“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.
“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11
In every marriage ceremony, there is always at least one mistake. For example, a young couple, very much in love, were getting married. Sue, the wife to be, was very nervous about the big occasion and so the pastor chose one verse that he felt would be a great encouragement to them. The verse was 1 John 4:18 which says: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
Rather unwisely, however, the pastor asked the best man to read it aloud and to say that the pastor had felt that this was a very apt verse for Sue and that he would be preaching on it later in the service. The best man was not a regular churchgoer. Hence, he did not know the difference between the gospel of John and the first letter of John. As instructed, he introduced his reading by saying that the pastor felt this was a very apt verse for Sue. Instead of reading 1 John 4:18, he read John 4:18, which says, “You have five husbands and the one that you now have is not your husband.”
There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. There are always going to be problems – some of them small and some of them large. In John 2:1-11, we come to look in on a wedding that had a big problem. They were quickly running out of wine. And once they ran out of wine, the celebration would be over. The joy would be gone, and they would be running on empty.
I would imagine that there are some of you reading this who are running on empty. You thought that you had enough resources to carry you to the end of your journey, but your reserves have just about been depleted. Your joy is just about gone. It’s going to take a miracle to renew the supply of joy in your life. Jesus wants to work a miracle in your life. He wants to restore your joy so that you will have more than enough to make it the rest of the way.
Let’s look at the first of Jesus’ many miracles in John 2:1-11. It took place at a wedding. And this miracle is a picture of Christ’s transforming grace. As we look at this miracle, we will discover how we can experience the transforming grace of Jesus Christ and His overflowing joy. The first four principles apply to Christians, the last one applies to non-Christians.
REALIZE THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM (2:1-3a). 2:1:“On the third day” after Philip and Nathanael met Jesus  (John 1:43), “there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.”
“John’s specific reference to days in chapter 1 and here is unusual for him. On the first day, John the Baptist gave his veiled witness to Jesus (1:19-28). The second day he gave his open witness to Jesus (1:29-34). The third day John’s two disciples followed Jesus (1:35-42). The fourth day Philip and Nathanael met Jesus (1:43-51). On the third day after that, the seventh day, Jesus did His miracle at Cana.”
The exact location of “Cana of Galilee” is difficult to determine today.Some say it was located at Kefr Kenna about three and half to four miles north of Nazareth,  and others believe it was at Khirbet Kana (“ruin of Cana”), a site about nine miles north of Nazareth (see map below).
Regardless of what location one thinks is correct, the fact that it was near Nazareth, the region of Jesus’ upbringing (Matt. 2:22-23; 21:11; Mark 6:1-4; Luke 2:39-40, 51-52; 4:16; et al.) means it was quite likely the wedding of a close family member or friend which would explain why “the mother of Jesus was there” in a proactive role at the wedding feast. 
The name “Cana”  means “the place of needs.” There would be some special needs at this wedding feast that would require Jesus’ personal attention.
A “wedding” in Jesus’ day was different than they are today in the West. “Marriages in the ancient Near East were arranged by the parents, a contract was prepared, vows were spoken in the synagogue, tokens were exchanged, and then the man and woman returned to their respective homes. Although legally considered married, they lived apart during a betrothal period, which lasted no less than two months and could be as long as a year.
“At the end of the waiting period, the groom would take to the streets with his friends, usually at night, in a torch-lit procession from his home to the bride’s, in a grand parade accompanied by pomp and color and singing. After speeches of goodwill and blessings pronounced over the couple, the groom took his bride home, where family and friends feasted for as long as a week. The groom’s family was expected to provideenough food and drink for everyone.” 
Instead of getting married and going off by themselves, the newly married couple were surrounded by their friends and family for the first week of their married life. How would you like to have your mother-in-law watching your every move after getting married? During that week, they had a huge celebration. The parents of the groom were responsible for providing all the food and drink that would be needed for the celebration.
2:2: “Both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding” celebration. The disciples with Jesus probably included Philip, Peter, Nathanael, and the apostle John (1:35-51), and possibly others.  One reason why Jesus may have been invited to this wedding is because Nathanael was from “Cana of Galilee” (John 21:2), and he recently came to faith in Jesus (John 1:49).  The fact that Jesus received an invitation to a wedding and accepted it shows that He was not a recluse. He participated in the normal affairs of human life – including celebrations. 
Jesus liked to go to parties and hang out with sinners so He could draw them to Himself by giving them the love and acceptance they longed for (cf. Matt. 9:10-11; 11:19; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:27-32; 7:36-50; 15:1-2; et al.). The religious community marginalized these broken sinners, but Christ treated them with dignity because they were like precious pearls in His sight (cf. Matt. 13:45-46). Jesus sought the unsaved so He could save them from their sins and give them eternal life (Luke 19:1-10). Christ had a reputation as a “friend of …sinners” (Matt. 11:19). For Christians to be more like Jesus, we must go where lost sinners gather (Matt. 4:19; Mark 16:15; I John 2:6). This does not mean we participate in the sinful behaviors of lost people – God forbids drunkenness (Ephes. 5:18) – but we can still go and point people to the Savior.
2:3: John informs us that “they ran out of wine” at this wedding feast. Jews did not get drunk at these celebrations—drunkenness was considered a disgrace.
“Though the Old Testament condemns drunkenness (e.g., Deut. 21:20-21; Prov. 20:1; 23:19-21; 31:4-5), wine is often spoken of in terms of celebration, blessing, and joy (e.g., Ps. 4:7; 104:15; Prov. 3:9-10; Songs 1:2; Isa. 25:6; 55:1).”
But at this wedding feast, they were running short of wine. To the Jewish people, wine symbolized joy. Running out of wine at a wedding banquet in the first century was so serious that lawsuits could be brought against you by the offended guests.
“The loss would not only have brought shame and social disgrace, however, but also financial embarrassment, since grooms had a legal responsibility in that culture to provide a suitable feast for their guests.” 
“Our bridegroom stood to lose financially—say, up to about half the value of the presents Jesus and his party ought to have brought.”
The presence of wine stated that this was a special day and that all the guests were special guests.
“To fail to provide adequately for the guests would involve social disgrace. In the closely knit communities of Jesus’ day, such an error would never be forgotten and would haunt the newly married couple all their lives.” 
I can imagine that the bride was getting anxious about this time! I can hear her saying to her mother, “My wedding day is notsupposed to be like this! I’m supposed to be filled with joy. But instead,I’m worried about what everyone is going to say or do when theydiscover that we have run out of wine.”
Maybe you have had similar thoughts. “My marriage is notsupposed to be the mess that it is. Parenting isn’t supposed to be filled with so much stress. Christianity is not supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to be overflowing with joy – or so I’ve heard – but nothing seems to be going right. My joy is gone.”You may not know where your joy went. You just woke up one morning, and the supply had been completely drained. Some things have come along that you didn’t anticipate that have stolen your joy. Maybe some people have come into your life, and by their attitudes or actions, they have depleted your joy. Perhaps you have overbooked your schedule and lost your joy as a result. Sometimes we can lose our joy because of sinful choices we have made.
Mary may very well have been the one responsible for planning and coordinating this wedding feast. It would have been embarrassing for her to admit that she had messed up and not planned on enough wine. Embarrassing or not, she was willing to admit that there was a need. She said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (2:3b).
That is what we must do too. We are to admit that there is a need – that we are running out of joy. When you come to church on Sunday mornings, you may feel like everyone is expecting you to have a smile on your face and act like the world is a friendly place, and that all is okay in your life. When someone asks how you are doing, the expected response is “Fine.” But that may not be the case. And you have got to be willing to admit that to God. And you’ve also got to be willing to admit that the reason you are missing that joy in your life may be because of poor choices on your part or circumstances beyond your control. Your joy may be lacking because of the decisions of others. Whatever the case, it may be embarrassing or out of control, but your joy cannot be restored until you deal with the leak that is draining it dry. Once you admit that there is a problem, then you can do something about it.
RELEASE THE PROBLEM TO JESUS (2:3b-4). That is what Mary did. 2:3b: When she realized that there was a problem, she took the problem to Jesus. She said to Him, “They have no wine.” She didn’t try to solve it in her own strength as we often try to do. The fact that Mary came to Jesus indicates she believed He could resolve the problem. After all, He was a caring Person Who would do whatever He could to solve the problem. Being a compassionate Person, He would try to help the groom, who was responsible for the food and drink (2:9) to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and legal consequences. 
This tells us that Jesus is concerned with the everyday things in life that we face. This family may not have exhibited a lot of wisdom in how they planned for the wedding celebration, but the wisest thing that they could have ever done was to invite Jesus. The very presence of Jesus at this wedding opened the possibility to a miracle.
And you know something? Jesus is also here with us today. The Bible tells us that “Christ died for our sins … was buried, and that He rose again the third day… and that He was seen.” (I Cor. 15:3-5). Jesus is alive today and His power is available to everyone who believes in Him (Ephes. 1:19-21). With Jesus’ presence in our lives, there is enough power to resolve whatever problem we may be facing and build a life that is filled with joy.
When Mary came to Jesus and communicated the problem to Him, His response toward her may seem cold and harsh to us in the twenty-first century. 2:4: When Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” He literally says, “What to Me and to you, woman?” This may seem disrespectful to our modern ears to address one’s mother as “woman,” but this was an acceptable term in that day (cf. John 19:26; 20:15). It did not have negative connotations.  In the culture of first-century Galilee, it was very polite, much like addressing a woman as “Ma’am.”
When Jesus said this to His mother, He was telling here, “Dear woman, your maternal authority does not extend into the realm of My Messianic work.” Unlike the Catholic view of Mary, Jesus did not submit to her maternal authority, nor did He worship her. Nor should Christians. 
These words of Jesus constituted a Semitic idiom that is difficult for Westerners to translate (cf. Judg. 11:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; Matt. 8:29; Mark 1:24; 5:7; Luke 4:34; 8:28). What do we have in common? meaning: Your concern and Mine are not the same; or Madam, that concerns you, not Me;  or Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? captures the spirit of the question. Jesus was saying in effect: We are not on the same page. He was not dishonoring His mother. He was explaining to her that He would handle the situation, but in His heavenly Father’s time and way. Jesus’ obedience to His heavenly Father was more important than His obedience to His earthly mother  (cf. Matt. 12:48-50; Mark 3:33-35; Luke 8:19-21).
