“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:21
After Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-15) and referred to God as His Father (John 5:17), claiming to be equal with God, the critical Jewish religious leaders sought all the more to kill Christ (John 5:18). Christ then makes three major claims to establish His equality with God the Father (John 5:19-30). For our purpose in this article, we will only look at Jesus’ second claim which is that HE IS THE SAVIOR (5:21-24). 5:21: One of the “greater works” of Jesus (John 5:20b) is raising “the dead” and giving “life to whom He will.” The Jews understood that only God has the power to give life. But now Jesus is claiming to have the same power as God the Father. Christ “gives” both physical life (John 1:3) and everlasting life (John 1:12; 3:15-16).
“…In a way, Jesus was telling them, ‘You think you’re upset now because I healed a paralytic? You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until you see what I do with Lazarus!’ (see 11:1-44).”
Too often I hear Christians telling non-Christians to give their lives to Jesus to get them to heaven. But this is backwards. Jesus “gives life” to the non-Christian when he or she believes in Him (cf. John 1:12; 3:15-16, 36; 4:10, 14; 5:24; et al.). We don’t give our lives to the Lord for salvation. The issue in salvation is not what we give to God, but what He gives to us. The same author of the gospel of John writes in his first epistle, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (I John 5:11). Who gives eternal life? God does because it is a free gift (John 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23b; Ephes. 2:8-9). Who receives eternal life? We do the moment we believe in Jesus for it.
If we give our life to Jesus to get us to His heaven, we will be eternally disappointed because our lives end at the grave. We need life that lasts beyond the grave. We need Jesus’ everlasting life which we receive by believing in Him alone (John 3:15-16; 11:25-26; cf. I John 5:13). Only those who have Christ’s everlasting life by believing in Him will be able to enter Jesus’ heaven. The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus “gives life” for salvation, we don’t give our life to Him.
I am deeply burdened about this because non-Christians are being misled to think that if they give their lives to Christ, they have everlasting life as a result. This is contrary to Jesus’ teaching! Satan has deceived well-intentioned Christian workers into thinking they are serving God by telling the unsaved to give their lives to Christ to begin a relationship with Him. May God bring these Christian workers to repentance so they can replace this unclear and confusing evangelistic invitation with a clear invitation that uses the words God uses most in evangelism – “believe” (pisteuō)  and “faith” (pistis).  This will increase the population of heaven because non-Christians are being clearly told what God says they must do to receive His gift of everlasting life.
The Bible says, “9 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. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 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 5:9-13). According to these verses, what is God’s witness? Does God say you must give Christ your life to have eternal life? No. He says, “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (5:11). If you carefully read these verses, you will discover that they say nothing about giving your life to Christ to have eternal life. If I were to summarize these verses, I would say this: “The witness of God” says, “Christ gives His eternal life to those who believe in Him,” and “is greater” than “the witness of men” who say, “Give your life to Christ to have eternal life.”
But someone may respond by saying, Jesus said, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).Isn’t that the same thing as giving your life to Christ to have eternal life? Great question, but wrong conclusion.
Who is Jesus speaking to when He speaks the words of John 12:25? Jesus is speaking to two of His believing disciples, Andrew and Philip (cf. John 1:35-2:11), who came to Christ to inform Him about certain Greeks at the Passover Feast who wanted to see Him (John 12:20-22). When Jesus hears of the Greeks wanting to see Him, it confirmed that “the hour had come” for Him to “be glorified” through His death on the cross (John 12:23) which Jesus illustrates with a grain of wheat analogy whereby death leads to life (John 12:24). Jesus is the grain of wheat. The word “alone” refers to Christ dealing with Jews alone. It was necessary for Jesus to die to produce life in many others – both Jews and Gentiles (including the Greeks), in one body. Death was necessary for life and fruitfulness.
Since Jesus is talking to two of His believing disciples, He does not reference “eternal life” as a gift to be received by faith alone in Him alone (John 12:25). Instead, He speaks of eternal life as a reward to be earned in the future.  The issue here is rewards, not salvation from hell. The believer who “loves his life” by selfishly living for his or herself, “will lose” the fullness of that life both now and in eternity in terms of the loss of rewards. Christ goes on to say that “he who hates his life in the world” by making his or her love and loyalty to Christ a priority “will keep it for eternal life,” that is, they will enjoy a deeper and fuller experience of eternal life both now and in eternity. 
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b). Eternal life must first be received as a gift through faith alone in Jesus alone – “I have come that they may have life” (John 3:15-16; 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9) – before we can experience that life “more abundantly”through obedience to Christ (John 8:31-32; John 12:24-26). The word “abundantly” means over and above or overflowing life. All those who believe in Jesus have “life” in His name (John 3:16; 20:31). But only those believers who obey Christ’s word will experience it “more abundantly” both now and eternity.
Therefore, when eternal life is referred to as a present possession in the New Testament, it is always a free gift that is received by believing in Christ alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:28-29; 11:25-26; Rom. 6:23b; 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9; I John 5:11, 13; Rev. 22:17). But when eternal life is referred to as a future acquisition, it is a reward that obedient believers will receive in the future (cf. Matt. 19:29; 25:35-40, 46; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; John 4:36; 12:25; Rom. 2:7; 6:22; Gal. 6:7-9; I Tim. 6:12, 19; Jude 1:21).  Eternal life is not static. Believers can experience varying degrees of God’s life as they learn to trust and obey Him.
Those who are dedicated to Christ will “keep” or preserve that lifestyle for eternal rewards (12:25). Our earthly experience becomes a part of “eternal life”in that it contributes to the quality of our future life in eternity. If we put our material things and selfish ambitions ahead of Christ, we will decrease the quality of our life in the world to come. So, the issue is not salvation, but the quality of a believer’s life both now and in the world to come.
This is substantiated further in the next verse when Jesus says, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” (John 12:26). Jesus is referring to self-denying service to Christ. If you want to serve Christ, you must follow Him. He is to be the number one priority in your life. Just as Jesus denied Himself and died for the world (12:27-28a), His disciples are to deny themselves and serve Him. When Christ says, “and where I am, there My servant will be also”in glory and honor is the main idea here as confirmed in the next part of the verse. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” The verb “will honor” refers to honoring faithful Christians with rewards.  If you serve Jesus, you will receive “honor” or reward from His Father. If you want to be rewarded in the future, you must earn it by serving Christ now. Rewards are not a free gift. We must work for them to receive them in the future.
We can see then, that giving Christ our lives is a condition for discipleship and is necessary to receive eternal rewards (cf. Matt. 10:32-42; 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26; John 12:23-26), not eternal life or salvation as a free gift.
The claim of Jesus is that “life” belongs to Him and He gives it to whom He will (5:21). This cuts right across the philosophy and the propaganda of our day! Much of our culture tells you that your life belongs to you, and you can do with it whatever you want; it is up to you to make of yourself whatever you desire. That is what is fed to us all the time. But that’s a lie! Your physical life is not yours. You did not invent it; you were given it by Jesus.
If this claim of Jesus is real, and it is, it clearly makes Him the most important Person in anybody’s life. If your very physical existence has come from Him, and your spiritual destiny is in His hands, then He is the most important Person you will ever have to deal with. More than that, He is the most important Person in all the universe!
Because of this, it would be wise for us to keep His gospel message clear. Since the Lord Jesus used the words “believe” and “faith” more than any other words to express what a sinner must do to receive everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25-26, et al.), we submit to His Lordship when we use those words when sharing His gospel with the unsaved. It is not submitting to His Lordship when we refuse to use the words He used the most in evangelism and substitute it with words that are more popular with others such as giving your life to Christ to be saved from hell. Our sinful nature does not like someone else to tell us what to do and how to do it. So, when Jesus tells us to use the words “believe” or “faith” when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel, and we use other words or phrases that confuse instead of clarify the only condition for obtaining eternal life, we are saying to Him, “I know better than You, Lord. I will use some other phrase or condition that everyone else is using.” We are refusing to submit to His Lordship when we neglect to use the words He uses most in evangelism. And because of this, we will forfeit eternal rewards, not salvation, at the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Col. 3:23-24; Rev. 22:12).
How would you feel when You stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and tell the Lord Jesus that you told non-Christians to give their lives to Christ to get saved, and Jesus rebukes you saying, “Why did you tell them that when I told you to invite them to believe in Me to get saved? I had to send someone else to them to tell them to believe in Me for eternal life because you refused to submit to My instructions.” I believe we would feel shame and regret for disobeying our Lord (cf. Matt. 25:24-30; I John 2:28). It is not too late to change and start using the words Jesus used the most in evangelism – “believe” and “faith” instead of the unclear terminology that the majority of Christians use today.
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, thank You for establishing that the Lord Jesus is equal with You in His deity when He claimed to be the Savior Who gives life to whom He wills. He is as much God as You and the Holy Spirit are. Because Jesus is the One Who gives physical life and eternal life, He is by far the most important Person in our lives. Please forgive us for substituting the words Jesus used most in evangelism – “believe” and “faith,” with unclear words like giving your life to Christ, follow Christ, or turn from your sins as conditions for eternal life. Please enable us to submit to Your Lordship in our lives by using the words Jesus used the most in evangelism because Your approval is far more important than the approval of people. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 2219.
 The word translated “will keep” (phylaxei) is in the future tense.
The Evangelism Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, copyright 2014 EvanTell, Inc.), pg. 1180; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2257; Robert Wilkin, “John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 213.
 Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 221-232; Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2016 Kindle Edition), pp. 53-68.
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testamentand Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 1004-1005.
“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.
