“2 Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye… 5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, from the seductress who flatters with her words.” Proverbs 7:2, 5
The man who “keeps” or obeys God’s “commands” will “live” and experience God’s protection in his life. The phrase “the apple of your eye” refers to the pupil which is the most sensitive and carefully guarded part of the human body (7:2a). When God’s “law” becomes our most important focus, when it is what we pay the closest attention to (7:2b), it will “keep” or guard us from the many allurements of “the immoral woman” and “seductress who flatters with her words” (7:5). God’s Word instructs us to…
1. Avoid where and when the sexual temptation is waiting – “the path to her house in the twilight… in the black of the night” (7:7-9). Establish guardrails that keep you from being tempted such as no searching online when you are alone at night, lock up your digital devices using internet filters to give you accountability when accessing the internet, avoid massage parlors, strip clubs, bars, etc.
2. Avoid women online or in person …
Who dress seductively – “attire of a harlot” (7:10a)
Whose hearts are “crafty” or secretive/deceptive (7:10b)
Who are defiant (“loud and rebellious”) against God’s Word and the sanctity of marriage (7:11a)
Who are promiscuous – “her feet would not stay home…” (7:11b-12)
Who are overly aggressive, sensual, and shameless – “she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him…” (7:13)
Who minimize wrongdoing by referring to their religious activity (“I have peace offerings with me; today I have paid my vows”) and entice men with a meal in her home (the animal sacrifice usually included leftover meat which must be consumed the same day in her home – 7:14; cf. Lev. 7:15)
Who seek to build your ego up with flattery – “So I came out to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you” (7:15)
Who seek to entice with you with a sensuous description of their bedroom – “I have spread my bed with tapestry, colored coverings of Egyptian linen. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon” (7:16-17)
Who proposition you – “Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (7:18)
Who reassure you of your safety from their husband – “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home on the appointed day” (7:19-20)
Who disarm you with their “flattering lips” (7:21)
3. Avoid seductive women online or in person because…
They will lead you to far-reaching consequences including bondage and death – “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.” (7:22-23)
We are living in a very sexualized society today whereby pornography is very accessible, affordable, aggressive, anonymous, and appealing. Solomon’s description of the seductress is much like the digitalized pornographic women online. Satan uses the beauty of women (in person and online) to entice Christian men away from God and His design for purity in marriage and family, so he can “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a) their lives today (1 Pet. 5:8).
Solomon concludes these warnings by inviting us to listen to his advice (7:24):
Guard your heart. “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways” in your imagination or fantasies (7:25a; cf. Matt. 5:28). We are already in danger if we are fantasizing about having sex with a woman outside of marriage. When we are tempted to fantasize about her, turn to the Lord and pray for her salvation (if she is not a believer in Jesus), or for her purity (if she is a believer). Reach out to a brother in Christ to confess your struggle and pray with each other (Jas. 5:16).
Guard your body. “Do not stray into her paths” (7:25b). Avoid where the seductress is waiting for you whether it be online or in person. Do not go or stay near to someone (online or in person) who resembles the immoral or seductive women that Proverbs 7 describes. Ask God what your first step must be to do this. Locking up your digital devices? Getting a flip phone? Changing jobs or locations? Joining a men’s recovery group that deals specifically with porn and sex addiction?
Guard your future. “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death” (7:26-27). No matter how “strong” we think we are, we must take seriously the consequences of yielding to her seductive ways. To be in “her house” and in her bed in our thoughts or in person will place us on a fast speedway to “hell” (Sheol) or the grave. If we pursue sin long enough and hard enough it will lead to physical “death.” Possible causes of death could be punishment from an angry husband, from poverty, from STDs, or from spiritual and emotional anguish.
While King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7 warning of the allurements of seductive immoral women, he did not follow his own advice later in life. The Bible tells us, “When Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David” (I Kgs. 11:4). Even though God had warned Solomon not to marry foreign wives because they would turn away his heart after their gods (11:2), Solomon disobeyed the Lord and “had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (11:3). Solomon did not just worship their false gods, he also built worship centers for the people of Israel to worship the false gods of his foreign wives (11:7-8). As a result, God “became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (I Kgs. 11:9-11).
Solomon’s sexual immorality led to widespread idolatry. In many ways, viewing pornography is idolatrous. What is an idol? An idol is turning to something or someone other than God when we are anxious, bored, depressed, exhausted, lonely, self-doubting, stressed, or even wanting to celebrate. More and more Christians are turning to pornography  instead of the Lord to medicate or celebrate their feelings. Pornography is an idol that is destroying the sons and daughters of God around the world.
As long as we are living in these fallen physical bodies, there will always be the danger of being seduced by immoral women in person or online which can cause us to fall away from the Lord our God. Solomon ignored God’s design for marriage (one wife for life or until the death of one’s spouse – Gen. 2:24; cf. Mark 10:6-12; Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:10-11), and married hundreds of wives and had hundreds of mistresses.
May none of us think we are beyond the reaches of sexual immorality and the idolatry that often accompanies it.
In Solomon’s case, it is better to do what he says, not what he did. We must guard our hearts, our bodies, and our futures from the dangers of sexual immorality (Prov. 7:24-27). God the Holy Spirit can empower us to do this as we yield to Him in the context of a recovery community of believing brothers in Christ (Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Tim. 2:22).
No matter where we may find ourselves in our dealings with sexual temptation, there is always hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is not uncomfortable with our sin or shame. He already knows about it, and He wants us to approach His throne of grace with confidence or boldness because He understands and is sympathetic towards our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15-16). Satan wants to convince us that God is against us and condemns us (Rev. 12:10).
Jesus tells us that His heart is “gentle and lowly” (Matt. 11:29), not condemning (cf. John 3:17). When in the temple, Jesus read Isaiah 42:3 which described the coming Messiah: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.” (Matt. 12:20). Jesus, the Messiah, will not treat those of us who are “bruised” with sin and shame harshly (“break” them). He comes along side of us to strengthen and heal us with His presence rather than step on us to advance His own plans. He will not “quench” what little hope (“smoking flax”) we have left inside of us. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him and for life itself. He does this with His gentle and gracious presence in our lives which heals our wounds and replaces our shame with dignity.
God says He is for us and demonstrated this by giving us His best – His only perfect Son – when we were at our worst (Rom. 5:8, 10) – to take our condemnation when He died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead (Rom. 8:31-32, 34). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are His beloved children!?!
Prayer: Father God, thank You for addressing sexual temptation and sin in these verses. Christian men are being sexually assaulted by the enemy in our society today. Most if a not all of us have mobile devices where we can easily access the allurements of seductive women via online pornography without anyone knowing about it but You. Before it is too late, please Father God, rescue us, redeem us, and restore us to close fellowship with You through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Heal the pain that often drives us to turn to sexual sin. We all have wounds that need Your healing touch. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being gentle and gracious with our brokenness and shame so we can let down our guard and permit You to heal our wounds and replace our shame with dignity. Please break the chains that keep us bound to our shame. Help us set our minds on the things of the Holy Spirit Who reminds us that You are for us and not against us. The proof? You gave us Your best (Jesus) when we were at our worst (Your enemies), so that now as Your beloved children we can expect Your best for us daily. Please transform our ashes into beauty so we may proclaim the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
 Statistics indicate that 60-70 percent of men, 50-58 percent of pastors, and 20-30 percent of women in evangelical churches are sexually addicted – see Jeremy & Tiana Wiles, Conquer Series Study Guide Volume 1 (Stuart, FL: KindgomWorks Studios, 2017), pg. 21.