In addition, Jesus told Mary, “My hour has not yet come.”  Literally these words read, “Not yet is come the hour of Mine.” Christ says His “hour”  or “time” has not yet come (2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20) or has come (12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:21, 32; 17:1) several times in John’s gospel.
“Jesus’ ‘hour’ refers to the cross (cf. 12:27-28; 13:1, 31-32; 17:1; 19:27), His focus throughout His ministry. Jesus does not say that His hour would come prematurely if He does this miracle. Rather, in light of the fact that He actually performs the miracle, He must be indicating that He will do only those things the Father has given Him to do, and only at the proper time (cf. 4:34).” 
When Jesus’ “hour” finally did come, He met the need of the entire human race by dying on the cross (19:17-30). Mary was requesting that He meet a need immediately (2:3). Perhaps Jesus referred to His hour not yet having arrived to help Mary realize that the meeting of needs was something He needed to control. Just as it was not yet time for Him to die, so it was not yet time for Him to meet this pressing need for wine. 
There may be times when we bring our requests to God for what we think would bring joy into our lives – but God’s response seems cold and harsh. It seems like the windows of heaven are closed. But the response that Jesus gave to Mary was to let her know that she was no longer in control. He was no longer under obligation to do what she wanted when she wanted it. He was now obligated to fully obey His heavenly Father, not His earthly mother.
When it comes to asking God to do certain things in our lives, God is under no obligation to do things our way or in our time. He commands us; we do not command Him. God knows better than we ever could what will bring us the most joy and when is the most beneficial time for Him to answer our requests. God does miracles and He answers prayers, but He does it in His time and in His way.
There is one prayer that Jesus will always answer with a “yes” as soon as that prayer is offered up to Him. That is the prayer for forgiveness. After King David had sinned against God, he prayed to Him, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2). Notice that David did not ask God to forgive him according to David’s goodness or righteousness, but according to God’s “lovingkindness” and “the multitude of” His “tender mercies.” That is called grace – receiving what we do not deserve.
As believers in Jesus, we still sin after we are receive eternal life as a gift (I John 1:8, 10; 5:13), but all God asks us to do when we do sin is “confess our sins” to Him “and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9).Confessing our sins restores our fellowship or closeness with God after we have sinned against Him.
If your joy is gone, or if you have never found joy because you are living a life that is contrary to what God says, then come to Jesus as you are. He will work the miracle of forgiveness.He will fill you with His joy.
RESPOND TO JESUS WITH TOTAL OBEDIENCE(2:5-7). Inviting Jesus to the party made it possible for the supply of joy to be renewed and refreshed. But the simple fact that Jesus was there did not bring the joy. It did not replenish the wine. To have your joy restored, you must be willing to do whatever Jesus tells you to do.
After Jesus gave His mother a mild rebuke (2:4), Mary did not resist or nag Him. Instead, she instructed the servants to cooperate with whatever Jesus told them to do. 2:5: Mary says to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”At that moment, Jesus ceased to be a guest and became the One Who was in control of the whole wedding celebration.
Mary “did not understand what He would do or when, but she had confidence in His compassion and ability. She demonstrated admirable submission and faith toward Jesus. She allowed Jesus to take charge and solve the problem, and she pointed others to Jesus, not to herself. Previously she had approached Jesus as His mother and had received a mild rebuke. Now she approached Him as her Lord and shortly received satisfaction (cf. Matt. 15:21-28). In this she provides an excellent example for Christians.” 
And at that moment, a miracle began to happen. It is easy for us to be willing to have Jesus as a guest in our lives, but are we willing to turn over the controls and “do whatever Jesus tells” us to do? Only then will we see Christ do miracles in our lives.
I greatly admire Mary because she is the mother of the Messiah. For those of us who respect her, it is important to listen to what she told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (2:5).What does Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? He says, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christ does NOT say, “whoever… accepts Him/ is baptized with water/ confesses Him/ follows Him/ gives his life to Him/ invites Him into his heart/ keeps His commandments / obeys Him/ prays the sinner’s prayer/ repents/ submits to His Lordship/ surrenders to Him/ turns from his sins or is sorry for his sins, etc.”
Jesus simply says, “Whoever believes in Him.” To “believe in” Christ means to be persuaded that He is speaking the truth and is therefore worthy of your trust.  Do you believe Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”? And He is therefore worthy of your trust to do just that? If so, you now have everlasting life as a free gift, and Christ guarantees you will never “perish” in hell, but “have everlasting life” both now and forever. Jesus comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (cf. John 1:12; 7:37-39) so that His joy and love can fill your life to the brim (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22)!
Since the Lord Jesus used the word “believe” more than any other words to express what a sinner must do to receive everlasting life (John 3:15-16; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25-26, et al.), Christians submit to His Lordship when we use the word “believe” when we evangelize the lost. It is not submitting to His Lordship when we refuse to use the word Jesus used most in evangelism and substitute it with words that are more popular with others. Our sinful nature does not like someone else to tell us what to do and how to do it. So, when Jesus instructs us to use the words “believe” or “faith” with His own example (and the example of other Christ followers in the New Testament) when inviting a non-Christian to respond to the gospel, and we use other words or phrases that confuse instead of clarifying the only condition for obtaining eternal life, we are saying to Him, “I know better than You, Lord. I will use some other phrase or condition that everyone else is using.” We are refusing to submit to God when we neglect to use the words He uses most (“believe” and “faith”) in evangelism (see comments on 1:7b) and replace them with words that are either used far less in the New Testament for evangelism or they are not mentioned at all in God’s Word. When it comes to evangelism, Christians are called to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ by using the words God uses most in evangelism – “believe” and “faith.”
Failure to submit to Christ’s Lordship in this way is extremely costly for the unsaved person who hears Christians use unclear cliches and substitutes in place of the words “believe” and “faith.” It is costly because these non-Christians are more likely to miss the only condition for receiving the gift of eternal life – believe in Christ alone for eternal life.
Can you imagine standing before the Lord Jesus at the Judgment Seat (cf. Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10) and being asked by the Lord why we refused to use the words He used most in evangelism? This will be a very painful experience for the Christian who refused to submit to Christ’s Lordship in evangelism (cf. I Cor. 3:15; Gal. 1:6-9).
2:6: John informs us that there were “six waterpots of stone.”“Stone pots did not absorb moisture and uncleanness like earthenware vessels did, so they were better containers for water used in ceremonial washings.”
“The Jews” would use the water in these stone waterpots for ceremonial “purification.” They would come to the pots and let water run over their hands. It wasn’t a matter of sanitation but of ceremony. It did nothing to clean them physically or spiritually. It was simply an outward show.
“The Jews washed before eating in order to cleanse themselves from the defilement of contact with Gentiles and other ritually defiling things, more than from germs. They needed much water since they washed often (cf. Matt. 15:1-2; Mark 7:3-4).”
An outward show, then or now, has never been able to produce joy. Simply coming to church and going through the motions will not produce joy in your life. They will put you in the place where you can find joy and put you around the people who will help to enhance your joy. But if you hear God’s Word without doing His Word, you will become even more miserable than you were to begin with (cf. Matt. 7:24-27; James 1:22-21). If we say the prayers but refuse to listen to God’s Spirit as He speaks to us, then our prayers will only produce emotional and spiritual conflict in us. If we read the Bible with no intention of obeying it, then we will only provoke guilt within ourselves.
The fact that there were only “six waterpots of stone” suggests that there was something lacking. “In Scripture six is often an incomplete number. That there were not seven pots suggests that something was lacking. The stone waterpots were used for ceremonial Jewish washings: according to the manner of purificationof the Jews. This may represent the legalistic works-salvation thinking of pharisaic Judaism (cf. 4:28; 5:39-47). If so, this miracle has meaning on two levels: It gives evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, and it shows the error of pharisaic Judaism’s soteriology.
“The waterpots show that Judaism without the Lamb of God was incomplete. No permanent purification could be given apart from thecoming of Jesus’ hour (cf. Heb 10:1-19).” 
2:7: The word “them” refers to the servants to whom Mary had previously spoken (2:5). When they heard Jesus speak, they responded in obedience. They began the process of filling the stone waterpots with water. Each of these stone pots held between “twenty or thirty gallons” of water “apiece” (2:6). That’s up to one hundred eighty gallons of water!
“This would provide more than 150 gallons (580 liters) of wine. That’s enough for 2400 one-cup servings.”
It would have taken a lot of time and energy to accomplish this task. Trip after trip to the well to draw water and pour it into the pots. And we don’t know how far it was to the well. It would have been tempting to do a half-hearted job. After all, Jesus only said to “fill” the jars with water. He didn’t say how far to fill them. And “fill” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways depending on how hot it is and how late in the workday it is. Anything over halfway is full, isn’t it? That’s what potato chip companies seem to think. But these men didn’t think so. When Jesus told them to fill the jars, they took Jesus’ words quite literally, and they filled them all the way “to the brim,” just shy of overflowing. This was more than enough to meet the need that this newly married couple had encountered. 
Christ’s command to “fill the waterpots with water” and when the servants did, “they filled them up to the brim” (2:7), “suggests something about the overflowing nature of the wine Jesus provided at the wedding, and of the life it represents. Jesus gives life to the brim to those who believe in Him. And this life is not merely unending life in the kingdom of God. It is a life that is brimming withpotential (cf. 10:10).”
Do you want God’s joy in your life? To receive that joy, you might even be willing to be obedient to God – to a certain extent, right? But are you willing for your obedience to reach all the way to the brim even when the obedience that Jesus asks for doesn’t make sense to you? Or when it requires more work than you had originally intended on giving? Or when it forces you to rearrange your priorities and your schedule like these servants had to do? You see, the amount of joy that you experience is in direct proportion to the amount of obedience that you give. The greater your obedience, the greater your supply of joy will be. Jesus said, “10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love… 11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11). When Jesus tells you to do something, never do it halfway because Jesus wants to give you joy to the full.
I don’t know where the brim is for you, but I know that to get there, you must do whatever Christ tells you to do even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it is inconvenient or painful. It will require hard work. It won’t be easy. You must ask yourself; “How badly do I want the joy that God has to offer?”
