“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.
“When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. ” John 2:15
Imagine you pull into the church parking lot on Sunday morning. Your heart is full of anticipation. Your cup is empty, and you are ready to fill it. You are ready to enter the place of worship and join your brothers and sisters in joyous worship. You look forward to singing the hymns of the faith. You feel the need to commune in prayer. You long to feed upon the unchanging Word of God. You are eager to share with the family of God.
But as you pull up, the parking lot is crammed full. You can’t even find a place to park. You won’t be denied. You park down the street and walk a few blocks. But as you try to enter the building there is a long line. There are tables set up at every foyer entrance. People are writing checks and putting down cash on the tables and getting tokens in return to place in the offering plates. You finally make it to the table and are told that you need the new church currency to make an offering. So, you place a $20 bill on the table and get a $10 church coin in return. You finally make it through the entrance, only to find the foyer very congested. Booths are set up all throughout the foyer. People are selling hymn books at one booth. “Get your song books here. You can’t sing without your official church song book. Rent yours for only $19.95.” Another booth has people buying and selling Bibles. The sign reads “Official Church Bible. Get yours for only $29.99.” At other booths, you notice merchants selling offering envelopes, notebooks for sermon notes, and refreshments.
There is so much commotion and commerce going on that you throw your hands up in disgust realizing you’ll never make it into the sanctuary to worship. If you can imagine an experience like this and how frustrating it would be, then you can understand what it was like inside the temple courtyard during the time of Passover when Jesus came to worship. John records this event for us in John 2:12-25. This temple cleansing was near the beginning of Jesus public ministry. The second temple cleansing was near the end of His public ministry and was one of the reasons for His death (cf. Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-16; Luke 19:45-46). 
You may recall that in John 1:14 we saw that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” He was the perfect balance of grace and truth. Last week we saw Jesus express His grace by transforming water into wine at a wedding banquet in Cana of Galilee. He replaced something old with something new. New wine replaced old water. Today we will see His truth at work replacing a dirty temple with a clean one. From this we will discover HOW WE CAN EXPERIENCING JESUS’ CLEANSING TRUTH IN OUR LIVES. The first way is seen in 2:12-17.
2:12: Jesus went “down” from Cana because of the decline in land elevation “to Capernaum” on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee,  about eighteen miles northeast of Cana  (see above map). Jesus would adopt “Capernaum” as His ministry based in Galilee (cf. Matt. 4:13; Mark 1:21; 2:1) and move there after His rejection at Nazareth (cf. Matt. 4:12-14). Jesus performed some of His greatest miracles at Capernaum (John 4:46-54; cf. Mark 2:1-12) and taught in its synagogue  (John 6:22-59; cf. Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37).
The purpose of this trip to Capernaum is not stated by the apostle John, but it seems to be for a time of rest with “His mother, His brothers, and His disciples.” The Bible tells us that Jesus had physical “brothers” (John 2:12; 7:1-10; cf. Matt. 12:46-47; 13:55; Mark 3:32; 6:3; Luke 8:19-20) and “sisters” (Matt. 13:56; Mark 6:3) which clearly indicates that Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus’ birth.  The idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity appeared later in church history  and cannot be substantiated by Scripture.
Evidently this trip was only for a short stay in Capernaum since John wrote that “they did not stay there many days” (2:12b). As important as time with His family and friends was, Jesus did not want to miss going up to Jerusalem to worship God during the Passover.
2:13: The “Passover” was an annual Jewish festival celebrating God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over every home where the blood of a lamb was applied to the doorposts of the home (Exod. 12-13). It also initiated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so the entire celebration lasted over a week. Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to meet with God and be obedient to His commands.
This is John’s first of three explicit references to the “Passover” in his gospel (2:13; 6:4; 12:1).  This Passover was in the year A.D. 30 on Friday, April 7, at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry.  John is the only gospel writer to mention the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Synoptic gospel writers refer to Christ’s second cleansing of the temple near the end of His public ministry during the week in which He was crucified (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). 
When the apostle states that “Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” it reflects the ascent in elevation as one travels from the surrounding regions to reach the city at 2,424 feet elevation.  While Jesus tried to make His way into the temple, He discovered that it had become a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer.
2:14: The word translated “temple” (heiron) refers to the outer “court of the Gentiles” surrounding the temple building (naos) where the Holy of Holies was located  (see temple diagram below). In this outer court surrounding the temple, Jesus “found… those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.” Jesus “found” the misuse of the temple which indicates He was looking around and witnessing the peoples’ mistreatment of His holy temple.
Israel’s“priesthood was completely corrupt, and the temple had been polluted by the priests’ greed. The courts of the complex had become a mixture of flea market and stock market. This so-called ‘Annas Bazaar’ was named for Annas, a godfather-like figure who once held the office of high priest but had been deposed by the Roman government more than fifteen years earlier. Since that time, he ruled through a successive series of puppet priests, most of them his sons, and continued to run a well-established con game on a grand scale. Put bluntly, he was corrupt to the core.
“Throughout the year, but especially at Passover, all Jewish males were expected to visit the temple, to pay the tax required by the Law of Moses, and to sacrifice an animal. On Passover, the sacrifice was to be a lamb, and as always, it had to be without blemish or defect. Moreover, the tax had to be paid in shekels, not in foreign currency, which bore images forbidden by the Law.
“Annas and his cronies set up stations in the temple courts for the purpose of exchanging foreign currency for shekels—for an exorbitant fee, of course. Then, he supplied sacrificial animals, for which he charged top price. If someone brought his own animal, an inspector would judge it unfit and offer another in trade… for additional cash. Undoubtedly, the inferior animal would become some other man’s “superior” sacrifice later on. What a racket!”
Let’s say you come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. You bring an animal to sacrifice to the Lord, because that’s the way you worshiped God then. Your children had cared for this animal for months and he had become a cherished pet – though he was about to become the family’s sacrifice. You go into the temple courtyard and there is a “booth of approval,” manned by one of the strictest of the Pharisees. Before you could offer your family’s lamb for sacrifice it had to be approved. But this inspector finds defects in your lamb. “Hey, we can’t accept this animal as a sacrifice – it has too many things wrong with it. You need to go to the vender’s booth over there. There you can buy a lamb pre-approved for sacrifice.” Think of how your kids feel. “What about our lamb? Doesn’t God care about that? How do we get to God?” So, you go over to the vendor’s booth and pay ten times the real value for a pre-approved lamb. (Just like when you go to the theater and a 50-cent bag of popcorn costs you $4.) So, you get your money out to buy one of his animals.
And the vendor says to you, “Wait a minute. We can’t acceptthat currency. You need to exchange your coins for temple money overhere at the moneychangers’ table and that will be an extra fee.” So, you go up to the moneychangers’ table and give them a silver dollar and they only give you 25 cents of temple money. Just like if you went to a pawn shop with a $1000-dollar ring and the broker would only offer you $100. Wanting to show your love for God you pay all these fees. And by the end of the day, you didn’t know if you were pleasing God or just pleasing the religious leaders. Meeting with God seemed too far beyond your reach.
This scene is what Jesus saw when He entered the temple courts. How does our Lord respond? 2:15: Christ engaged His anger both physically and verbally at the injustice. He was not having a bad day. This was a premeditated act of His will. How do we know this? John tells us Christ gets a bunch of “cords” and takes the time to make “a whip.” We don’t know how long it took Jesus to make the whip, maybe minutes or hours, but He had already decided to use that whip when He entered His temple to cleanse it.
Christ, the Son of the Owner of the temple, took full responsibility to cleanse His Father’s temple. He could have made the moneychangers and sellers of oxen, sheep, and doves clean up their own mess, but He didn’t. Jesus cleansed the temple. He “overturned” the moneychangers’ “tables” and “drove them all out of the temple,” including animals and people. This is not the soft spoken, gentle Savior that so many of us often think Jesus was. Here we find Jesus angry and aggressive as He cleanses the temple of corruption. I mean it must have been like being in one of those villages in Spain when they let the bulls run loose in the streets. Cows and sheep are running loose. People are yelling and screaming, “Help! Out of the way! The Carpenter has gone crazy!”
“The awesome power of Jesus is evident. Surely crooked merchants must have objected to this treatment. Yet there is no hint that any of them tried to stop Him. Jesus either sovereignly hindered opposition, or He manifested such righteous indignation that all were too afraid and amazed to try to stop Him.” 
I want to take a moment to talk about the emotion of anger. So often we can skip over these verses and not address this issue. Anger in and of itself is not wrong. In the Bible, we see that God experienced anger (cf. Exod. 4:14; Num. 11:10; Deut. 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; 11:33, 38; Rom. 1:18; 12:19).
I cannot remember hearing a sermon that addressed how to deal with anger in our Christian lives. Thankfully, God has revealed in the Bible how to resolve our anger. The apostle Paul quotes the phrase “Be angry and do not sin” (Ps. 4:4a) in Ephesians 4:26 when he is talking to believers about not grieving the Holy Spirit with their communications toward one another (cf. Ephes. 4:25-32). Psalm 4:4-5 teach us some important principles for dealing with our anger:
1. ADMIT AND FEEL YOUR ANGER (“Be angry and do not sin” – 4:4a). The feeling of anger is not wrong in and of itself. Even God feels anger (cf. Exod. 4:14; Num. 11:10; Deut. 7:4; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 12:19; Col. 3:6; Heb. 3:11; 4:3; Rev. 6:16; 19:15; et. al). What we do with our anger can be sinful. When we admit our anger, we begin to take control of it. It is important to use “I feel…” statements which take responsibility for our own anger. For example: “I feel angry when you…” But spiritual perfectionism says, “I’m not angry.” Shame-based statements use the word “You.” For example: “You make me feel so angry!” The last two examples do not honor what God is saying here – “Be angry and do not sin,” because they do not acknowledge or take responsibility for one’s own anger.
2. TALK TO THE LORD UNTIL YOU CAN BE STILL (“Meditate [talk] within your heart on your bed, and be still” – 4:4b; cf. 4:3). As we talk to the Lord (4:3), He can help us identify the source of our anger – Is it selfishness or perfectionism? Or is it because we have been wronged?
3. DO WHAT IS RIGHT WHICH INCLUDES FORGIVING OTHERS AND YOURSELF (“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness” – 4:5a). Sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament as a means of forgiveness (cf. Heb. 9:22). As God shows us the source of our anger, we can seek forgiveness if we were being selfish or perfectionistic (I John 1:9), or we can extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us (Ephes. 4:32).
4. TRUST THE LORD WITH THE SITUATION (“And put your trust in the Lord” – 4:5b). Many believers struggle with the first two steps the most and skip right over them to forgive and trust the Lord without acknowledging or processing their feelings. But if we do not admit our anger or hurt, and turn it over to the Lord, it is very difficult to forgive “from the heart” (cf. Matt. 18:35).
Somehow Christians are not comfortable admitting their deep hurt and anger. Perhaps it is due to the perfectionism that is taught in churches today. But if we are to be more like Jesus Christ, we can learn to admit our anger and release it to God, so He can use it the way He intended – to accomplish His righteousness (cf. Mark 3:5; John 2:13-16; Jas.1:19-20). If we refuse to address our anger God’s way, it will result in more brokenness in the body of Christ because we are giving the devil an opportunity to lead us into greater sin (cf. Ephes. 4:26-27).
For some of us, we may not be able to resolve our anger because it is attached to unresolved trauma or abuse in our past. In such cases, it may be helpful to do the exercise in Appendix 4 – Cleansing the Temple and Forgiveness Exercise based on Jesus’ cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22. *** Note: Please do not substitute this exercise for professional Christian counseling. In fact, it is recommended that you are in counseling before doing this exercise.
2:16: When Jesus sees “those who sold doves,” He points the finger and identifies the sin that defiled His “Father’s” temple, saying, “Take these things away. Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” The command, “Take… away,” uses the imperative (arate) that is from the same verb (airō) used in John 1:29 when John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God Who takes away [airō] the sin of the world.”
“By telling the sellers to ‘take these things away’ Jesus was figuratively taking away the sin of the world in an experiential sense. In the eternal kingdom Jesus will have taken it away completely. One day the zeal Jesus demonstrated will be a universal zeal that all subjects of the kingdom will have.
“When Jesus removed the sacrificial animals from the temple, Hepictured a coming day when there would be no more need for such sacrifices (1:29; Heb 10:10, 14).” 
The temple was designed by God to be a place where people could meet with God. But it had become a place where people were abused in the name of God! The tragic truth was this had become the least likely place where you could meet with the Lord. Jesus must remove the religious pretenders before He can truly minister to those who need Him.
For many people today, this is still a reality. There are people today who long to meet with God in a place of worship, but when they go, all too often they discover a system that gives them more work to do to be “close” to God. The problem with this is they never know if they are pleasing God or the religious leaders. You say to yourself, “Something feels wrong with having to follow all these rules – but it is God’s House. It says so on the sign.” And they get worn out or they leave and give up on God altogether.
Please understand, that if you came out of a church or religion where you had to pay and pay and pay some more to get close to God, you need to encounter the true God and eternal life, Jesus Christ (I John 5:20). Jesus fights for you just like He did back then. And He wants to heal your hurts and lighten your load. He wants to make it so easy for you to come (just as you are) and meet with Him. A church with Jesus Christ as the Head will not charge you to meet with God. It is free just like salvation. Christ does not want anything in His church to make it difficult for people to worship the Lord…to draw closer to Him.
Jesus warns all of us who are spiritual leaders: Woe to you if you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men. We need to ask ourselves are we door-openers or door closers? Are we making it difficult for people to come to Christ or simple? Sometimes the Lord must remove religious pretenders before true worship can take place… before Jesus can truly minister His grace to those in need. I truly believe when Jesus is free to minister His grace in a church – look out! It will explode with people who need His healing touch.
Hence, the first way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to RELY ON CHRIST TO CLEANSE YOUR LIFE (2:12-16) from sin and corruption. According to the Bible, where is the temple of God located today? The apostle Paul answers this question when writing to Christians in the city of Corinth, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”(I Cor. 3:16). The temple of God is no longer located in Jerusalem. It is now located in every believer in Jesus Christ. The temple is located in our physical bodies. In the Old Testament, God’s temple was a sacred place. It was a place where God Himself resided and where people came to worship Him. Today, God’s temple is still a sacred place where God dwells.
The truth is all of us are like those religious leaders who were robbing the people of their money. All of us are thieves. But you may say, “Wait a minute pastor. I’m not perfect, but I am no thief.” We probably all agree that we are not perfect, but are we all thieves? Maybe we wouldn’t break into our neighbor’s home to steal his stereo, but we rob him of his reputation when we gossip about him. Maybe you’ve never stolen a woman’s virginity, but you rob her future husband of the gratification that God intended only him to have when you lust after her. You don’t have to steal money to be a thief. If Jesus came today and looked at the temple of God in you, would He have the same reaction as He did in Jerusalem with the corrupt priests and merchants? Would He get angry at what He saw, or would He be pleased with what He sees in your life? Friends, if we have pollution in God’s temple, then it’s time for us to allow Jesus to clean it out and stop trying to hide and cover up our sins.
One day a man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the mouse into the snake’s glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust. What did the terrified mouse do? He quickly set to work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem. Listen, no matter how hard we try to hide or deny our sins, it is futile. Sin will eventually awake from its sleep and shake off its cover and eat us alive.
So how do we allow Jesus to cleanse our lives from sin and corruption? If you are not a Christian, you must first believe or trust in Christ alone to forgive your sins. The Bible says: “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43 NCV). Before we become Christians, our lives are contaminated by sin. This sin separates us from God. And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot dwell in our contaminated bodies until we believe or trust Christ alone to forgive us and cleanse us of “all” our wrongdoings (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14). So, the moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, God removes the barriers of sin and comes to live inside you forever.