This exercise is adapted from Michael Dye’s The Genesis Process. 
All of us have been hurt and wounded by others, especially those we trusted. From beginning to end, the Bible emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. God even commands us to forgive (Ephes. 4:32). Therefore, Jesus taught us to pray, “12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people.
One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them.  God invites us to release the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matt. 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc. God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.
There are three things that can hinder us from forgiving others: judgments, vows, and false beliefs. When someone hurts us, we can hold on to judgments about them out of fear. We don’t realize it, but our judgments are an attempt to protect ourselves from painful memories associated with our abusers. We may judge their motives and try to read their minds. We tell ourselves, “He or she is evil, selfish, and does not care about me or love me.” Christ warns us about making such judgments (Matt. 7:1-2). These judgments can cause heart wounds that keep us from healing and growing. When we refuse to forgive that person, we can bind ourselves to the person we are judging and become more like that person.It is important to repent or change our minds about our judgments and ask God to release the person and ourselves from the consequences. 
Not only do judgments about our offenders hinder us from forgiving them, but so do the vows we make. Jesus opposed the practice of distorting vows so they could convey or conceal a lie (Matt. 5:33-35). We can make inner vows to survive the hurts we have suffered. For example, when a person I trusted hurts me, I may make an inner vow that says, “I will never trust anyone again!” Or “If I need others, they will take advantage of me!” These types of vows can become self-curses that result in isolation and loneliness, which cause us even more pain. These inner vows can often become subconscious and do not disappear with time. They are like a contract that must be renounced or broken. It is important to ask God to forgive us and break these vows we have made. 
False beliefs or lies can also prevent us from forgiving others. We may tell ourselves, “If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.” But the truth is, only God knows what is just (Rom. 12:19). Or “If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.” The truth is that just because you forgive them does not mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again. They must earn your trust. For reconciliation on a horizontal level to take place, the perpetrator must apologize, repent or change his mind and behavior, and ask for forgiveness (Matt. 18:15-18; Luke 17:3-4). 
Forgiveness is so important because it gives us the ability to move on in life. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to receive the blessings of new relationships. Forgiveness occurs when the one who was wounded cancels the debt owed to him or her. When we forgive, we are free from those who hurt us. 
If you are struggling to forgive your perpetrator(s), take some time today to do this exercise: 
1. Ask God to reveal to you the people who have hurt you. Make a list. Start with those closest to you (e.g., your parents, siblings, spouse, children, or a close friend; etc.). Do the exercise with them one at a time. Think about the people whom you still “go back to court with” in your mind:
2. Wounds: What he or she did to you that hurt you: abandoned, abused, betrayed, criticized, lied, misrepresented, neglected, rejected, etc. What was the wound(s)?
3. Judgments (Matt. 7:1-2): The things you believe about them: e.g., they are evil, lazy, selfish, stupid, weak, didn’t love me, didn’t care for me, etc.). What are your judgments?
Repent of these judgments and ask God to release the person and yourself from the consequences (Matt. 7:1-2).
4. Vows (Matt. 5:33-35): Vows can be like self-cures, promises you told yourself to survive the wound(s), e.g.,“I don’t need or trust anyone,” or “whatever I do, it won’t be enough,” or “all men/women are ______,” etc.
Renounce and repent of these vows, asking God to forgive you and to break them.
5. Effect on You: What effect did the wound have on you (How did you cope)? Addiction, anger, anxiety, codependency, depression, food, isolation, stress, workaholism, etc.?
6. Their Debt: What debt do they owe you? What would they have to do for you to trust them again? Apologize, change their behavior, experience humiliation, justice, make restitution, money, repent, seek your forgiveness, suffer, etc.
Talk to the Lord, asking Him to make you both willing and able to cancel their debt as He has already cancelled yours to Him through Christ (Matt. 18:23-33; Ephes. 4:32).
7. False Beliefs. What false belief or lie is keeping you from forgiving them? Say the following false beliefs below to yourself to see if they feel true. If they do, then meditate on the true beliefs until the false beliefs no longer feel true. There are blank spaces at the end where you can write in the false belief(s) and true belief(s) that are not on the list.
False belief: If I forgive them, they will get off the hook and there will never be any justice.
True belief: Only God knows what is just (Rom. 12:19).
False belief: Forgiveness means I must pretend that nothing ever happened.
True belief: Forgiveness is not denial. You must tell yourself the truth about what they did and how it affected you to really be able to forgive them from the heart (Matt. 18:35; John 8:32).
False belief: If I forgive, I will become vulnerable to them again.
True belief: Just because you forgive them doesn’t mean that they are safe, and you must trust them again (Matt. 18:15-18; Luke 17:3-4).
False belief: My unforgiveness punishes them and is justified because I am right; they will never see their wrong and repent if I let go.
True belief: The truth is, it is God’s mercy and kindness that leads us to repentance. Only He knows what will change them (Rom. 2:4; Ephes. 4:24-32).
8. Forgiveness Prayer (Matt. 6:12, 14-15). If you are ready, insert the name of the person you have chosen to forgive into the following prayer of forgiveness. You may want to say it in your own words but be sure to include all the elements.
Father God, Your Word says that to be forgiven, I must forgive. And so, I come to You in the name of Jesus, in obedience and love, and I bring (name) _____ before You. I cancel _____ debt to me (e.g., apology, change of behavior, humiliation, justice, restitution, money, repent, seek forgiveness, suffer, etc.). I choose to forgive this hurt against me, and I ask that You not hold these sins against _____ on my account. I release _____ from any desire on my part to see _____ punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless _____ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know _____ desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless _____. And so, I ask that You pour out Your love and healing to _____ and bring _____ Your highest good, because Your name is Good and Love, and You are not willing that any should perish. Now also, Father, please heal my heart and set me free to love _____ as You do. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
9. The Truth sets you free (John 8:36): Pray and ask God to show you this person as He sees them. Ask Him to show you what is true. One of the great mysteries of God is that He loves the perpetrator as much as the victim. Write down any insights God gives to you as you pray.
10. Is there anything God wants you to do to heal this relationship? Check with your counselor or discipleship group before you take any action.
 Adapted from Michael Dye’s The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 123-133.
ARE YOU UNABLE TO RESOLVE YOUR ANGER? THESE EXERCISES CAN PROVIDE HELP.
I. CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
This exercise is based on biblical principles found in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple (John 2:13-22). 
“13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’ ” John 2:13-17
PRINCIPLE 1 – JESUS KNEW THE TEMPLE NEEDED TO BE CLEANSED
Jesus, the Owner of the temple, took full responsibility to cleanse His own temple. He could have made the moneychangers and sellers of doves who were the perpetrators in the account clean up their own mess, but He didn’t. He cleansed the temple.
In most of the accounts of Jesus cleansing the temple, the temple refers to a physical building in Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 21:12; Mark. 11:15; Luke 19:45). But in John’s account the temple refers to Jesus’ body:
“18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:18-22).