RECOGNIZE THAT IF IT MATTERS TO YOU, IT MATTERS TO JESUS (2:8-10). 2:8: The servants took the water that had been drawnout from the stone pots and presented it to “the master of the feast”  or headwaiter/chief steward. 
“The architriklinos [headwaiter] was originally the superintendent of the dining-room who arranged the couches and tasted the food, not thetoastmaster [sumposiarches].” 
As far as we know, Jesus had not told the servants about the miracle that He was going to perform. To them, they were carrying a cup full of water not wine. But when the master of the feast tasted what was brought to him, he got a mouthful of wine that was better than anything he had ever tasted before. 2:9-10: Calling “the bridegroom” aside, “the master of the feast” observed that it is a universal custom to serve “the good wine” first and then the “inferior” wine “when the guests have well drunk” and their sense of taste has become less discerning. John is not suggesting that Jesus created more wine for drunken guests. He is simply emphasizing the supreme quality of wine that Jesus created out of water.
Some Bible teachers have insisted that the wine Jesus created was no more than fermented grape juice diluted with water so it would not be able to cause drunkenness.  But the word for “wine” here is the word for fermented juice of the grape.  Paul uses the same word for “wine” when he writes, “Do not be drunk with wine [oinos]” (Ephes. 5:18). Why would the apostle Paul command Christians not to be drunk with wine if the wine in question was so diluted with water it could not cause drunkenness!?! It makes no sense. If the apostles Paul or John wanted to refer to unfermented grape juice, they would have used a different word for “wine.”
“The same Bible that condemns drunkenness (Ephes. 5:18) and cautions against a misuse of alcoholic beverages (Prov. 23:29-35; I Tim. 3:3, 8) recognizes wine as one of God’s gifts (Ps. 104:15; Eccles. 9:7).”
God created the grape from which the wine is made (Ps. 104: 14-15). But God is not to be blamed for peoples’ misuse of His gifts. Each human being is responsible for their own sobriety.
The fact that Jesus created something that people could abuse is not surprising. Humans have consistently abused God’s good gifts whether it be food, drink, marriage, or sex. Fortunately, that does not keep God from giving these gifts, nor does it make Him responsible for our abuse of them. 
“Some may conclude that the wisest course of action for a present-day American Christian is to avoid the use of alcoholic beverages. Others may decide on a moderate use of alcohol in celebration (Gen. 14:18; I Chron. 12:39-40; John 2:1-11), worship (Exod. 29:40; Deut. 14:23; Matt. 26:27; I Cor. 11:25-26), or during intimate moments (Song of Sol. 1:2, 4; 4:10; 5:1; 7:9; 8:2; Eccles. 9:7-10). Both decisions are biblically acceptable and defensible.” 
Some keys in dealing with differences of opinion among Christians concerning alcohol consumption or other issues that the Bible does not clearly state are right or wrong, include:
Receive or accept one another even though you may differ about what your Christian liberty permits you to do, because God accepts you both in Christ (Rom. 14:1-5a).
Be convinced in your own mind what would please God regarding the practice of your Christian liberty (Rom. 14:5b-8).
Do not judge one another for your differing practices because only Jesus Christ is qualified to judge you, since He is Lord of the living and the dead (Romans 14:9-13a).
Show love to one another by not using your Christian liberty to hurt one another (Rom. 14:13b-23).
The words of the master of the feast demonstrate that transformation miracle has taken place whereby Jesus created out of plain water a superior wine to any previously served (John 2:10). We will discover in John 3 another type of transformation miracle when Jesus gives His gift of eternal life to a sinner who believes. 
When the servants obeyed Jesus, this tells me that it is our job to fill the waterpots, but it is Jesus’ job to change the water into wine. For example, in your marriage, it is your responsibility to love and serve your spouse, but it is Christ’s responsibility to change him or her. Don’t try to do something that only Jesus can do. He alone can change the personality and habits of your spouse. Trust Him to do what you cannot. It is our responsibility to share the gospel with people, but it is Jesus’ job to convert them. Simply share the truth with those without Christ and let the Holy Spirit convict them of their need for Him.
A miracle happened on that day in Cana of Galilee. This is such a beautiful picture of grace here. Initially, it appeared that Jesus was going to refuse to replenish the wine. But as He listened to His mother and looked into the faces of the wedding party, He reconsidered. People are more important to Jesus than schedules. Jesus changed His plans to meet the needs of some friends at a wedding feast. His first miracle was motivated not by famine or terrorism, but by concern for friends who were in a bind. Christ not only cares about the major difficulties in our lives like death, disease, and disaster, but He also cares about the smaller things in life like running out of punch at a wedding reception, having a flat tire, a toothache, or a grouchy boss, or even losing a contact lens. 
If we are to experience Jesus’ transforming grace, we must realize that Jesus Christ cares as much about the little things in our lives as He does about the big things. So, go to Him with what concerns you. Make your relationship with Him your top priority, and He will fill your hearts to overflowing with His peace and power so that you may have a joy-filled life. The miracle at Cana reminds us that Jesus’ grace cannot be exhausted.
This miracle could not have happened without the request of Mary as she admitted the problem. It couldn’t have happened without the presence of Jesus for them to bring the problem to Him. It couldn’t have happened without the willingness of the servants to work hard to do whatever Jesus commanded them to do. And it couldn’t have happened without Jesus’ concern for the little things in life. But these principles apply to those who have Jesus in their lives. This last principle is for those without Christ.
RELY ON JESUS FOR ETERNAL LIFE(2:11). Mary’s initial request was fulfilled – not in her timing or in her way – but the result was far more than quenching thirst or saving from embarrassment. The result was eternal. 2:11: The apostle John informs us this miracle was the “beginning of signs at Cana.” John uses the word for “beginning,” rather than for “first,” to alert his readers to the Word Who was “in the beginnng” with God the Father (1:1-2)  and now begins to “manifest His glory” which is “full of grace and truth” (1:14). The word translated “signs” is used throughout John’s gospel to refer to the supernatural miracles of Jesus (2:11, 18, 23; 3:2; 4:48, 52; 6:2, 14, 26, 30; 7:31; 9:16; 11:47; 12:18, 37; 20:30) which are designed to signify something about the Person of Jesus Christ. 
By saying this miracle was the “beginning of signs at Cana,” the apostle John assures us that Jesus did not perform other miraculous “signs” before this one. He did not make clay pigeons as a young boy, touch them, and cause them to fly away as some of the writings in the apocryphal (uninspired) gospels claim.  For example, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas written in the second century A.D., has misled other false religions like Islam to repeat such erroneous claims. 
Christ’s “disciples believed in Him” because of what they saw. We don’t know for sure which disciples these were, but if they had never believed in Jesus before, they now had eternal life (cf. John 3:36). If they were already saved, this miracle simply reconfirmed the conclusion the disciples had drawn from their previous conversations with Jesus in John 1:35-51.
Two miracles happened on that day. The first was the changing of water into wine so that a celebration could continue for the rest of the week. But the second was the changing of fallen sinners into forgiven saints so that a celebration could continue for the rest of eternity. You tell me. Which was the greater miracle? This first miracle of Jesus is a beautiful picture of salvation. Let’s look at some WAYS THIS MIRACLE IS LIKE SALVATION:
1. IT HAPPENED AT A POINT IN TIME. IT WAS NOT A PROCESS. It did not take Jesus days or weeks or years to change the water into wine. It happened in an instant. Likewise, the moment you believe in Jesus Christ, you become a child of God forever (John 1:12).
2. IT HAD PERMANENT RESULTS. The wine never turns back into water. Likewise, when you become God’s child the moment you believe in Christ, you can never stop being His child no matter what you do from that time forward (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29).
3. IT WAS A TOTAL CHANGE. Just as the transforming grace of Christ can change water into wine, so Jesus’ grace can change sinners into saints, “set apart” from their sin and shame forever (Ephes. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Heb. 10:10, 14)). God’s grace transforms you into a new person in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). No longer are you defined by your sin and shame. You are defined by being in Christ. Now when God looks at your life, He sees the perfection of His Son (2 Cor. 5:21; Ephes. 1:6). Only God could do this.
4. IT BENEFITED OTHERS. The making of water into wine not only benefited the couple and rescued them from a legal and social disaster, but it also benefited all the guests. Everyone enjoyed its taste. Likewise, when Jesus Christ gives you eternal life, He starts a new work in your life. His forgiveness enables you to forgive others. His love enables you to love others. His self-control enables you to control your tongue and temper. His patience allows you to be patient with others. His generosity enables you to be generous with others. See how this can benefit not only you, but the people in your life?
5. IT WAS A TOTAL WORK OF JESUS – NOTHING ELSE. Could the servants change the water into wine? Of course not. Only Jesus could and He did! Can we get ourselves to heaven? Never. Only Jesus can do that when we believe in Him.
There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. There is no such thing as a perfect life. How are you going to respond when things don’t go the way that they are “supposed to,” and they threaten to steal your joy? Do you want Jesus’ kind of joy today? Then you’ve got to…
1. REALIZE that you don’t have it right now.
2. RELEASE to Jesus whatever is robbing you of joy.
3. RESPOND to Jesus with total obedience. Do whatever He tells you to do.
4. RECOGNIZE that if it matters to you it matters to Jesus. Go to Him with what concerns you. And if you are not sure you will go to heaven when you die you need to…
5. RELY on Jesus alone for eternal life.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, many of us may find ourselves lacking joy because of the problems we now face. Problems that may be the result of our own decisions or the decisions of others. As Mary did, we now release our problems to You to make something beautiful out of them. Thank You for reminding us that it is our job to fill the waterpots, but it is Your responsibility to change the water into wine. Please take all that we have, including our obedience, and use it for Your glory. Your grace transforms lives, even when it comes to the little things in our lives that no one else thinks is important. You are a kind and caring Lord Who not only sees the little things in our lives, but You also do something about them. Knowing this, motivates us to come to You in prayer. Thank You for showing us an even greater miracle than changing water into wine. Your grace transforms guilty sinners like us into forgiven saints. This great salvation is not because of our deservedness, but because of Your goodness to us. And no one, including ourselves, can undo what You have done for us and in us. Your salvation is permanent and unchangeable, and it is designed not only to benefit the recipients, but also the people around them. Use us our Lord and our God, to spread Your transforming grace throughout this world one person at a time. To You be all the glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 68; Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 557.
 Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2203.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 69.
 Ibid., cites J. Duncan. M. Derrett, Law in the New Testament (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1970), pg. 238.
 Ibid., cites Merrill C. Tenney, “John.” In John—Acts. Vol. 9 of The Expositor’sBible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pg. 42.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 70.
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on John, pg. 70.
 Ibid., cites R.V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. John: An Introductionand Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), pg. 60.
 Ibid., cites The New Scofield Reference Bible, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, William Culbertson, et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), pg. 1125.
 Ibid., cites Charles C. Ryrie, The Miracles of our Lord (Dubuque, Iowa: ECS Ministries, 2005), pg. 15.
“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.
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” I John 5:14
As John approaches the end of his letter, he wants to focus on a topic he introduced at the beginning of this epistle: “3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (I John 1:3-4). John wrote about intimacy or fellowship with God and one another so his readers’ “joy may be full” (1:4). When believers in Jesus walk in the light (1:7), confess their sins (1:9), keep God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), abide in Christ (2:6, 24, 27-28), love one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hate the world (2:15-17), acknowledge Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practice righteousness (2:29-3:10), listen to and obey apostolic teaching (2:18-19; 4:6), and avoid idolatry (5:21), they can experience this fullness of joy.
In his epistle, John introduced the truth that answered prayer is based on a twofold commandment: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (I John 3:23). John connects faith and love in this single commandment.Hence, this commandment is one that only Christians can keep because it includes believing “on the name of His Son Jesus Christ” which gives eternal life to all who believe in Jesus (5:1,13) and views other believers as their Christian brothers and sisters so they can know whom to love.
Since prayer is also an expression of faith in “the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (5:13b), John resumes his focus on prayer in 5:14-17. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (I John 5:14). In the context, John began to focus on the truth that God’s commands are not a burden because faith in God’s Son is the secret of spiritual victory over the world (5:3-5). It is natural then to suppose that John was thinking especially, though not exclusively, of a Christian’s right to ask God for help in keeping His commands when John speaks of asking “anything according to His will” (5:14). 1
Anderson writes, “The entire prayer discussion comes out of the ‘life’ discussion in 1 John 5:11-13. There he indicates that our initial experience of faith (‘who believe’ = believers; the Greek construction here does not refer to present, on-going faith, but rather the initial, one-time faith that gave us eternal life) can be followed by subsequent experiences of faith ‘in the name of the Son of God’ (it is this phrase that reminds him of Christ’s prayer promises in the Upper Room).
“Another way of saying it would be this. After our initial faith in the name of Jesus, which gave us our first experience of eternal life, our subsequent expressions of faith in His name (when we pray) will bring new experiences of eternal life (joy). We need to keep before us the understanding that the primary emphasis in ‘eternal life’ is quality, not quantity. Remember, unbelievers exist forever. It’s their quality of existence which differs so from the believer who dwells in the presence of the Lord.” 2
John’s wording in 5:14-15 is reminiscent of the joy Jesus spoke of the night before His crucifixion: “22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. 23 And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:22-24). Jesus is speaking of a full joy that is based on prayer in His name. Praying in Jesus’ name is not a magical formula that we add at the end of our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means we pray what Jesus would pray to accomplish God’s will and bring Him maximum glory.
This brings us back to I John 5:14 which speaks of praying “anything according to His will” (5:14). “To do something in someone’s name means to act on his authority (cf. John 5:43; 10:25). It has nothing to do with simply tacking onto our prayers a phrase like ‘in Jesus’ name’. Praying in Jesus’ name means to ask… according to His (God’s or Christ’s) will. If this is done, believers can have confidence that…He hears” 3 them favorably “because we are His children asking for help to do His will. He will always grant that kind of request.”4
Contextually, John is thinking of God’s revealed “will” as it pertains to His commandments (5:3-13; cf. 3:23). God’s commandments reveal His will. For example, God commands us to love one another (I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12; cf. John 13:34-35). When a believer asks God to help him love another Christian, he can have “confidence” God favorably “hears” this request because this is “His will” (5:14). “And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (I Joh. 5:15). Furthermore, John says we can also “know that we have the petitions” or requests “that we have asked of Him” for assistance to do His will by loving other Christian brothers or sisters. These requests will be granted because they are according to His revealed will. 5
When we pray according to God’s revealed will in the Bible, we can have the confidence that He hears us favorably. This would include praying…
For abstinence from fleshly lusts that war against the soul (I Pet. 2:11)
For abstinence from sexual immorality of any kind (I Thess. 4:3)
For deliverance from this present evil age (Gal. 1:4)
For the giving of thanks in everything (I Thess. 4:8)
That we silence the ignorance of foolish men by doing good (I Pet. 2:15)
That if we suffer it is for doing good and not for doing evil (I Pet. 3:17)
For the power to share the gospel of Christ starting at your current location and moving out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15)
For clarity, courage, opportunities, and protection to share the gospel of Christ (Acts 4:29, 31; Col. 4:3-4; 2 Thess. 3:2-3)
For the making of disciples of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20)
For personal holiness that progressively reflects God’s holiness (I Pet. 1:15-16)
For living in an understanding way with one’s spouse (I Pet. 3:1-6)
“God wants his Word to be done, so pray for it to be done in your life and in the lives of others. Prayer is a toll-free number; the tab is picked up at the other end.” 6
Anderson gives us an illustrationof praying in Jesus’ name:“During the Civil War two friends found themselves under heavy fire. One of them was wounded. When his friend came to his aid, the wounded soldier pulled a small card out of his pocket and painstakingly wrote a note on the back of it. Then he looked at this friend and said, ‘If I don’t make it out alive, and you ever have a need, please go to my father. He’s a wealthy man, and I’m sure he would be willing to help you.’
“Unfortunately, the wounded soldier did die. His friend survived, and years later lost everything he had. In desperate straits, he remembered the card his friend had given him. He pulled it out of wallet and saw that it was the business card of his dead friend’s father. He looked him up and gave his name to the secretary. She went into the busy man’s office and came out with bad news, ‘I’m afraid Mr. Billings will be tied up in meetings most of the day.’ ‘That’s OK,’ said the desperate man, ‘I’ll just wait here.’ The day wore on. This former soldier was desperate, so he gave the secretary his card again and asked to see her boss for only five minutes. She took the request into her employer but came out with the same bad news. ‘Mr. Billings will be tied up all day. He simply doesn’t have time to see you.’
“Completely defeated and discouraged, the young man got up to leave, and then he remembered the card in his wallet from his friend. He pulled it out and read the back of the card to see what his friend had written. There in faded script was a note to Mr. Billings: ‘Dad, if this card every gets to you, please help the bearer. He’s my best friend and stayed with me until I died. Signed, Your son, Charlie.’ With new hope, he handed the card to the secretary and asked her if she would give this to her boss. Within seconds, Mr. Billings bounced out of his office and said, ‘Why didn’t you send this card in hours ago. I would do anything, for Charlie’s sake.’
“The Father’s infinite love for His Son has been transferred over to us. He is especially touched by those who are His Son’s best friends because they keep His commandments. And He wants to manifest His love for them for the sake of His Son. That’s the spirit of the promise to answer prayer requests in Jesus’ name. Our heavenly Father is willing to do most anything for Jesus’ sake.” 7
Our heavenly Father is eager to answer His children’s prayers when they align with what Jesus would pray. It is a top priority for the Godhead that God’s children love one another as Jesus has loved them. When we pray for God’s help to enable us to love our Christian brothers and sisters, we can be confident that He hears us and will grant us the assistance we need to obey His commandment.
Some Christians are easier to love than others. If a brother or sister in Christ has deeply hurt us, we will probably be more inclined to ask God to help us love that person. We might pray in this way:
Prayer: Father God, I know it is Your revealed will that I love so and so. But the pain they have caused me is too great for me to overcome on my own. I know You live in me, Lord Jesus. And I know it is Your will for me to love this person as You have loved me. Therefore, I pray that You would love them through me. I know You hear this prayer favorably, and I am confident that You will answer. Thank You for how You will work in and through me to show this person Your love. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
1. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 4078 to 4083.
2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 249.
3. See Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 603.
4. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 114 cites Thomas L. Constable, “What Prayer Will and Will Not Change,” in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, Edited by Stanley D. Toussaint and Charles H. Dyer (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), pp. 99-113; and idem, Talking to God: What the Bible Teaches about Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995; reprint ed., Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005), pg. 170.
5. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 604.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2952.
“19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the Forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20
An anchor was a popular image in the ancient Mediterranean world. Because that economy depended on shipping, the anchor came to symbolize safety and steadiness. The writer of Hebrews used the word to remind believers that God has given us a hope that holds firm in any storm.
Hope is a healthy attitude. In the book of Hebrews, “hope” (elpidos, 3:6; 6:11, 18-19; 7:19; 10:23; 11:1) is the confident expectation of God fulfilling His promises. 1 Anticipating good from God brings comfort to the mind and heart. In contrast, a state of hopelessness is a terrible condition in which to find oneself. It is overwhelming and depressing to think that what you are facing cannot be changed or resolved. For the person who has lost all hope, life looks like a long, dark tunnel going nowhere.
The author of Hebrews was writing to Christians who were facing hardship and persecution because of their Christian faith. Some were tempted to abandon Christ and return to Judaism because they had lost hope. He is urging them to persevere by returning to the hope that they have in Jesus Christ to inherit the promise of ruling with Him.
He uses a metaphor used only here in the Bible (6:19) of an “anchor” (ankyran). But instead of going down into the ocean, this anchor goes up into the heavens, behind the veil, where Jesus has entered as a Forerunner for us. He has become our High Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. The main reason a ship needs an anchor is to ride out storms so that it is not blown off course or into the rocks or reefs nearby. Even in a safe harbor, a ship needs an anchor so that it will not drift, hit something, and sink. Whether in the storms of life or in the harbor during the calm times of life, we all need an anchor for our souls so that our lives are not destroyed.
