God while reading a book, riding a bike, or taking a walk. I’m worshiping Him now as I write. Yet too often I’m distracted and fail to acknowledge God along the way. In Heaven, God will always be first in my thinking.” 9
“…Nothing is more fascinating than God. The deeper we probe into His being, the more we want to know. One song puts it this way: ‘As eternity unfolds, the thrill of knowing Him will grow.’” 10
“We’ll never lose our fascination for God as we get to know Him better. The thrill of knowingHim will never subside. The desire to know Him better will motivate everything we do. To imagine that worshiping God could be boring is to impose on Heaven our bad experiences of so-called worship. Satan is determined to make church boring, and when it is, we assume Heaven will be also. But church can be exciting, and worship exhilarating. That’s what it will be in Heaven. We will see God and understand why the angels and other living creatures delight to worship Him.”
“Have you known people who couldn’t be boring if they tried? Some people are just fascinating. It seems I could listen to them forever. But not really. Eventually, I’d feel as if I’d gotten enough. But we can never get enough of God. There’s no end to what He knows, no end to what He can do, no end to who He is. He is mesmerizing to the depths of His being, and those depths will never be exhausted. No wonder those in Heaven always redirect their eyes to Him – they don’t want to miss anything.” 11
J. I. Packer puts it this way: “Hearts on earth may say in the course of a joyful experience, ‘I don’t want this ever to end.’ But invariably it does. The hearts of those in heaven say, ‘I want this to go on forever.’ And it will. There is no better news than this.”12
Prayer: Gracious God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we pause right now to thank You for revealing to us future certainties in the book of Revelation which cause us to pause and worship You, our Triune God. Forgive us Lord God for sometimes getting caught up in the moment, like John did, and forgetting the One who deserves our full affection. We can so easily focus on the Gift rather than the Giver when we receive Your incredible blessings. Thank You for rebuking us, like the angel rebuked John, when we take our eyes off You, so we can redirect our focus onto You alone. Regardless of what we face on earth, You are always worthy of our admiration and praise. Your work in creation and redemption increases our sense of Your goodness and grace. Thank You for our eternal salvation. Thank You for the everlasting hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ who died in our place and rose from the dead so whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life both now and forever. Until we see You face to face, help us to live lives that worship and exalt You for who You are and what You have done. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 252.
2. Bob Vacendak; 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. 1589.
3. Constable, pg. 253.
4. Randy Alcorn, Heaven: A Comprehensive Guide to Everything the Bible Says About Our Eternal Home (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004 Kindle Edition), pg. 285.
6. Ibid., pg. 283.
7. Ibid., pg. 284.
8. Ibid., cites Cornelius P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (Trowbridge, UK: Banner of Truth, 2000), pg. 478.
9. Alcorn, pg. 284.
10. Ibid., pg. 286 cites John G. Elliot, “The Praise Goes On and On” (Grapevine, Tex.: Galestorm Music, n. d.).