This is the first insight into the fact that Jesus was changing the dwelling place of God from the physical temple to the physical body of a human being. The apostle Paul develops this thought a little later when he teaches that believers in Jesus are God’s temple: “16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (I Cor. 3:16-17; cf. 6:19-20). God’s plan all along was to dwell inside believers in Jesus. We are His holy temple. And our temples can become defiled through many different avenues, including manipulation, abuse, and neglect from others. When we get defiled through life, our temple gets defiled also and needs to be cleansed as well.
Just as Jesus cleansed His holy temple, which was defiled by others, so we are responsible to cleanse our temples when they are defiled by the abuse of others. Even if our perpetrators are sorry, he or she cannot cleanse our temple. They cannot remove the wounds placed inside our souls. By cleansing His own temple, Jesus sends us a clear message: We are responsible to cleanse our own temple as well.
PRINCIPLE 2 – JESUS IDENTIFIED THE SIN THAT CAUSED THE DEFILEMENT
When Jesus cleansed His temple early in His ministry, He identified the sin that defiled it when He said, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16). In Luke 19:46 when Jesus cleansed His temple near the end of His earthly ministry He said, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (cf. Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17). Jesus makes it very clear why He was cleansing His temple. They were taking something holy and misusing it to profit themselves. Most of the people who have hurt you have no concept of your holiness or preciousness. You have felt used or abused during the incidents in which you were wounded. You will need to identify the sin or wounding that has been done to you by those who have defiled your temple.
PRINCIPLE 3 – JESUS ENGAGED HIS ANGER AT THE INJUSTICE
Christ engaged His anger both physically and verbally at the injustice. He turned over the moneychangers’ tables and drove out the sacrificial animals. This is why the Jewish leaders challenged His authority to create such a ruckus.
Jesus was not having a bad day. This was an act of His will. It was a premeditated act of obedience. This is important to understand because the cleansing of your temple will take an act of your will. As you walk through these exercises, it will become an act of your obedience as well.
How do we know this was a premeditated act on Jesus’ part? The Bible tells us, “14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.” (John 2:14-15). Jesus “found” the misuse of the temple which indicates He was looking around and witnessing the peoples’ mistreatment of His holy temple. Then He gets a bunch of cords and takes the time to make “a whip.” We don’t know how long it took Jesus to make the whip, maybe minutes or hours, but He had already decided to use that whip when He entered His temple to cleanse it.
As you proceed to do this exercise. You will need to make choices to prioritize your time to prepare for cleansing your temple. Those who go about this intentionally and purposefully will receive more benefit for their lives.
PRINCIPLE 4 – THE TEMPLE WAS RESTORED TO ITS ORIGINAL ORDER
The record of Jesus cleansing the temple offers a picture of how to heal wounds inside your temple. After Jesus engaged His righteous anger and rage, His temple was cleansed. Only Jesus had the power to cleanse His own temple. No other prophet or king had done so before Him or after Him. He alone could clean His house. In the same way, we alone can clean our own temples with Jesus’ help.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION – “CLEANSING THE TEMPLE” EXERCISE
1. WRITE AN ANGER LETTER
The first step in the cleansing of your temple is to write an anger letter to the person who has hurt you, but do not send it. Imagine this person in the room with you, but he or she is unable to talk or move. You can say whatever you need to say to him or her in this letter. This is not a letter to suppress your emotions, but rather to vent all the thoughts and feelings of hate, disgust, anguish, and resentment that have been robbing your soul. Nor is this an “I forgive you” letter. That will come later. This letter is the place to remove the anger that has infected your soul.
2. GET WARMED UP
In Jesus’ situation, He made a whip for Himself. It is recommended you do not use a whip, but a padded baseball bat or tennis racket could be helpful. When I first did this exercise, I took a golf club and hit a paper picture of my perpetrator attached to a blanket that was draped over a stuffed ball and other blankets underneath. Begin with small hits. Then use medium, large, and extra-large hits. Do this three times. Warm up your voice as well. Shout “No!” each time you hit the pillow. Use small, medium, large, and extra-large “Nos” with your voice. This may feel awkward but removing this buildup of pain from your soul and spirit provides great relief. That is why it is important to be warmed up physically.
While warming up physically, make sure you are home alone. Disconnect or turn off the phone so that you are not disturbed.
***Note: Before doing this, if you have a heart condition or other medical condition that warrants talking to your medical doctor, please do so. Also, please do not substitute this exercise for professional Christian counseling. In fact, it is recommended that you are in counseling before doing this exercise.
3. READ YOUR LETTER ALOUD.
After your physical warm-up, take the letter you wrote to your offender and read it aloud to your imaginary offender. When I first did this, I taped a paper picture of my offender to a pillow and propped it up in a chair across from me. If your offender’s name is Toby, then you would read as follows: “Toby, how could you have done this to me? I trusted you!…” Of course, Toby is nowhere around. You certainly don’t need to do this with him or her around. You are simply in a room alone just reading the letter aloud.
4. ENGAGE YOUR ANGER PHYSICALLY AND VERBALLY
After reading your letter, pick up your bat. Hit the bed or pillow and symbolically let “Toby” have it. You can yell, scream, and cry, but release the emotional infection that has been robbing you. You can symbolically tell him that his secrets are not controlling you anymore. He was to blame! You have no limits as to what you can say to your offender. For once, let go of all the emotional control that is keeping this wound infected. Let it out!
This may last fifteen minutes to an hour. Your body will let you know when you have completely put this behind you – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Someone has given you something toxic, and you have been unhealthy ever since. After you remove it from you, you will feel so much better. You are worth getting it all out!
– When you do this cleansing exercise, only work on one offender at a time. If three different people have offended you, then you will need to complete three different sessions. Do not try to go through this exercise just once for all the different people who have offended you. Each “bullet” (wound) needs to be taken out separately.
– If several people have caused you trauma, make a list of them. Start with the least painful trauma and work your way up to the larger offenses. In this way, you will get better skilled at the exercise and will know what to expect.
– You may have different experiences and gain helpful insight as you work through your list. You may think offender number three was the worst, and yet an offender whom you considered less significant actually is a much larger venting experience for you.
– Remember you are cleansing your temple so that you can experience the best intimacy possible in your relationships. Carrying pain inside us causes us to protect ourselves from being hurt. Releasing the pain can cause us to be more open to trusting others again.
This next stage of healing is to be done after you have completed the cleansing the temple exercise. Wait about five days after you have finished the anger work of cleansing the temple concerning a particular offender. Five days or more after completing the anger work you will be feeling better. It is much like after you get over a cold, you feel that the junk in your lungs is gone, and you can breathe more clearly and easily.
With the forgiveness exercise you will approach the particular offender you did the anger work with in much the same way. Instead of contacting them if they are alive, you will role play with them. This exercise is most effective when you choose to forgive or release the debt your offender owes you. As with the anger work, do only one offender at a time.
Jesus taught, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15). Forgiveness is so important because it is connected to God’s forgiveness of us. I cannot enjoy fellowship or closeness with God the Father if I am not willing to forgive those who have hurt me. Being unforgiving connects us to our past hurts and makes it difficult to fully enjoy the blessings of our relationship with God and with other people in the present.