The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to be “diligent” or hard working to the end of their Christian lives (6:11) so they won’t be sluggish (6:12) like he said they were earlier (5:11). Remaining diligent to the end of their lives will enable them to “inherit the promises” of God, especially the reward of ruling with Christ as His companions (Heb. 1:4-5, 8-9, 13-14; 3:1, 14; cf. Psalm 2:7-8; Matthew 19:28-29; Luke 22:28-30; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21). How can we remain faithful to Christ so we can inherit the promise of ruling with Him?
First, we must rely on the promises of God which cannot fail (Heb. 6:13-15). This is what Abraham did during the storms in his life. Abraham’s life is the story of God initiating and promising, with Abraham responding in faith. God appeared to Abraham while he was still named Abram, living in Ur of the Chaldees. He commanded Abram to leave his relatives and that city and go to a place that God would show him (Gen. 12:1-3; cf. Acts 7:2-3). Abram’s obedience was not easy. In that day, you didn’t just pack up a moving truck and head out on the highway, keeping in touch with the folks back home through frequent emails and phone calls. To move hundreds of miles away meant permanent separation from family and friends. There were unknown hardships to be encountered. Would the people of the new land be hostile or friendly? Could you provide adequately for your family there? What about learning the new language? There weren’t real estate offices to help you get resettled into a new home. Where would you live?
But Abram obeyed (Gen. 12:4).God had promised to multiply Abram, making him the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2; cf. 13:15-16; 15:5). His name, Abram, meant, “exalted father,” but his wife Sarah was barren. They were getting up in years but had no children despite God’s promise. Can you imagine the encounters he had as he and Sarah moved into Canaan? This seventy-five-year-old man says, “Hello, my name is Abram [exalted father].” The Canaanite responds, “Nice to meet you. How many children do you have?” “None yet.”
But then God added insult to injury. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, reaffirmed His promise to multiply him exceedingly (Gen. 17:2-4), and then changed his name to “Abraham,” meaning “father of a multitude” (Gen. 17:5)! He has been waiting for twenty-four years since God first promised to give him a son. He still has no children, except for Ishmael through Hagar. But now he tells everyone that God has given him a new name, “father of a multitude”! It would be like a bald man named Harry, and God says, “Let’s change your name to Bushy-haired Harry”!
Years after God blessed Abraham with his promised son, Isaac, he was then told by God to sacrifice Isaac. “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” (Gen. 22:2). Can you imagine how difficult this must have been for Abraham? He had waited twenty-five years for Isaac to be born. And now God wants him to kill his only son on the altar of sacrifice?!
But Abraham obeyed. Why? The Bible tells us: “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” (Heb. 11:17-19). Abraham was still trusting God to fulfill His former promise regarding his descendants by expecting Him to raise Isaac from the dead. Now we are ready for Hebrews 6:13-15.
“13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no onegreater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” (Heb. 6:13-15). The phrase “God swore by Himself” signifies that He binds His word to His character. The “promise”to which the writer referred here was the one God gave Abraham after he had obeyed God by offering up Isaac.
In 6:14 when the writer of Hebrews quoted from Genesis 22, the Lord is referring to the messianic aspects of God’s promise. “16 By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:16-18). Just as Abraham’s obedience would reap future blessings in the Messiah’s kingdom, so too, Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ would also reap blessings in His coming kingdom – especially the reward of ruling with Jesus (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21).
The writer was calling his readers to do what God called Abraham to do when He instructed him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah. They too needed to continue to trust and obey, as they had done in the past, even though circumstances appeared as if their perseverance would result in tragedy. 2 The lesson for us is there has never been anyone who trusted in God’s promises and was finally disappointed. God may delay the visible answers to His promises because He always answers in His time, not in ours. We may not see the answer until we are in heaven. But He is utterly trustworthy to keep His Word. If He has promised eternal rewards to the one who perseveres to the end, you can count on it as absolutely true!
The second way to remain faithful to Christ is to rest in the Person of God Who cannot lie (6:16-18a). The author now focuses on “the oath” that God made to Abraham. “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.” (Heb. 6:16). When a person wants to end an argument, one way to do so is to appeal to a higher authority with an oath. For example, some people do this by saying, “I am telling the truth so help me God.” Even God used “an oath” to guarantee His promise to bless Abraham greatly (Gen. 22:16).
“God swore on Himself by Himself and ended any further discussion with His legal affirmation. His promises are as true as He is. Those who believe Him and endure will receive the rewards of His faithfulness.”3
“17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:17-18a). This messianic hope was not only certain for Abraham, but also for the Christian “heirs” who remained faithful to the end. So, the promise and the oath are the “two immutable [or unchanging] things” since “it is impossible for God to lie.”If God lied, He would deny His very nature as the God of truth, Whose very word is truth (Isa. 65:16; John 14:6; 17:17). If God has said that we will rule with Christ if we remain faithful to Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27), then it is true, and we dare not question Him!
We are all prone to bend the truth when it suits our purposes. But God is not like us. It is impossible for God to lie. He has never lied in all of eternity. When we doubt His promises, and especially His promise of ruling with Christ, we are in effect calling Him a liar! Our hope of reigning with Christ if we remain faithful is certain because God’s Person is incapable of lying. God’s doubly strong promise to Abraham, then, can be a “great (doubly strong) consolation” to us, now, because God has also promised us future blessings. Specifically, He has promised that we will receive the reward of ruling with Christ if we remain faithful to Him until the end of our Christian lives (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27).
The third way to remain faithful to Christ is to run to our hope which is anchored in the priesthood of Jesus Christ (6:18b-20). The figure that closes verse 18 is an Old Testament one. “…We might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” (Heb. 6:18b). When we are tempted to give up on God during trials, we can “flee for refuge” to the promises of God. We can “lay hold of” them, just as a fearful person in Israel could flee to the altar of burnt offerings, take hold of its horns, and be safe from his assailants (cf. I Kings 1:49-51; 2:28-39). The cities of refuge also provided safety for the Israelites (Num. 35:9-15; Joshua 20). But we have a much better “refuge” than the Israelites did in Judaism. Our refuge is anchored in the Priesthood of Christ. The “We… who have fled for refuge” implies not every Christian takes refuge in the Lord. We have already seen that this is true (Hebrews 6:1–9). Some Christians produce thorns and thistles for the Lord – they turn their backs on Him with hardened hearts.
In 6:19-20 the writer uses another type of figure to illustrate our hope in Christ. He uses the idea of an anchor which is securely dropped in the harbor. “19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19-20). In the first century, sailors would carry their ship’s anchor in a smaller boat called a “forerunner” and deposit it on the shore, so that the ship would not drift away as waves beat against it.
“The Greek word for forerunner was used in the second century A.D. of the smaller boats sent into the harbor by larger ships unable to enter due to the buffeting of the weather. These smaller boats carried the anchor through the breakers inside the harbor and dropped it there, securing the larger ship. Forerunner presupposes that others will follow. Thus, Jesus is not only the believer’s anchor, but He is like a runner boat that has taken our anchor into port and secured it there.
There is thus no doubt as to whether this vessel is going into port. The only question is whether it will go in with the sleekness of a well-trimmed sailing vessel or like a water-laden barge. Believers who have such a hope in the presence of God should come boldly before the throne of grace (see 4:14-16).” 4
But instead of going down into the ocean, God’s anchor goes up into the heavens, behind the veil, where Jesus has entered as a Forerunner for us to firmly plant this anchor of hope in heaven for our storm-tossed souls. It should keep us from drifting away from God (cf. 2:1). Our anchor rests firmly in the Holy of Holies (“behind the veil”), in God’s presence in heaven, with Jesus. The “veil” was that thick curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the Jewish tabernacle or the temple. The veil was what separated the place of worship from the inner room where God dwelt with His people.
“In the context of Hebrews this hope (elpis) is the blood of Christ. In contrast to the Levitical sacrifices, the author declares in 7:19, ‘there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.’ It is Christ’s blood (not animal blood) that has entered the Presence behind the veil, that is, into the heavenly tabernacle and the very presence of God (cf. 9:11-12). The ones entitled to strong consolation are those who continue holding fast to this hope. Indeed, it is an anchor of the soul that only the priest according to the order of Melchizedek can provide. Those who turn away from this and retreat back to some form of Judaism will find no consolation there.”5
What Hebrews 6:19-20 is saying is we have a hope, anchored in the blood of Jesus Christ. And because of Jesus, we as Christians can come before God at any time. We can because of the high priestly ministry of Jesus, which He is doing right now, on our behalf. We can know the high priestly ministry of Jesus right now in our lives. How? He has torn the divider between us and God as our Father. The veil was torn when Jesus died for us (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). We can now enter the holy of holies; we can unite with the Lord and know His compassion and His care. We can grow in our relationship with Him to the point where we know what makes His heart beat faster with joy or what causes Him to be sad or angry. We can know He is using us to do ministry. In all of this, we can know we are walking side by side with Him as His companions—where we know at our core, we are partnering with Him as His companions. 6
The main reason we need an anchor is to keep us from drifting into things that would destroy us, especially during storms. Abraham had his storms as he waited on God. In two different moments of weakness, he thought that powerful men would take his wife from him, which would have nullified God’s promise of a son through her. And so, he lied that she was his sister. At another moment of despair, he went into Sarah’s maid, Hagar, and conceived Ishmael. But despite these failures, he continued to trust God Who would fulfill His promise.
We can face many different types of storms that threaten to rob us of hope in Christ. There are storms of deceit in which false teachings try to blow us off course (Eph. 4:14-15). These teachings may say all Christians will receive the same rewards by their position in Christ so there is no need to persevere to the end. Or they may deny that there are rewards in heaven. We must resist these lies by holding firmly to the promise of ruling with Christ as His companions (Heb. 1:8-13; 2 Tim. 2:12).
There will be storms of doubt, when we question Christ’s future victory over His enemies and our ruling with Him in His glorious Kingdom on earth. We can weather them by coming back to the truth of His promise to bless obedience (Heb. 10:35).
There will be storms of difficulties, where we wonder why God is allowing them and question whether He loves us. We weather them by remembering that God, Who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, will now freely give us all things we need to live a life of faith for Him (Rom. 8:32)! If God did not spare His only Son when we were His enemies, how much more will He give us now that we are His beloved children so we can reign with Christ in the future?!
There may be storms of defeat, where we fall into sin and dishonor our Lord and Savior. We can weather even these storms if we realize that our High Priest is praying for us, that our faith may not fail, and that by His grace, we can be restored and encourage others to hold fast to Christ (Luke 22:32).