“2 Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye… 5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.” Proverbs 7:2, 5
The man who “keeps” or obeys God’s “commands” will “live” and experience God’s protection in his life. The phrase “the apple of your eye” refers to the pupil which is the most sensitive and carefully guarded part of the human body (7:2a). When God’s “law” becomes our most important focus, when it is what we pay the closest attention to (7:2b), it will “keep” or guard us from the many allurements of “the immoral woman” and “seductress who flatters with her words” (7:5). God’s Word instructs us to…
1. Avoid where and when the sexual temptation is waiting – “the path to her house in the twilight… in the black of the night” (7:7-9). Establish guardrails that keep you from being tempted such as no searching online when you are alone at night, lock up your digital devices using internet filters to give you accountability when accessing the internet, avoid massage parlors, strip clubs, bars, etc.
2. Avoid women online or in person …
Who dress seductively – “attire of a harlot” (7:10a)
Whose hearts are “crafty” or secretive/deceptive (7:10b)
Who are defiant (“loud and rebellious”) against God’s Word and the sanctity of marriage (7:11a)
Who are promiscuous – “her feet would not stay home…” (7:11b-12)
Who are overly aggressive, sensual, and shameless – “she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him…” (7:13)
Who minimize wrongdoing by referring to their religious activity (“I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows”) and entice men with a meal in her home (the animal sacrifice usually included leftover meat which must be consumed the same day in her home – 7:14; cf. Lev. 7:15)
Who seek to build your ego up with flattery – “So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you” (7:15)
Who seek to entice with you with a sensuous description of their bedroom – “I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon” (7:16-17)
Who proposition you – “Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (7:18)
Who reassure you of your safety from their husband – “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day” (7:19-20)
Who disarm you with their “flattering lips” (7:21)
3. Avoid seductive women online or in person because…
They will lead you to far-reaching consequences including bondage and death – “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.” (7:22-23)
We are living in a very sexualized society today whereby pornography is very accessible, affordable, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. Solomon’s description of the seductress is much like the digitalized pornographic women online. Satan uses the beauty of women (in person and online) to entice Christian men away from God and His design for purity in marriage and family, so he can “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a) their lives today (1 Pet. 5:8).
Solomon concludes these warnings by inviting us to listen to his advice (7:24):
Guard your heart. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways” in your imagination or fantasies (7:25a; cf. Matt. 5:28). We are already in danger if we are fantasizing about having sex with a woman outside of marriage. When we are tempted to fantasize about her, turn to the Lord and pray for her salvation (if she is not a believer in Jesus), or for her purity (if she is a believer). Reach out to a brother in Christ to confess your struggle and pray with each other (Jas. 5:16).
Guard your body. “Do not stray into her paths” (7:25b). Avoid where the seductress is waiting for you whether it be online or in person. Do not go or stay near to someone (online or in person) who resembles the immoral or seductive women that Proverbs 7 describes. Ask God what your first step must be to do this. Locking up your digital devices? Getting a flip phone? Changing jobs or locations? Joining a men’s recovery group that deals specifically with porn and sex addiction?
Guard your future. “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (7:26-27). No matter how “strong” we think we are, we must take seriously the consequences of yielding to her seductive ways. To be in “her house” and in her bed in our thoughts or in person will place us on a fast speedway to “hell” (Sheol) or the grave. If we pursue sin long enough and hard enough it will lead to physical “death.” Possible causes of death could be punishment from an angry husband, from poverty, from STDs, or from spiritual and emotional anguish.
While King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7 warning of the allurements of seductive immoral women, he did not follow his own advice later in life. The Bible tells us, “When Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (I Kgs. 11:4). Even though God had warned Solomon not to marry foreign wives because they would turn away his heart after their gods (11:2), Solomon disobeyed the Lord and “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (11:3). Solomon did not just worship their false gods, he also built worship centers for the people of Israel to worship the false gods of his foreign wives (11:7-8). As a result, God “became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (I Kgs. 11:9-11).
Solomon’s sexual immorality led to widespread idolatry. In many ways, viewing pornography is idolatrous. What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, bored, depressed, exhausted, lonely, self-doubting, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography  instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.
As long as we are living in these fallen physical bodies, there will always be the danger of being seduced by immoral women in person or online which can cause us to fall away from the Lord our God. Solomon ignored God’s design for marriage (one wife for life or until the death of one’s spouse – Gen. 2:24; cf. Mark 10:6-12; Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:10-11), and married hundreds of wives and had hundreds of mistresses.
May none of us think we are beyond the reaches of sexual immorality and the idolatry that often accompanies it.
In Solomon’s case, it is better to do what he says, not what he did. We must guard our hearts, our bodies, and our futures from the dangers of sexual immorality (Prov. 7:24-27). God the Holy Spirit can empower us to do this as we yield to Him in the context of a recovery community of believing brothers in Christ (Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:22).
No matter where we may find ourselves in our dealings with sexual temptation, there is always hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not uncomfortable with our sin or shame. He already knows about it, and He wants us to approach His throne of grace with confidence or boldness because He understands and is sympathetic towards our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15-16). Satan wants to convince us that God is against us and condemns us (Rev. 12:10).
Jesus tells us that His heart is “gentle and lowly” (Matt. 11:29), not condemning (cf. John 3:17). When in the temple, Jesus read Isaiah 42:3 which described the coming Messiah: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Matt. 12:20). Jesus, the Messiah, will not treat those of us who are “bruised” with sin and shame harshly (“break” them). He comes along side of us to strengthen and heal us with His presence rather than step on us to advance His own plans. He will not “quench” what little hope (“smoking flax”) we have left inside of us. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him and for life itself. He does this with His gentle and gracious presence in our lives which heals our wounds and replaces our shame with dignity.
God says He is for us and demonstrated this by giving us His best – His only perfect Son – when we were at our worst (Rom. 5:8, 10) – to take our condemnation when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (Rom. 8:31-32, 34). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are His beloved children!?!
Prayer: Father God, thank You for addressing sexual temptation and sin in these verses. Christian men are being sexually assaulted by the enemy in our society today. Most if a not all of us have mobile devices where we can easily access the allurements of seductive women via online pornography without anyone knowing about it but You. Before it is too late, please Father God, rescue us, redeem us, and restore us to close fellowship with You through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heal the pain that often drives us to turn to sexual sin. We all have wounds that need Your healing touch. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being gentle and gracious with our brokenness and shame so we can let down our guard and permit You to heal our wounds and replace our shame with dignity. Please break the chains that keep us bound to our shame. Help us set our minds on the things of the Holy Spirit Who reminds us that You are for us and not against us. The proof? You gave us Your best (Jesus) when we were at our worst (Your enemies), so that now as Your beloved children we can expect Your best for us daily. Please transform our ashes into beauty so we may proclaim the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 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 Study Guide Volume 1 (Stuart, FL: KindgomWorks Studios, 2017), pg. 21.
“27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. 28 My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word. 29 Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” Psalm 119:27-29
The Lord has been teaching me a lot about shame the past few years. Having grown up with shame-based lies in America and having served as a missionary in a shame-based country for several years, this issue of shame has weighed heavily on my soul. In this devotion I will address shame in a Christian’s life.
It is important to understand that shame is not from God. When God made the first man and woman, they were naked and unashamed before the Lord and one another (Gen. 2:25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, God did not come to condemn them with shame, He came to cover their sin and shame (Gen. 3:9-21). For example, when Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (3:10). God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat” (3:11)? God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin. Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. I Peter 5:8).
Guilt says, “You did something wrong.”Shame says, “You are wrong.” Satan uses shame to condemn us and keep us from drawing near to God and one another.
In my devotions this morning, the Lord led me to revisit some verses I wrote about 3.5 years ago to help me overcome my battle with shame. The Psalmist writes, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works” (119:27). We need God to help us “understand” or discern the pattern (“way”) of His commands (“precepts”). Take time to invite God to help you understand how to apply His Word to your deep struggle with shame. The Lord wants us to focus (“meditate”) on the “wonderful works” He is doing deep inside of us rather than on our sin and shame. Shame tends to focus on behavior and external reformation. God’s grace and truth focus on the heart and inward transformation. Before God can change our behavior, He must change our hearts (cf. Mark 7:14-23).
As God leads me to deal more deeply with my shame, I discover that my “soul melts from heaviness” (119:28a). The word “melts” (dalaph) means “to drip or leak because cracks are not mended.” The idea is that our soul is broken and unable to retain what God gives us. Shame keeps us from believing the truth about God’s love and acceptance of us. As a result, our soul is broken and weighed down with the “heaviness” of sadness and shame. And a cycle of shame develops whereby we mess up, confess our sins, and then try harder, only to repeat the same sin because we continue to believe the shame-based lies that fuel our shame. And we stay bound to this cycle of shame. We cannot break this shame cycle until we deal with the wounds that the shame-based lies are attached to. It takes God’s Spirit to heal these wounds to our souls.
Few things are more unbearable than the heaviness of shame. It is a burden that God never intended for people to bear. Yet Satan will use shame to keep us from becoming the people God intended us to be. What is God’s remedy for this weight of shame in a Christian’s life?
“Strengthen me according to Your word” (119:28b). We do not have the strength to overcome this weight of shame on our own. Only God has the power necessary to win this battle. The word “strengthen” (qum) means “to arise or stand up.” In the context, this refers to God giving us the ability to arise from the depths of our sadness and shame by means of His “word.” The strength we need to overcome shame comes from the truth of God’s Word. If we do not make our home in God’s Word (cf. John 8:31-32), we will not win this battle with shame. No amount of determination, willpower, or “trying harder” will overcome the weight of shame. We must invite God’s Word to do that for us. How?
“Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously” (119:29). Shame is based on lies the enemy has attached to past wounds in our lives. Lies that say:
• “I am bad or unworthy.”
• “No one could love me as I am.”
• “I cannot depend on others to help me.”
• “I am defined by my sin and shame.”
We must ask the Lord to expose and remove the pattern (“way”) of lies that keep us enslaved to the weight of shame. And then ask Him to “grant me Your law graciously,” not harshly. The only verse of the Bible where Jesus specifically describes His heart reads, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29). Jesus says His heart is “gentle and lowly” (humble), not harsh and proud. Our pride can lead us to deal harshly with ourselves and others. But Christ invites us to “learn from”Him how to deal gently and humbly with ourselves and others so we “will find rest for” our “souls” in our discipleship relationship with Him. So, ask the Lord Jesus to gently replace the shame-based lies in your soul with His liberating truth. Truths that say:
• “I am loved and cherished by God.” Psalm 27:10
• “I am totally loved by Jesus just as I am.” Romans 5:6, 8
• “I can depend on others to help me through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
• “I am defined by the Light and Love of Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:2, 8
I want to share a “Lies versus Truth” exercise that is adapted from Michael’s Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 222 -228.
With your mentor or with a group of accountability partners, review some of the most common false beliefs or lies listed below and their corresponding truths. There are blank spaces at the end where you can write in the lies you believe and their corresponding truths that are not on the list. Say each lie to yourself and only focus on the ones that FEEL true. You will know if your heart believes it is true because it will feel true. Even if it doesn’t make sense, go with the feeling. Replacing the lies with the truth is how real healing takes place. The truth is a Person, Jesus Christ (John 1:14; 14:6), not a concept or a Book. Jesus can supernaturally speak truth into our limbic system (right brain where lies are inserted) in a way that no one else can because He is full of truth and is the truth (John 1:14; 14:6; Heb. 4:12-13). Faith in Jesus’ truth produces healing, and faith comes from hearing a personal word from God (Rom. 10:17).
For each lie your heart believes, say the lie to Jesus. Ask Jesus to tell you what is true. He may bring to your mind a Scripture with which to replace the lie. Meditate on that truth until the lie does not feel true anymore. Ask Jesus if there is anything else He wants to share with you. Say the lie again and see how true it feels. If it still feels true, you may need to meditate on the truth some more or even ask for help. Pray and ask the Lord to heal and seal off any wounds, demonic influences, and behaviors that the lie created. God may show you that you need to forgive the person who caused this lie to be attached to the wound he or she gave you.
1. God cannot be trusted
God cannot lie and is always faithful (2 Tim. 2:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18)
2. God is out of control with His anger
God is slow to anger and gracious (Ps. 145:8)
3. I am alone and unloved
I am cherished and loved by God the Father (Ps. 27:10)
4. God could never love me
God has always loved me (Jer. 31:3)
5. Nobody would love me as I am
God loves me just as I am (Rom. 5:6, 8)
6. I am bad because of what was done to me
I am precious to Jesus because of what was done to Him (Matt. 13:44-45; I Cor. 6:19-20)
7. I am unwanted
I am chosen by God (Ephes. 1:4)
8. God is against me
God is for me, not against me (Rom. 8:31-32)
9. Someone has or will condemn me
In Christ I am free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 34)
10. I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthy
No one and nothing can separate me from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35, 37-39)
11. I do not have what it takes
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
12. I am defined by my sin and brokenness
I am defined by the light of Jesus Christ (Ephes. 5:8)
13. My past is a hitching post
My past is a guidepost (Ezek. 18:14, 17)
14. I am what I do or what others say about me
I am what God says about me (I John 3:1-2; 5:1)
15. I am a sinner because I sin
I am a saint (one declared righteous by God) who sins (Ephes. 1:1; I John 1:8, 10)
16. My behavior tells me what to believe about myself
My belief about myself determines my behavior (Prov. 23:7)
17. Whatever I do, it will never be good enough
In Christ, I am good enough (2 Cor. 5:21; Ephes. 1:6)
18. I must be perfect to be safe
I am hidden with Christ in God, forever safe and secure (Col. 3:3)
19. I am a disappointment
I am a delight to God (Ps. 17:8; Zeph. 3:17)
20. God won’t be there when I need Him
God is always available to help me (Ps. 121:1-4; Isa. 41:10, 13)
21. I should never be angry, anxious, depressed, or lonely
Anger, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are signals to draw close to God. (Ps. 4:4-5; 42:5; 72:21- 26; 2 Tim. 4:16-17)
22. Failure is the end of the world
Failure is an opportunity to learn (Ps. 37:23-24; Luke 22:31-34; Heb. 12:11)
23. No one understands me
Jesus understands me because He made me (Ps. 139) and walked in my shoes (Heb. 4:15)
24. I could never be forgiven
I am totally forgiven in Christ (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14)
25. I am a loser
I am a winner seated next to Christ (Ephes. 1:20-21; 2:5-6)
26. I am a mistake
I am God’s masterpiece (Ephes. 2:10)
26. I cannot change
All things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26)
27. If I am not in control, something bad will happen
When I yield to Christ’s control, I can have peace (John 16:33; Phil. 4:6-7; cf. Isa. 26:3)
28. I cannot cope without alcohol/anxiety/chemicals/food/sex/ shopping
I can cope through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
29. I need people’s affection and approval to be complete
I am complete in Christ, lacking nothing (Col. 2:10)
30. Christians cannot be trusted
I can learn to trust Christians who are safe (John 13:34-35; Gal 6:1-2)
31. I must be liked and loved by everyone
I am likeable and loveable, but not to everyone (Isa. 53:3; John 15:18-19)
32. Sex with a beautiful woman is the greatest sign I am loved
Christ’s dying in my place for all my sin is the greatest sign I am loved (Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9-10)
33. I am worthless
I am worth fighting for (Exod. 14:13-14; 2 Chron. 20:15, 17)
Prayer: Precious Father God, please give me the understanding and discernment to permit Your Word to speak to my deep struggle with shame. Help me focus on the wonderful work You are doing inside of me rather than on my failings and shortcomings. I confess that my soul melts from the heaviness of my sadness and shame. Please strengthen me as only You can with Your Word so I may arise out of this pit of shame. I pray Your Holy Spirit will expose and remove the shame-based lies that keep me bound to this cycle of shame and replace them graciously with Your liberating truths from Your Word so I may become the person You created me to be. Replace my false identity that is based upon shame-based lies with my new identity in Christ that is based upon Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“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.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
What is God like? Let’s see what some fifth graders said when their teacher at a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God. God is like BAYER ASPIRIN. He works miracles. God is like a FORD. He’s got a better idea. God is like COKE. He’s the real thing. God is like HALLMARK CARDS. He cares enough to send His very best. God is like TIDE. He gets the stains out that others leave behind. God is like GENERAL ELECTRIC. He brings good things to life. God is like SEARS. He has everything. God is like ALKA-SELTZER. Try Him, you’ll like Him. God is like SCOTCH TAPE. You can’t see Him, but you know He’s there. God is like DELTA. He’s ready when you are. 
In John 1:14-18 we are going to see that God became a man to show us what He is like. In the first five verses of John, we saw that the Word, Jesus Christ, is our Creator God. Thus, when we look at Jesus, we are looking at our Creator God in human flesh. He made you and me to have a relationship with Him. So, what is God like?
GOD IS APPROACHABLE.1:14a: John returns to the use of the “Word” that he introduced in verse 1 when he writes, “And the Word became flesh.” The most amazing fact of history is that the eternal Logos, God Himself (1:1), voluntarily “becameflesh” or a human being without ceasing to be God (1:14a). The word for “flesh” here does not refer to humanity’s sinful flesh or desires (cf. Rom. 8:4-5; Gal. 5:16-17, 19-21), but to Jesus’ sinless human nature (cf. Rom. 1:3; 9:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:14; 4:15; I Pet. 3:18). 
Unlike Adam and all his descendants before and after Christ who were born as sinners (Rom. 5:12; Ps. 51:5), Christ is the only Person to be born with a sinless human nature. The best explanation I have heard for this is that Jesus had a sinless Father in God the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20), whereas all other human beings had a sinful father. The sin nature seems to be passed on through the human father. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (cf. Rom. 5:18).Although Eve sinned first in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6), Adam is held accountable for sin’s entrance into the world.
The Bible also teaches that God visits “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations” (Exod. 20:5; cf. Deut. 5:9). Generational sins are passed on through the fathers, not the mothers.This implies that the sin nature is transmitted through the fathers, not the mothers or both parents.
Hence, Christ possesses a sinless human nature because He was conceived by God the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary (Matt. 1:20).
When John says “the Word became flesh (1:14a), he is emphasizing that Christ did not merely “appear” like a man; He became an actual man (cf. Phil. 2:5-9).
In John’s day there were false teachers who taught that God could not become a man because all human flesh is inherently evil, and God is inherently good or perfect. Therefore, Jesus only appeared to be a human being.
Swindoll explains: “In our day, the influence of naturalism has so permeated culture that we have trouble accepting the deity of Christ. In John’s day, most people had no problem accepting Christ’s deity. They were more troubled by His humanity. The influence of Plato permeated every aspect of religion and philosophy so that anything tangible came to be seen as inherently evil. The great hope of Greek philosophers was to escape the foul, obnoxious material realm in order to commune with the divine mind, which existed only in the realm of pure ideas. In life, they tried to deny the body as a means of connecting with what they conceived of as god. They saw death as the liberation of the soul (the good aspect of man) from the prison of the body (the evil aspect of man). So, naturally, they recoiled from the notion that God would become anything genuinely physical.