If we are already Christians, the apostle John instructs us in his epistle to “walk in the light as He is in the light” so we may “have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). Notice John says to walk “in” (en) the light, not “according” (kata) to the light. Walking “according” to the light would refer to sinless perfection and would make fellowship with God impossible for sinful people. But the preposition “in” refers to walking in the sphere of God’s light where there is no darkness or dishonesty. In other words, to have fellowship with God we must be open and honest with Him, not sinless, as we walk in the light with Him.
When we are open and honest with God, the Bible says we will “have fellowship with one another” (I John 1:7). The word, “fellowship” (koinōnia) means a “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, … close relationship.”Being open and honest before God enables us to share the light with Him. As we live in this sphere of light, our experience is illumined by the truth of Who God is. The “one another” refers to God and Christians in the context. 
How can sinful believers enjoy fellowship with a sinless God? How can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The last part of the verse explains. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1:7b). Right now, you and I are not aware of all the sin that is in our lives. But God knows about it. And being the gracious and merciful God that He is, He does not reveal all our sin at once. If He did, we would be so overwhelmed by all our sin it would probably kill us on the spot.
But the reason we can enjoy closeness with our holy God even though we have all this unknown sin in our lives is because the blood of Christ “cleanses us from all sin.” Notice the present tense of “cleanses.” We do not need to do acts of penance to be forgiven and cleansed of our sins after we become Christians.  We simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. So, no matter how badly or often Christians have sinned, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse them of all their sins when they are living openly to God’s revealing truth. Christ’s death on the cross for all our sins (cf. I John 2:1-2; Col. 2:13-14) provides the basis of fellowship between a sinless God and sinful human beings.
While it is true that those who believe in Jesus for eternal life are positionally cleansed and forgiven of all their sins – past, present, and future (Acts 10:43; I Cor. 6:11; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14; Tit. 3:4-7), “they still need ongoing cleansing based on Christ’s blood that enables imperfect children to have a genuine experience of sharing with a perfectly holy heavenly Father.” Hence, the blood of Christ makes provision for both our positional forgiveness/cleansing of all our sins which enables us to enter God’s heaven (cf. Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14; Heb. 9:22-10:18) and our practical or fellowship forgiveness/cleansing of sins which enables us to enjoy fellowship with God on earth (cf. I John 1:9; Matt. 6:12, 14-15).
It is important for Christians to understand that it is not their responsibility to uncover their own sin. They may have overly sensitive consciences and are worried that they have unconfessed sin in their lives, so they spend a lot of time examining themselves instead of focusing on the Lord. The Bible makes it clear that it is God’s responsibility to reveal our sin to us through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (cf. John 16:8-11; 2 Tim. 3:16). But it is our responsibility to be open and honest with God when He does point out the sin that is in our lives so we can confess it to Him.
The Bible promises that when we do confess our sin to the Lord, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). To “confess” means to agree with God that what you did, said, or thought was wrong (see comments on John 1:8). When God reveals unconfessed sin in our lives as we walk in the light, we are to confess or agree with His conclusions. So, when we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with His view of our sins. He hates our sins (Ps. 45:7). Our sins deeply hurt Him (Ephes. 4:30). 
“We are admitting that what the light exposes is not just a mistake, a bad habit, or a mere product of our upbringing. It’s sin.” 
It is important to note that the word “our” in the phrases “confess our sins” and “forgive us our sins” (I John 1:9), is not in the Greek text. The Greek text reads “confess the sins” (homologōmentas hamartias) and “forgive us the sins” (aphē hēmin tas hamartias). The definite article “the” (tas) in the phrase “forgive us the sins” is what grammarians call “the article of previous reference.” What this means is when we honestly confess “the” specific sin or sins God’s light reveals in our lives, “the” specific sins we confess are forgiven.
This tells us that when we become aware of sin in our Christian lives, it is this awareness that breaks our fellowship or closeness with God. So, if we confess the sins of which we are aware, then God is “faithful and just” to forgive those specific sins. The word “forgive” (aphiēmi) can mean to “cancel” a debt that is owed.  This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Rom. 3:21-4:5; 8:33). John is not talking about this kind of forgiveness in I John. In I John the apostle is talking about personal or fellowship forgiveness whereby the barrier that sin creates between a Christian and God is removed so his fellowship or closeness with God is restored. 
Our heavenly Father is “faithful” to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him because we have an eternal relationship with Him (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). There may be times when we think that going to God for forgiveness of the same sin with no victory in sight presumes upon His grace and mercy. We may ask ourselves, “How can the Lord forgive me over and over for the same sin?” The simple answer is God is “faithful.” His faithfulness is not based upon ours. He has promised to forgive us when we come to Him on His terms. His forgiveness for our fellowship or closeness with Him is based on His forgiveness for our relationship with Him. 
For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15; to restore our closeness to Him. 
You may be thinking that this does not seem right to keep coming over and over again to God asking for forgiveness for the same sin. Isn’t that taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy? It seems contrary to God’s holiness. Oh, but it is right for God to forgive His children when they confess their sins to Him. This forgiveness is not contrary to God’s holiness – He is “just” (I John 1:9). The word for “just” (dikaios) is the same word used as a title to Jesus Christ in I John 2:1 where it is translated “the Righteous One.” When Jesus finished paying the penalty of all the sins of the world on the cross (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), He satisfied God’s holy and “just” demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2). So, God is not compromising His holiness when He forgives the sinning Christian when he or she confesses their sin. This forgiveness is not based on our deservedness or performance. It is based on the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  Christ’s shed blood is sufficient for the sinning Christian (I John 1:7; 2:1-2).
The fact that God’s justice was completely satisfied when Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins can empower us to forgive others when they sin against us. We may be reluctant to forgive someone who deeply hurt us, fearing that they will not get the justice they deserve. But the truth is, none of us in Christ received the justice we deserved. Christ received God’s justice in our place even though He, being sinless, did not deserve it.
I am not suggesting that God takes sin lightly nor should we. God hates sin. He is grieved by our sins. The Lord wants His children to gain victory over that sin. But until a believer is open and honest with God about the sin God reveals to him or her, that believer will not be in fellowship with God. Nor will he or she have access to God’s power while living out of fellowship with the Lord.
There are some Christians who teach that a Christian does not need to confess his sins and ask forgiveness because a believer already has complete forgiveness of all his sins including his future sins (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). But this conclusion confuses the believer’s positional forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7) with his fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9). A Christian who does not see his need to seek his heavenly Father’s forgiveness when he disobeys the Lord will not be very sensitive to the multiple ways he grieves God. In addition, the Lord Jesus taught His believing disciples to seek forgiveness of their sins when He taught them how to pray each day (e.g., the expression “give us this day our daily bread” precedes the request “forgive us our debts” (Matt. 6:11-12). 
We have talked about confessing the specific sins in our lives of which we are aware. But what about all the unknown sin in our lives? The last part of I John 1:9 explains that when we confess the specific sins of which we are aware, God is “faithful and just” to not only forgive those specific sins we confessed, but He will also “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This “all unrighteousness” refers to all the other sins in our lives that we are not aware of. It has been estimated that 90% of the decisions we make are unconscious in nature.  There are many sinful choices we all make of which we have no conscious knowledge. We all have far more sin in our lives that we do not know about. But God sees all our sins – the sins we consciously choose (“our sins”) and the sins we unconsciously choose (“all unrighteousness”). We do not need to agonize about the sins we are not conscious of because the shed blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us” from all of them when we confess the specific sins God’s light reveals to us (1:7, 9). Nothing in our lives is left uncleansed.
So, how can sinful Christians be close to a God Who does not allow sin in His presence? The apostle John tells us in I John 1 that we simply keep walking in the light, as God is in the light, and although we remain sinful people, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us of all our sins. This is good news that is worth sharing with others!!!
The apostle John explains this further in John 2:17-22: 2:17: When Christ’s disciples watched Jesus cleanse the temple, they probably stood back “in stunned silence. With mouths wide open, they stared astonished as Jesus tossed furniture like toothpicks and slung coins like seeds. The lash of His whip sent livestock scurrying behind their unclean owners as the temple Owner’s voice echoed through the courts, ‘Take these things away!’ And the disciples remembered Psalm 69:9,”“Zeal for Your house will eat Me up.” 
In Psalm 69:9, King David meant that zeal for the building of the temple had dominated his thoughts and actions, and he implied that others would criticize him for it. John applies this verse to the future Messianic Davidic King of Israel, implying that Jesus is their promised Messiah. 
“The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would have a consuming zeal for the temple and for God the Father. Jesus was consumed with doing what His Father had sent Him to do (4:34). His consuming dedication ultimately consumed Him when He gave up His life on the cross (cf. 2:19-22).”
When Christ cleansed the temple at the beginning (John 2:13- 17) and end of His public ministry (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-47), He was declaring war on the hypocritical religious leaders (Matt. 23:1-36), and this would ultimately lead to His death. 
Do we have this kind of zeal for God’s work? Are we willing to risk our lives or reputations for the Lord? This kind of enthusiasm comes from a dynamic relationship with the Lord. We cannot manufacture this kind of zeal on our own. It comes from knowing and loving Jesus!
2:18: The Jews did not question Jesus’ actions nor address Christ’s indictment of them for making His “Father’s house” into “a house of merchandise” (2:16)! Instead, they question Jesus’ authority. Who does He think He is by doing this? They demanded a miraculous “sign” to prove He has the right to take such action. By asking for a sign from Jesus, these religious leaders recognize that by cleansing the temple and speaking of His “Father’s house,” Jesus was presenting Himself as the promised Messiah-God. 
“Concerned with the issue of authority—just as they were with the Baptizer in the Judean wilderness—they said, in effect, ‘If you’re declaring Yourself to be the Messiah by this act, authenticate Yourself with a series of miracles.’”
I love Jesus’ response here. He confuses them even more. “Youwant a sign. I will give you a sign.”2:19: He used this “veiled” response to stimulate the thinking of these Jews. The word translated “temple” (naos) refers to the sanctuary or Holy Place, as distinguished from the temple courtyards (heiron), including the Court of Gentiles Jesus just cleansed.  Jesus intentionally calls His body “this temple” (naos) alluding to the reality that on the New Earth He will be the new “temple” (naos – Rev 21:22). 
“Only a perceptive hearer would comprehend it, and none of themqualified. In fact, His own disciples didn’t understand His true meaning until after His resurrection.”
“John highlights this tendency of Jesus more than the other gospelwriters. Jesus didn’t waste His words on people who didn’t want to hear. In fact, He didn’t speak in order to convince the skeptic or sway the dissenter. His words were intended to divide His audience into two groups: receptive hearts and hard hearts. He understood that hearing Him is not an intellectual process, but a crisis of the will. Several times throughout the story when Jesus says something cryptic, some people think they understand Him and turn away, while others admit their confusion and draw nearer.”
If these “Jews” genuinely want to know if Jesus is their promised Messiah, then they would seek the answer from Him. Christ is referring to the greatest and last “sign” recorded in the gospel of John that points to His identity as the Christ, the Son of God which is His death and resurrection (cf. 19:17-20:31).
The Sanhedrin later used Jesus’ words about destroying the temple as a capital charge against Him at His trial (Matt. 26:61; Mark 14:58; cf. Matt. 27:40; Mark 15:29). This was dishonest and unfair, however, because Jesus had said, ‘Destroy this temple,’ not I will destroy the temple. Furthermore, Jesus was speaking of His body, not the Jerusalem temple.”
2:20: As Christ anticipated, these “Jews” took Him literally and misunderstood Him to refer to the “temple” building which took Herod the Great “forty-six years to build.”  Such a massive and enduring temple structure was not likely to be destroyed and rebuilt “in three days.”
2:21: Thanks to John’s post-resurrection perspective, we know that Jesus is not speaking of destroying Herod’s temple building, but rather He is “speaking of the temple of His” own physical “body” which will be crucified and buried.
2:22: It was not until after Jesus “had risen from the dead” and appeared to “His disciples” that they “remembered that He had said this to them.” It was then that “they believed the Scripture” in the Old Testament concerning Christ’s resurrection (cf. Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:12) “and the word which Jesus had” spoken to them.
It is not the Jerusalem temple but the human body of Jesus that represents the presence of God. Let me remind you of something. Christianity is not about buildings. It is not about a church building. It is not even about a philosophy of life. Christianity is about a relationship with the One Who died and rose again for our sins so “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
So, the reason a holy God can come into our contaminated lives full of sin is because of Christ’s death and resurrection. God’s holiness demands that sin be punished, but His heart desires that the sinner be pardoned. Hence, God sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment you and I deserved.
The United States was shocked in 1998 by the tragic news of two young boys who opened fire on schoolchildren as they ran from their building in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Four children and a teacher were killed, and five others were injured. The teacher died when she stepped forward to shield one of her sixth graders. She saved the girl but lost her own life. The teacher became her substitute and died in her place. 
Jesus Christ died as our Substitute. Just as the teacher took the bullets for the young girl, Christ took the punishment for our sin and died in our place. Jesus Christ did what our good works could never do. We are saved by Christ’s dying, not by our doing. Three days after His death Jesus came back to life. By rising from the grave on the third day He proved He had conquered sin and death. The second way to experience Christ’s cleansing truth is to REALIZE THAT CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR A HOLY GOD TO LIVE INSIDE US (2:17-22).
This leads to the third way to experience Christ’s cleansing truth. 2:23-24: During the week-long feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus did many miraculous “signs.” As a result, “many believed in His name” for eternal life (2:23). Some argue that these people were not truly saved because their faith was based on miraculous signs and because Jesus did not “commit Himself to them” (2:24). 
However, the reasons for understanding that these people are genuinely saved are substantial:
1. The phrase “believed in His name” is always used of people believing in Jesus to get them to heaven in John’s writings. This phrase “believed in His name” in John 2:23 is used in John 1:12-13 to refer to saving faith. Those verses prepare the reader to understand John 2:23 in the same way.  Grounds for condemnation are because one has not “believed in the name” of the Son of God (John 3:18). In John 20:31, a believer may have life “in His name.” Thus, there is nothing in John’s usage of “believe in the name”to suggest that the faith in John 2:23 is not saving faith. 
2. The “believe in”construction is a common Johannine expression for saving faith (John 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; 4:39; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:30; 9:35, 36; 11:2526, 48; 12:11, 37, 42, 44, 46; cf. I John 5:13). Nothing in John 2:23 suggests a different understanding.
“The phrase pisteuō eis, “believe in,” is John’s standard expression for saving faith (cf. John 6:40; 7:39; 8:30; 10:42; 11:25-26; 12:11). One believes ‘on Him’ or ‘in His name.’” 
“When Calvin says that they did not have true faith but were only borne along by some impulse of zeal which prevented them from carefully examining their hearts, he is therefore flatly contradicting John’s consistent usage in the rest of his writings. This illustrates ‘theologicalexegesis.’” 
“Martin Lloyd-Jones falls into the same error. He feels that those who‘believed in His name’ ‘did not truly believe in Him. They gave a kind of intellectual assent, they seemed to believe in Him; but He knew that they had not believed in Him in reality, and that is why He did not commit Himself to them.” 
“He cites John 6:60-66, where Jesus says there were some disciples ‘that believe not’ and concludes that this explains the people in John 2:25. But isn’t this directly contradicting the very words of John? John tells us that in John 2, contrary to the unbelieving disciples in John 6, these people specifically did believe. On what authority does Lloyd-Jones say they did not? How else could John say it if his intent was to indicate saving faith? Nowhere in the New Testament are adverbs, such as ‘truly’ or ‘really’ ever used to modify ‘believe’ in a soteriological context. These adverbs are frequently inserted in front of the word ‘believe’ in Experimental writings in order to sustain the fiction of the final perseverance of the saints in holiness to the final hour.” 