Where is your anchor? Where is your hope and security? For some people, it is in the temporary things of this earth. Such things as your appearance, achievements, approval, or affluence all of which can change. The writer of Hebrews invites us to move our anchor to heaven in the Person of Jesus Christ. You can do that by believing in Jesus Who shed His blood on a cross for all your sins and rose from the dead so you may have everlasting life and a future home in heaven (John 3:14-15; 14:1-3; Rev. 21-22). Then you can go directly into God’s heavenly throne room any time through prayer to receive whatever is needed for you to remain faithful to Christ and inherit His promise of ruling with Him as His companions in the world to come (Heb. 1:2-13; 3:1, 14; 4:14-16).
Prayer: Father God, we praise You for Your unchanging promises to which we can flee for refuge when we face storm-tossed times. Thank You for the everlasting hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ Who entered the Presence behind the veil in the heavenly tabernacle as our Forerunner to firmly plant this anchor of hope in heaven for our storm-tossed souls. Our eventual arrival in the port of heaven is guaranteed by this anchor which was deposited there. Having such a hope in Your presence, Father, invites us to come boldly to the throne of grace at any time to receive the grace and mercy we need to remain faithful to Jesus until the end of our lives on earth. Then we may inherit Christ’s promise of ruling with Him as His companions in His coming Kingdom on earth. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2835.
2. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Hebrews, 2015 Edition, pg. 70.
3. Rick Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions: Position Yourself Today to Be Among Those Who Rule With Christ (Rick Oglesby, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 72.
4. The NKJV Study Bible formerly titled The Nelson Study Bible New King James Version, Edited by Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, H. Wayne House (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), pg. 1955.
5. J. Paul Tanner, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 520-521.
6. Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions, pp. 81-82.
“3 That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that our joy may be full.” I John 1:3-4
The next two verses in I John contain the apostle John’s purpose for writing this book which is fellowship or closeness with God and other believers (1:3-4). 1 Some will argue that I John 5:13 is the purpose statement for John’s epistle since the apostle’s purpose statement in his gospel was near the end of the gospel of John (John 20:31).They conclude that I John was written to provide tests for professing believers in Jesus so they could know for sure they have eternal life. 2
But this view fails to understand that “there are five purpose statements in I John (1:3, 4; 2:1, 26; 5:13) plus ten imperatives (2:15, 24, 27, 28; 3:1, 7, 13; 4:1 [twice]; 5:21), any of which could possibly provide John’s purpose for writing.” 3 First John 1:3-4 provides the most comprehensive primary and secondary purposes in writing this epistle. 4
Wilkins notes that the words, “These things” in I John 5:13 do not refer to the entire book of I John, but to the verses immediately preceding it (5:6-12), observing that this near reference is consistent with John’s style throughout his epistle: 5
The statement “these things we write to you”(1:4) refers to what was just stated in verses 1:1-3.
The words, “these things I write to you, so that you may not sin”(2:1) refer to the teaching on sin in 1:5-10.
The statement, “These things I have written to you concerning those who try todeceive you”(2:26) refers to the preceding discussion about antichrists (2:18-25).
To summarize the first two verses of I John: As the magnetic power of Jesus’ love draws us closer to Him (1:1), we are more motivated to tell others about Him (1:2). And as we proclaim Christ to others, we find ourselves drawn even closer to Him so that our fellowship or intimacy with Him deepens even more.
This is the purpose of I John: “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3). The “we” and “us” in this verse refer to the apostle John and the eleven other apostles who were eyewitnesses (“we have seen and heard”) to Jesus in the first century. The “you” represents John’s readers 6 who had not known Jesus in the flesh as John and the other apostles had. 7 You and I cannot “look upon” or “handle” (1:1) the Lord Jesus Christ physically as did the first-century apostles until we are in Jesus’ presence in heaven 8 (cf. I John 3:2; Revelation 4:1-5:14; 7:9-17).
The reason the apostle John and other apostles “declare” what they had “seen and heard” regarding the Lord Jesus is so their readers (“you”) “also may have fellowship with” them. The Greek word for “fellowship” (koinōnia) means a “close association involving mutual interests and sharing, … close relationship.”9 John wants his readers to have close fellowship with him and the other apostolic eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ. 10 This is known as horizontal fellowship whereby believers in Jesus share what they have in common with other believers in Christ. 11
But John takes this concept of fellowship deeper. Ultimately, the purpose of fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses is to have fellowship with God the Father and God the Son. The apostle writes, “and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3b). John longs for his readers to enjoy the intimate fellowship or closeness with God that the apostolic eyewitnesses enjoyed. 12
It is very important to observe that John repeatedly refers to his readers with terms that clearly indicate he considered them to be genuine Christians – “little children” (2:1, 12, 13b, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21), “brethren” (2:7; 3:13), “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (2:12; cf. 2:13-14), “you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (2:20; cf. 2:21, 27), “beloved” (3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11 ), and “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13). Obviously, John did not intend his epistle to be used to convert his readers or assure them of their salvation because he knew they were already saved. What his readers needed was “fellowship” or closeness with the apostolic circle and with God Himself.
It is quite possible that the “antichrists” or false teachers were telling John’s readers that Jesus was not God’s promised Son (2:22-23), and they did not have eternal life simply by believing in Christ (2:25-26; cf. 5:9-13). 13 To doubt God’s promise of eternal life through believing in Jesus would undermine their assurance that they were God’s children. This would make them more susceptible to the influences of the world (2:15-16) and these false teachers (2:19-23). For if they doubted they were God’s children, then they would be more prone to act like non-Christians (cf. Proverbs 23:7a) which would jeopardize their fellowship with the apostles and with God Himself.
Notice I did not say this would jeopardize their salvation. As believers in Jesus, they could never lose the gift of eternal life which God had freely given them (cf. John 3:16; 4:10-14; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; Romans 6:23b; 11:29; Ephesians 2:8-9). But they could lose their “fellowship” or closeness with God which depended on walking in the light (1:7), confessing their sins (1:9), keeping God’s commandments (2:3-5; 3:24), abiding in Christ (2:6, 24, 27-28), loving one another (2:9-11; 3:11-23; 4:7-5:3), hating the world (2:15-17), acknowledging Jesus is God’s Son (2:23; 4:2-3, 4:15), practicing righteousness (2:29-3:10), listening to and obeying apostolic teaching (4:6), and avoiding idolatry (5:21).
Don’t miss the connection in verse 3 between fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses and fellowship with God Himself. John is saying he is part of a circle (the apostles) so intimate with God that if one has fellowship with his circle, one also has fellowship with God the Father and with His Son. To refuse to hear the apostles is to refuse to hear the Lord Himself (cf. 4:6). We cannot enjoy fellowship with God apart from the apostles who experienced the Lord Jesus Christ firsthand (1:1-3). Unfortunately, our modern world has lost respect for this apostolic authority. Skepticism and unbelief run rampant today. Our modern world thinks it knows more than “ignorant and unlearned men in the first century.” People who ignore what the apostles have to say about Jesus often create their own false teaching and spirituality. 14
This is what Muhammed, the founder of Islam did when he created the Quran. For example, instead of embracing what the apostolic eyewitnesses taught about the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross (Matthew 27:31-66; Mark 15:21-47; John 19:16-42; I Corinthians 15:1-8), Muhammed listened to the beliefs and traditions of other faiths he had been exposed to while traveling with his uncle Talib on caravan journeys. 15 Some of those beliefs included second-century false teachings which denied Jesus was crucified on the cross, and therefore did not rise from the dead. 16
But how can we in the twenty-first century have fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses so we can enjoy the fellowship they had with Jesus? We do this through their written word as recorded in the New Testament. As we take the truth of the Bible and apply it to our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience deeper fellowship and spiritual intimacy with God. 17
Evans illustrates this when he writes, “Cities establish high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to prevent having too many cars clogging up the interstates. In a sense, they want you to be in fellowship while traveling to work. God wants you traveling a HOV lane in life, and He also wants to be your companion in the car.”18
The reason the apostle John writes about having fellowship with the apostolic eyewitnesses and ultimately with God Himself is so he and the other apostles may experience the fullness of joy. “And these things we write to you that our joy may be full.” (I John 1:4). 19 If John’s readers were to experience greater fellowship or intimacy with John (and the other apostles) and ultimately with God Himself, then he and the other apostles would experience greater joy. The apostles’ hearts were so much like Christ’s that their own joy was connected to the spiritual well-being of those to whom they ministered. 20
This is similar to what John wrote in 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Nothing would give the apostle John more joy than seeing his readers walk in the truth of God’s Word so they could experience intimate fellowship with Christ.
Do we share Jesus’ concern for His people so that our own joy is bound up in the spiritual well-being of those we minister to? If not, we would be wise to ask the Lord Jesus to give us a heart for the spiritual development of other believers.
It is important to understand that the degree of intimacy we enjoy with Christ on the new earth may be directly proportional to the degree of intimacy we enjoy with Him now on the old earth. 21 For example, the ascended and glorified Lord Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17). Jesus motivates His followers on earth to live victoriously (“him who overcomes”) by promising a special intimacy 22 with Him in eternity which includes eating “the hidden manna” and receiving “a white stone” on which is “a new name written” on it. Eating hidden manna with Christ and receiving a new name from Him are both expressions of deeper love and spiritual intimacy with Him.
But the primary focus of John in his epistle is the greater “joy” we can have before eternity (1:3-4). Under the guiding power of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21), the apostle John has written this love letter from God so we may have a fullness of joy. After all, don’t love letters have a unique way of bringing us joy!?! 23
This reminds me of my first year of seminary when I would write to my girlfriend who was serving as a missionary in Costa Rica. Every day I would write in an aerogram about seminary life and how much I missed her. I would then mail the aerogram once a week, eagerly awaiting her reply. Her written responses were my lifeline during that first year of seminary. I couldn’t wait to check my mailbox to see if a letter from her was inside. When I received those letters, I would read them repeatedly. When I read how much she missed me and loved me, it restored my joy in view of her love for me.
This is one very important reason God has given us the book of I John. This “love letter” is in the Bible to restore our joy considering how much God loves us. John knows a lot more about God’s love than you and I do. He is known as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Perhaps this is why he has written so much about the Lord’s love in his gospel and epistles.