One of the ways we can know we have not forgiven someone is we keep rehearsing bitter and defensive thoughts toward those who have hurt us. We keep going “back to court” in our minds with all the things we wish we had said or want to say to them.  God invites us to release “from the heart” the hurt others have caused to us. Forgiveness requires the cancelling of a debt (cf. Matt. 18:21-35). Perhaps the person who has hurt us owes us an apology, justice, money, repentance, restoration, suffering, understanding, etc.  God wants us to cancel the debt they owe us.
This forgiveness exercise involves three steps.  Select one offender you’ve already done the anger work with and go through this process. Do this exercise while you are home alone. You will need two chairs.
1. ASSUME THE ROLE OF THE OFFENDER
Place the two chairs facing each other. Pick a chair and sit facing the other chair. We will call the chair in which you are sitting, “Chair A.”
While you are sitting in chair A, role-play your offender. You are now this person. As you role-play this individual, have him or her apologize and ask for forgiveness for all that they have done to you. They are hypothetically confessing to you in the other chair (chair B). If I were doing this exercise about my perpetrator, I would sit in chair A as I role-played my perpetrator. I would verbally own his sin, apologize and ask for forgiveness for the things I did and didn’t do to Jeff in chair B.
As I play my perpetrator, I might say, “Jeff, I need you to forgive me of…” Now since I am playing my perpetrator, I can say what he needs to say to me in order to own and apologize for his sin against my life.
2. ROLE-PLAY YOUR RESPONSE AS THE ONE OFFENDED
Now I have played my perpetrator as he asked forgiveness for several offenses against Jeff, who was symbolically sitting in chair B. Yet as the one offended, I heard by offender own his sin and ask forgiveness for it. Now I can start step two.
I begin by physically moving to sit in chair B, now role-playing myself.
After hearing my perpetrator ask for forgiveness, I now decide how I will respond. Above all be honest. If you are not ready to forgive your offender, tell him or her. You could say, “I’m just not ready to do this yet, but I will try again in a few weeks.”
Whatever you do when you play yourself, don’t be a phony or do what you think you should do. Do what is real and authentic.
If you are able to forgive your offender, then tell him or her. In our example, Jeff is now talking to his perpetrator in the opposite chair. In my exercise, I had a paper picture of my perpetrator’s face taped to chair A.
I could say, “___, I forgive you for …” I could really release him from his abuse and neglect of my soul and the impact his actions had on my life.
If you forgave your offender, you might consider praying a prayer of forgiveness with him or her. Your prayer might read like the following:
Father God, Your Word says that to be forgiven, I must forgive. And so I come to You in the name of Jesus, in obedience and love, and I bring ___ (Offender’s name), before You. I cancel his debt to me (apology, change of behavior, confession, repentance, humiliation, suffering, etc.). I choose to forgive the hurt against me, and I ask that You would not hold these sins against ___ on my account. I release ___ from any desire on my part to see him punished. In fact, as You have told me to do, I bless ___ in Your Son’s name, Jesus. You know ___’s desires, needs, and hurts. You know what would bless him. And so, I ask that You pour out Your love and healing to ___ and bring him Your highest good, because Your name is Good and Love, and You are not willing that any should perish. Now also, Father, please heal my heart and set me free to love ___ as You do. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.
If you are not yet ready to forgive your offender, work through the Hindrances to Forgiveness Exercise in Appendix 5 which is adapted from Michael Dye’s book The Genesis Process.  Get out your calendar and set up a date in about three to four weeks when you will try this forgiveness exercise again. Do this every month to measure your progress until you ready to forgive.
3. ROLE-PLAY THE OFFENDER’S RESPONSE TO FORGIVENESS
In our example, Jeff has forgiven his perpetrator. Now I physically get up and sit down in chair A again and play the role of my offender. Now it is his offender’s turn to respond to Jeff’s forgiveness.
Jeff’s perpetrator (role-played by Jeff) might say, “Thanks, Jeff, for forgiving me for…” When Jeff’s offender is done talking to Jeff the exercise is over.
1. Start in chair A as the offender asking for forgiveness.
2. Now sit in chair B as yourself, and honestly respond to your offender’s request for forgiveness.
3. If you have forgiven him or her, go back to chair A and play the offender responding to the forgiveness.
This can be a very emotional exercise for those with extremely abusive backgrounds, so have a box of tissues nearby. In addition, make sure the phone, doorbell, or anything else will not interrupt you. It will be important for you to stay focused.
Do this forgiveness exercise only after you have completed the Cleansing the Temple exercise. Many individuals attempt to forgive before they address their wounds and heal. Jesus cleansed the temple (Luke 19:45-46) before He issued the words, “Father forgive them” (Luke 23:34). Cleansing comes first, then forgiveness.
In both exercises, each offender gets his or her time in the chair with you. You must role-play each one and receive an individual apology from each. Don’t role-play more than one offender in a day.
Releasing debts your offender owes you will free you if you complete your Cleansing the Temple work first. I have personally experienced much freedom through these exercises as God met me where I was at. If my offenders were still alive, I have found much freedom to love them as God loves me.
Let’s pray together:
Lord Jesus, I invite you to help me process my woundedness and to apply these exercises to my life. Comfort me, Lord Jesus, and lead me to still waters where I can drink of the intimacy that You have for me. In Your name Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen. 
 Adapted from Doug Wiess, Intimacy: A 100-Day Guide To Lasting Relationships (Lake Mary, FL: Siloam Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group, 2003), pp. 53-61.
“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.
“No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” I John 4:12
When people go through severe trials, they may ask themselves, “How can a God of love permit me to go through such a horrible experience? I feel abandoned by God, not loved by Him.” Even Christians who have spent their lives loving and serving the Lord have felt this way when they are blindsided by a debilitating disease, a financial collapse, children who have rebelled against God and have no contact with them… you name it. 1
Several years ago, my wife and I felt called by God to start a new church on the south side of Des Moines, Iowa. We resigned from our current church outside of Des Moines to live in an apartment with our three daughters in a nearby town for fifteen months while we received training from the mother church of the church start. Near the end of the training, we bought a new home on the south side of Des Moines with the intent of living there the remainder of our lives if God permitted. At our grand opening in an elementary school, we had over 160 people attend, and several people professed faith in Christ. We were off and running! It was a dream come true.
Fast forward three years. The church had shrunk to about thirty people. We announced to our church family that we were going to resign from the ministry. My wife and I were burned out emotionally and spiritually. For the past year I had been crying out to God for additional Christian leaders to help us in the work of the ministry. When nothing happened, I felt abandoned by God. “Lord,“ I cried out to Him, “We left everything to serve You, and now we are having to step away from the ministry. Where are You in all of this? Don’t You love us anymore?” I knew intellectually that God loved us, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t experience it.
I share this with you because the apostle John is going to share some important truths that relate to that situation and any situation for that matter where Christians are prone to doubt God’s love for them. John emphasizes seeing God’s love through our relationships with His people (4:12-16). You may recall that in 4:7-11 John exhorted his readers to love one another the way Christ had sacrificially and selflessly loved them. Now he is going to talk about perfecting that love in our relationships with one another.