3. Nothing in the gospel of John suggests that belief based on Christ’s miracles is not genuine. Jesus even taught unbelievers to believe in Him because of the works or miraculous signs He did (John 10:38; 14:11). John finds fault with those who fail to believe in Christ after observing His miracles (John 12:37). The apostle recorded Jesus’ miraculous signs to elicit saving faith in the Person of Christ (John 20:31). The miracles Jesus did in John 2:23 fulfilled the very purpose for which they were recorded. John would have applauded these people for believing in Jesus based on His miraculous signs! However, it is true that a saving faith based on visible miraculous signs is not as noble as a saving faith based on God’s Word (cf. John 20:28-29; cf. 4:1-53). 
2:24: Since these people are saved, then what does it mean when Jesus refused to “commit Himself” or “entrust Himself” to these new believers?
One possible meaning is referenced by Dillow: “Debbie Hunn cites several examples from the first century which suggest that ‘entrusting oneself to another,’ then, in the examples known in the Greek of John’s day, referred not to disclosure of truth, intimacy, or belief in the sayings of another, but to personal security.”  1722
“This idea nicely fits the context of John 2:24. After driving out the traders from the temple, Jesus for the first time announced His coming death (John 2:18-22).”
A view that more consistent with the gospel of John’s subtheme of discipleship is that Christ chose not to become more intimate with these believers. Jesus “wasn’t ready to reveal more of Himself to them because of their spiritual immaturity. They were not yet ready for full commitment to discipleship and public identification with Him.” 
Keep in mind that although the main theme of the gospel of John is how to get to heaven; a subtheme is discipleship or intimacy with Christ.  Jesus entrusts Himself to new believers who are ready to be His friends. For Christ to disclose more of Himself to a believer, the believer must be trustworthy and obey Him. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him”(John 14:21). Christ “manifests” or discloses more of Himself to the believer who “has… and keeps” His commandments.
Friendship with Christ is conditioned upon obeying Him. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). This friendship refers to Jesus disclosing His thoughts to those who obey Him. Thus, Jesus’ friends are those to whom He entrusts Himself. 
Notice that the word “commit” in verse 24 is in the imperfect tense. This tense speaks only about action in the past, so it leaves open to question what Jesus might do at a later point in time. Hence, Christ could entrust Himself to these believers later should they obey Him. 
When the word “commit”is used in the passive sense (“entrust”)in the New Testament, its objects are: riches (Luke 16:11), Christ (John 2:24), oracles of God (Rom. 3:2), stewardship (I Cor. 9:17), the gospel (I Thess. 2:4; Gal. 2:7; I Tim. 1:11), and the preaching of the Word (Tit. 1:3).  None of these instances suggest a salvation context. These passages suggest that the person receiving the object is regarded as trustworthy. The object is being committed to them in confidence. It follows that Christ refused to commit Himself to those who had believed (John 2:23-24) because He had little confidence in them at this time to be His friends, that is, to obey Him even to the point of publicly confessing Him (John 15:14-17; 12:42-43).
Therefore, the issue is not whether these people are saved or not, the issue for these new believers is whether they are trustworthy. Intimate fellowship with Christ requires obedience to Him. How did Jesus know whether to entrust Himself to these new believers? Look in verse 25.
2:25: Jesus refused to have fellowship with these new believers because He supernaturally “knew” that their hearts were not ready for intimacy with Him; that is, they were not ready to obey Him yet. They were not ready for a close friendship with Christ.
“He could see into their hearts. And He can see into yours too. So don’t miss this truth: Spiritual growth is important because it expands our capacity to experience more of God. Jesus does not relate to all believers the same way.” 
Part of obeying Christ may involve publicly confessing our faith in Him before others like at work or school. It is possible to have a saving faith alongside a reluctance to express that faith publicly. Thus, these verses introduce the theme of “secret believers” who are genuinely saved, but they are afraid to express their faith openly due to the threat of persecution (cf. John 9:22; 12:42; 19:38). 
For example, many of the ruling Pharisees had saving faith but were afraid to express that faith to others: “42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
Hodges makes an astute observation when he writes that “later in the gospel of John Jesus ‘commits Himself’ very extensively to the men who had accompanied Him to that point in His ministry. He ‘discloses’ Himself in a very intimate way to them.
“But Nicodemus (whom we shall meet shortly) was not with Hisdisciples in the Upper Room. Why he was not there becomes graduallyobvious as the Fourth gospel unfolds. As a result, on the pages of John’s gospel, Nicodemus stands as the prototype of a believer who is hindered from intimacy with Jesus Christ by competing interests.”
“The verb ‘testify’ in v. 25 (martureō) is an inclusio back to the noun testimony in 1:19 (marturia). John the Baptist is the preeminent example in the Fourth Gospel of one who openly testified for Jesus. The new believers are a sad contrast to him. They were unwilling to tell others openly of their faith in Jesus.
“John skillfully repeats the word ‘man’ in 2:25 and 3:1. Immediately after the words, ‘He knew what was in man’ (2:25), John says, ‘Now there was a man…’ (3:1). The new believers in 2:23 were like the man who came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness (3:2).
“John the Baptist is the paradigm of the open believer (cf. 3:22-36); Nicodemus is the paradigm of the secret believer (3:1-21). Every time John mentions Nicodemus, he writes that he came to Jesus by night (3:2; 7:50; 19:39). Night is a symbol of darkness and of secrecy. There are hints in 7:45-52 and certainly in 19:38-42 that Nicodemus believed in Jesus, though without openly confessing Him.
“Even before the new believers of 2:23 had done anything, Jesus knew that they, unlike John the Baptist, but like Nicodemus, were not ready to confess Him. Because of that, He did not entrust them with the depth of truth He reserved for His friends.” 
Hence, the third way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to RECOGNIZE THAT CHRIST ONLY REVEALS HIMSELF TO BELIEVERS WHO ARE READY TO OBEY HIM(2:23-25). Some of us don’t know Jesus any better today than the day we became a Christian. For some of us that may have been years ago. But Christ will not disclose Himself to us if we are not willing to go on and obey Him. He refuses fellowship with Christians who are not ready to obey Him.
For any relationship to grow deeper, there must be mutual trust. I’m not going to be transparent with you until I develop a certain level of trust with you. Likewise, you are not going to be transparent with me until you have cultivated more trust in our relationship. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus knows our hearts. And He knows if we are ready to obey Him and grow deeper in our relationship with Him or not.
If you have been under the weight of religion (man-made rules), and you are weary – you feel like giving up on God – please know that Jesus fights for you to get you out from under that system, and He wants to heal your hurts. He wants to lighten your load.
Jesus also wants His disciples (followers) to take sin seriously in their lives. He wants us to trust Him to cleanse our lives of all sin and corruption. He wants us to rely on His resurrection power to help us say “no” to sin and “yes” to the Savior. Once we begin a relationship with Jesus by believing in Him for eternal life, He wants to reveal more of Himself to us and get closer to us. But for Him to do this, we must be willing to obey Him. We must be willing to surrender control of our lives to Him and let Him start directing our lives. Some of us need to come out of denial and admit that we are addicted to running our own lives. Friends, things are not going to get any better until we give up on ourselves and give in to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I found myself sitting in judgment over the religious leaders of Israel who had turned the temple of God into a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer. But Your Spirit convicted me that I am no better than those religious leaders. I also have stolen from others with my words and my thoughts. Like the religious leaders, I also have made it difficult for others to approach You in worship by being less than Christlike towards them. Despite my sin, it is mind boggling to know that the holy God of the Bible indwells me through His Spirit the moment I believed in You Lord Jesus!!! Thank You, Lord Jesus, by making this possible through Your shed blood on the cross which not only paid the penalty for all my sins (John 19:30; Col. 2:13-14), but also continues to cleanse me of my daily sins so I may enjoy closeness with You (I John 1:7). Thank You for Your resurrection power which is always available to help me to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to holy living. By Your grace, Lord Jesus, please enable me to walk in obedience to You so I may enjoy intimate fellowship with You. Thank You for disclosing more of Yourself to me as I live for You. Thank You for Your cleansing truth and grace. In Your mighty name I pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
 Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 559.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 79 cites Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. 6th ed. Translated by Patrick Lynch. Edited by James Canon Bastible (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1964) pg. 209; J. C. Macaulay, The Bibleand the Roman Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1946), pp. 71-73.
 This writer also makes an argument for a fourth though implicit reference to the Passover (“feast”) in John 5:1 (cf. William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-54), pg. 188.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184; Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 70 cites Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), pp. 55-60, 143; Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 80.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184; Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 559.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 184.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 552.
 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 3504 to 3508; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2934.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 818.
 Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2206.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pp. 184-185.
 Hodges, Faith in His Name, pg. 51. See also, Keith Vande Vred, “A Contrast Between Nicodemus and John the Baptist in the Gospel of John,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57:4 (December 2014): 715-726.
 Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, Kindle Edition, pg. 185.
“41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.” John 1:41-42a
God’s plan for reaching the world for Christ is to use each believer in some way to introduce another person to Jesus Christ and then train them to do the same. Jesus cast a huge vision for His followers to pursue, before He ascended to heaven. Look in Mark 16:15: “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people.” (GNT)
Can you envision each of us having a part in introducing someone to Jesus? You may not actually share the gospel with them, but you may plant a seed in their lives. You may pray for them, show them kindness, and invite them to church or a small group. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see new faces in your Sunday Schools, small groups, and worship services, because each one of you played a part in inviting someone to come see Jesus? In other words, each one is to reach one. This is how Jesus’ first disciples got started, as we shall see in this chapter.
We are going to discover how each of us can reach another person or persons for Christ. Turn to John 1:35-51. If each one of us is going to reach another person for Christ, we must understand and apply some important principles.
First, we must GROW CLOSER TO CHRIST (1:35-39). There is a transfer of focus in the text from John the Baptist to Jesus. In the verses preceding today’s passage, the apostle John began to present “four consecutive days in simple, chronological order based on his personal observation of the events.” (1:19-51). On the first day John the Baptist stated who he was not and who he was (1:19-23) before identifying Jesus as the One Who possesses superior authority by saying that he himself was unworthy to do even the most menial service for Christ (1:24-28). On the second day, John pointed others to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Preexistent One, the One Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and as the Son of God (1:29-34).
We see the humility of John the Baptist as he directs his own followers to Jesus on the third day. 1:35-36: This is what we call “intimate evangelism”—pointing those closest to you to Jesus. “Again, the next day” (the third of four days), John the Baptist focuses the attention of “two of his disciples” on “Jesus as He walked” by, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The apostle John informs us that one of these two disciples is “Andrew” (1:40). The other disciple is most likely the apostle John himself whose pattern is to refer to himself indirectly throughout his gospel  (cf. 13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26; 20:2-4, 8; 21:20, 23-24).
When the Baptist says, “Behold” he is telling his two disciples to “stop whatever they are paying attention to”  and“look with wonder at the amazing Lamb of God!” John is encouraging his followers to transfer their focus onto Jesus now instead of him.
This is reinforced further by the apostle John’s use of Greek verbs and their tenses in 1:35-36. John the Baptist “stood” whereas Jesus “walked.” The verb translated “stood” is in the pluperfect tense which means John was still standing at some point in the past after having previously stood.  Whereas the verb translated “walked” is in the present tense and conveys that Jesus “was walking.“
“The action in God’s economy was shifting from John’s baptism to the ministry of Jesus.” 
As “the Lamb of God,” Jesus is the only One who can provide free, unlimited forgiveness of sin. Christ is like a calculator. A calculator is not only good for what it can do; but also, for what it can undo. Christ can hit the clear button of redemption and remove all our guilt and stain the moment we believe in Him for complete forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14).
My wife shared something with me a while back at lunch that really touched me. You can see her insights in the picture above. The horizontal cross beam reminds us of what Psalm 103:12 says,“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The cross of Jesus provides the basis for removing our sins as far as the east is from the west (which is an infinite line), far out of our reach so we cannot retrieve them. The vertical post of the cross points to Micah 7:19 which says, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” The cross provides the basis of casting our sins out of our sight into the depths of the sea.To the human mind it is unclear how the Lord clears – but let me tell you – clearly – He can do it! Like John the Baptist, we must point those closest to us to the unlimited forgiveness of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
1:37: John’s disciples now “follow” or go along with Jesus. Christ does not invite them to follow Him as His disciples here. They “heard” Christ speak and want to learn more from Him so “they followed Jesus.” This means nothing more than they are accompanying the Lord. Christ does not call them to follow Him as His disciples until about a year later (Mark 1:16-18). How do I know this?
When we examine all four gospels, it becomes clear that the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him in Mark 1:16-18 were already believers. In the Spring of A.D. 26 Peter, John, Philip, and Andrew met Jesus for the first time (John 1:35-51) and believed in Him. When Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (John 1:43), He was asking him to accompany Him to Galilee, not make a discipleship commitment. Philip believed in Christ because of spending time with Him (1:45). Four days after that first encounter, Jesus’ other disciples believed in Him after He turns water into wine (2:1-11). Several days later during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the temple (2:13-22). During the next several months, Christ instructs these new believers in the fundamental truths of salvation and assurance as He evangelizes Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the city of Sychar (John 3-4).
John 4:35 mentions four months until harvest. The harvest takes place in the months of April or May. Four months prior would be January or February. Thus, between the mention of the first Passover (John 2:13) which is in April, and the time mentioned in John 4:35, almost one year has passed. During these months, John the Baptist is evangelizing Judea (John 3:22-36) and baptizing. So, several things have already taken place before we come to Mark 1. Mark 1:14 informs us that John the Baptist is now in prison. In John 1-3, John the Baptist is still ministering publicly. But in Mark 1, he is in prison. So, these disciples have known Jesus for at least a year when Christ approaches them in Mark 1:16. Peter is a believer. He has evangelized the city of Sychar with Christ. But in Mark 1, he is fishing for fish.
1:38a: When Jesus looks over His shoulder and sees these two disciples of John “following” Him, He asks them “What do you seek?”
“These are the first recorded words of Jesus in John’s Gospel. The question is actually profound. The word seek (zeteō) occurs thirty-five times in John’s gospel, referring often to the Judeans who were seeking to arrest and to kill Jesus. With this question Jesus was focusing their attention on their ultimate concern: What is it that you want out of life?”
Christ may be asking us right now, “What do you seek” in life? Love… security… fulfillment… relationships… money… a job… fame… or healing? What is it you are seeking currently? Are you seeking Jesus? Only Jesus can meet our deepest needs. Only Christ can give us the love… acceptance… security and forgiveness that we crave.
1:38b-39: Jesus was Who John’s disciples were seeking. They refer to Christ as “Rabbi,” which John translated as “Teacher.” These two men wanted to know where Jesus was “staying” so they could remain with Him and learn more from Him as they had done with John the Baptist. Christ invites them to “Come and see.” They first had to “come” with Jesus before they could “see” or comprehend where He was staying.This has spiritual significance as well.
“Only by coming to Jesus could they really comprehend what they were seeking spiritually. The same thing holds true today.” 
These men were eager to spend time with Christ. John tells us “They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).” (1:39). This is the first of several time notices in John’s gospel (cf. 4:6, 52; 19:14).
“The tenth hour” could refer either to 4 P.M., if John uses the Jewish timekeeping system from sunset to sunset, or to 10 A.M., if he uses the Roman’s reckoning of time from midnight to midnight.  Whether the apostle John meant 10 A.M. or 4 P.M., the main thing is he never forgot the hour when he first met Jesus.  The time that John and Andrew spent with Christ the rest of that day was very significant. It had eternal implications for them.
How about you? Have you met Jesus? Do you remember the first time you encountered Him? I remember the evening, not the exact hour, that I first met Jesus. It was on Monday, March 12, 1979, when Archie Griffin, a two-time Heisman Trophy winner and professional footbal player, came to our college to speak on the evening of Christian Emphasis Day. After Archie talked about his personal relationship with Christ, God showed me my need for the Savior so I could believe in Jesus for everlasting life.