Anderson puts it well: “When the fires of our devotion to Christ are burning low, or we begin to forget just how much He really loves us, we can come running back to His inspired Word, His ‘love letters,’ and experience a fresh state of joy as we read again the old, old story of His love for you and me.”24
Anderson shares the story of Christ’s love for us involving a little girl who had a great love for her dolls. He writes, “A man once came to her house to visit her mother and father. Her dad was not home from work yet, but her mother went into the kitchen to put together some refreshments while they waited for her husband to arrive. The little girl saw her chance. She coyly came up to the stranger as he waited in the living room and asked him if he liked dollies. Wanting to be polite, he assured her he did. ‘Would you like to see my dollies?’ the little girl asked. Not wanting to discourage her, the stranger said, ‘Of course.’
“So, the little girl began bringing out her collection of dolls. It was quite large and surrounded the coffee table. ‘Now which of these is your favorite?’ asked the visitor. ‘Are you sure you like dollies?’ queried the little girl. ‘Oh, yes,’ he confirmed. So, the little girl rushed back to her room and returned clutching an old Raggedy Ann dolly. She held it close and patted its head. The visitor was nonplused. This doll wasn’t nearly as impressive as the others. It had lost one leg; half its hair had fallen out; its belly button was missing, as well as part of an arm below the elbow. With astonishment in his face he asked, ‘But why is this your favorite dolly?’
“The little girl looked at him shyly and then back at Raggedy Ann. Then, holding the tattered doll very close, she said, ‘This is my favorite dolly… because if I didn’t love her… nobody would.’” 25
All of us are like that Raggedy Ann dolly. There is nothing about us that is worthy of God’s love. We are all ungodly sinners (no belly button, one arm and leg missing, hair torn out), yet God still demonstrated His love for us in that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That is true love. And that is what can restore our joy no matter how unlovable or unwanted we may see ourselves. The apostle John knows this and that is one reason he has written this love letter.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, if we are honest with ourselves and with You, we would have to admit there have been times in our lives when we viewed ourselves to be like that Raggedy Ann dolly – unlovable, unwanted, and unworthy of love. Yet Your love letter, the Bible, tells us how much You love us and delight in being with us. We thank You for the apostle John who wrote his epistle so we might experience an abundance of joy as we enter the deep and pervasive fellowship or spiritual intimacy that he and the other apostles had with You. May Your magnetic love draw us closer and closer to You so we may grow in our desire to tell others about You and Your love for them. Lead us to those who need to hear of Your radical love for them as demonstrated through Your death and resurrection so all who believe in You may have everlasting life. Give us Your heart for the spiritual well-being of others so we may see an even greater movement of Your Spirit in Your church and around the world. Thank You our Lord and our God for hearing our prayer. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
1. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 7; David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 28; Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 3367 to 3473; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 589; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2329-2333.
2. Anderson, pg. 15 cites cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).
3. Constable, pg. 17.
4. Ibid., cites Robert W. Yarbrough, 1-3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pg. 46; Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 15; Gary W Derickson, “What is the Message of I John?” Bibliotheca Sacra 1 50:597 (January-March 1993), pp. 89-105.
5. Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 603; cf. Robert N. Wilkin, “‘Assurance: That You May Know’ (1 John 5:11-13a),” Grace Evangelical Society News 5:12 (December 1990), pp. 2, 4; Anderson, pg. 241; Hodges, Kindle Location 4070.
6. Anderson, pg. 28.
7. Constable, pg.14.
8. Wilkin, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 589.
9. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 552.
10. Hodges, Kindle Locations 3460 to 3465.
11. Anderson, pg. 28.
12. Constable, pg. 14.
13. Hodges, Kindle Locations 3465 to 3469.
14. Evans, pg. 2332.
15. Daniel Janosik, THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2019 Kindle Edition), pg. 15.
16. The Quran denies that Jesus died by crucifixion (4.157) which is the same teaching of a second-century gnostic false teacher named Basilides whose school of thought lasted for centuries after his death. (See Nabeel Qureshi, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016 Kindle Edition], pp. 179-180 cites Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenaeus against Heresies,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, [Buffalo: Christian Literature Company, 1885], pg. 349).
17. Evans, pg. 2332.
19. The majority of Greek manuscripts have the word translated “our” (hēmōn) in place of the word “your” (humōn) in the text.
20. Hodges, Kindle Location 3473.
21. Anderson, pg. 30.
22. Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 959-960.
When God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and joined them together as husband and wife, the Bible tells us, “They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25; cf. Mark 10:6-9). To be “naked” and “not ashamed” suggests something more than not wearing any clothes. These words describe Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and with one another. They were able to be completely open with the Lord and each other without holding anything back or hiding their true selves. Adam and Eve were fully known by God and each other and they were okay with this. This enabled them to experience uninhibited intimacy with God and with one another. 1 They knew that they were totally accepted and loved by God. There was nothing to fear and nothing to hide from the Lord and each other.
Prior to the Fall, they did not experience any self-consciousness regarding the uniqueness of their personhood as man and woman. For example, Adam probably did not doubt his masculinity or his ability to impress Eve as a man. He was not concerned about his biceps being big enough or being a good enough lover for Eve. Nor did Eve wonder if her beauty was enough to attract Adam or if her ideas were as significant as his. With an unwavering assurance, both knew that who they were and what they offered to one another was more than just good enough – it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). 2
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6), they experienced shame for the first time. The complete innocence and vulnerability they once had with God and one another were now lost. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). They were now self-conscious and ashamed of their nakedness before one another, so they tried to remove their shame by covering themselves with fig leaves. They went from holding nothing back from one another to hiding and covering their true selves.
When they put their own desires ahead of God’s will for their lives, they may have realized they could also put their own interests ahead of the other’s. Would Adam be able to trust Eve after she violated God’s trust? Would Eve be able to trust Adam after he did the same thing? Once transparent and vulnerable with each other, Adam and Eve now hid their physical nakedness and the nakedness of their souls with fig leaves. Instead of trusting each other, they were afraid of being hurt by one another, so they chose to protect themselves by hiding under the cover of fig leaves.
But their sin and shame also adversely affected their closeness with God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Instead of being open and vulnerable before God, they now hid themselves from His presence when He pursued them. God is presented in this verse as pursuing His fallen children by walking in the garden in the cool of the day as if this was something He had always done to connect with them. We might assume that God came to them to punish and shame Adam and Eve for the wrong they had done but notice that God does not seek to shame His fallen children. He seeks to restore them. “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9). Why would an all-knowing God ask Adam a question to which He already knows the answer? Because the Lord wanted a confession from Adam. “Where are you in relation to Me?” God asks. God knew where Adam was, but did Adam know where he was in relation to the Lord? Do we know where we are in relation to God?
When Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (3:10), God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat” (3:11)? God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin. Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses shame to isolateChristians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).
Would Adam and Eve believeGod is still the same loving and merciful God that He had always been prior to their disobedience? Or would they believe the lie of the serpent who implied that God could not really be trusted (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)? The Lord did not abandon Adam and Eve when they sinned and felt ashamed. He soughtthem out to restore them to fellowship with Himself.
But instead of trusting the Lord, Adam and Eve were now afraidof Him. “So, he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself’” (Genesis 3:10). Their sin and shame now became a barrierto His loving and merciful pursuit of them. Not only were they self-conscious of their nakedness before one another, they were now self-conscious of their nakedness before God. By covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding themselves among the trees of the garden, Adam and Eve removedthemselves from being able to receive God’s love, grace, and mercy which He was freely offering to them. Their faith in God had now changed to fear. Unfortunately, their shame pushed them away from the Lord instead of drawing them near to Him. And shame can do the same to us today.
We learn from the first man and woman, that intimacy with God and one another is broken when we sin against God or each other. Instead of love characterizing our relationships with one another, fear and shame disrupt the closeness we once enjoyed.
As a result of the Fall, all people are now born with a sin nature which creates huge barriers to love and intimacy (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12-21). Dr. David Anderson identifies two of those barriers in his book Maximum Joy:
“It is selfishness. Selfishness focuses on getting, not giving. Love, by definition, is giving, but thesin nature grabs and gets. People often confuse love and lust, but the main difference between the two is selfishness. Love asks, ‘How can I meet your needs?’ whereas lust asks, ‘How can you meet mine?’ So, the sin nature works against intimacy because it is selfish.
“But there is something else contained in the sin nature which is a block to intimacy, and that’s fear. Fear is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to opening up. You can’t be intimate with someone if you don’t open up. You can’t be close to someone if you don’t share the things which are close to you. But we are afraid to do that. We are afraid to let the other person see what is deep down inside. We are afraid they won’t like what they see. We are afraid they will simply reject us.
“This fear of rejection keeps us from opening up and getting close. But there is good news. God has given us I John to show how to have intimacy after the fall, to show how we can have our most fundamental need for love met even though there is sin in the world, in the universe, and resident within us. That’s why I John was written.”3
Not everyone agrees with this understanding of I John. There are several popular preachers and teachers who believe I John was written to provide tests to see if you are genuinely saved and going to heaven when you die.
For example, one popular author and speaker wrote a book entitled Saved without a Doubt. 4 He argues that I John provides eleven tests which can help you determine if you are a genuine Christian on your way to heaven:
1. Have you enjoyed fellowship with Christ and with the Father?
2. Are you sensitive to sin?
3. Do you obey God’s Word?
4. Do you reject this evil world?
5. Do you eagerly await Christ’s return?
6. Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life?
7. Do you love other Christians?
8. Do you experience answered prayer?
9. Do you experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit?
10. Can you discern between spiritual truth and error?
11. Have you suffered rejection because of your faith? 5
When I read this list of questions, they raised more questions than answer. What if I could only answer “yes” to five of those questions and not all eleven of them? Does that mean I am not a Christian? How much fellowship must I enjoy with Christ and the Father? How do I measure that? How sensitive to sin must I be? How much of God’s Word must I obey to know I am truly a Christian? Must I obey His Word perfectly or most of the time? Do I have to obey all of God’s commands or just the major ones? 6 No one can obey all of them or they would be perfect, and the Bible says that does not happen in this life (I John 1:8, 10). So, who determines how much obedience isenough?