“To preserve the sinlessness of God, philosophers invented all kinds of myths to explain how Christ could appear human without actually having earthly material be a part of His nature. The most common, Docetism, suggested that He only seemed to be tangible, but was in fact a heavenly apparition. The so-called ‘Gnostic Gospels’ tell stories of how Jesus created the illusion of eating food while never actually digesting it or needing to relieve Himself.” 
When John states “the Word became flesh,” his choice of words were very offensive to the false teachers of his day. “Flesh” meant something inherently evil to them. In essence, John is saying that “The Word became meat.”
When John says the eternal Word “dwelt among us” the word translated “dwelt” means “to tabernacle, take up residence.” Just as God’s presence dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Exod. 25:8-9; 33:7, 11), so He lived among people in the Person of Jesus Christ. King Solomon thought it incredible that God would dwell on the earth (1 Kings 8:27), but that is precisely what He did in Jesus.
While the docetistic false teachers in John’s day were resistant to the truth of Christ’s tangible human nature, John skillfully refuted their heresies with great skill under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In his epistle he spoke of the Word of Life, Jesus Christ, as being “heard… seen with our eyes… looked upon, and our hands have handled.” (I John 1:1). Christ did not merely “appear “to be human. He became a tangible human being Who was “heard… seen…” and touched. To deny that Christ became tangible human flesh was “antichrist” and to be refuted (cf. I John 4:2-3).
“Conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary (see Matt. 1:20), the divine Son of God became a man. He is thus the God-Man—not half man and half God, but one Person with a fully divine nature and a fully human nature. He is deity poured into humanity. He is fully human, so He cried as an infant, but He is fully divine and gave life to His mother! He is fully human so He had to sleep, but He is fully divine and can raise the dead back to life. Our God fully experienced what it is to be human—yet without sinning (see Heb. 4:15). He faced hunger, pain, temptation, grief, hardship, and rejection. You face no category of human experience that your Savior has not endured.” 
Religions seek to know how we as humans can get to God. Yet the Bible tells us that God came to us. The Word became flesh. Why did God become a man? So, we could approach Him and trust Him.
A construction company was once building a road through some mountainous country, using dynamite to build a roadbed. Steve, who worked for the company, was placing the dynamite charges. One day as he was getting ready to detonate a charge, he noticed that several little chipmunks had come out of the underbrush, playing around the hole where he had installed the explosives. Steve, being a tenderhearted guy, didn’t want to see those little chipmunks blown to bits, so he began trying to shew the chipmunks away. Each time however, they just came right back to the location. His supervisor, Charlie, came out to see what was holding up the blasting. Steve, exasperated, explained that those chipmunks would not get out of the danger area. Charlie chuckled, and then used the incident to talk about Jesus Christ.
He explained to Steve that the only way one of them could communicate with those chipmunks, was if one of them became a chipmunk, and yet at the same time, kept all the characteristics of a man.  Chipmunks are afraid of humans because we are twenty times their size. But if you become a chipmunk, they would be able to trust you and relate to you, because you would be able to communicate the great danger caused by the dynamite. This is exactly what God had to do too – He became a man to communicate with the human race what God is really like and to warn them of the incredible danger facing them if they rejected Christ. If God came to us in the fullness of His glory, we would be too frightened of Him to trust Him like a chipmunk would be too scared to trust us.
Jesus became a human being so that you and I could relate to Him and He to us. Therefore, we are to trust Him at all times because He understands us. “Since we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin; Therefore, let us boldly come to the throne of grace.”(Heb. 4:15-16). He voluntarily became one of us so that you and I would believe that our Savior knows how we feel.
Perhaps you have viewed God as some distant impersonal force who does not care about you or your circumstances. You may say to yourself, “How could God let COVID-19 happen? I have lost my income, my health, and my friends! What kind of God is this?” Please understand that the God of the Bible is not some distant dictator who delights in punishing people.
Christian author Max Lucado writes, “From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule, Jesus Christ understands. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, He knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, He shakes His, too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, He nods in empathy.He has been there. He knows how you feel… Rejection? He felt it. Temptation? He knew it. Loneliness? He experienced it. Death? He tasted it. And stress? He could write a best-selling book about it. Why did He do it? One reason.So that when you hurt, you will go to Him… and let Him heal you.”
GOD IS FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. 1:14b: Now we are getting to the heart of this passage. John and the other disciples “beheld” Jesus’ “glory.” They were eyewitnesses to this.
“They saw His glory at the Mount of Transfiguration, in the signs Jesus did, and in His sinless life.” 
Christ’s glory was filled with “grace and truth.” Jesus maintained a perfect balance between these two attributes. Of all the phrases that God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He chose “grace and truth.” “Grace “ refers to “graciousness, favor, help, or goodwill.” Theologians describe “grace” as God’s unmerited favor or getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life, forgiveness, or salvation from hell, but Jesus Christ can freely offer this to us apart from any of our works because of His “grace” (John 4:10-14; Rom. 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23b; 11:6; Ephes. 2:8-9). In the context, “grace” refers to the graciousness of Christ. 
The word for “truth” means “truthfulness, dependability, uprightness in thought and deed, reality.”“Truth” is the perfect standard of God’s holiness.Truth says there is a right way, a best way. Grace gives us the encouragement to get there.
In life, some things are true which makes other things false. We do reap what we sow. There are consequences to our actions. Truth is true. It is unbendable and unbreakable and unyielding. Jesus came full of truth. Every word that He spoke was truth. Christ never told a lie. Every action and every thought were true. When Satan came against Jesus tempting Him by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matt. 4:1-11), how did Jesus respond? “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” He always countered falsehood with truth.
Near the end of His life before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Pilate said to Him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Then Pilate walked away. That was a big mistake, because the One Who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) was right in front of him. The One Who is and knows all truth is there. So, truth must be included in grace or grace is merely tolerance.
Truth without grace is just as destructive as grace without truth. Truth without grace is unbearable. Only the arrogant, proud hypocrite thinks all he needs is truth, because he thinks he has it all together. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines the perfect life. In the middle of that sermon Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Jesus means what He says here. When I read the expectations of God on my life and I hear His call to be perfect, I say, “Lord I can’t do it. Have mercy on me a sinner, because I fall way too short. The bar is too high.” That’s the demand of truth all by itself and it overwhelms us. God says, “I didn’t just come in truth, I came in grace.”
Why are grace and truth so important? As humans, we tend to err on one side or the other of grace and truth. Grace without truth is wishy washy. It is a farce. It is called tolerance. There are no absolutes… no right or wrong… no consequences for our actions. Anything goes, resulting in lives without direction. There is nothing we can know for sure which is tolerance. For grace to be real, it must be based on truth.
For example, grace without truth is like taking your car to the body shop to get rid of the rust. You get the car back and it looks great. But a year later the rust appears again. The mechanic didn’t remove the rust, he just covered it up to make it look good. Eventually, the rust keeps coming back. That’s how it is when you try to ignore truth. You can ignore truth for a while, but it keeps coming back. I can ignore the law of gravity and step off a cliff – and the law of gravity still applies to me. It doesn’t matter what you believe in that case. If you ignore it, it bites you.
Without grace the shepherd says,“That stupid sheep is the one who wandered away. He is on his own now.” But grace causes him to leave the ninety-nine to find that sheep and bring him home so there is rejoicing (Luke 15:1-7).
Without grace the prodigal son stays in the pig pen and never comes home because he knows there is no forgiveness. He’s gone too far without grace. But grace sets him on the road home (Luke 15:11-32).
Without grace the truth demands that Peter who denied Jesus three times be done being an apostle. But Jesus comes to him in grace and says, “Feed My sheep. I’m not done with you yet Peter” (John 21:15-19).
Without grace the wedding feast is over because the family should have planned better, so they did not run out of wine. But Jesus stepped in with grace and transformed the water into wine (John 2:1-11).
Without grace the Samaritan woman, who had been married five times and divorced and was now living with a man who was not her husband, wouldn’t have even received a look much less a word from Jesus (John 4:1-26). But He spoke to her because of His grace, and her life was transformed.
Without grace, Matthew, the tax collector who was ripping everyone off, never gets called to follow Jesus. But Jesus comes to Him and says, “Follow Me” (Matt. 9:9-13).
Without grace, the thief on the cross dies in his sin and goes to hell. But with grace, Jesus says, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).
Praise God that Jesus came not just full of truth, but full of grace. The truth is as a Christian, you are not supposed to worry. But I thank God for His grace because I am so prone to worry.
The truth is God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), but God comes to us in our brokenness and heals us.
The truth is sexual impurity degrades our bodies (I Cor. 6:12-20), but grace comes in and washes us clean.
The truth is that God calls homosexual and lesbian activity an abomination (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27), but God comes in with His grace and changes people.
The truth is God detests gossip and slander (Prov. 6:14, 19; 10:18;). But God comes in with His grace and washes us clean.
The truth is our addictions and yielding to temptations reveal that we don’t have the faith that we should, but God with His grace gives us that strength.
The truth is our attachment to material things is idolatry. But God comes in with His grace and rescues us from the power of things.
The truth is we should never get depressed as Christians – we should choose the joy of the Lord. But many of us struggle with this. But God comes in with His grace and lifts us up. You can take truths and swing them like a sword and do damage. But with grace we see God bring healing.
Do you remember the woman in John 8? The religious leaders were ready to stone her because the law (the truth) said you should (cf. Lev. 20:10). She was caught in the act of adultery, and they came to Jesus saying, “The law says she should die. What do you say, Jesus?” For a few moments, Jesus wrote on the ground, while they pestered Him. Then Jesus stood up and looked them in the eye and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).One by one, starting with the oldest, they all walked away. Jesus kept writing on the ground.