After the assembly, I drove my parents’ car out into the country and pulled into a cornfield driveway to talk with God. Under the light of a beautiful full moon, while I was listening to a Christian song by Chuck Girard entitled “Lay Your Burden Down,” I received Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and eternal life by believing in Him. I will never forget that first meeting with Jesus that evening. It changed my eternal destiny and for that I am eternally grateful.
The words “staying” and “remained” in John 1:38b-39 come from the Greek word menō which the apostle John uses forty times in his gospel  to describe close fellowship with Christ, not one’s conversion. Menō means “to stay, remain, abide, live, dwell.” It literally refers to where one makes his or her home. We need to constantly make our home in Jesus’ presence. Where we make our home is where we spend our time. We must make the effort to reside in the truth of the Bible about Jesus and His love for us.
How at home with Jesus are you? Are you cultivating a closer relationship with Him through prayer, the study of His Word, and hanging out with other Christians? When we spend time with Jesus, as Andrew and John did, our lives will never be the same. When we grow closer to Jesus, His heart for the lost will become ours. We will begin to see those who need to hear the gospel the same way that Jesus does – as someone Jesus loves and longs to save.
GO TO THOSE CLOSEST TO YOU AND TELL THEM ABOUT JESUS (1:40-46). The key to having boldness is spending time with Jesus Christ. As a result of spending part of a day with Christ, Andrew realizes that he must share his good news with his brother, Simon Peter. 1:40: John identifies “Andrew,” the brother of “Simon Peter,” as one of the two disciples of John the Baptist who accompanied Jesus that day. The name “Andrew” means “manly”  or “courageous.” It takes courage to bring others to Christ, especially family.
1:41: Can you picture Andrew? “I have to tell Peter my news right now.” What is his news? “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew is the first in John’s gospel to identify Jesus as the promised “Messiah” or “Christ.” Evangelism is not complicated. It is very clear and simple. Andrew already has eternal life because he believed Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah-God. According to I John 5:1, that is all anyone one must do to be saved: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”
“To obtain eternal life one must believe that Jesus is the Messiah in the sense that He gives eternal life to those who believe in Him (see the discussion of 11:25-27 and 20:30-31).
“When Jesus came, some, like John the Baptist (cf. 1:31, 33), already were born again since they believed in the Messiah for eternal life, though they did not yet know who He was. This is likely the case with Andrew and the other disciples of John the Baptist as well since John gives no report of Jesus speaking of eternal life to them. Evidently, they believed John’s preaching about the Coming One and believed in Him for eternal life. Whenthey found out that Jesus is that Coming One, they sought to become His disciples.”
The word “believe” in the New Testament means “to consider or be persuaded something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust.”  Because all of us are born as sinners who deserve to die forever separated from God in the lake of fire (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 3:23; 6:23a; Rev. 20:15), we need a Savior to save us. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead and is alive today to give eternal life to everyone who believes in Him (John 3:16; I Cor. 15:1-6).
The following 3-circle tool was developed by EvanTell, Inc., and is used with their permission. Ask yourself, what am I believing or trusting to get me to God’s heaven?
Starting from the left, some people believe their works will get them to heaven (1st Circle). Some people believe Christ plus their works will get them to heaven (2nd Circle). Others believe Christ alone will get them to heaven (3rd Circle).
Those who believe their works will get them to heaven are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was unnecessary.”For if you can get to heaven trusting your works, Jesus did not need to die on the Cross. Those who believe Christ plus their works will get them to heaven, are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was disappointing,”that is, Jesus paid for some of my sins, but I must pay for the rest. But Jesus did not make a down payment for your sins. He made the full payment for your sins (John 19:30). Those who believe Christ alone will get them to God’s heaven, are saying to God, “Your Son’s death was sufficient.”Jesus paid it all and so all we must do is believe in Him alone to take us to His heaven. It is that simple.
Then what does Andrew do? 1:42a: That says it all. He simply brought his brother Simon to Jesus. That is all Andrew knew to do. Just get him to Jesus. Come and see. He pointed his brother to the One who could change him and satisfy all his needs. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more His heart will become ours. So, the closer we get to the heart of Christ, the closer we get to the people for whom He died.
Jesus’ heart bleeds for the lost. Luke 19:10 explains: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The heart of our Lord is a seeking heart. Aren’t you thankful for that? We would still be lost in our sins if Jesus did not seek us out. Look at God’s heart. First Timothy 2:3-4 say, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Is there any human being God does not want to be saved? No. God created hell for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), not for people. God desires that all people go to heaven, and He wants to use you and me to introduce people to the Savior Who can get them there. He may use you at work, school, the marketplace, the Mall, or He may use you in your back yard talking across the fence with your neighbor. The key is to open your heart to Him, so He can use you.
Those who live close to Christ capture His heart for the lost. For example, during my engagement to Pat before our wedding, I had no difficulty introducing her to my family, friends, and co-workers. Why? Because I had a personal relationship with her, and I was thrilled to be with her! And I wanted others to meet her because she was so awesome! How much more should this be true of our relationship with Jesus Christ? The church needs some Andrews who will be committed to bringing others to Jesus. We need older and younger Andrews.
Being an Andrew does not involve fancy evangelism methods and memorizing lots of Scripture, so you never make a mistake. Being an Andrew means getting them to Jesus. “Come and see.” Allow Jesus to make the transformation. You just be faithful to bring them to Jesus. We cannot change people, but Jesus can. We cannot make unfaithful spouses quit cheating, but Jesus can. We cannot make alcoholics quit drinking, but Jesus can. We cannot make drug addicts quit using, but Jesus can. We cannot make worriers stop worrying, but Jesus can. We cannot make abusive parents quit violating their children, but Jesus can. Our job is to get them to Jesus. Come and See! Don’t tell them to clean up their lives. Just ask them to come as they are and see Jesus for Who He really is. Then Christ will do the rest. Invite them to church… to Starbucks for coffee or to your own home for a meal where they can hear the clear and simple gospel.
In bringing his brother to meet Jesus, no man did the church a greater service than Andrew! Andrew appears two more times in John’s gospel (6:4-9; 12:20-22); both times he was bringing someone to Jesus. 
“A Christian’s testimony ought to accomplish what John the Baptist’s testimony did: pointing people to Jesus so that they want to follow Him. Notice the domino effect in this passage. Having encountered Jesus, Andrew wanted his brother to experience Him too. When you understand Who Jesus is, you’ll want others to know Him.” 
1:42b: And indeed, Jesus takes one look at Simon and sees more than a rugged fisherman. He identifies him as “Cephas,” which means “a rock or stone.” “You are now Simon, but you will become Peter.” Jesus saw beyond the impulsive, head-strong, unreliable fisherman. He saw a solid rock. Jesus saw him for what he would become by His grace (even when it takes a while). Eventually God would use Peter to lead three thousand people to Christ through the preaching of one sermon on the day of Pentecost (Ac. 2:14-47).
Jesus’ interaction with Peter teaches us the importance of a new believer receiving a vision of what he or she can become in Christ. During this first stage of discipleship, the Lord gives us a vision of what we can become by His grace working in and through us. We need someone who can look beyond our faults and weaknesses and not only love us but also expect the best from us; someone who will believe in us; someone who will give us another chance; someone who will call us by another name. That Someone is Jesus Christ. Only He has the power to forgive all our sins and turn our weaknesses into strengths. That is what Jesus did with Peter and that is what He wants to do with you and me. Jesus sees the potential in each of us. You may think God cannot use you because of your weaknesses. Look to Christ to do through you what you could never do on your own!
But there is more. 1:43-44: On “the following day” (the fourth of four days beginning in 1:19) after Jesus renamed Peter, Christ “found Philip” on the way “to Galilee” (1:43).The word “found” suggests Jesus was looking for Philip, He did not just happen to cross paths with him. Christ said to Philip, “Follow Me,” which could be translated, “keep on following Me” if Philip already was following Christ or “start following Me” if he was not yet following Christ. When Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (1:43), He was asking him to accompany Him to Galilee, not make a discipleship commitment. Philip believed in Christ either through John the Baptist’s ministry before he met Jesus (cf. Acts 19:4), or as a result of spending time with Christ (1:45).
Some interpeters insist that following Christ is necessary to receive eternal life. I hear many pastors and churches preach this often. But this is contrary to the gospel of John which emphasizes believing in Christ alone as the only condition for eternal life (John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; 20:31; et al.).
Thus, what does Jesus mean when He says, “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life” (John 10:27-28a)? Does this mean a person who truly believes must follow Christ as an obedient disciple to have eternal life which can never be lost as many preachers teach today?
The context of John 10:27-29 does not support this understanding. Jesus is using the word “follow” as a figure of speech referring to belief. Just as Jesus’ reference to sheep, is a figure of speech, so His reference to following Him is the same. Christ was not talking about literal sheep which physically follow a literal shepherd in this verse. Instead, He was illustrating salvation by picturing Himself as the Good Shepherd and believers as His sheep (cf. John 10:1-27).
In the context, Jesus addresses the unbelief of His Jewish audience, who questioned if He was the promised Messiah (John 10:24). Jesus replied to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.”(John 10:25-26). People who are not of His sheep do not believe. What then do His sheep do? They believe He is the Christ – the One Who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. They hear His voice and respond in faith like sheep follow a shepherd (cf. John 10:4-5). They trust Him. So, in this context the unbelief of His Jewish audience (John 10:25-26) is set in contrast to His sheep following or believing in Him (John 10:27).
Bob Wilkins writes that “the picture of sheep hearing their shepherd’s voice and following him is a picture of childlike faith. In his book, The Gospel Under Siege, Zane Hodges says concerning that illustration, ‘That is to say, they [the sheep] commit their safety and well-being to the Shepherd who has summoned them to do so‘ (pg. 44). He goes on to say that this is clearly an act of faith, not discipleship.
“Hodges points out two other points which further prove that the figure refers to faith in Christ: the sequence of the coordinate clauses and the analogy of John 5:24.
“The verses in question have five clauses joined by the word ‘and.’ Adefinite progression is evident. The sequence of the clauses shows that ‘following Him’ is the condition—not the consequence—of eternal life. Jesus did not say, ‘I give them eternal life and they follow Me.’ Instead, He said, ‘They follow Me and I give them eternal life.’ Since faith in Christ is the sole condition of salvation in Scripture and in John’s Gospel, ‘following Him’ must be a figure for faith in Christ.
“In addition, John 5:24 is parallel to John 10:27-28. Both refer to hearing, believing, the giving of eternal life, the guarantee against eternal judgment, and the promise of the permanence of the relationship. The only difference between the two verses is that in John 10:27 believing is expressed by means of the figure of sheep following a shepherd.”
Throughout the gospel of John, figures of speech are used to illustrate saving faith such as receiving (1:12; 5:43; 13:20), looking (3:14-15), asking (4:10), drinking (4:14; 7:37), hearing (5:24; 10:16, 27), coming (5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37), eating bread (6:50, 51, 53, 54, 56, 58), entering (10:9), and following (10:27).
Christian author Charlie Bing writes: “These pictures of faith all denote receptivity, agreement, or trust. All are essentially simple activities and essentially passive. None communicates the idea of merit, work, effort, or achievement. Neither do they communicate an exchange of one’s life or the ongoing submission of one’s life to Jesus as Master in order to obtain eternal life.”
The gospel of John distinguishes the freeness of salvation (John 4:10-14; 8:30-31a) from the costliness of discipleship (John 8:31-32). The only condition for everlasting life is belief in Jesus Christ alone for His free gift (John 3:14-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; 20:31), but there are many conditions for discipleship including following Christ (John 8:12; 12:24-26; 21:19-22), abiding in Jesus’ word (John 8:31-32), loving one another (John 13:34-35), and bearing fruit (John 15:1-8). Those who insist that following Christ is a condition for receiving eternal life, fail to make this important distinction between conditions for salvation and conditions for discipleship. This has caused much harm to the unsaved because it distorts the gospel message making it more difficult for them to believe in Christ alone, and it also has caused the church to be less effective in evangelism.
The apostle John informs us that Philip was from the same city of “Bethsaida” as “Andrew and Peter” (1:44). This may explain why Jesus was looking for Philip. Andrew and Peter may have been acquaintances, if not friends, with Philip, and had something to do with Christ calling Philip. 
“Philip’s hometown of Bethsaida was on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee (called ‘Bethsaida in Galilee’ in 12:21). Also, Andrew and Peter were born there. Politically, Bethsaida was in lower Gaulonitis in the territory of Herod Philip (Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 18.2.1). Philip’s name is Greek, but his nationality cannot be inferred from that fact.”
What Jesus did with Philip, Philip now does with Nathanael. 1:45a: As Jesus “found” Philip,so Philip “found” Nathanael. “Nathanael” means “God has Given” or “Given of God.”
“The disciple learns from his Teacher, and spiritual multiplication occurs.”
1:45b: Philip informs Nathanael, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote.” This was an indirect way of telling Nathanael they had found the promised Messiah; the One Moses wrote about “in the law” (Gen. 3:15; 22:8; 28:12; 49:10; Num. 21:9; 24:17; Deut. 18:15-19; et al.) and “the prophets” also “wrote” “about (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; 52:13-53:12; Dan. 7:13; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 9:9; et al.). 
Philip identifies Christ as “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”“This is one of only three references to Joseph other than the birth and infancy accounts (see John 6:42 and Luke 4:22). By saying this it appears that Philip was unaware that Jesus was born of a virgin or that He was born in Bethlehem.” 
Christ had such an impact on Philip, that Philip wasted no time in telling Nathanael about Him. When we spend time with Jesus, it does not take long for us to start witnessing to others.
Nathanael is a little more skeptical than the other men who came to Jesus (cf. 1:37-44). He does not respond in immediate faith. 1:46a: Nathanael was somewhat shocked by Philip’s mention of “Nazareth.” He had difficulty believing that the Messiah would come from such an insignificant and relatively unknown place as Nazareth. But Nathanael’s question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” suggests that insignificance was not the only problem.
“There was something unclean about the place. That was due to its geographical proximity to Sepphoris, the Roman capital of Galilee. Sepphoris was located just four miles north of Nazareth. When the Roman rulers of this region needed workmen, they drew from the laborers of Nazareth. Some of the citizens of Nazareth exploited this opportunity for personal gain. And so the people of Nazareth were disdained by my many Jews. It was an insignificant place with a quesitonable reputation.” 
“Recent archaeological discoveries suggest the town housed a garrison of Roman soldiers, and where you find a town full of bored soldiers, you find a nesting ground for vice and immorality. In addition, many Jews believed that contact with Gentiles rendered them ritually unclean.” 
The truth is the best thing in all the world came out of Nazareth and Nathanael was about to discover this firsthand.
So, what does Philip do? Does he give up or start to argue with Nathanael? No. 1:46b: He does the only thing he knows to do. He says, “Come and see” for yourself. I don’t have all the answers but come and meet Jesus. Then you’ll see what I’m talking about.
GIVE THEM JESUS SO HE CAN BRING THEM TO HIMSELF (1:47-51).1:47: As Nathanael approaches, Jesus makes a statement that reflects His supernatural insight into the character of the man: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
“Nathanael was the opposite of the original Israel, namely, Jacob, who was very deceitful (Gen. 27:35-36; 28:12; cf. John 1:51). Therefore, Jesus virtually said that Nathanael was an Israelite in whom there was no Jacob.“
Jesus is saying, “I know you Nathanael for who you are, and you are a man of integrity.” 1:48a: Nathanael is surprised that Jesus would say this, so he says to Him, “How do You know me?”Nathanael is stunned because he has never met Jesus before so how could Christ know anything about him?