John writes, “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” (I John 4:12). You may wonder, “How can John say no one has seen God when the Bible speaks of people seeing God?”(e.g., Exod. 33:21-23; Isaiah 6:1-5; Rev. 1:10-18). Those encounters with God did not reveal the fullness of His glory or His unveiled divine essence. If people saw God’s unveiled glory or divine essence, they would not live (cf. Exod. 33:20).
This invisible God, Whom no one has seen, “abides” (menei) in believers who “love oneanother” (4:12b). 2 Loving one another is a condition for fellowship or closeness with God, not salvation. Jesus never said, “Whoever loves one another should not perish but have everlasting life.” He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b). Belief in Christ alone results in eternal life. Loving one another results in God abiding in fellowship with Christians and being Christ’s disciple (cf. John 13:34-35). The Lord is at home in the believer who shares God’s love with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Furthermore, when we “love one another,” God’s “love has been perfected in us” (4:12c). The Greek words translated “has been perfected” (teteleiōmenē estin)“are in a form (perfect tense) that suggests His love resulting in Christian love. God’s love achieves its goal and reaches its full measure in believers when that love is reproduced in them and reflected through them by loving one another.” 3
God’s (agapē) love is produced by God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). It is not something we can create on our own. It is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Gal. 5:21). The moment a person believes in Christ for His gift of eternal life, He receives the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39; Gal. 3:2; Ephes. 1:13-14) and can begin to enjoy and share this agapē love.
John reminds us, however, that God’s agapē love is not static. It can be “perfected” or reach completeness 4 in a believer which suggests a deeper and fuller experience of that love (4:12; cf. 4:17). 5 God’s love can mature or grow up. For this to happen, we must be in community with other Christians. 6
“We might parallel this to what James tells us about sin in James 1:14-15. He says sin begins as a temptation in the mind. Then when our own lust of our heart merges with the temptation in our mind, Sin is conceived in the womb of our soul. After a gestation period, baby Sin is born into the world of our actions. With exercise and food, baby Sin grows up. When Sin becomes a full-grown adult (mature), she produces death. The point is that for Sin to mature, it must be born into the world of action. With repetition it grows up to maturity.
“Divine love is the same way. It may begin with a good intention in the womb of our spirit, but at this point it is only an embryo of love. For this love to be fully developed, it must be born into the world of our deeds, our actions. Properly nurtured and exercised, love becomes a full-grown, mature, and attractive young woman. And the world takes a look.
“So, this kind of love needs external expression to become mature. That’s why Jesus said He gives His disciples a new commandment to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ That commandment is like a golden parrot hopping from branch to branch in this book, repeating itself over and over. Jesus says when we learn to love each other this way, then the whole world will know that we are His disciples (His fully-devoted followers). This is mature, perfect love.” 7
Even though a devastating trial can overwhelm a Christian and cause them to doubt God’s love for them, it is in the context of a community of believers who sacrificially and selflessly love one another that their confidence in God’s love for them can be restored (4:13-16). John writes, “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (I John 4:13). The words “By this” refer to the previous verse and means we can “know that we abide in Him, and He in us” when we love one another in Christian community. That is, we can know we are having close, intimate fellowship with God when we are loving one another.
When John states “because He has given us of His Spirit” (4:13b), this reminds us of his words in 3:24, “And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” The Greek construction translated “of His Spirit” (ek tou Pneumatos) in 4:13 is the same for the words translated “by the Spirit” (ek tou Pneumatos) in 3:24. This “suggests participation in the Spirit of God, literally, ‘He has given us out of His Spirit…’ When a believer loves, he is drawing that love from God’s Spirit (cf. Rom. 5:5), Who is also the Source of his confession of Christ (1 John 4:2). Thus, both the faith and the love enjoined in the dual ‘command’ of 3:23 are products of the Spirit’s operation in a believer. A believer’s Spirit-led obedience becomes the evidence that he is enjoying the mutual abiding relationship with God that John wrote about.” 8
John has just told us “if we love one another,” then the God Whom “no one has seen… abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” through “His Spirit” (4:12-13). As a result of this experience, John writes, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (I John 4:14). This is considered by some to be the most important verse in all of I John to understand. 9
The “we” in 4:14 does not refer only to the apostles as it did earlier in the epistle (1:1-5; 2:19; 3:14; 4:6). In all those places there was a contrasting “you” (1:2-4; 2:20; 3:13; 4:4; et al.). But in 4:7-14, there is no contrasting “you,” so the first-person plural (“we” or “us”) includes the apostles and the readers. 10
This is significant because in the first verses of the epistle, John said that he and the other apostles (“we”) have “seen” (heōrakamen), “looked upon” (etheasametha), and “handled” the “Word of Life” physically (1:1). They have “seen” (heōrakamen) and “bear witness” (martyroumen) to his readers about that “eternal life,” Jesus Christ (5:20), Who “was with the Father and was manifested to” them physically (1:2). John wrote of what they have “seen” (heōrakamen) so his readers “also may have fellowship with” the apostles and “with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3).
While John’s readers could not see and touch the physical Jesus as the apostles had, when they love one another, John could say have they “seen” (tetheametha)and “testify” (martyroumen) “that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (4:14). When we observe sacrificial and selfless love in the community of Christians, John seems to be saying that we can see the Father’s love which was a perfect love, a love that sent His only begotten Son into the world to save the world through His own sacrificial and selfless love on the cross. 11
“The Church has no more effective way to testify to the world about the Saviorhood of Jesus than by the re-display of the Savior’s love in the fellowship of His disciples.”12
Let’s summarize what John is saying: Although no one “has seen” (tetheatai) God (4:12), Christians who “abide” in Him (4:13) “have seen”(tetheametha)the Son spiritually as His life is manifested among loving Christians.Believers who observe this manifestation have in fact “seen” and can “testify” to the Saviorhood of Jesus (4:14). 13
By loving one another, John’s readers could enjoy fellowship with the apostles in what the apostles “have seen” (heōrakamen) which is exactly why John wrote his epistle (1:1-3a). This is equivalent to having fellowship “with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3b). 14
But John also desired that his readers not only have fellowship with him and the other apostles in what the apostles had “seen,” but also in what they had “heard” (akēkoamen) about Jesus Christ (1:1-3a). 15 John writes, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (I John 4:15). Once again John uses the word “confesses” (homologēsē) which means to “to speak the same,” “to agree, confess, acknowledge… in public.” 16 Confessing “that Jesus is the Son of God,” is also another condition for fellowship or intimacy with God (“God abides in him, and he in God”). When Jesus is confessed as “the Son of God,” He is also confessed as “Christ come in the flesh” (4:2) and as the One Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 11:25-27). 17
The wording of 4:14 (“we have seen and testify”) reflects the words of John the Baptist when he said of Jesus, “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). So, in the context of the Christian community, John is speaking of the visible manifestation of Christian love accompanied by the verbal confession of Jesus as the Son of God (4:12-15). Both these fundamental expressions among God’s people reproduce what the apostles themselves had “seen” in Jesus and what they had “heard” about Him from His forerunner, John the Baptist (cf. John 1:32-34). 18
Regarding John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:32-34, Yarbrough states: “God’s Spirit descended and ‘remained’ on Jesus, according to John the Baptist (1:32, 33). The Spirit was Jesus’s constant companion. To ‘remain’ or ‘abide’ in Jesus’s teaching is to be His true disciple (8:31). A disciple will be informed and steered by all that Jesus commanded and taught. God the Father ‘remained’ or ‘abode’ with Jesus during His earthly days (14:10). The Father was the source of the very words He spoke, and Jesus ‘remained’ continually in the Father’s love (15:10b. ‘Abiding’ describes a reality involving Father, Son, and Spirit.”19
When believers live in an atmosphere of mutual Christian love (4:12-15), they can say along with the apostle John, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16). The Greek words translated “have known” (egnōkamen) and “believed” (pepisteukamen) are in the perfect tense. Since these are stative verbs in the perfect tense, they refer to a state of intimate knowledge and total trust that God loves us (see comments on 2:3). 20 Since “God is love,” the Christian “who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
When Christians face painful circumstances, it can be easy for us to doubt God’s love for us. The apostle John says the best way to restore our confidence in God’s love for us is to see and hear His love expressed in a Christian community.