After a while there was no one left except Jesus and the woman. Jesus looked up at her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). She said, “No one, Lord” (John 8:11a). Here’s the thing. On that day, there was somebody there Who could condemn her… Who could have thrown the first stone… there was someone Who was sinless – Jesus (cf. John 18:38b; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He could have done it. Instead, Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). That is grace and truth.
Grace and truth. Don’t keep living like that. That is a path of destruction. Here is the grace. Here is a new start for you. And here is the truth – there is a better way. I love what Max Lucado says:“God loves you just the way you are [that’s grace], but He refuses to leave you there [that’s truth].“ 
Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for all our sins (Rom. 3:9-23). Jesus Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). He was perfect and sinless (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18). Even the political leaders could “find no fault in Him at all”(John 18:38; cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22; John 19:4, 6). God’s judgment of sin fell on Jesus instead of us when He died on the cross in our place (Is. 53:5-6; Matt. 27:45-56; Rom. 5:8; I Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Peter 3:18). That is truth.
But grace is seen while Jesus was hanging on the cross. After His enemies physically and verbally abused Him, and nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Did they deserve Christ’s forgiveness. No, none of us do. But grace offers forgiveness freely. Jesus also said to the thief hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Without grace, the thief on that cross dies in his sin and goes to hell.
Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth, He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
That is grace and that’s truth. Jesus was full of both. Therefore, we are to seek to be gracious and truthful with one another (Ephes. 4:15). We are called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephes. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Is there someone in your life that needs not just truth, but grace? Something has come between you and your relationship? They need to hear from you that the past is gone. It has been wiped out. That is the power of grace.
We also see that GOD IS ETERNAL.In addition to the apostle John’s and other disciples’ witness of Jesus,John now records the testimony of John the Baptist (1:15-18). 1:15: We are told that John the Baptist “bore witness” of Jesus. The Greek word translated “bore witness” martureō  is used in a courtroom setting (see comments on 1:7). And it means “to testify, give evidence, or speak the truth.”
When John the Baptist testifies about Jesus, he is not speaking softly. The Bible says he “cried out.” The Greek word translated “cried out” is imitative of a raven’s piercing cry or shriek.  It expresses an urgent scream or shout from someone who has deep emotions about their message. John was extremely passionate regarding what he was about to say. Why? Because he understood Who Jesus is and he also understood his purpose. John the Baptist was “sent from God… to bear witness of the Light,” Jesus Christ (John 1:6-7; 8:12). He understood his identity as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23; cf. Is. 40:3). John’s purpose was to prepare the people of Israel “that all through him might believe” in their coming Messiah-God for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:7b; 3:36; cf. Acts 19:4). John’s voice was temporary, but his message was eternal.
The Baptist’s message centered around an eternal Person. He cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me’” (1:15b). The word translated “preferred” denotes having greater dignity or rank than another (cf. Gen. 48:20; John 1:30). 
In Bible times, chronological priority meant superiority (those who were born first were considered superior). John is saying that Jesus is superior to him because Christ came before him. John the Baptist recognized the preexistence of the Word, Jesus Christ, as God (John 1:1-2). Even though John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36), John says “He was before me.”How could John the Baptist say this? He could say this because Jesus was always before John in His preexistent state as God.
In the Old Testament, the Lord God of the universe said, “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: ‘I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God’” (Is. 44:6; cf. 41:4; 48:12). The God of the universe has no beginning and no end because He is eternal. This is what makes Him uniquely God.
In the last book of the Bible, the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). The apostle John shares Jesus’ testimony, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last’” (Rev. 1:17; cf. 1:13). At the end of the Book of Revelation the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13). Make no mistake, the Lord God of the Old Testament is the same as the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament. This is John the Baptist’s message. He is acknowledging Jesus’ superiority as the eternal God with no beginning and no end when He says, “He was before me” (1:15b).
When the Coronavirus was in the news a lot, all of us are confronted with the frailty of humanity. None of us are promised life on earth tomorrow. God used COVID-19 to persuade people to think about what is eternal.
Since Jesus has no beginning and no end, we are to invest our lives in what lasts. What two things on this planet last for eternity? It is not your bank account… cell phone… video games… house… car… job… or your achievements. I have done a lot of funerals, and I have never seen anyone pull a U-Haul behind a hearse. What lasts forever on earth is people (Matt. 25:46) and the Word of God (I Pet. 1:23-24). We have an incredible opportunity to invest in both by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved (Mark 16:15) and then training those who believe in Christ through the discipleship process (Matt. 28:19-20).
With whom are you sharing the gospel and training in discipleship? If we are not evangelizing and then discipling those who believe the gospel, we are failing to invest our lives in what is lasting. But this need not continue. Today, you can decide to invest your life in what lasts forever. Ask God to show you whom He wants you to disciple or be discipled by. He enjoys answering that prayer.
1:16: If John the Baptist is still speaking here, then the “we”refers to all Israelites. The phrase “grace for grace” means “grace after grace.”Like the waves along a beach, one wave of grace after another has been repeatedly manifested in Israel’s history. Everything the nation of Israel had received was based on the grace of Jesus Christ. Israel’s existence today (and ours) is a testimony of God’s grace.
An example of God’s grace in Israel’s history is seen the next verse. 1:17a: When the law was given through Moses, Israel stood in great need of God’s grace. While Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law from God, Israel was down below sinning against the Lord by making a golden calf to worship (Exod. 32:1-6). For such a sin, the Law required only condemnation and judgment. Hence, God’s anger burned against His people (Exod. 32:7-10). But Moses prayed to God and God spared the nation by His grace (Exod. 32:14). A purifying judgment ensued (Exod. 32:15-29).
Moses then sought reassurance that God would forgive and accept the nation as His own. So “the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation’”(Exod. 34:6-7). We see a definite clash between God’s grace and truth here. How can God forgive “iniquity and transgression and sin” and yet “by no means clearing the guilty?” The solution is finally found in Jesus Christ.
1:17b: Through Christ and His sacrifice as the Lamb of God, the dilemma is resolved. Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for our sins. Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He was perfect and sinless. God’s judgment fell on Jesus instead of us. Grace is seen because of Christ’s death. We can cross over to God by faith in Jesus. God is now free to be gracious to all who receive that grace by faith in Christ.
Out of the “fullness” of His grace, Jesus blesses us with one wave of grace after another (John 1:16). One wave of grace is constantly replaced by a new one each day. “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits.” (Psalm 68:19). Although we may be feeling bombarded with a multitude of challenges these days, God still has an endless variety of ways to bless us.
He may bless us with a friendly smile from a worker at a drive through window or from someone standing in line at a bus stop. And the truth of the matter is if we would smile more, we will encounter more people who are smiling back at us. Jesus’ grace also enriches our lives with natural beauty all around us. It may be in the form of a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day or blossoms on a flowering tree. In the morning it may be a bird’s beautiful song or in the evening it may be the splendor of the moon and the stars. All of God’s creation is there for us to enjoy.
When I look back on my life, the one word that stands out to me is “grace.” By God’s grace He has brought me through disappointment and pain, some of which was caused by others and much of which I brought on myself. At the age of nineteen, by His grace the Lord Jesus saved me from the penalty of all my sins and gave me everlasting life the moment I believed in Him. By His grace I was enabled to serve Him for over three decades. And by His grace He will lead me forward one day at a time.
1:18: John begins by saying, “No one has seen God at any time” (1:18a). You may wonder, “How can this be true when the Bible speaks of people seeing God?” (e.g., Exod. 33:21-23; Isa. 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).
The only One Who can and has seen God in the fullness of His glory and divine essence without dying, is His Son, Jesus Christ (John 6:46). The reason Jesus could do this is because He also is God. He has the same divine nature as God the Father. For example, when people say of a man named Clarence Smith, “He is the son of John Smith,” they are acknowledging that he has the same human nature as his father. Likewise, when the Bible says that Jesus is “the Son of God” (John 20:31), it is affirming that Jesus has the same divine nature as His Father in heaven.
Therefore, we can discover what God is like by knowing His “only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father” (1:18b). The phrase “only begotten Son” does not mean Jesus had a beginning like a baby that is birthed by his parents, as many false religions teach today. The compound Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenḗs, which literally means “one (monos) of a kind (genos).” Jesus Christ is the only One of His kind. He is fully God (John 1:1-3) and fully Man (John 1:14). There has never been anyone like Him before or since. This is the message of the gospel of John.
The writer of this gospel, the apostle John, goes to great lengths to show Jesus’ deity (John 1:1, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 10:30-33; 11:27; 20:28; et. al). Jesus was unlike any other Person who has walked on this earth. In the Old Testament, the phrase “I Am” is how God identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:13-14). “I Am” is also how Jesus identified Himself to the people of Israel. He makes several “I AM” statements in the gospel of John: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the door” (John 10:9), “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:14), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6), “I am the true Vine” (15:1). Each one of these staggering statements attested to the fact that Jesus was and is God.
Jesus also claimed to be equal with God and to be God Himself (John 5:17-18; John 10:10-33). This is why His enemies wanted to kill Jesus for blasphemy (Lev. 20:10; cf. John 5:18; 8:59; 10:31-33; 11:8). For example, when Jesus said, “He and the Father are one” (John 10:30), the Jews understood Him to claim to be God. They said, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33).
Did Muhammed, the founder of Islam, Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, or Charles Taze Russell, the founder of Jehovah Witnesses, claim to be equal with God? Jesus Christ not only claimed to be God, He proved He was God through His works (John 1-12), the greatest of which was His resurrection from the dead (John 20:1-18; cf. Romans 1:3-4)! Hallelujah, brothers and sisters in Christ! What a precious Lord and Savior we have in Jesus!