Christ shows in His response to Nathanael that His knowledge of his character was of supernatural origin. 1:48b: I have never really made a connection until today between Philip’s invitation to Nathanael, “Come and see” (1:46b), and Jesus’ words to Nathanael, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Before Nathanael sees Jesus, Jesus “saw” him.
Christ sees us even when we cannot see Him. We may feel or think that Jesus does not see us. You may say to yourself, “There are billions of people in the world today, how could Jesus possibly see me among all these people?” The Bible assures us that God does see us.
Christ “saw” Nathanael’s heart as well as his presence under the fig tree. Perhaps Nathanael was praying or reading the Bible under that fig tree. Jesus is saying, “Nathanael, I know who you are. I know everything there is to know about you. I know what you think and where you go and what you do. And Iwant to havea relationship with you.”
If you can identify with Nathanael’s skepticism, please know that Jesus loves you and He sees where you are. He will also meet you where you are at. He will provide answers to your questions if you are willing to listen. He may come to you in unexpected ways such as through a dream or a vision. He knows everything about you – your likes and dislikes, your sorrows and your joys, your thoughts, actions, and words. He knows the hidden wounds of your heart. He knows the dark secrets in the depths of your soul and He still loves you and He longs to be in a personal relationship with you.
How does Nathanael respond to the fact that Jesus saw him before they even met? 1:49: Christ’s supernatural knowledge of Nathanael moves the former skeptic to confess to Jesus, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You arethe King of Israel!” Nathanael concludes, “Only the Son of God could know this about me. You must be Him!” For Nathanael to believe that Jesus is the Son of God resulted in him having eternal life. John 20:31 says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” When as an Israelite, Nathanael says Christ is “the King of Israel!” he is acknowledging Jesus to be his own King. This former skeptic is celebrating the discovery of the long-awaited Messianic King.
All of us have a fundamental need to be seen, especially when we are hurting or lonely. Jesus not only tells us that He sees us. He wants to show us that He sees us. He sees our fears, our pain, and our stress. He also sees this world that is perishing without Him. When you experience that Jesus sees you, like Nathanael did, many of you will respond in faith to Jesus because you realize He is much more than a mere man. He is the God Who sees us.
This is the conclusion of a pregnant woman named Hagar after God met her in a place of despair and told her that the child in her womb would be a son called Ishmael because God heard her affliction (Gen. 16:11). So, Hagar called the name of the Lord, “You-Are-The-God-Who-Sees,” for she said, “Have I also hereseen Him Who sees me?” (Gen. 16:13). God sees you and He wants to show you that He sees you.
1:50: Christ makes an important promise to Nathanael and the other disciples (the “you” in this verse is plural) that is set off by the phrase (“Most assuredly, I say to you…”)that is used nowhere else in the New Testament. But John uses this phrase twenty-five times in his gospel  to call attention to important affirmations. 
Jesus says to Nathanael, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” “Nathanael is the first person in John’s Gospel who is specifically said to believe in Jesus, although John indirectly shows that John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and the unnamed disciple believed too.” Jesus is affirming that when we believe what God reveals to us, He will give us an even “greater” experience of Himself.  In other words, Nathanael had not seen anything yet. Christ’s demonstration of His supernatural knowledge was small compared to what Nathanael would see in the future. 
Not only did Jesus know about Nathanael’s character (1:47) and where he was when Philip found him (1:48), but He also knew what Nathanael had been thinking about under the fig tree.
1:51: Jesus uses the imagery of Jacob’s dream at Bethel when he saw “the angels of God ascending and descending” on a ladder (Gen. 28:12) to describe the “greater” (1:50) revelation that Nathanael and his fellow disciples  (and John’s readers) would receive concerning Christ.
“This Old Testament account is what Nathanael had been thinking about under the fig tree. How do I know? Because not only did Jesus make explicit reference to this story, but He also told Nathanael that he was ‘an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’ (1:47). Being a deceiver was exactly what Jacob was known for (see Gen 27:1-36). So, by these two comments, Jesus was making Nathanael aware that He knew what he was thinking.” 
“From 1:47-48, 51 it can be inferred that Nathanael was meditating on Jacob’s life, particularly on the incident recorded in Genesis 28:12. Jacob saw the angels going up and down a ladder. But Nathanael would see . . . the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Just as Jacob saw angels from heaven communicating with earth, so Nathanael (and the others; though you is singular in John 1:50, the you in v. 51 is plural) would see Jesus as the divine Communication from heaven to earth. The Son of Man, replacing the ladder, is God’s link with earth (cf. Dan. 7:13; Matt. 26:64). Perhaps Jesus was also indicating that He is the new ‘Bethel,’ God’s dwelling place (Gen. 28:17; John 1:14).
“As the Son of Man, Jesus left heaven to come to the earth. Jesusused the term ‘Son of Man’ of Himself more than 80 times. It speaks of His humanity and suffering and His work as ‘the ideal Man.’” 
Christ replaces the imagery of a ladder in Jacob’s dream with “the Son of Man,” a reference to Himself (1:51; cf. John 3:13-14; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 12:23, 34; 13:31). Instead of the angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder, Jesus says they are “ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus Christ is the Ladder or Mediator between heaven and earth, between God and man (John 3:13; I Tim. 2:5). Christ grants access to eternity. As He would tell His disciples later in John’s gospel, “Noone comes to the Father except through Me” (14:6). 
Throughout the remainder of John’s gospel, Nathanael, and the other disciples along with John’s readers, would receive evidence that Jesus was the sole Mediator between God and humanity. Because Christ is fully God and fully man (John 1:1, 14), He is the only One Who could provide a bridge between heaven and earth.
“God had revealed Himself to Israel—the man and the nation—in a dream at Bethel previously (Gen. 28:10-22). Now God would reveal Himself to a true Israelite, Nathanael, to all Israel, and to the whole world, directly through Jesus.” 
Daniel’s “Son of Man” is the prophesied King of Israel Who will rule over the whole world in the earth’s final kingdom (Dan. 7:13-14). Hence, Nathanael’s reference to Jesus as “the King of Israel” (1:49) is also part of the imagery in 1:51. 
In addition, the “greater things” Jesus would reveal to Nathanael and the other disciples (1:50) would also involve Jesus’ Second Coming to earth as “the King of Israel” (1:49). Christ had already shown His supernatural knowledge to Nathanael (1:48b), but when He comes the second time, He will show His supernatural power (1:51). When Christ comes back as King, the Bible says, “6 Let all the angels of God worship Him. 7 And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.’ “ (Hebrews 1:6-7). When Christ returns to earth at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19:11-21), He will establish His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Rev. 21:1-6) where angels will worship and assist Him as the universal King.
No matter how skeptical a person may be about Christianity, just introduce them to Jesus and let Him do the rest. You and I cannot change people, but we can introduce them to the One who can. Jesus takes Simon and makes him Peter. He takes the condemned and makes her forgiven. Jesus takes the skeptic and makes him a believer. He takes the sinner and makes her a saint. Jesus takes the drunkard and makes him sober. Christ takes the prostitute and makes her pure. Jesus takes the worrier and gives him peace. He takes the spiritually blind and makes her see. Jesus takes the dirty and makes him clean. Jesus changes lives.
In April of 2014, our entire family moved from Iowa in the USA to the Philippines where God called us to multiply disciples until all hear His gospel of grace! I believed the Philippines was and still is a strategic nation for reaching other nations with the gospel. Why? Because each year nearly one million Filipinos go overseas (OFWs – Overseas Filipino Workers) to get temporary or permanent jobs to send money back home to their families. Our strategy was to reach these Filipinos with the gospel and disciple them before they left to work overseas! Then they could make disciples in other nations! We cast this vision among Filipino pastors and churches and equipped them to reach Filipinos in their area whom God could use mightily in another nation for Christ!? God wants to use ordinary people like you and me all around the world to introduce people to Jesus.
Each one reach one evangelism. It is very simple. Let me summarize:
Recognize a person God wants you to reach and then pray for them (Who should come?) Pray for God to soften their heart and give you opportunities to share with them (think about them right now).
Refer a person (Who should they come and see? It’s all about Jesus). Point them to Him.
Remember our purpose (why should they come and see?) Because only Jesus can get them to heaven and only Jesus changes lives.
We need some Andrews and Philips who will determine by God’s grace, to bring one person or more to Jesus. Can you imagine how Andrew felt seeing his brother, Simon Peter, come to Christ? Can you imagine how he felt when Peter preached at Pentecost and three thousand people were saved (Ac. 2:14-47)? Andrew compels us to remember that God uses ordinary people to bring others to Christ. God may use you to introduce the next Simon Peter to Christ who will have a huge impact for the cause of Christ. The gospel is usually advanced one person at a time reaching one person at a time.
I think back about my mission trip to the southern Philippines on Sarangani Island in October 2015 with my friend, Pastor Boy. On one morning after preaching the gospel at an elementary school, I asked one of the teachers if there were any other schools nearby. He hesitated and then said, “Yes there is another school about a 40-minute hike from here, but you don’t want to go there.” “Really?” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “Because it is all Muslim, and it is not safe for Christians to go there.” For the next two hours, several Christians tried to persuade us not to go to this school, but I kept asking them if they had gone there and they had not. So, I said, “Who will go if we don’t go to them?”They had no answer. At this juncture, we had a choice to make – do we seek to please these well-intentioned believers who do not want us to go, or do we seek to please our Father in heaven who desires that all people be saved?
Eventually my translator and a local Christian tribal leader made the 40-minute hike with me through the mountainous jungle towards the Muslim village. With each step I anticipated what the Lord would do when we got there. What are You going to do when we arrive at this village, Lord? How are You going to protect us? How will these people respond?
When we arrived at the Muslim village we were warmly welcomed by the teachers and Muslim principal (see photo). One of the teachers said they expected us. “Why?” I asked. She explained that she saw our pictures on Facebook when we were on Balut Island across from Sarangani Island at a school. God used Facebook to prepare this village for our arrival. As we shared the gospel with the students and teachers, they were very attentive to the message. All one-hundred twenty students and teachers indicated they trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of salvation at the end of the gospel presentation.
Afterward we had a concert, with individual students praising our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. I got goose bumps listening to these newly saved children fill the jungle with songs of praise to their Savior!
Before we came to this village, the teachers and students may have felt that God does not see them. But when God brought us to them and enabled us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, they felt seen by God just as Nathanael did. And the most natural response for them was to receive Jesus by believing He is the Son of God (John 20:31), which is something that Islam vehemently denies.  But when people in darkness experience the God Who see them, religious barriers suddenly fade away so they can believe in Christ for everlasting life.
As these children in the jungle sang praises to the Lord Jesus, I thought to myself, this is why we are in the Philippines. If we don’t go to these unreached villagers, who will go? Had we sought to please people we would not have gone to that village. But because our aim was to seek the approval of our Father in heaven, we went to the village that God had already prepared to hear and believe the gospel.
What about you? Are you willing to go to people with the gospel that no one else wants to go to? Are you willing to go to lost individuals regardless of the costs because each person is precious and valuable to the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, ask the Lord to make you willing. Then ask Him to show you whom He wants you to share the gospel with this week. Write down their names and begin asking the Lord to prepare their hearts to hear and believe the gospel (John 16:7-11). Pray also for God to give you opportunities to share Jesus with them (Col. 4:3) this week before it is too late for them. And as you go to share with them, ask God to give you protection (2 Thess. 3:2-3), boldness (Acts. 4:29, 31), and clarity as you declare His gospel message (Col. 4:4) so His Word will spread swiftly throughout the area (2 Thess. 3:1).
Remember: The gospel is usually advanced one person at a time, reaching one person at a time.
Swindoll presents the four following different approaches to evangelism based on the different ways the first five disciples were “found” (John 1:41, 43, 45) and came to faith in Christ. 
1. MASS EVANGELISM (1:35-39). This approach involves one gifted person, in this case, John the Baptist, who proclaims the gospel message to audiences who have not received the gift of eternal life. The Baptist pointed people to Jesus as the Lamb of God (1:36) and invited them to believe in Him (John 1:7; 3:36; cf. Acts 19:4).
2. PERSONAL EVANGELISM (John 1:40-42). Personal evangelism takes place when a person shares the good news of Jesus Christ with a friend or loved one. This is exemplied by Andrew sharing with his brother Simon Peter. It is perhaps the most common and effective means by which people come to know the Lord, because they hear the gospel from someone they already know and trust.
3. CONTACT EVANGELISM (John 1:43-44). Contact evangelism, like personal evangelism, takes place when one individual shares the gospel with another, only in this case, the two may not have established a rapport. We have no record of contact between the two men before Jesus “found” Philip (John 1:43). It is likely that Andrew and Peter could have been acquaintances with Philip and spoke about him to Jesus. Upon Philip’s believing, Jesus called him to follow as a disciple. I wholeheartedly believe in “divine appointments” in which a person’s heart is prepared and the Lord places a willing messenger in his or her path. Contact evangelism doesn’t seek to convince another to believe; contact evangelism merely assists a willing heart to receive the gift of eternal life. However, belief may not occur right away. Many people who became Christians later in life admit to hearing the gospel several times before believing.
4. WORD EVANGELISM (John 1:45-51). The power of God’s Word dare not be underestimated. Nathanael’s conversion was preceded by his reading of Scripture about Jacob’s dream at Bethel involving angels of God ascending and descending upon a ladder (Gen. 28:10-22). Many people have come to know the Lord merely from reading Scripture, recognizing their need, and believing in Christ to give them eternal life while they were all alone, even before setting foot in a church. In 1898, two traveling businessmen recognized the power of the Bible to penetrate the hearts of nonbelievers and then founded an organization that is best known for its effective use of Word evangelism. We know them as The Gideons International. Their ministry of placing Bibles in hotels, hospitals, and schools has been the means of many people trusting Jesus Christ and becoming His disciples.
Prayer: Precious heavenly Father, thank You for entrusting us with Your gospel message to take to the entire world. Help us to grow closer to the Lord Jesus so His heart for the lost will capture ours in such a way that we will go to those closest to us and share Christ’s gospel message with them. Even though we may think we do not have what it takes to share Christ with others, especially our families, all You ask is that we tell them the truth about Jesus and He will do the rest. Some of us may identify with Nathanael’s skepticism, and we need to know that You see us and will meet us where we are at. Even though You know everything about us – the good and the bad – You still love us and want to be in a forever relationship with us. Show us our next step in knowing You better. In Jesus matchless name, we pray. Amen.
 Some interpreters equate believing in Christ with remaining or abiding in Him. The apostle John equates abiding in Christ to keeping His commandments (I John 3:24a). If abiding is the same as believing, then believing is keeping God’s commandments. This would result in a works-salvation that is contrary to the purpose of John’s gospel which is to persuade his non-Christian readers to “believe [not abide] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing [not abiding] you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). For a more in-depth discussion on this topic see Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny, pp. 616- 619.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 630-631.
 See Sura 4:171 (pg. 96); Sura 5:19, 75-76 (pp. 100-101, 109); Sura 9:30-31 (pg. 183); Sura 17:111 (pg. 295); Sura 23:91 (pg. 364); Sura 25:2 (pg. 378) in The Qur’an, English Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Goodword Books, Kindle
 Adapted from Swindoll, Insights on John, pp. 51-53.
“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.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” I John 5:18
As the apostle John concludes his letter, he reviews and reinforces truths he has shared throughout his epistle. John just focused on praying for Christian brothers and sisters who had wandered far away from God and His people on the path of sin (5:16-17). Some of these sinning believers may be close to departing from this world through a premature death (cf. Acts 5:5-10; I Cor. 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30). 1
John’s readers (including you and me) may have wondered, “Is there any hope that these sinning believers can be restored to fellowship with God and us? Is it still possible for them to resume walking in the light of fellowship with the Lord and His people after wandering so far into darkness?”