Let me return to my opening testimony. After the closure of the new church in south Des Moines, I was devastated. I doubted that God truly loved me. I felt like a total failure and that God would never use me again to advance His gospel. I had given up on God’s love for me and I assumed He had given up on me as well.
A few months after the church closed, God led my family and I to a church where we encountered His amazing love. The people welcomed us with open arms and came alongside us to help us see ourselves as God’s beloved children. The pastor there had been through a similar church planting experience, and he understood how we felt. He knew how to minister God’s love to us in practical ways that were meaningful to us. Instead of exhorting us with Scriptures, he listened to us and spent time with us. We also got plugged into a small group of believers who loved on us and accepted us as we were.
As we saw and heard the amazing love of Jesus Christ in this Christian community, gradually our confidence in God’s love for us was not only restored, but it was deepened and intensified. We were able to experience the kind of intimate fellowship with God that the apostles experienced.
I don’t know what you are facing right now, but I would guess that some of you are where I was at a few years ago. Perhaps you doubt God’s love for you because you or someone close to you has a debilitating disease or the loss of a job. Maybe after serving God sacrificially and selflessly for years, you were deeply hurt by an unloving Christian. As a result, God’s love seems very distant and invisible to you.
Whatever pain you are carrying, please know that God wants to reveal His love to you through His people. Just as we cannot see the wind, we can see its effects. We cannot see God, but we can see His love operating through Christians when they love one another. 21 His children are not perfect. But if they are enjoying intimate fellowship with the God of love, they will be able to share that love with you. And if you will let them do that, your knowledge and faith in God’s love for you will be restored and deepened.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for making Your sacrificial and selfless love visible to us through Your only begotten Son Whom You sent to die on a cross for all our sins. Such love may be difficult for us to believe when we encounter severe trials and disappointments in life. We may doubt Your love for us when we experience suffering and pain. But You never intended for us to face that pain and suffering alone. Thank You for providing an atmosphere of mutual Christian love in churches that abide in You and Your Holy Spirit. Use us to be a channel of Your love to those who doubt Your love for them. May each of our churches reflect the love of the Savior as we love one another. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Adapted from David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 212.
2. The phrase, “If we love one another” (ean agapōmen allēlous) is a third-class condition and refers to a general truth at the present time. SeeArchibald Thomas Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [with Bible and Strong’s Numbers Added!], 6 Volumes (E4 Group, 2014 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 207051.
3. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 600.
4. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 996.
5. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3973.
6. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 212.
8. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3974 to 3979.
9. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 99 cites Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), pg. 192; Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
10. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
11.Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 214.
12. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, pg. 99 cites Hodges, The Epistles of John, pg. 192.
13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3985 to 3990.
14. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
16. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 708.
17. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 600.
19. Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, pg. 100 cites Robert W. Yarbrough, 1—3 John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pg. 252.
20. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 216.
21. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2948.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
A gifted Christian counselor and speaker writes, “I work a lot with brave clients who are struggling with addiction. Even if you don’t deal with addiction all day, you probably know as well as I do that addiction is a cunning and baffling foe. Addiction is the one disease that tells you that you don’t have a disease. It lies and tells you everything is fine and ‘You’ve got this’ and you can go right on ahead and have that drink because ‘You can control it this time.’
“Yeah. You so don’t have this. You can’t control it.”1
Like an addiction, we have a disease called sin that lies to us and tells us everything is fine when it is not fine. Whether we are a non-Christian or Christian, we have the tendency to deceive ourselves. To tell ourselves we are okay when we are not okay.
Each of us has a dark side within us. “Even a religious cynic like Mark Twain said that every man is like the moon; he has a dark side that he doesn’t want anyone to see.”2
Everything we do is stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). You may counter, “But a mother nursing her baby is not sin. Nor is sharing the gospel with a neighbor.” While it is true that nursing a baby or sharing the gospel with a neighbor is not sinful, what these statements fail to address is the unknown sins that exist in the nursing mother and person who shares the gospel. Such statements overlook the fact that every person has the same sinful nature as the first man (Adam) who sinned (Romans 5:12-19; cf. 3:9-23). 3
Anderson explains, “Scientists have discovered that the worm does not enter the apple from the outside in, but from the inside out. It’s actually planted there by a huge insect, a little egg in the blossom of the apple. And then as the egg hatches, so to speak, the worm eats away at the apple from the inside out. Satan is like a giant insect. He planted an egg in the flower of humanity, way back there in the Garden of Eden. And it hatched, and the worm of sin has eaten all the way through the human race.”4
Hence, King David wrote, “In sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5b). He is not referring to being conceived out of wedlock. He is saying that from the time he was conceived, there was sin present. 5 Every human being is conceived with a sin nature.
In his first epistle, the apostle John announced the message he and the other apostolic eyewitnesses heard from the Lord Jesus “that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1:5). He then addressed two different responses from Christians to this message about God’s complete holiness. Some believers can claim to have fellowship or closeness with God while living in darkness or disobedience to Him (1:6a). Such a claim is a “lie” and failure to “practice the truth” about God’s holiness (1:6b). But the believer who walks “in the light as God is in the light” by being open and honest with God about whatever God reveals to him, is able to enjoy “fellowship” or closeness with God because of the all-sufficient cleansing blood of Jesus Christ (1:7). So, notice the contrast between deceit (1:6) and honesty (1:7) before God.