John also goes to great lengths to show Jesus’ humanity (John 1:14; 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; et. al). Jesus had brothers and sisters like you and me (John 2:12; 7:3, 5; cf: Mark 6:3). Christ ate food and got thirsty just like you and me (John 19:28; 21:12, 15; cf. Matt. 9:11; 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 7:34). He experienced physical fatigue and even slept (John 4:6; cf. Matt. 8:24; Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23). Why? He became a man without ceasing to be God so He could understand what it is like for you and me to have family, food, and fatigue. The God of the Bible is not some distant uncaring deity like the religions of the world. He understands our needs and He came to earth to meet our most fundamental needs to be seen, safe, soothed, and secure.
When John says that Jesus was “in the bosom of the Father” (1:18b), he is referring to Christ’s very close and intimate relationship with God the Father. The word “bosom” refers to the upper part of the chest where a garment naturally folded to form a pocket.  The picture here is that of a son resting his head on the chest of his father, experiencing a very close and intimate relationship with him. Jesus had the closest and most intimate relationship with God the Father. He knows the heart of God the Father better than anyone because His head often rested upon His Father’s chest in eternity past.
Who better to tell others what a Person is like than the One who is closest to that Person and has known Him the longest in an intimate relationship!?! There is no one more qualified to tell us what God is like than the only begotten Son of God who has known God the Father forever in the closest of relationships with Him.
This is why John then says, “He has declared Him” (1:18c). The word “declared” is where we get our English words, “exegete” and “exegesis” from. It means to “set forth in great detail, to expound” or “to lead out, to draw out in narrative, to recount.” In seminary, we learned to “exegete” or explain God’s Word, the Bible. We were taught to “read out” of the Bible God’s intended meaning through a grammatical, historical, and literal interpretation instead of “reading into” the Bible our own biases and assumptions.
God the Son, Jesus Christ, has “exegeted” or “set forth in great deal” what God the Father is like. Jesus is more qualified than anyone else to explain what God the Father is like because He, being God, knows God the Father longer and more intimately than anyone else.
For some of you reading this, it may be very difficult for you to perceive God as your Father because you have been deeply wounded by your own earthly father through his absence or even his abuse towards you. You may detest the thought of God being a Father because your own earthly father caused you a lot of pain. Hence, you want nothing to do with fathers.
Please understand that God the Father is nothing like your absent or abusive father on earth. God wants you to know Him for Who He truly is. And there is no one more qualified to reveal God the Father to you than Jesus Christ.
Therefore, Jesus said, “He who sees Me sees Him [the Father] who sent Me” (John 12:45). He also said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7). Christ said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b) because Jesus is the perfect reflection of the Father.
If you want to know God the Father, get to know His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, because He is God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14; Tit. 2:13; I Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:8; I John 5:20). You can begin a relationship with God the Son and God the Father through faith. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
To believe in the Father Who sent Jesus is the same as believing in Jesus because Christ is the perfect reflection of the Father, being God Himself. Therefore, Jesus could say, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me” (John 12:44).
Jesus said, “he who hears My word and believes…” (John 5:24a). Have you heard Jesus’ promise of everlasting life and believed it? If so, Jesus guarantees the person who has heard and believed that he now “has [present tense] everlasting life” (John 5:24b). You do not have to wait until you die to experience everlasting life. If you have heard Jesus’ promise of everlasting life (John 3:16) and believed it, you can now experience His forever life every day of your life on earth and beyond!!!
Christ also guarantees to the one who has heard and believed His promise of eternal life that he “shall not [future tense] comeinto judgment” for his sins in the future (John 5:24c). Why?
Because Jesus was judged on the cross for all our sins when He died, and God the Father was satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for our sins (John 19:30; I John 2:2). Therefore, we will never be eternally punished for our sins if we have heard and believed Jesus’ promise of everlasting life.
Lastly, Jesus promises that the one who has heard and believed His promise of everlasting life “has passed [past tense] from death into life” (John 5:24d). This means that eternal death is behind you, not ahead of you. It is past, not present or future. You are now in the sphere of “life” or relationship with God. When God looks at our life after we believe in Christ, what does He see? He sees only the blood of His Son and His goodness in our lives (Ephes. 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 12:11). In the sphere of “life,” God has no charge against the believer (Rom. 8:33). The believer is “justified” (“declared totally righteous”) of all things based on his or her faith in Christ (Rom. 4:5). All our sin has been covered by the goodness of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). We are seen by God as completely holy and perfect because of His grace (Ephes. 1:4). That is why God can let us into His heaven when we die if we have believed in Christ as our Savior.
We can know what God is like by looking at Jesus. He came to make the Father known. Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth, He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin. Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Do you believe this?
If someone asks you, “What is God like?” Encourage them to get to know Jesus Christ because to know Him is to know God since Jesus is fully God.
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth to explain what God the Father is like so we may have a close and intimate relationship with Him and You. Please help us to see the Father as full of grace and truth like You, Lord. Renew our minds so we may see You both as You truly are – abounding in goodness, grace, love, mercy, and truth. Use us to point the unsaved to You by reflecting Your grace by being gracious to them and Your truth by being truthful with them. May those without eternal life be convinced that Your grace and truth guarantees them everlasting life the moment they believe in You alone, Lord Jesus. Please bring healing to those who have been deeply wounded by their earthly fathers or father figures so they may approach our Father in heaven as a good good Father who infinitely and unconditionally loves them. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 914-16; cf. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pp. 36-37 cites Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 1:382-96, 3:33-34, for discussions of Christ’s hypostatic union (the union of His divine and human natures in the Incarnation).
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 42 cites those who hold to this view: F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), pg. 42; Morris, The Gospel According to John, pg. 98; Hodges, “Grace after Grace” Bibliotheca Sacra, pp. 34-45; see also Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 50210 to 50228.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 658.
“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.
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” I John 5:14
As John approaches the end of his letter, he wants to focus on a topic he introduced at the beginning of this epistle: “3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (I John 1:3-4). John wrote about intimacy or fellowship with God and one another so his readers’ “joy may be full” (1:4). When believers in Jesus walk in the light (1:7), confess their sins (1:9), keep God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), abide in Christ (2:6, 24, 27-28), love one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hate the world (2:15-17), acknowledge Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practice righteousness (2:29-3:10), listen to and obey apostolic teaching (2:18-19; 4:6), and avoid idolatry (5:21), they can experience this fullness of joy.
In his epistle, John introduced the truth that answered prayer is based on a twofold commandment: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23). John connects faith and love in this single commandment.Hence, this commandment is one that only Christians can keep because it includes believing “on the name of His Son Jesus Christ” which gives eternal life to all who believe in Jesus (5:1,13) and views other believers as their Christian brothers and sisters so they can know whom to love.
Since prayer is also an expression of faith in “the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (5:13b), John resumes his focus on prayer in 5:14-17. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (I John 5:14). In the context, John began to focus on the truth that God’s commands are not a burden because faith in God’s Son is the secret of spiritual victory over the world (5:3-5). It is natural then to suppose that John was thinking especially, though not exclusively, of a Christian’s right to ask God for help in keeping His commands when John speaks of asking “anything according to His will” (5:14). 1
Anderson writes, “The entire prayer discussion comes out of the ‘life’ discussion in 1 John 5:11-13. There he indicates that our initial experience of faith (‘who believe’ = believers; the Greek construction here does not refer to present, on-going faith, but rather the initial, one-time faith that gave us eternal life) can be followed by subsequent experiences of faith ‘in the name of the Son of God’ (it is this phrase that reminds him of Christ’s prayer promises in the Upper Room).
“Another way of saying it would be this. After our initial faith in the name of Jesus, which gave us our first experience of eternal life, our subsequent expressions of faith in His name (when we pray) will bring new experiences of eternal life (joy). We need to keep before us the understanding that the primary emphasis in ‘eternal life’ is quality, not quantity. Remember, unbelievers exist forever. It’s their quality of existence which differs so from the believer who dwells in the presence of the Lord.” 2
John’s wording in 5:14-15 is reminiscent of the joy Jesus spoke of the night before His crucifixion: “22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. 23 And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:22-24). Jesus is speaking of a full joy that is based on prayer in His name. Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula that we add at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray what Jesus would pray to accomplish God’s will and bring Him maximum glory.
This brings us back to I John 5:14 which speaks of praying “anything according to His will” (5:14). “To do something in someone’s name means to act on his authority (cf. John 5:43; 10:25). It has nothing to do with simply tacking onto our prayers a phrase like ‘in Jesus’ name’. Praying in Jesus’ name means to ask… according to His (God’s or Christ’s) will. If this is done, believers can have confidence that…He hears” 3 them favorably “because we are His children asking for help to do His will. He will always grant that kind of request.”4
Contextually, John is thinking of God’s revealed “will” as it pertains to His commandments (5:3-13; cf. 3:23). God’s commandments reveal His will. For example, God commands us to love one another (I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; cf. John 13:34-35). When a believer asks God to help him love another Christian, he can have “confidence” God favorably “hears” this request because this is “His will” (5:14). “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (I Joh. 5:15). Furthermore, John says we can also “know that we have the petitions” or requests “that we have asked of Him” for assistance to do His will by loving other Christian brothers or sisters. These requests will be granted because they are according to His revealed will. 5
When we pray according to God’s revealed will in the Bible, we can have the confidence that He hears us favorably. This would include praying…
For abstinence from fleshly lusts that war against the soul (I Pet. 2:11)
For abstinence from sexual immorality of any kind (I Thess. 4:3)
For deliverance from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4)
For the giving of thanks in everything (I Thess. 4:8)
That we silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing good (I Pet. 2:15)
That if we suffer it is for doing good and not for doing evil (I Pet. 3:17)
For the power to share the gospel of Christ starting at your current location and moving out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15)
For clarity, courage, opportunities, and protection to share the gospel of Christ (Acts 4:29, 31; Col. 4:3-4; 2 Thess. 3:2-3)
For the making of disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20)
For personal holiness that progressively reflects God’s holiness (I Pet. 1:15-16)
For living in an understanding way with one’s spouse (I Pet. 3:1-6)
“God wants his Word to be done, so pray for it to be done in your life and in the lives of others. Prayer is a toll-free number; the tab is picked up at the other end.” 6
Anderson gives us an illustrationof praying in Jesus’ name:“During the Civil War two friends found themselves under heavy fire. One of them was wounded. When his friend came to his aid, the wounded soldier pulled a small card out of his pocket and painstakingly wrote a note on the back of it. Then he looked at this friend and said, ‘If I don’t make it out alive, and you ever have a need, please go to my father. He’s a wealthy man, and I’m sure he would be willing to help you.’