Or maybe some of his readers were asking, “Is there any hope that I can be restored to fellowship with God after wandering aimlessly for so long in the depths of darkness? Does God still love me and want to be close to me?”
I believe the apostle John would say, “Yes, a thousand times, Yes!!!” In the next three verses John will focus on three certainties. Each of the verses in 5:18-20 begins with “We know that …” (oidamen hoti). In the New Testament the Greek word oida almost always refers to “direct insight into spiritual or divine truth” although it may not be truth that has been experienced yet. 2 “This truth is the result of the teaching and convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit.”3 It is also important to observe that this Greek verb is in the perfect tense (oidamen) which means John and his readers knew these truths in the past and they continue to know them to the present. These are not guesses or mere human opinions, they are absolute unchanging truths from God that the apostle and his readers can be sure of no matter what they or other believers are facing or feeling.
“We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” (I John 5:18). We have already learned that the phrase “whoever is born of God” refers to the divine or born-again nature we receive from God when we believe in Jesus as the Christ for everlasting life (cf. 3:9; 5:1, 13). The Greek participle translated “is born” (ho gegennēmenos) is in the perfect tense which means the new birth took place in the past and continues to the present. Since God cannot sin, the divine nature He places inside His child “does not sin” either (5:18b). A sinless Parent cannot beget a sinful child. So, sin is never an act of the born-again nature inside the believer because it is incapable of sinning (cf. 3:9).
“This divine nature is portrayed as a person (a figure of speech known as personification, that is, to treat something which is not a person as though it were, like calling a ship ‘she’). That’s why this nature is called ‘whoever,’ ‘he,’ ‘himself,’ and ‘him.’”4
The apostle Paul spoke of this new nature as the “new man” when he writes, “And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephes. 4:24; cf. Col. 3:10). This new nature or “inner man” is strengthened by the Spirit of God (Ephes. 3:16) and has the capacity to resist the corruption and sinful lusts of this passing world which is under the control of Satan (I John 2:16-17; 5:18-19; cf. John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13a). 5
Hence, John says, “he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.” The word “keeps” (tēreō) means to “watch over, guard, protect, or keep unharmed.” 6 The recipient of this protection is the born-again person (“himself”).
“In saying that the regenerate inward person (cf. Rom 7:22) ‘keeps himself,’ John is not saying that one’s inner self can somehow prevent all sin in the Christian life (cf. 1:5-10). What John means is that God’s ‘seed remains in’ the regenerate inner self (cf. 3:9) as the controlling element of his born-again nature and is impervious to even the slightest contamination from the wicked one. Believers’ failures are due to the sinful ‘programming’ of their earthly bodies, as Paul himself taught in Rom 7:7-25.” 7
Even though Satan uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to sway believers away from God (2:16; 5:19), John assures us “the wicked one does not touch him,” that is, the born-again self (5:18c). The word “touch” (haptetai) means “to touch with the purpose of harming, to injure.” 8 Satan and the world he controls, cannot harm the born-again self.
This is important for all of us to remember about ourselves or other believers when humbled by sinful failures. The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that a Christian who continually walks in the darkness or repeatedly struggles with the same sin is not really God’s child which can lead them to more sinful failures. The Bible tells us we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7). If I am convinced I am not really saved because of my repeated failures, then I will be more inclined to live like a nonbeliever.
But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (I John 1:9), knowing we are the same inwardly holy children of God we were before we sinned. So, whatever we or another Christian have succumbed to in the world, John wants us to know that who we are at the core of our being has not changed. We are still a holy child of God because God’s sinless seed remains in us (3:9).
Zane Hodges says it like this: “At the very moment we are most humbled by our sinful failures, and when we confess them, it is helpful to be confident that those failures have not really changed what we are as children of God. The enemy, try as he might, cannot really touch us. He can only attempt to persuade us that he can or has. But if we know the truth stated in this verse, he will not be able to deceive us. For if we let him, Satan will use our failures to lead us to further failure. So, after every sin, deeply though we may and should regret it, we ought to rise from our confession to God knowing that we are the same inwardly holy persons we were before we failed!” 9
Some of you reading this may have a Christian spouse or child who has pursued the lusts of this passing world (2:16-17). They have been so twisted by the godless values of this world system that they are doing things that violate their Christian beliefs and values. Perhaps they have succumbed to the allurement of alcohol, drugs, gambling, materialism, pornography, or sex. Or maybe they have developed an acute mental condition such as severe depression or a phobia. They are in bondage to such things. Please do not give up or lose hope.
If your spouse or child is a believer in Jesus Christ, he or she is still a child of God at the core of his or her being and cannot be touched or harmed by evil or the evil one (I John 5:18; cf. 3:6-9). The “seed” or divine nature of God within him or her remains unchanged. It cannot be altered or even tempted. It remains a base from which the Holy Spirit can work within this loved one to bring healing to him or her, and to bring them back to fellowship with God and His people. 10 As long as that seed remains (and it will), “it can be watered by your prayers. As long as that seed remains, it can still grow. As long as that seed remains, it can blossom, and eternal fruit can be born. Do not give up.” 11
The restoration of fellowship for wayward Christians is based on walking in the Spirit, relying on Him to express God’s sinless born-again nature in them (I John 3:6-9; 5:18; cf. Gal. 5:16-25). It is not based on willful determination, on keeping New Year’s resolutions, or the power of positive thinking. 12
But it doesn’t stop there. Not only does a child of God have God’s sinless seed that remains in him or her, but he or she is also on God’s side and God is on their side. 13 He has not given up on them. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (I John 5:19). Again, John begins with “we know that…” (oidamen hoti) to convey the absolute certainty of what he is about to say. This is not mere speculation; it is absolute truth.
The phrase “of God” (ek tou Theou) refers to being on God’s side in I John. 14
“To be ‘of’ something in 1 John is to be on the side of the something. We saw this in 1 John 3:10b, 19 and 4:4. In reference to believers it means to have a dynamic, spiritual link to God, Who is obviously capable of giving us victory over the world. To be ‘of God’ means we are on His side, and He is on our side. The world lies like a limp puppet in the lap of the evil one, ready to be filled with his power. On the other side, we lie in the lap of the Lord, ready to be filled with His power.” 15
The phrase “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (ho kosmos holosen tō ponerō keitai) “suggests that the world passively rests within Satan’s operative sphere. By contrast, the phrase ek Theou (‘of God’) means being ‘from’ God. The Christian should be aware of his own sinless inward man (5:18), and he should also be aware of his utter separateness from the whole world that lives under Satan’s sway. Believers, whom the enemy cannot ‘touch’ (5:18), are not a part of the world, which lies passively in the wicked one. Thus, believers must not ‘love the world or the things in the world’ (2:15-17) and they must resist the ideas that the world promotes (cf. 2:18-19).”16
John wants to “reinforce the readers’ consciousness that they are distinct from the satanically controlled world system and basically free from its power. They need not listen to the worldly ideas advanced by the antichrists (3:7-8). Nor need they succumb to worldly desires (cf. 2:15-17).”17
Since a believer’s regenerate self (3:9; 5:18) and conduct is sourced in God and is free from the power of Satan and his world system (5:19), there is still hope for a Christian who has been in bondage to sin for a prolonged time. Hence, if your Christian spouse or child has been living like the devil, please know that they do not belong to the evil one nor his world system.
What this means is your sinning Christian spouse or child does not belong to Satan’s world, and he or she will always to some degree feel like a foreigner in this world system. Your loved one will never feel completely comfortable in this sin-sick world. This world is not a Christian’s home, we are just passing through; our home is way out there, somewhere beyond the blue. The child of God who wanders about aimlessly in darkness will always have a degree of discomfort. They will always know something is wrong, something just isn’t right. This is not who I am in Christ.
The good news is God can turn discomfort into disgust. When your loved one’s discomfort turns to disgust, he or she will turn towards home (God). Regardless of what this person tells you, if he or she gets sucked into the sewer of this world system, they are acting out of character, and they will never be completely comfortable. Don’t listen to their lies. Keep praying that their discomfort will turn to disgust, and God will restore them back to fellowship with Him. When they finally realize that they are wasting their life eating slop with the pigs in the pig sty, they will turn their eyes toward home (cf. Luke 15:13-17).
Because of God’s seed within your believing spouse or child, he or she is on God’s side whether they consciously sense that or not, and they will feel like a foreigner in this world. God can turn this discomfort into disgust so that they will want to come home to fellowship with Him and His family. Next time, Lord willing, we will discover how to get there. 18
Prayer: Gracious Father in heaven, oh how we needed to hear these encouraging words about Christians who are living in the depths of darkness and appear to have no hope of returning to fellowship with You and Your people. Thank You for reminding us that no matter how much we or our loved ones have embraced the lusts of this passing world, if we or they are a believer in Jesus, Your sinless nature remains inside us and is not touched by evil or the evil one. We are still children of God at the core of our being, and to some degree there will be discomfort with our sinful lifestyle and choices. Please oh Lord, turn this discomfort to disgust so all of us living in the darkness will return home to fellowship with You and Your people. Help us to rely on Your Holy Spirit for the power to live out these unchanging truths in our daily Christian lives. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 261-262.
2. Ibid., pg. 124.
4. Ibid., pg. 263.
6. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 1002.
7. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 604.
8. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, pg. 126.
9. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 263-264 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 242-243.
10. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
12. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2953.
13. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 264.
14. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
15. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 264-265.
16. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
17. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4126.
18. The last three paragraphs are adapted from Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 265.
“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” I John 5:16
As the apostle John approached the end of his letter, he resumed talking about prayer that expresses faith in the name of God’s Son (I John 5:13b -15). John spoke of praying for our own needs especially as it relates to God’s will which is revealed in His commandments. God has commanded us to love one another (I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; cf. John 13:34-35). When we ask God to help us do this, we can be confident He hears this request favorably because we know this is according to His revealed will (5:14-15).
But John does not want us to stop with praying for our own needs (5:14-15), he also wants us to pray for the needs of others (5:16-17). When other Christians love us, we may not see our need to ask God for help to love them back. But when a Christian sins against us we may recognize our need for God’s help. Jesus taught that praying for someone who has sinned against us is an act of love (cf. Matt. 5:44). 1
Hence, John writes, “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” (I John 5:16). We can pray with confidence for a “brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death” that God will answer our prayer favorably. God will give us “life” to give to our brothers “who commit sin not leading to death” (5:16a). 2
Hence, “the name of the Son of God” (5:13b) becomes “life”“for the sinning believer who gets a longer life plus joy when he repents and for the praying brother when he receives a positive answer for his prayer. We get joy from answered prayer, and the sinning brother gets restored joy when he returns to fellowship (and potentially a longer life).” 3
“John offers a specific example of confident prayer that is according to God’s will and that involves a horizontal expression of love. If you see a brother committing a sin, he needs a believer who is intimate with God to intercede for him (5:16). As a result of his own intimacy intimacy with God, Moses intervened on behalf of Israel (Exod. 32:7-14). When the four men who carried the paralytic took him to Jesus, He forgave and healed when He saw their faith (Mark 2:5). When we reach out in love to a brother or sister who is being defeated, God can allow that believer to piggyback on our faith to receive deliverance. That’s what the family of God is about.”4
However, this promise does not apply to Christians who commit sin leading directly or immediately to a premature physical death. 5 John writes, “There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.” (5:16b). A Christian brother is not encouraged to pray for another believer who is committing a sin that leads immediately to a swift physical death. Nor is he instructed not to pray for him.
“In other words, if a Christian suspects that a sin leading directly to death is being committed, he is free to pray for the sinning believer, but without any certainty about the outcome of his prayer. Although there is no guarantee, it is always possible that God may ‘relent’ from His judgment.”6
“All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” (I John 5:17). All “unrighteousness” (adikia) or wrongdoing in God’s eyes “is sin” but out of this broad spectrum “there is sin not leading to death.” This last phrase sin “not leading to death” (mē pros thanaton/ou pros thanaton) occurs three times in 5:16-17 and should be understood to mean “not punished by death.” 7
The distinction in I John 5:16-17 is between sins for which death is a rapid consequence and sins for which it is not. Obviously, all Christians still sin (I John 1:8, 10). But God makes a distinction between sins that result in premature death and those that do not such as envy, lying, slander, gossip, pride, manipulation, anger, deception, lust, or hypocrisy. 8
This is also not a reference to eternal “death” as some teach. 9 John is speaking here of a believer’s Christian “brother” who has eternal life which can never be lost (5:1, 13; cf. John 6:35-30; 10:28-29).
Examples of sin leading to a premature or swift physical death among Christians is seen in Acts 5:1-11 and I Corinthians 3:16-17; 5:5; 11:30. 10 Ananias and Sapphira “lied … to God” the Holy Spirit about the amount of money they obtained when they sold their property and gave only “part” of the proceeds to the apostles to distribute to other believers (Acts 4:34-5:4). They wanted God and other believers to think they were more generous than they actually were. As a result of not allowing the Holy Spirit to control them, both Ananias and Sapphira “immediately” died (Acts 5:5-10).
The Christians at Corinth also committed sins which could lead to premature death. These included:
Exalting God’s servants instead of God will “destroy” (phtheiro) or “defile” the local church (“you” = plural) which is “the temple of God” in whom “the Spirit of God dwells”(I Cor. 3:16-17). Bringing harm to the local church through illegitimate divisions or false doctrine could result in a premature physical death. 11
Continuing in sexual immorality as a Corinthian believer did with “his father’s wife” (I Cor. 5:1) or the sinning believer’s stepmother. Paul instructed the church to “deliver such a one to Satan” by excommunicating him from the church so God’s protective covering is removed from his life. 12 Then Satan can use the world which he controls (John 12:31; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:12; Col. 1:13; 1 John 5:19) 13 “for the destruction of the flesh” of this wayward believer so “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Cor. 5:5). The word “flesh” is not likely to refer to the man’s sinful desires because Satan is not likely to destroy them. It is better to understand the “flesh” to be his physical life which when destroyed would “save” this Christian from the additional loss of eternal rewards before he faces Jesus at the Judgment Seat (cf. I Cor. 3:8-15). A similar view is that the word “save” (sōzō) is often used in the New Testament to mean being healed or being healthy (cf. Matt. 9:21-22; Mark 5:23, 28, 34; 6:56; 10:52; Luke 7:50; 8:36, 48, 50; 17:19; 18:42; Acts 4:9; 14:9; Jas. 5:15). According to this view, Paul’s desire is that this man’s spirit will be healthy in the day of the Lord Jesus through his repentant response to church discipline. 14 “The day of the Lord Jesus” is a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. I Cor. 1:8; 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:16; 2 Thess. 2:2). 15
The misuse of the Lord’s Supper to fulfill fleshly desires left “many” Corinthian believers “weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” (I Cor. 11:30). The word “sleep” refers to physical death (cf. John 11:11-13).
God wants His children to take sin seriously. The Bible tells us that believers who take sin lightly are flirting with death:
Proverbs 10:27: “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.”
Proverbs 11:19: “As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.”
Proverbs 13:14: “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 19:16: “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.”