John anticipates that when a Christian is experiencing true fellowship with the Lord by being open and honest with Him (1:7), he or she may be tempted to think they are totally free from sin at least in that moment of fellowship with God. He writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8). Again, notice that the apostle John includes himself and the other apostles when he uses the word “we” in this verse. Even the apostles would be deceiving themselves by saying “we have no sin.” Denying that we have a sin nature is self-deception. The “truth” of God’s Word teaches us about our own sinfulness (Romans 3:23; 5:12-19). If we deny we have sin, God’s “truth is not in us” as a controlling factor. 6
Constable writes, “If a Christian claims to be enjoying fellowship with God, he may think that he is temporarily or permanently entirely sinless. Yet our sinfulness exceeds our consciousness of sinfulness. We have only a very limited appreciation of the extent to which we sin. We commit sins of thought as well as deed, sins of omission as well as commission, and sins that spring from our nature as well as from our actions. This verse warns against all forms of the heresy of perfectionism…God’s truth, as Scripture reveals it, does not have a full hold on us—it is not controlling our thinking—if we make this claim [‘I have no sin”]. ‘In us’ suggests not that we have the facts in our mental grasp, but that they have control over us. They are in us like alcohol is in the stomach, rather than like a penny is in a pocket. They influence how we behave.”7
No one in whom God’s truth is fully at home, can even say for one instant, “I have no sin.” To say such a thing would make oneself without need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. Christians are in constant need of Jesus’ blood to cleanse them because there is never a time during their lives on earth that they have no sin. Even if they are not conscious of any sin in their life, it would be a lie for them to say, “I have no sin.”
Some interpret the phrase “have no sin” (1:8) to refer to the sin nature or sin principle and conclude that was done away with at new birth. 8 They refer to Romans 6:6 where the apostle Paul says, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him,that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” They understand “our old man” is our sin nature or sin principle which refers to all that you were before you became a Christian.
The problem with this understanding is Paul continues to address the believer’s battle with sin in Romans 6-7 (cf. Galatians 5:15-26). For example, he writes, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” (Romans 6:12). If the sin nature or sin principle has been done away with at conversion, how can Paul command his Christian readers not to let sin reign in their mortal bodies? And if our sin nature or sin principle is gone, how can Paul write, “17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me… 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Romans 7:16, 20)? It is best to understand that all Christians still have sin to deal with after their new birth. 9
The Greek word translated “done away with” (katargeō) in Romans 6:6, means to “put out of business” or “deposed.”“The idea is that the body of sin no longer has any jurisdiction or legitimate authority over the new believer.”10
Some understand that when we become Christians through faith in Christ alone, we are no longer sinners, but saints. Those holding to this position argue that Satan wants to deceive us into thinking we have not changed at the core of our being at our conversion, so we are more vulnerable to temptation and sin after becoming Christians. While it is true that we become saints (set apart from our sin and guilt) in our position at the moment of conversion (cf. I Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Ephes. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; et al.), we are still sinners by nature.
Near the end of his life, the apostle Paul says of himself, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (I Timothy 1:15). While some would say Paul was referring to his pre-Christian experience in this verse, the present tense (“I am”) of this Greek verb (eimi) does not allow for it. 11 After decades of being a Christian, Paul still speaks of himself as a “sinner.”
Even Jesus’ half-brother James refers to his Christian brothers and sisters 12 as sinners when he writes, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8b).
There may be some of you reading this article who are thinking, “Compared to the terrorists who took down the Word Trade Centers, I have no sin at all.” Or “I am not as bad as him or her.” Both statements of comparison are forms of self-deceit and self-righteousness. God is not comparing our sin natures to the sin natures of other sinners. God compares our sin nature to His only perfect Son Who had no sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18) and He says we all “fall short of His glory” (Romans 3:23).
For example, Jesus never had a sinful thought, but you and I sin with our thoughts repeatedly throughout the day. Christ never said a sinful word, but you and I sin with our mouths when provoked in heavy traffic. Jesus never hated anyone, but we sometimes can’t stand to be around the people we live with. The bottom line is all of us have a sin nature except Jesus Christ.13
It would be wise for us to recall the words of G. K. Chesterson when a newspaper editorial asked, “What’s wrong with the world?” Chesterson replied in writing, “I am.”14
As we grow closer and closer to Jesus Christ (I John 1:1-4), the light of His absolute holiness will expose our lack of holiness (I John 1:5-8). Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul refers to himself as the chief of sinners near the end of his life (I Tim. 1:15). As he grew closer to Jesus, the more Christ’s light of holiness revealed the depths of Paul’s own sinfulness. During this life on earth, there will always be a dark side to our lives that we must face.
While walking in the light as God is in the light, we are exposed to God’s character and Word which by contrast makes us more aware of our own sinfulness (1:7-8). When this happens, John instructs us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). As mentioned previously, there are some who understand I John to contain tests to determine if one has eternal life. 15 They think this verse is saying we must confess our sins to go to heaven.
This understanding has several problems. First, it fails to realize John is talking about having fellowship with God and other believers (1:3-4), not salvation. Second, John includes himself and the other apostles with his use of the words “we” and “us” in this context (1:1-8). Surely, no one would conclude that the apostles were not saved at the time John wrote this epistle (cf. John 1:35-2:11). Third, confessing one’s sins to have eternal life is contrary to what John taught in his gospel which emphasized believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God to have eternal life (John 20:31). In fact, John uses the word “believe” ninety-nine times in his gospel, 16 but he never says one must confess his or her sins to have eternal life. God’s Word does not contradict Itself. So, I John 1:9 cannot be talking about how to receive eternal life.
First John 1:9 instructs Christians what to do to maintain or restore fellowship with God when they become aware of sin in their lives. We are to “confess” those sins to the Lord. The Greek word translated “confess” (homologeō) is a compound word that literally means “same” (homo) + “to speak” (logeō) or “to speak the same thing” or “to agree.” 17 But with whom are we to agree? In the context the answer is God (cf. 1:5-8). When God reveals unconfessed sin in our lives as we walk in the light, we are to confess or agree with His conclusions. So, when we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with His view of our sins. He hates our sins (Psalms 45:7). Our sins deeply hurt Him (Ephesians 4:30). 18
“We are admitting that what the light exposes is not just a mistake, a bad habit, or a mere product of our upbringing. It’s sin.”19
It is important to note that the word “our” in the phrases “confess our sins”and “forgive us our sins” (1:9), is not in the Greek text. The Greek text reads “confess the sins” (homologōmentas hamartias) and “forgive us the sins” (aphē hēmin tas hamartias). The definite article “the” (tas) in the phrase “forgive us the sins” is what grammarians call “the article of previous reference.” 20 What this means is when we honestly confess “the” specific sin or sins God’s light reveals in our lives, “the” specific sins we confess are forgiven.