“Unfortunately, the wounded soldier did die. His friend survived, and years later lost everything he had. In desperate straits, he remembered the card his friend had given him. He pulled it out of wallet and saw that it was the business card of his dead friend’s father. He looked him up and gave his name to the secretary. She went into the busy man’s office and came out with bad news, ‘I’m afraid Mr. Billings will be tied up in meetings most of the day.’ ‘That’s OK,’ said the desperate man, ‘I’ll just wait here.’ The day wore on. This former soldier was desperate, so he gave the secretary his card again and asked to see her boss for only five minutes. She took the request into her employer but came out with the same bad news. ‘Mr. Billings will be tied up all day. He simply doesn’t have time to see you.’
“Completely defeated and discouraged, the young man got up to leave, and then he remembered the card in his wallet from his friend. He pulled it out and read the back of the card to see what his friend had written. There in faded script was a note to Mr. Billings: ‘Dad, if this card every gets to you, please help the bearer. He’s my best friend and stayed with me until I died. Signed, Your son, Charlie.’ With new hope, he handed the card to the secretary and asked her if she would give this to her boss. Within seconds, Mr. Billings bounced out of his office and said, ‘Why didn’t you send this card in hours ago. I would do anything, for Charlie’s sake.’
“The Father’s infinite love for His Son has been transferred over to us. He is especially touched by those who are His Son’s best friends because they keep His commandments. And He wants to manifest His love for them for the sake of His Son. That’s the spirit of the promise to answer prayer requests in Jesus’ name. Our heavenly Father is willing to do most anything for Jesus’ sake.” 7
Our heavenly Father is eager to answer His children’s prayers when they align with what Jesus would pray. It is a top priority for the Godhead that God’s children love one another as Jesus has loved them. When we pray for God’s help to enable us to love our Christian brothers and sisters, we can be confident that He hears us and will grant us the assistance we need to obey His commandment.
Some Christians are easier to love than others. If a brother or sister in Christ has deeply hurt us, we will probably be more inclined to ask God to help us love that person. We might pray in this way:
Prayer: Father God, I know it is Your revealed will that I love so and so. But the pain they have caused me is too great for me to overcome on my own. I know You live in me, Lord Jesus. And I know it is Your will for me to love this person as You have loved me. Therefore, I pray that You would love them through me. I know You hear this prayer favorably, and I am confident that You will answer. Thank You for how You will work in and through me to show this person Your love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
1. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4078 to 4083.
2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 249.
3. 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. 603.
4. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 114 cites Thomas L. Constable, “What Prayer Will and Will Not Change,” in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, Edited by Stanley D. Toussaint and Charles H. Dyer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp. 99-113; and idem, Talking to God: What the Bible Teaches about Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995; reprint ed., Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005), pg. 170.
5. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2952.
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” I John 5:11
Assurance of salvation is very dear to the heart of God. He wants His children to be absolutely certain that they have eternal life the moment they believe His testimony about His Son, Jesus Christ.
Imagine a child doubting that he or she was truly their parents’ son or daughter based on their behavior!?! Think of the insecurities and fear that child would have. Instead of drawing near to his or her parents when struggling with sin or shame, he or she would hide their struggles and try harder and harder to overcome them, only to experience more defeat, fear, and shame. This is a terrible cycle of shame that God never intended His children to endure. Yet Christians are being taught this at many different levels within evangelical Christianity today.
Christians are also being told that assurance of salvation keeps believers from living holy lives. In other words, if I can know I have everlasting life which can never be lost, then what is to keep me from living like the Devil the rest of my life? Doesn’t assurance of salvation give me a license to sin? The apostle John would say, “No! A thousand times, No!”
Knowing we have eternal life is based on the testimony of God, not the testimony of men. Yet various human teachers throughout church history have undermined assurance of salvation by saying it is based both on the objective promises of God and on the subjective evidence of the professing believer’s works. 1 In essence they are teaching that believing in the promises of God is not enough. There must be faith plus fruit. One popular Bible commentator seems to base our assurance of salvation on the subjective evidence of holiness or purity:
“Those who cling to the promise of eternal life but care nothing for Christ’s holiness have nothing to be assured of. Such people do not really believe. Either their professed ‘faith’ in Christ is an utter sham, or they are simply deluded. If they did truly have their hope fixed on Christ, they would purify themselves, just as He is pure (3:3).” 2
As mentioned previously, there are two primary areas where the enemies of Christ or antichrists have attacked the body of Christ: God’s Work (I John 5:6-9) and God’s Word (I John 5:10-13). Through Christ’s baptism (“the water”) and His sacrificial death on the cross (“the blood”),God’s “Spirit” bore witness to the identity and work of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (5:6-8). This “witness of God” concerning “His Son” is far “greater” than “the witness of men” (5:9).
Before stating what God’s witness of His Son is, John draws a contrast between believing and not believing the testimony of God concerning His Son: “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” (I John 5:10). The phrase “believes in” (pisteueō eis) is commonly used in John’s gospel (cf. John 1:12, 2:11, 23; 3:15-16, 18, 36) and is identical in meaning to “believes that” (pisteueō hoti) (cf. John 11:27; 20:31; cf. 8:24; 13:19). Both Greek constructions express the means of receiving eternal life (cf. John 20:30-31 with John 3:15-16, 18, etc. and cf. 1 John 5:1). 3
Dr. Charlie 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).’”4
The Biblical evidence shows that to“believe in” and to “believe that” are used interchangeably by the apostle John in his gospel for saving faith. John would not contradict in I John would he had already written in his gospel.
John notes that when a person “believes in the Son of God,” he has “the witness in himself” (I John 5:10a). When an individual believes in Jesus for eternal life, God’s witness about His Son becomes real to him or her. God’s Spirit gives them the assurance that they were right to believe in Christ for eternal life. However, if a person “does not believe … the testimony that God has given of His Son,” he or she is calling God “a liar” (5:10b).
“The writer, then, cannot allow that one can profess belief in God, as did his opponents, and yet reject God’s testimony to His own Son. Such rejection cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance. The evidence is too clear and too weighty. Rather, it is deliberate unbelief, the character of which in the end impugns the very being and character of God. If Jesus is not God’s own Son in the flesh, then God is no longer the truth. He is the liar.”5
For John, there is no middle ground. “There is nothing here about ‘head or heart belief,’ or about a ‘faith that yields to God as over against mere intellectual assent,’ etc. The Bible does not complicate faith like that. Once we have understood the message, the issue is: Is it true or false?Do we believe it, or do we not?” 6
Nowhere in the Bible does God distinguish head belief from heart belief. All belief is belief. A person either “believes in the Son of God” or he “does not believe…” (5:10). If we believe in Christ for eternal life, then we know we have eternal life because Jesus guarantees, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). To doubt that we “truly believe” is to disbelieve Jesus’ promise. Either I believe Christ’s promise, or I do not. If I do, I have eternal life. If I do not, I stand condemned as one who “has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The book of I John and the gospel of John do not condition eternal life on whether one has “heart belief” instead of “head belief.”
Having drawn a contrast between believing and not believing the testimony God has given about His Son (5:10), John now states the content of God’s testimony: “11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:11-12). The phrase “And this is the testimony of God” refers to verses 11 and 12 which taken together state “the testimony of God” about “His Son.” Verse 11 states what God has bestowed and verse 12 states the exclusive character of this bestowal. 7
According to this divine testimony, “God has given us eternal life” (5:11a). Eternal life is a gift from God, and it is inseparable from the Person of “His Son.” Salvation is not giving God your life as so many Christians invite non-Christians to do. It is God giving us His “eternal life.”
In John’s gospel Jesus defined eternal life: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”(John 17:3). The word “know” (ginōskō) refers to an intimate or experiencial knowledge of God, not just an awareness of certain facts. 8 Notice that the primary focus is on one’s relationship with God (“life”),not the duration (“eternal”).This is not just a future promise, it is a present reality for all believers in Jesus. Eternal life is knowing the true God personally in one’s experience forever.
This knowledge of God begins the moment we believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life. “But that’s only the beginning. You must grow in your knowledge and understanding, as sure as an infant must progress toward childhood. God wants us to grow in our knowledge of Him—He wants us to deepen in our experience of eternal life. To do that, you must have intimacy with His Son, because”9 ”this life is in His Son” (I John 5:11b).
Eternal “life is in His Son” (5:11b), since Jesus is “eternal life” (I John 5:20). Hence, eternal “life” and God’s “Son” are one gift together given from God. 10 Therefore, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (5:12). There is no one or nothing else where this “life” can be found. It is not found in a church or in a pastor. Neither is it found in a lifestyle or an act of obedience.