What if I became a Christian when I was nine years old, but I fell away from the Lord when I was a teenager and lived a wayward life for the next ten years? During those ten years I could not answer “yes” to any of those questions. Does that mean I was never saved to begin with, or I lost my salvation during those years? There are different groups who would say I was never saved, or I had lost my salvation during those wayward years. 7
The point is that these kinds of questions do not give us the certainty we are saved without a doubt. They only increase the doubts of an introspective or thinking person. They increase one’s fear or guilt. 8
As we approach the book of I John, it is important to understand that the apostle John 9 is writing to Christians (2:12-14) prior to 70 A. D. 10 fromJerusalem (2:19) 11 so they could experience the joy of intimacy or closeness with God and other believers (1:3-4). While the gospel of John was written primarily to non-Christians to tell them how to receive the gift of eternal life simply by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31), I John was written to believers in Jesus so they could experience the joy of fellowship or closeness with God (I John 1:3-4).
John is writing to this community of believers because their fellowship with the Lord Jesus (1:3, 7) was being threatened by false teachers whom he calls antichrists (2:18-26). Hodges observes that these antichrists:
a. Thought physical contact with a divine being was impossible (1:1-4). They believed spiritual things (soul, spirit) are divine and good, but material things (body) are created and evil. Therefore, what you did with your body was irrelevant.
b. May have taught that good and evil, light and darkness, originated from God; therefore, to fellowship with God involved participation in good and evil (1:5-6; 2:29; 3:6-9).
c. Undermined John’s readers assurance of salvation (2:25-26) to entice them into a worldly (2:15-17; 3:4-10a) and unloving lifestyle (3:10b-4:21).
d. Were probably believers who defected from the Christian faith (2:19), denying that Jesus was the Christ come in human flesh (2:22-23; 4:1-3). Believed Jesus was only a man and the divine Christ descended on Jesus at His baptism and left Him before His crucifixion (5:6-8).
e. May have practiced idolatry (5:21), including immorality with temple prostitutes. 12
Anderson emphasizes the importance of understanding I John from the backdrop of the gospel of John. He observes that the outline of the gospel of John is parallel to the temple or tabernacle (see diagram 1). 13
The first twelve chapters of the gospel of John focus on evangelism. John presents seven miraculous signs of Jesus so his readers may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, so they may obtain eternal life (John 20:31). “John’s signature phrase for a new believer is the Greek construction pisteuō eis (believe in). This phrase is found nowhere in Greek literature outside the New Testament, and of the thirty-four uses in John, thirty of them occur in the first twelve chapters.”14
But when we come to the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16), there is a shift in John’s presentation. Instead of focusing on sharing the gospel with non-believers, John addresses believers about discipleship. This is why Judas, who is not a believer (John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12), must be sent out of the room as one of two steps to prepare Christ’s believing disciples for the intimate truths of discipleship (John 13:1-30). 15
The second step of preparation was to wash the feet of the remaining believing disciples. Since Judas was not a believer, he did not belong in this setting. Non-believers had to come into the temple/tabernacle through the blood, but believers could only go into the Holy Place through the laver of cleansing. The truths Jesus wanted to share in the Upper Room were intended for believers. But even they needed to be cleansed daily of their sins to enjoy fellowship with God. If they were not in fellowship with Him, they wouldn’t be able to absorb the truth He wanted to impart to them. 16
The truth Christ gave to them involved Positional/Relationship Truth and Practical/Fellowship Truth. Christ presented this symbolically as taking a bath (Positional Truth) and foot washing (Practical Truth). When Jesus bent down to wash the feet of Peter, Peter resisted (John 13:5-8a). When Peter submits, he asks Jesus for an entire bath (John 13:9). Jesus explains that Peter is already “completely clean” because he already had a complete bath (John 13:10). All he needs now is to have his feet cleansed. If Christ doesn’t wash Peter’s feet, Jesus said Peter would have no “part” (fellowship) with Him (John 13:8b). 17
Hodges states, “This truth, of course, is more fully elaborated in I John 1:5-10 where fellowship is related to the question of the believer’s walk’ (which one’s ‘feet’ suggest) and it is conditioned on the cleansing that comes in response to confession of sin (I John 1:9).” 18 Peter could not have fellowship with the Lord until He was willing to receive His cleansing ministry.
How is it possible for Peter to be completely clean and yet need to have his feet washed? This is where we see Positional/Relationship Truth combined with Practical/Fellowship Truth. Peter had already received Jesus’ gift of eternal life early in Jesus’ ministry (John 1:35-2:11). Therefore, Jesus said Peter had already been “bathed” (John 13:10). In the first century, there were no bathing facilities in small houses. So, a person had to go to a public bathhouse to bathe. When invited to a meal, a person would first go to the public bathhouse and bathe, and then put on clean clothing, anoint himself with fresh oil, and proceed to the home where he would be served a meal. On the way from the bathhouse to the home, the guest’s feet got dirty. Hence, the host provided a basin of water so that the one who already had a bath and cleansed his entire body could sponge the dirt off his feet. 19
Jesus is referring to two types of cleansing in John 13:10. The first type of cleansing refers to the complete cleansing of regeneration or salvation which takes place at the moment of faith in Jesus (cf. Titus 3:5; Revelation 1:5). This is seen in the word “bathed” (louō) which refers to bathing the entire body. 20 This verb is in the perfect tense which conveys the idea of a permanent cleansing. A person only needs one complete bath spiritually. This is a one-time experience. The Holy Spirit performs this complete cleansing at the moment of faith in Jesus for eternal life. Some believers think they need to be totally bathed repeatedly. They fail to understand that God’s water or soap is guaranteed for eternity. Have you experienced this one-time permanent cleansing? If not, Christ invites you right now to believe or trust in Him alone. Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Once you believe in Christ, you will need the second type of cleansing that He speaks of next.
This second type of cleansing refers to daily forgiveness to have fellowship or closeness with God. This cleansing is represented by the word “wash” (niptō) which means to wash parts of the body. 21 This fellowship forgiveness (cf. Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 11:4) is based upon the confession of sin (I John 1:9). So, Christ is saying in verse 10, “He who is bathed [Positional/Relationship Truth] needs only to wash his feet [Practical/Fellowship Truth] but is completely clean.” Every bathed person (Christian) needs daily cleansing of his dirty feet to have fellowship or closeness with Christ.
Peter and the other ten believing disciples needed cleansing of their pride. They had been arguing among themselves at the Lord’s Supper about who would be the greatest in Christ’s future kingdom on earth (cf. Mark 10:35-44; Luke 22:24). So, these eleven disciples did not need a bath (Relationship Truth), they needed their feet and hearts cleansed (Fellowship Truth). Once Christ cleansed their feet and demonstrated what true greatness was (humble servanthood), their hearts were ready to hear Him share truths about loving Him and He them (John 14:21), how to stay close to Him so He could produce fruit through them (John 15). He also prepared them for future suffering and the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 16). 22
Anderson writes, “Again, the tabernacle may well have been in John’s mind when he structured his gospel. It is in the Holy Place that we find the table of shew-bread and the candelabra of light. Here is food and light for the believer who has been cleansed by the blood (relationship) and the water (fellowship). So, if we have Preparation in John 13:1-30 (the unbeliever is sent out and believers are cleansed with water), then we have Preaching in John 13:31-16:33. It is no coincidence that we find Prayer in John 17. Here the High Priest intercedes for those who are His own, His disciples and all who would believer through their ministry. The High Priest has entered the Holy of Holies to intercede for His people. But this High Priest does more than just intercede in prayer. He actually becomes our mercy seat (Romans 3:25) as He loved His own to the uttermost (John 13:1). Thus, in the Passion and Resurrection narrative of John 18-20, Jesus has become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His sacrifice was accepted by the Father as fully sufficient, as proved by His resurrection. Now Jesus leads His own out of the tabernacle and into the world (John 21).
“The importance of seeing the parallels between the structure of John and tabernacle cannot be overstated. With this visual aid we can see that a major portion of John does not focus on evangelism or relationship. The focus of Jesus’ words in the upper room is on intimacy or fellowship. As we look at I John we will see that it is this theme of the Upper Room Discourse that is repeated over and over in this short letter. In fact, as noted in the diagram above, all the major elements of the tabernacle (blood, fellowship, confession, light, intercession of the High Priest) are also found in I John 1:5-2:2.”23
It is with great anticipation we will begin to discover the joy of intimacy or fellowship with God and one another as we embark on this journey through I John. I hope you will join me in the weeks to come, Lord permitting, to grow closer to our God and to one another.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the book of First John which You have given to us so we may develop a deeper intimacy with You and Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please open our eyes and hearts to the wonderful things You want to show us. In the precious name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Michael John Cusick, Surfing for God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), pg. 68.
2. Ibid., pg. 69.
3. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 14.
4. Ibid., pg. 15 cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992).
5. Ibid., pg. 15 cites MacArthur, pp. 67-91.
6. Ibid., pg. 15.
7. Ibid., pp. 15-16.
8. Ibid., pg. 16.
9. The ancient Greek manuscripts name the author of I John to be the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, who also wrote the gospel of John. The style and vocabulary of 1-3 John appear to come from the same author of the the gospel of John. See Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2329 and Zane 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. 587.
10. Hodges, pg. 587.
12. Ibid., pp. 587-588.
13. Anderson, pg. 16.
15. Ibid., pp. 15-16.
16. Ibid., pg. 17.
17. The word “part” (meros) is a term for fellowship (cf. Luke 10:42) in the New Testament. See Zane Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers – John 2:23-25,” Bibliotheca Sacra 135:538 (April-June 1978), pg. 147; Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, (Hayesville: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 326, 353, 401,593-594; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 215.
18. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers,” pg. 147.
19. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 429.
20. 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. 603.
21. Archibald Thomas Roberston, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pp. 238-239.
This video is about the birth of Christ from heaven’s perspective as described in the book of Revelation. The message of this video will help you learn how to experience the joy and peace you were meant to have.
All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. The Revelation Art is used by permission of Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992. To order art prints visit her “Revelation Illustrated” site: http://www.revelationillustrated.com. Other digital images are used with permission from Arabs for Christ / FreeBibleimages.org, Sweet Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing, www.LumoProject.com, GoodSalt / goodsalt.com, or they are creative common licenses.