All sin if practiced long and hard enough will lead to physical death (James 1:14-15). Believers who understand this will pray for their fellow Christians who are sinning (I John 5:16). James writes, “19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20). When Christians (“Brethren”) are aware of another believer (“anyone among you”) who “wanders from the truth” and “turns him back” primarily through prayer (cf. James 5:13-18), the one who prays saves the sinning believer’s “soul from death” (premature physical death) “and covers a multitude of sins.” This last phrase alludes to Proverbs 10:12 which says, “But love covers all sins.” There may have been a vast number of decisions and choices that led a particular believer away from the Lord. But with the sacrificial love of Christ, James says praying Christians can be used of God to provide a covering for past sins and lead an astray brother or sister to restoration. 16
James 5:19-20 is speaking as much to the Christian who prays as he is to the Christian who strays. Evans writes, “Some believers aid the spiritual regression of fellow Christians by assuming it’s none of their business. But if your child darted into the street in front of a car, would you say it’s none of your business? Of course not! Though many believers fail to comprehend their responsibility to the family of faith, your Christianity is real when you see a brother in Christ backsliding and act in love. You cannot be a passive Christian.” 17
I believe the apostle John would agree with this. While God gives us eternal life as a free gift the moment we believe in the name of the Son of God (cf. 5:1, 13), we who are believers can give extended physical “life” to sinning believers, in some cases, when we pray in the name of the Son of God to be merciful to them (5:16-17). 18
However, it is important to remember that if a believer hardens his or her heart and refuses to confess and forsake their sins, he or she cannot expect mercy from God. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” It never benefits a Christian to harden his heart and cover up or hide his sins. God’s promises that if a sinning believer “confesses and forsakes” his sins, he “will have mercy.”
One of the greatest ways we can show God’s love to a sinning believer is to pray for him or her that God would bring them to repentance so the joy of fellowship with God and other Christians can be restored. We might not know if God will judge the sinning believer with premature physical death. In such cases we can pray that God will bring His will to pass for them. 19
Prayer: O Father, forgive us for failing to take sin seriously in our own lives and in the lives of fellow believers in Jesus. It can be easy for us to justify our apathy or lack of love for a sinning Christian by telling ourselves it is none of our business. Thank You for reminding us that if we love You, we are also to love a sinning brother or sister in Christ by praying for them in the name of the Son of God so they can be given a longer life and greater joy when they repent and return to fellowship with You and other Christians. Even though we do not know if You will judge a sinning believer with a premature physical death, we can still pray that You will bring Your will to pass in their lives. Right now, we pray for so and so, that You would turn him from the error of his way and restore him to close fellowship with You and Your children. Have mercy on us all heavenly Father. Thank You for hearing our prayers. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 253.
2. In the phrase “he will ask [aitēsei], and He will give [dōsei] him [auton] life” —the first “he” (singular)in the text is the antecedent to the “him” (singular)because the second “He” refers to God who answers the prayer, and “life” is given to “him” (singular) to pass on “to those” [toise – plural] who are committing sin that does not lead to death (Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253).
4. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2952.
5. 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; Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 116;
6. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
7. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4095.
8. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253.
9. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pp. 116-117, 119 cites Randall K. J. Tan, “Should We Pray for Straying Brethren? John’s Confidence in 1 John 5:16-17,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 45:4 (December 2002), pp. 599-609; Robert W. Yarbrough, 1—3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pp. 306-313; Rudolf Schnachenburg, The Johannine Epistles, translated from the 7th ed. of Die Johannesbriefe (1984) by Reginald and Ilse Fuller (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1992), pg. 249; and John R. W. Stott, The Epistles of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), pp. 186-191.
10. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pg. 116; Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pp. 2952-2953; Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604; Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 4092 to 4097; Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 253.
11. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2490.
12. Dwight Hunt, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 357.
13. Ibid. pp. 355, 357.
14. Ibid., pg. 357.
15. Robert Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 469.
16. Evans, Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2890.
17. Ibid., pp. 2889-2890.
18. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pg. 121.
19. Ibid., pg. 118 cites Robert W. Cook, “Hamartiological Problems in First John,” Bibliotheca Sacra 123; 491 (July-September 1966), pp. 257-59; and Samuel C. Storms, Reaching God’s Ear (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988), pp. 241-53.
“4:21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 5:1a Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” I John 4:21-5:1a
When I was conducting discipleship training seminars in the Philippines, I would sometimes be asked by participants, “What if a person professes faith in Christ but does not go on to grow spiritually or produce fruit in their Christian life, are they truly saved?” This question assumes that a genuine Christian will grow spiritually or produce good works, and if he or she does not, then they are not saved. This kind of thinking is common among those who believe the book of I John was written to provide tests to see if you are genuinely saved and going to heaven when you die. 1 Those who hold this position would say if a professing Christian does not love his Christian brother, then he or she is not truly saved.
When I was asked this kind of question, I would encourage our seminar participants not to judge the professing Christian who doesn’t go on to grow in the Christian life. Instead, I encouraged them to ask the professing Christian three questions to help that person discern their own spiritual condition.2
Does the professing believer believe the simplicity of the gospel?That is, do they believe that Christ paid the full penalty for their sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, so that God can now forgive them based on what He has done for them, not what they do for Him? A professing believer may not grow because they have not understood the gospel and believed in Christ alone for salvation and therefore do not have the Holy Spirit inside them to empower them to become more like Christ. If they do not understand the gospel, it is essential that we share the clear gospel of Christ with them so they may believe in Christ alone who died for their sin and rose from the dead to receive His gift of eternal life and the Holy Spirit to help them begin growing in the Christian life (cf. John 3:14-16; 7:37-39; I Cor. 15:3-6).
Have they been trained by a disciple of Christ since professing faith in Jesus?Too often the reason a new believer does not grow is because the church has neglected to come alongside of them to teach them how to live the Christian life. It is much easier to say a struggling new believer is not saved and evangelize him or her than it is to get more involved in their lives and disciple them. Also, it is unrealistic to expect new believers to be where we are at in a few weeks when it has taken us several years to grow to where we are at now.
Has the professing believer believed in Christ and then fallen away from the Lord? The Bible makes it clear that believers can fall away from the Lord and live contrary to His will. Examples include King Saul (I Samuel 28:4-19), King David (2 Samuel 11), King Solomon (I Kings 11:1-13), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), the Corinthian believers who were factious, immoral, and prone to drunkenness (I Corinthians 3:1-6:20; 11:29-32), the Galatians who lapsed into the worst form of legalism (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:11-3:4; 4:16-5:4; 6:12-13), the Ephesians who engaged in Satanic arts for up to two years after their conversion (Acts 19:1-20), the readers of James who were arrogant, argumentative, slanderous and temperamental (James 2:1-13; 3:1-18; 5:1-6), and Demas (2 Timothy 4:10; cf. John 15:6; I Corinthians 3:15; Hebrews 6:4-8).
It is important to warn the Christian who has fallen away from God of the painful discipline of God now (cf. John 15:6; Heb. 6:7-8; 10:26-31; 12:5-11, 28-29) and the painful loss of eternal rewards in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matt. 8:12; 22:11-13; 24:48-51; 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26; Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 2:28; 2 John 1:8; et al. ).
Asking these three questions will help you discern what the professing believer needs. Don’t just assume they are unsaved because they are not manifesting enough fruit. Meet them where they are at so you can more effectively impact their lives.
The book of I John informs us that the reason a believer is not growing is because he or she is out of fellowship with God (1:1-4ff). This may include having unconfessed sin (I John 1:7-10), disobedience to God’s commands (I John 2:3-6; 3:24), hatred toward other believers (I John 2:7-11; 3:10-15; 4:7-21), love for the world and the things of the world (I John 2:15-16), deception by false teachers concerning assurance of salvation and the identity of Christ (I John 2:18-27; 4:1-6; 5:6-13), misunderstanding one’s true identity in Christ (I John 3:1-9), not practicing righteousness which includes failure to love other Christians (I John 3:10-18), and not confessing that Jesus is the Son of God (I John 4:14-15).
In our study of I John, we finished the body of the epistle (2:28-4:19) which ended with the words, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (4:19).3 The way we make our love for God visible is by loving other Christians (I John 4:12-16). Some Christians may read 4:19 and say, “It is easy for me to love God because He does not have any faults or imperfections. But loving my Christian brother or sister is another story because I have seen them up close and they are full of faults.” 4
John responds to this type of thinking when he writes, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (I John 4:20). John reminds his readers (including us) that a Christian cannot claim to “love God” and at the same time he “hates his brother.” Such a claim is false (“he is a liar”). However, it is understandable for a believer to think it is easier to “love God whom he has not seen” than to “love his” Christian “brother whom he has seen,” especially when he does not like what he sees in a fellow Christian.
“If I can see a physical being and am not willing to meet his physical needs, how can I possibly love a spiritual being whose needs I cannot see? That’s his reasoning. God’s commands draw our love for God and our brothers together. If we don’t keep His commands, we don’t love Him. And He commands us to love other believers. So, if we don’t love other believers, we don’t love God. Thus, to claim to love God when I don’t love my brother/sister makes me a liar.”5
It is important to know that our love for God is not measured by what we say (“I loveGod”), but by what we do 6 (“let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” – 3:18). Nor is Christian love an emotion.
“The word for love throughout John is agapē, a word found only once in all of secular Greek, that is, Greek outside the Bible. And the amount of non-biblical Greek literature we have must be a thousand times more than the amount of Greek we have in the Bible, but this word agapē occurs in that literature only once. That should be a clue to us that this kind of love is only from God. And the issue here is not whether we feel warm and fuzzy toward God, but cold and callous toward our Christian brother/sister. The issue is action.” 7
John has made it clear that loving God involves obeying His commandments, especially the command to love one another (I John 2:3-11; 3:16-24; 4:7-21; cf. John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10-14). If a believer does not obey God’s commands, He does not love God no matter what he says or feels. Hence, a Christian who says, “I love God,” but does not obey God’s command to love his Christian brother, “is a liar” (4:20).8
In addition, God commands us to love both Himself and our fellow Christian brothers and sisters: “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (I John 4:21). Notice the word “commandment” is singular and includes loving God and one’s Christian “brother” or sister. We cannot claim to love our invisible God if we do not love our fellow believer standing in front of us (4:20). We must not deceive ourselves. God’s commandment has interwoven loving Him and loving His children (4:21). We cannot disconnect them. 9
Imagine someone telling you that he or she loved your head, but they hated your body. How would you feel? It would be hurtful, would it not!?! The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ “is the head of the body, the church…” (Col. 1:18; cf. Col. 1:24; Ephes. 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23, 30). Christ is our head, and His church is His body. How would Jesus feel if we said we love Him, but we detest His body? This would deeply hurt our Lord. When we are unloving toward other Christians, we are unloving toward our head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John anticipated his readers (including you and me) asking, “Who then is my Christian brother or sister?” John writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (I John 5:1a). John defines a Christian brother or sister as “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ.” The word “whoever” includes everyone with no exceptions. When the apostle uses the word “whoever,” he is inviting every person to become a Christian regardless of their country, culture, color, good works, lifestyle, or obedience. This includes the worst of people and best of people and everyone in between.
What does John invite every person to do to become a Christian? BELIEVE. In fact, the words God uses most in evangelism in the New Testament are the words “believe” 10and “faith.” 11 Often times, however, Christians substitute other words or clichés to communicate the most important message given to humanity. Instead of using the words God uses most, they tell a non-Christian to accept Christ, be baptized, turn from your sins or be sorry for your sins, confess your sins, pray the sinner’s prayer, give your life or your heart to Jesus, ask Jesus into your heart, confess Jesus is Lord, follow or obey Jesus, commit your life to Christ, submit to Jesus as your Lord and Master, or surrender your life to Christ.
I am not suggesting that no one has been born again when these clichés are included in a gospel presentation. In fact, there have been times in my own life when I have used some of these phrases. I like what evangelist Larry Moyer has said, “God can still use a crooked arrow to hit a target.” God can still use our unclear gospel presentations to help people come to Christ. But why use an unclear phrase or cliché which will do more to confuse a lost person than clarify what he must do to obtain eternal life? Would it not be better to use the clearest presentation possible so that the unsaved person has the best opportunity to respond to the gospel the way God wants him to respond?
The word translated “believes” (pisteuōn) in I John 5:1 means to be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ and is therefore worthy of your trust. 12 To believe “Jesus is the Christ” is to believe that He is the promised Messiah-God (“Christ”) Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 11:25-27). The one who believes Jesus is the Christ “is born of God.” The phrase “born of God” refers to new birth.
Some theologians or Bible students will respond, “Oh, yes, there needs to be a confession of faith in Christ, but the person also needs to manifest fruit or good works or his or her profession of faith is false. A good root produces good fruit.“
There is a problem with this response which I will now illustrate. I live in the Midwest where deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall. Our state’s tree is the oak tree. During the winter, you could not tell if an oak tree was dead or alive simply by looking at its outward appearance. No one could tell if an oak tree is dead or alive in the middle of winter here … except God. Since God knows everything, He can see the root when all we can see is the fruit. Just because there is no fruit for a period of time does not prove there is no root. 13
Since God can see faith alone with no accompanying outward manifestation, he only requires faith alone in Christ alone to be justified before Him (Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16) or have eternal life (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; et al.). But for people to see another person’s faith, it must be accompanied by works. This is why the Bible distinguishes justification before God (faith alone – Rom. 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9) from justification before man (faith plus works – James 2:14-26). Justification before God is necessary to get to heaven. Justification before people is necessary to bring heaven down to earth (i.e., discipleship or spiritual growth).
Since Christians are not all-knowing like God, we are to take a person’s confession of faith in Christ as true. This is what Jesus did in John 11. After Jesus claimed to be the resurrection and the life, and He guaranteed a physical resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26a), He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). Christ is seeking a confession from her. He is not asking her to change her life or produce good works. Martha replies, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27). Neither she nor Jesus analyzes her faith to distinguish head faith from heart faith. Martha confidently affirms that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” What Martha believes about Jesus is exactly what John says in His purpose statement is all that a person must believe to have everlasting life (John 20:31). She knows she has believed in Christ, the Son of God, and therefore she is certain she has eternal life.
Does Jesus correct Martha’s response? Does He caution her to wait and see if her faith is real (as so many do today) through the manifestation of good works or fruit first before making such a confession? Does He ask her if she believes in her “heart” and not merely in her “head”? He does not because as long as any sinner comes to believe that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” that is, “the Christ, the Son of God,” he or she knows they have everlasting life.
John then writes, “And everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” (I John 5:1b). The apostle is telling us that our love for God’s children is not based on their lifestyle or performance. It has nothing to do with their worthiness or deservedness. Our love for God’s children is based on our love for the Father of these children.
“If we love the ‘Begetter,’ we should love the ‘begotten.’ If we love the Father, we should love His children. No love for the children? Then, no love for the Father.”14
As I read David Anderson’s commentary recently on I John, I was reminded of people who prayed for our family while all of us were living overseas in the Philippines. Even though some of these prayer partners had never met our children, they still cared enough and loved them enough to ask how they were doing and how they could pray for them. The reason they cared enough to pray for our children and ask about them was because for some unknown reason they loved their father. My children were an extension of me. It did not matter how well my kids behaved or how deserving they were. These prayer warriors simply loved my children because they loved their father. To love the father is to love his children. 15
This is what the apostle John is saying in I John 5:1b. We are to love God’s children because we love the Father Who has begotten them. When we love God the Father, we love those who are born of Him. Whoever believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Begetter also loves all who are His begotten.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your amazing love for us that sent Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins so we may be born into Your forever family the moment we believe Jesus is the Christ. Although You are unseen, we can make Your love visible by loving one another. Loving You involves obeying Your commands, especially the command to love one another. If we claim to love You Whom we cannot see and disobey Your command to love Your children whom we can see, we are deceiving ourselves. Loving other Christians is not based on their performance or worthiness, but on our love for You, the Father of those You have begotten. Forgive us for thinking more of ourselves than You and Your begotten children. And please help us show Your love to one another as You have shown to us through the Lord Jesus. In His mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 15 cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91.
2. Jeff Ropp, The Greatest Need in Evangelism Today is One Word: BELIEVE (Jeff Ropp, 2014), pp. 35-36 cites Larry Moyer, You Can Tell It! Seminar On Personal Evangelism Instructor Manual (EvanTell, Inc., 2003), pp. 46-47; cf. Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pp. 108-113.
3. The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the word “Him” (Auton) in 4:19. 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. 601.
4. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 225.
5. Ibid., pp. 225-226.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2949.
7. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 225.
8. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 601.
9. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2949.
12. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early ChristianLiterature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 816-817.
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” I John 4:17
It is important to understand that the New Testament speaks of two different judgments separated by the Millennium or one-thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. The first judgment is for believers in Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ which takes place in heaven after the Rapture of the Church (Rev. 4:1-4; cf. Rev. 22:12; John 14:1-3; I Cor. 3:8-15; 15:51-52; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; I Thess.1:10; 4:13-5:11). The second judgment is for nonbelievers after the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10), and it is called the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
Those who appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) are judged “according to their works,” not according to their faith or the lack thereof. Since every person is judged “according to their works” at both these judgments, there will be differing degrees of punishment for nonbelievers in the lake of fire as determined by the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15; cf. Matt. 11:20-24; 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), just as there will be varying degrees of rewards for believers as determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:25-27; 4:1-4; 22:12).
The apostle John began the body of his epistle in I John 2:28. It was there that he introduced a new theme of having “confidence” instead of shame before the Lord Jesus “at His coming” to motivate his readers to continue to cultivate fellowship or intimacy with Christ despite the increase in false teachers or “antichrists” (2:18-27). 1 The Greek word translated “confidence” (parrēsia) there refers “to a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank.” 2 Throughout the body of his epistle, John has focused on how to have more “boldness” or “confidence” both when the Lord Jesus returns (2:28) and when we pray (3:21-22).
Some Christians assume that they could not possibly experience shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ because all their sins were forgiven the moment they believed in Christ for His gift of salvation (Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14). But the apostle John reminds us it will be possible for transformed Christians (I John 3:2-3) to experience shame before the Lord Jesus (I John 2:28) when He evaluates both the “good or bad” things they have done in their Christian lives (2 Cor. 5:10). Keep in mind that Revelation 21:3-6, which speaks of there being no more death, nor sorrow, nor pain, takes place after the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rev. 4:1-4) and the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-10). In our transformed bodies (Phil. 3:20-21; I John 3:2), we will probably be more sensitive to sin because our sin nature will be gone along with its excuses and rationalizations for sin (I John 3:2-3). We will have a greater capacity to feel holy shame over sins that we committed on earth.
“It is true, of course, that the Lord Jesus by His death on the cross took away all of our sins, past, present, and future (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). Sin is no longer a barrier to anyone having eternal salvation. The moment we believe in Jesus for eternal life, He gives it to us. Eternal life, however, does not exclude accountability. Believers still need fellowship forgiveness (1 John 1:9). And if a believer is out of fellowship with God when his life is over, he will experience shame at the Bema.”3
John now concludes the body of his epistle (I John 4:17-19). “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4:17). John uses the same Greek word translated “boldness” (parrēsia) that he used in 2:28 and 3:21 where it was translated as “confidence” in the New King James Version.
In I John 4:12, John spoke of perfecting God’s love “in us” (en hēmin) when we love one another with the same sacrificial and selfless love that Christ extended to us (4:12-16; cf. 4:9-10). When God’s love reaches completion “in us,” there is no hate in our relationships with other believers. In 4:17 when John speaks of perfecting God’s love “among us” (meth’ hēmōn), there is no fear in our relationship with God, especially as it relates to “the day of judgment” (4:17-19). 4
When John refers to “the day of judgment” (4:17), he does not mean the final judgment of the unsaved which determines the degree of their punishment in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). He is speaking here of Christians appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ which will take place in heaven after the sudden removal of the church from the earth (cf. Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; I John 4:17-19; Rev. 4:1-4).
A believer may have “boldness” that Christ will approve of his or her Christian life if he or she has entered a mature experience of God’s love (“love has been perfected among us”) by loving other brothers and sisters in Christ. Our “boldness” arises from doing what we know Christ wants us to do – namely love one another (cf. John 13:34-35).
The reason a loving Christian will have no fear before Christ at this time is “because as He is” loving, “so” we can be loving “in this world” as well (4:17b). The more loving we become in our relationships with God’s people, the more we will become like our Judge, Who “is love” (4:8, 16). An unloving believer is not like his Judge so he may be afraid of rebuke or loss of reward as he anticipates standing before Christ at the Judgment Seat (cf. Matt. 24:48-51; 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26). But a loving believer is one in whom the work of God’s love has been “perfected” or made complete, and the benefit of that is boldness before the One Who will judge him. 5 Mature love expels fear when moral likeness exists between the Judge and the one being judged.
“God’s love is not perfected in a Christian whose heart is simply a reservoir in which to receiveit, but only in a Christian whose heart furnishes an aqueduct to convey it to others.”6
“Every believer will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Don’t think of it as a trial to determine your salvation but as the Judge’s opportunity to evaluate the Christian life you lived (see 2 Cor. 5:10). In spite of your sins and failures, if you actively sought to minister in love to members of God’s family, you will be able to stand with confidence on that day because ‘love covers a multitude of’ offenses (1 Pet 4:8).” 7
“The idea of having boldness in the day of judgment is stunning. Reasonable Christians, even though fully assured of their salvation, will realize ‘the terror of the Lord’ (2 Cor. 5:11). The possibility of triumphing over that ‘terror’ is challenging indeed. Yet this is possible if believers ‘abide in love’ (1 John 4:16).”8
I realize that some believers are opposed to the possibility of experiencing fear in heaven at the Judgment Seat of Christ. But we must remember that fear is sometimes appropriate in relationships.
“A child raised in a good home need not fear rebuke if he is doing what his parents ask. A student in school who is obeying the teacher’s rules need not fear detention. A hardworking employee who is abiding by the office regulations has no reason to fear being put on probation.
“The knowledge that actions have consequences motivates us to do right. Many Christians don’t stop to think that the same is true in our relationship with God. If we are busy doing what He wants us to do, manifesting His love to others, we need not fear discipline now or rebuke at the Judgment Seat of Christ.” 9
Like obedient children of good parents, we have nothing to fear at the Judgement Seat of Christ. We can and should be confident, for our Lord is a Judge Who is loving, gracious, and fair. He will reward believers in whom His love has matured. 10
The apostle John continues by saying, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18). LovingChristians can anticipate standing with “no fear” before Christ at His Judgment Seat because fear cannot exist with God’s agapē“love.” As believers grow in their love for God and other Christians, God’s “perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.” The more loving we become on earth now the less fear we will have as we anticipate the Judgment Seat of Christ in the future.
When John says, “fear involves torment,” the word for “torment” (kolasis) occurs only two times in the New Testament. The first time is in Matthew 25:46 where Jesus speaks of the eternal punishment of nonbelievers. Clearly the meaning of the word is “punishment” in that verse.11 In I John 4:18, it seems to speak of a temporal form of punishment.
Hodges explains, “Fear carries with it a kind of torment that is its own punishment. Ironically,an unloving believer experiences punishment precisely because he feels guilty and is afraid to meet his Judge. Such fear prohibits a completed love (one who fears is not made perfect in love). But a Christian who loves has nothing to fear and thus escapes the inner torment which a failure to love can bring.” 12
Hodges also says, “John likely has in mind the truth that ‘whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives’ (Heb 12:6). In fact, this NT truth is found on the lips of the Lord Jesus in Rev 3:19, ‘As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.’
“If a Christian experiences fear as he anticipates being evaluated at the Judgment Seat, then this fear can be regarded as a punishment intended to awaken him to his need to correct his behavior. Unpleasant as it is, like all divine discipline (Heb 12:11), it is nevertheless a signal of God’s love and of His desire to see believers made perfect in love. If the Christian responds to this kind of discipline, the discipline is effective and ‘yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness’ (Heb. 12:11), which for John are inseparable from love.”13
Anderson suggests that the Greek word translated “torment” (kolasin) means restraint. It “is also used of pruning a fruit tree to stunt its growth. So, fear keeps our love from growing up. Fear of what? That which we all fear in relationships, whether it’s with God or men— rejection. Most of us are afraid of rejection from other people. Those who aren’t have felt the sting of rejection so much they have lost their ability to consciously feel at all. This fear of rejection stunts the growth of perfect love…
“… So I agree with three of my favorite dictionaries of NT Greek, which suggest ‘restraint’ as the best English translation of kolasin. In other words, fear holds us back; it restrains us. It keeps or prevents us from reaching out in sacrificial, selfless, unconditional love. But when we release the Spirit, He can and will produce the fruit of agapē love in our lives. He will cast out the fear which retrains us.” 14
The key to preparing for the Judgment Seat of Christ is underscored in verse 19. “We love Him because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19). The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the word “Him” (Auton) in this verse. It should be mentioned that the standard critical editions of the Greek New Testament omit “Him” and so do the translations based on them [e.g., JB, NASB, NIV, etc.]. This omission is unfortunate because verse 19 is critical to what follows in 4:20-21. 15
Up to this point in John’s epistle, he has been focusing on directing our love toward other Christians (“one another” – 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12). Now the apostle speaks directly for the first time in his letter about loving God. A Christian’s love for God originates from His love for us. If we are maturing in our love for one another and for God, there can only be one reason for this. It is “because He first loved us.” 16
As Anderson suggests, the primary reason Christians fail to love one another or God, is because of the fear of rejection. But Christ’s perfect love for us contains no such fear.
Anderson writes, “We get a real clue from the statement that we love God because He first loved us. He was the initiator. We were His sinful enemies. Time and time again He had felt the sting of rejection from us. Even after He came to earth and began to display His wonderful acts of mercy, compassion, and healing, Jesus was rejected by men. We built a high wall of rejection between us and Him. But because ‘God is love,’ perfect love, He is not afraid of rejection. It hurts. It grieves Him deeply. But He is not afraid. So, He set His cross down next to that wall of rejection built by our sins … and He climbed that wall, for you and me. We love Him because He first loved us. Fear of rejection is what keeps us from making the first move, especially if we have already been hurt a number of times by someone who means a lot to us.
“What we are saying here is that only God’s love (mature agapē) can bust through the sinful layers of self-protection which keep us from experiencing oneness with Him and other believers (intimacy/fellowship). We all enjoy the feelings of philē love in marriage, friendships, families, even church. But without growing agapē we will lose those feelings and never get them back. The mistakes we make in relationships because of our sinfulness can create enough pain to destroy all positive feelings of one toward another. But growing agapē can cast out fear. We can reach out again.” 17
No matter how much rejection we have received in the past, God’s perfect love for us can cast out our fear so we can risk loving others again. We love God because He first loved us. We cannot give what we do not have, but once we have received God’s love through faith in Jesus Christ, if we stay close to Him in fellowship, we just get better and better at loving people so we become more like our Judge Who will evaluate our Christian lives at His Judgment Seat. This is God’s climatic message to us in the body of I John (2:28-4:19).
Years ago, Princess Diana made a very interesting observation: “The biggest disease this world suffers from is people feeling unloved.” 18
If you find yourself suffering from the absence of love, there is only one lasting remedy. It is not found in a bottle, a hotel room, money, a pill, or in a syringe. It is found in the Person of Jesus Christ Who loved us without measure.
If you do not know for sure you have eternal life and a future home in Christ’s heaven, please understand that Jesus offers eternal life freely to all who believe in Him. Christ said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Jesus did not say, “God knows how to love.” It is saying something five hundred times greater. “For God so loved the world.” To help us understand the love of God, take the word “so” and let the “S” stand for “something” and the “O” for “other.” God’s love is SOMETHING OTHER than we have ever known.
God does not love us with the love of a two-year old who says, “I’ll love you as long as you do things my way.” God does not love us with the love of a twelve-year old who says, “I’ll love you for what I can get out of you.” Nor does God love us with the love of a twenty-two-year-old who says, “I’ll love you as long as you love me in return.” Instead, He loves us with the kind of love that says, “I love you. Period.”
God’s love is a deep and unselfish love. It is not based on who you are or what you do. It does not matter if you are a great athlete, the President of the United States, or a person who pushes a broom in an office where everybody else pushes a pen. God knows where you live, He knows everything about you, and He says, “I love you!”
You have lied, and God still loves you. You have been unfaithful to your spouse, yet He loves you. You have entertained a lot of thoughts you should not have, yet He loves you. You take His name and use it as a curse word, and yet He loves you. You have tried to medicate unwanted feelings and memories in immoral ways, yet He loves you. You have harbored hatred in your heart toward those who have offended you, yet God still loves you.
Think about your friends for a minute. Some of them will love you if you are on your best behavior, but God will love you even when you are at your worst. Some of them will love you if you speak well of them, but God will love you even when you curse His name. Some of them will love you as long as you take what you have and give it to them, but God will love you even if you take everything He has given you, and never give Him a thank You. There is nothing you can do to cause God to love you any less.
When Jesus said, “For God so loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”, we learn that God’s love gives, it does not take. God gave His best (His Son) when we were at our worst (ungodly sinners). Our hope is based on the fact that “God gave His only begotten Son,” so that instead of you and me dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus Christ died in our place. Instead of us paying for what we have done by our own death, Christ paid for what we have done by His death.
Could you kill your only child to save others? No. Our love is pale compared to God’s love for us. When God says, “I love you. Here’s My perfect and only Son,” that is love. The greatest proof of His love is that He would allow His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins and rise from the dead (I John 4:9-10; cf. Rom. 5:8).
Why did Jesus do this? “…That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What does it mean to believe? The phrase “believes in Him” (pisteuōn eis Auton) means to be persuaded that Christ is speaking the truth here and is therefore worthy of your trust. 19
Will you take Jesus at His Word and believe He is speaking the truth when He says, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? Christ says you “believe” and “have.” Contrary to many evangelistic invitations today, Jesus does not say you “follow” or “obey” and “have.” He never says you “pray” or “surrender” and “have.” Nor does He say you “give” or “confess” and “have.” Christ invites you to take by faith the eternal life that He is freely offering to you. If you just did that, you can tell Him through prayer.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I need Your love in my life. I understand now that You loved me by taking my place and punishment when You died on the cross for all my past, present, and future sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You, Jesus (not my good life, religion, or prayers) to give me Your free gift of eternal life. Thank You for the everlasting life I just received. In Your holy name, I pray Lord Jesus. Amen.
When you believed in Jesus alone for everlasting life, He gave you eternal life which can never be lost (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29). Christ has come to live inside you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Ephes. 1:13-14). As you learn to abide in Him and His Word with other believers, His love will be poured out into your heart so you can share it with others (I John 2:3-6, 28; 3:14-4:16; cf. John 15:4-17; Rom. 5:5). The more loving you become in your relationships with God and other Christians, the less fear you will have as you anticipate the Judgement Seat of Christ because you are becoming more like the Judge (I John 4:8, 16) Who will evaluate your Christian life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, if we are honest, there are times in our lives when we are afraid to love others because of the rejection we have experienced from people in the past. Our fears keep us from initiating contact with others. Thank You, Jesus, for showing us that Your perfect love is not afraid of rejection. It hurts You deeply when we reject You, but out of love for each of us You still endured the cross so we may be in a loving relationship with You. Please help us grow in Your perfect love so we can break out of the many layers of self-protection and experience deeper fellowship with You and other Christians. We invite You to love others through us so we may have more confidence and less shame when we stand before You at the Judgment Seat of Christ. In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 65.
2. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 781-782.
3. Robert N. Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal RewardsSecond Edition (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition), pg. 21.
4. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, pp. 101-102.
5. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4000 to 4006.
6. Wilkin, The Road to Reward, pg. 22 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking inthe Light of God’s Love (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pp. 198-199.
7. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2949.
8. 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. 601.
9. Wilkin, The Road to Reward, pg. 21.
10. Ibid., pg. 22.
11. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 555.
12. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 4013 to 4018.
13. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 601.
14. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pp. 218-219.
15. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 601.
17. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 218-219.
18. R. Larry Moyer, Show Me How To Illustrate Evangelistic Sermons (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2012), pg. 209 cites Princess Diana in Time, September 8, 1997.
19. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 816-817.