The antichrists or false teachers seem to have questioned John’s readers’ belief that they possessed eternal life (cf. 2:25). And since the antichrists also denied that Jesus is the Christ (cf. 2:22), they would have affirmed that there was no eternal life available in Jesus. Thus, in the eyes of these false teachers, John’s readers did not really have eternal life. 11
The apostle John counters this false teaching by asserting that he and his readers do have eternal life because God has given it to them in His Son and that this life is to be found in Him and nowhere else. 12
“Since this eternal life is in His Son, it follows that if a person has the Son, he also has life (eternal life); and if a person does not have the Son, he does not have life.” (5:12). 13 What must a person do to “have the Son” (5:12)?
The only requirement to “have the Son” in I John or the entire New Testament for that matter is to believe. The apostle writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (I John 5:13). What must a person do to “know” (not guess, hope, or think) he or she “have eternal life”? “Believe in the name of the Son of God.” There is no mention of having fruit, obedience, or a changed life to know one has 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.
“Assurance is part of the essence of saving faith. If eternal life can be lost, it can’t be eternal. God wants you to know that you have eternal life—not based on your fluctuating faith—but based on the object of your faith, Jesus.”14
“Every believer knows at the point of saving faith that he has eternal life, because the promises he believes guarantee it (cf. John 11:25-26). But the believer is not immune to doubts after he is saved (cf. John the Baptist; Luke 7:18-19). The antidote to such doubts is always God’s promises. These promises can be referred to repeatedly as a fresh source of assurance. No book of the Bible contains more of these straight-forward guarantees than John’s Gospel itself (John 3:16, 18, 36; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; etc.). First John 5:11-12 reminds the readers of God’s testimony they have already believed.
“Since the believers he writes to have believed in the name of the Son of God (whose identity is attested by ‘the Spirit, the water, and the blood,’ v. 8), then they should rest securely on the testimony that God has given about and through His Son. This testimony assures believers that they do have eternal life.
“All true assurance of salvation and eternal life must rest on the ‘testimony of God,’ for onlythat testimony has full reliability. Ironically once one’s Christian experience is made the groundsfor assurance, John’s statement in v 13 about knowing becomes a complete impossibility!
“The apostle here seeks to reaffirm the assurance of his readers which was to question the antichrists.” 15
What about the phrase “these thing?” Doesn’t that refer to the entire book of I John? Some will argue that I John 5:13 is the purpose statement for John’s epistle since the apostle’s purpose statement in his gospel was near the end of the gospel of John (John 20:31).They conclude that I John was written to provide tests for professing believers in Jesus so they could know for sure they have eternal life. According to this view, one not only needs to believe in the name of the Son of God to know they have eternal life, but they must also walk in the light (1:7), confess their sins (1:9), keep God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), abide in Christ (2:6, 24, 27-28), love one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hate the world (2:15-17), acknowledge Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practice righteousness (2:29-3:10), listen to and obey apostolic teaching (2:18-19; 4:6), and avoid idolatry (5:21). 16
But this view fails to understand that “there are five purpose statements in I John (1:3, 4; 2:1, 26; 5:13) plus ten imperatives (2:15, 24, 27, 28; 3:1, 7, 13; 4:1 [twice]; 5:21), any of which could possibly provide John’s purpose for writing.” 17 First John 1:3-4 provides the most comprehensive primary and secondary purposes in writing this epistle. 18
Hodges notes that the words, “These things” in I John 5:13 do not refer to the entire book of I John, but to the verses immediately preceding it (5:6-12), observing that this near reference is consistent with John’s style throughout his epistle: 19
The statement “these things we write to you”(1:4) refers to what was just stated in verses 1:1-3.
The words, “these things I write to you, so that you may not sin”(2:1) refer to the teaching on sin in 1:5-10.
The statement, “These things I have written to you concerning those who try todeceive you”(2:26) refers to the preceding discussion about antichrists (2:18-25).
In 1 John 5:13 the “these things” points to “the testimony” or “witness” (martyria, the noun, or martyrēo, the verb) which has been mentioned seven times in 1 John 5:9-12: 20
“9 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. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (emphasis added)
“What John is arguing for in this passage is the credibility of God’s testimony (witness). It isgreater than that of men. And this witness or testimony is that God has given us eternal life, andthis life is in His Son. We can either accept or reject this testimony.
“Notice that we are not called upon to search our faith to see if it is real. We do not have to have faith in our faith.’ We are called upon to have faith in what God says about His Son. Our assurance is at stake here, yes, but more important than that is the credibility of God. It is His witness that is at stake. We either believe it or reject it. In fact, in 1 John 5:13 we find echoes of John 5:24 where it says, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.’”21
After the words “know that you have eternal life” (5:13a), most Greek manuscripts add the words: “and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13b). Perhaps this statement seemed redundant to some early scribe or editor and for that reason was eliminated from his manuscript. But this part of verse 13 actually prepares the ground for the discussion about prayer which follows (5:14-17) by inviting continued faith in God’s Son on the part of those who already have received eternal life through Him. Prayer also is an expression of faith in the name of God’s Son. 22
After we believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, we may have doubts about our salvation. Some days we may feel saved, and others we may not. Our assurance of salvation is not based upon what we feel and do, or what other people say, which can all change, but is based upon the promises of God, which never change (Luke 21:33; I Pet. 1:24-25).
You may ask, “If I doubt my salvation, does that mean I am not saved?” Possibly. Those who doubt their salvation fall into one of two categories:
1. You may not understand the gospel and are not saved. Perhaps you are believing in Christ plus your works or just your works alone, and therefore you don’t have any certainty of going to heaven because your faith does not rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross (John 3:14-16; 19:30).
2.You have believed in Christ and are saved, but you have confused entering the Christian life (I John 5:13; cr. John 3:16; 5:24) with living it (I John 1:4-10; 2:3-6; 3:6-15; 4:20-21). When a believer takes his or her focus off Christ and His promise of eternal life, he or she may begin to doubt their salvation. Losing your assurance of salvation is not the same as losing your salvation. As we have seen, when you believe in Christ for eternal life, you are eternally secure at the moment of faith because of Christ’s performance and promise, not your performance or feelings.
However, being certain of your salvation can waver if you start looking to someone or something else other that Christ and His promise of eternal life. If you doubt your salvation, ask yourself:
A. Do I understand the simplicity of the gospel? Since Christ paid the full penalty for my sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), God can now forgive me based on what He has done for me, not what I do for Him.
B. Have I believed or trusted Christ alone for my salvation? We appropriate Christ’s death on the cross by coming to Him as sinners, recognizing that He made the full payment for sin on our behalf, and “believing.” Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Believe means to be convinced Jesus was speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of our trust in Him alone as our only basis for living eternally with God. If you are believing in Christ alone to get you to heaven, you are forever God’s child regardless of when or where that occurred.
C. Am I taking God at His Word? Once you believe in Christ alone, you must trust His Word. That means accepting God’s promise that, having trusted Christ, we are forever His. Jesus assures us: “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28). If I were to ask you whose child you are, you would say, “I am the child of …” You have proof that would stand up in a court of law – a birth certificate. A piece of paper assures you that you are your parents’ child. God has given us a piece of paper – the inspired Word of God, the Bible. It assures us that once we’ve believed in Christ, we have everlasting life. We are His forever. If you could lose your salvation, then Jesus lied to us in John. 3:16. Our salvation is based upon a promise that cannot be broken. It comes from a God who cannot lie.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your testimony which is far greater than the witness of people. Your testimony clearly states You have given us eternal life, and this life is in Your Son, Jesus Christ; not in our performance, our lifestyle, or our obedience. Thank You for the internal witness of the Holy Spirit Who assures us it was right for us to believe in Your Son for His gift of eternal life. Knowing we have eternal life is based on Your unwavering testimony concerning Your Son, not the testimony of people which can easily change.We can know we have eternal life when we believe in the name of the Son of God because Your Word guarantees it. Please help Your children who doubt their salvation right now to come back to Your promises which guarantee those who believe in the name of the Son of God that they can know for certain they have eternal life. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 113 cites John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, The Library of Christian Classics series, Volumes 20 and 21, Edited by John T. McNeill, Translated by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 3:24:4 and John F. MacArthur Jr., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), pp. 162-166.
2. Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 113 cites MacArthur, Faith Works, pg. 171.
3. 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. 603.
4. Dr. Charlie Bing, “Lordship Salvation: A Biblical Evaluation and Response,” GraceLife Edition, 1992, pp. 18-19.
5. Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 111 cites Glenn W. Barker, “1 John,” in Hebrews-Revelation, Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 12 vols., edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 352.
6. Ibid., cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 224.
7. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
8. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 301; David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 74.
9. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2951.
10. Constable, Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pp. 111-112.
11. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
13. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 241.
14. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2951-2952.
15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603.
16. Those holding to this view are mentioned in the following commentaries: Anderson in Maximum Joy, pg. 15 cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).
17. Constable, Dr. Constable’s notes on I John, pg. 17.
18. Ibid., cites Robert W. Yarbrough, 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pg. 46; Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 15; Gary W Derickson, “What is the Message of I John?” Bibliotheca Sacra 150:597 (January-March 1993), pp. 89-105.
19. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603; cf. Robert N. Wilkin, “‘Assurance: That You May Know’ (1 John 5:11-13a),” Grace Evangelical Society News 5:12 (December 1990), pp. 2, 4; Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 241; 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 4070.
20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 241.
21. Ibid., pp. 241-242.
22. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 4075 to 4079.
“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.