This tells us that when we become aware of sin in our lives, it is this awareness that breaks our fellowship or closeness with God. So, if we confess the sins of which we are aware, then God is “faithful and just” to forgive those specific sins. The word “forgive” (aphiēmi) can mean to “cancel” a debt that is owed. 21 This is judicial or positional forgiveness whereby God cancels our sin debt to Him the moment we believe in Jesus for His complete forgiveness of all our sins so we can become His forever children (cf. Acts 10:43; Col. 2:13-14; John 1:12; 6:37). We are declared totally righteous before God in His courtroom at the moment of faith in Christ (Romans 3:21-4:5; 8:33). John is not talking about this kind of forgiveness in I John. In I John the apostle is talking about personal or fellowship forgiveness whereby the barrier that sin creates between a Christian and God is removed so his fellowship or closeness with God is restored. 22
An example of this can be found in Luke 17:3-4 whenJesus said to His disciples, “3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Two brothers (permanent relationship) are estranged because one brother has sinned against the other. The sin of that brother does not destroy their relationship, they are still brothers, but it does break their fellowship or closeness with one another. This fellowship cannot be restored until the sinning brother “repents” and comes to the offended brother and seeks his forgiveness (17:3). Jesus says the offended brother is to forgive the sinning brother even if he commits the same sin “seven times in a day.” Why? Because they are brothers and always will be. They have an eternal relationship through Christ. 23
This is one of the reasons our heavenly Father is “faithful” to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him because we have an eternal relationship with Him (John 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 17:3). There may be times when we think that going to God for forgiveness of the same sin with no victory in sight presumes upon His grace and mercy. We may ask ourselves, “How can the Lord forgive me over and over for the same sin?” The simple answer is God is “faithful.” His faithfulness is not based upon ours. He has promised to forgive us when we come to Him on His terms. His forgiveness for our fellowship or closeness with Him is based on His forgiveness for our relationship with Him. 24
For example, when parents decide to have children, they already know their children will commit sins. They are aware that their children will be imperfect. But this does not prevent the parents from choosing to have the children. And when the child is conceived, an eternal relationship begins. Nothing, including death, can change the fact that this child will always be the child of his or her parents. So, in a sense, since this relationship will last forever, the child has positional forgiveness for all his or her future sins. And based on this positional forgiveness, the parents are predisposed to fellowship-forgiveness whenever their child sins against them but also chooses to come back to them and seek their forgiveness. God gave us positional or relationship forgiveness when we became His forever children through belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). Based on that, He will always be “faithful” to grant us fellowship-forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9; cf. Matt. 6:12, 14-15) to restore our closeness to Him. 25
You may be thinking that this does not seem right to keep coming over and over again to God asking for forgiveness for the same sin. Isn’t that taking advantage of God’s grace and mercy? It seems contrary to God’s holiness. Oh, but it is right for God to forgive His children when they confess their sins to Him. 26 This forgiveness is not contrary to God’s holiness – He is “just” (I John 1:9). The word for “just” (dikaios) is the same word used as a title to Jesus Christ in I John 2:1 where it is translated “the Righteous One.” When Jesus finished paying the penalty of the sins of the world on the cross (John 19:30; I Cor. 15:3-6), He satisfied God’s holy demand to punish sin (I John 2:1-2). So, God is not compromising His holiness when He forgives the sinning Christian when he or she confesses their sin. This forgiveness is not based on our deservedness or performance. It is based on the atoning sacrifice of Christ. 27 Christ’s shed blood is sufficient for the sinning Christian (1:7; 2:1-2).
I am not suggesting that God takes sin lightly nor should we. God hates sin. He is grieved by our sins. The Lord wants His children to gain victory over that sin. But until a believer is open and honest with God about the sin God reveals to him or her, that believer will not be in fellowship with God. Nor will he or she have access to God’s power while living out of fellowship with the Lord.
There are some Christians who teach that a Christian does not need to confess his sins and ask forgiveness because a believer already has complete forgiveness of all his sins including his future sins (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14). But this conclusion confuses the believer’s positional forgiveness (Acts 10:43; Ephes. 1:7) with his fellowship forgiveness (I John 1:9). A Christian who does not see his need to seek his heavenly Father’s forgiveness when he disobeys the Lord will not be very sensitive to the multiple ways he grieves God. In addition, the Lord Jesus taught His believing disciples to seek forgiveness of their sins when He taught them how to pray each day (e.g., the expression “give us this day our daily bread” precedes the request “forgive us our debts” – Matt. 6:11-12). 28
We have talked about confessing the specific sins in our lives of which we are aware. But what about all the unknown sin in our lives? The last part of I John 1:9 explains that when we confess the specific sins of which we are aware, God is “faithful and just” to not only forgive those specific sins we confessed, but He will also “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This “all unrighteousness” refers to all the other sins in our lives that we are not aware of. It has been estimated that 90% of the decisions we make are unconscious in nature. 29 There are many sinful choices we all make of which we have no conscious knowledge. We all have far more sin in our lives that we do not know about. But God sees all our sins – the sins we consciously choose (“our sins”) and the sins we unconsciously choose (“all unrighteousness”). We do not need to agonize about the sins we are not conscious of because the shed blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us” from all of them when we confess the specific sins God’s light reveals to us (1:7, 9). Nothing in our lives is left uncleansed.
In conclusion, the apostle John’s primary concern in I John is a believer’s fellowship or intimacy with God. This is emphasized in the first chapter where the word “fellowship” occurs four times (1:3, 6-7). Present and known sin in the life of a Christian breaks his fellowship or closeness with God, but it does not jeopardize his eternal relationship with the Lord. God is described as a gracious and merciful heavenly Father Who wants to help His children grow in their relationship with Him. He wants to help His children get back up when they fall and hurt themselves. He does not wait for them to mess up so He can stomp on them or punish them. Instead, He comes along side of them to help them get back up so they can continue on the right path.
Anderson illustrates this with something extraordinary that happened at the 2,000 Sydney, Australia Olympic games. “The gun went off for the running of the 400-meter final. Not far into the first turn the runner from Great Britain pulled a hamstring muscle and immediately came to a halt, searing pain shooting up and down the back of his leg. Of course, the people watching in the stands felt his pain and expected him to limp dejectedly off the track. To their surprise he did not limp off the track. He had spent years preparing for that race. It was a dream come true to qualify to represent his country in the Olympic Games. He was not prepared to limp off the track. That wasn’t in his mind. That’s not how the script was written. So, he kept moving forward, limping along, staying in his lane so as not to be disqualified from a race he had no hope of winning.
“As he limped/skipped along, the grimace in his face turned to tears. The race had long since finished, but the fans were on their feet cheering, tears streaming down their faces. The other runners, who had finished the race, turned around to see what was happening. The stands were clapping, cheering, and crying all at the same time for they could see the determination in this Afro-Englishman to finish the race.
“Then there was a disturbance barreling its way through the stands and onto the track. It was a big, burley, Afro-Englishman fighting through the security guards, running toward the Olympic runner. He went up to this limping Olympian and put his arm around him. Suddenly, everyone knew what was happening. This was a loving father coming down to help his son off the track, saying, ‘Son, son, you don’t have to finish this race.’ His son said, ‘Dad, I’ve got to finish this race.’ So, his father responded, ‘Then, son, I’m going to finish it with you.’ So together, arm in arm, they went around the track and finished the race with the crowd cheering and stomping their feet.
“What a picture of the love of our heavenly Father for His wayward children and how He longs to come down from heavenly heights to pick us up when we stumble, to put His arm around us, to help us finish the race, even if we have to limp all the way home. All He asks is that we don’t lie or deny the reality of our pulled hamstrings. Limp if we must, but don’t leave the track. Stay in the race. Don’t try to hide your failure from Him. He’s there to help us home. And someday, after a particularly serious fall, you may look back and realize your most intimate moments with Him were when He was there to pick you up when you turned your face toward Him.” 30
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word which instructs us not to deny the sin Your light reveals to us, but to agree with Your point of view – that it is sin, and it is repulsive to You. All You ask is that we be honest with You about our sin. All of us can deceive ourselves into thinking we are not nearly as bad as Your Word points out to us. We can refer to our sin as a bad habit, a mistake, or weakness, when it is an abomination in Your sight. Knowing that You are faithful and just to forgive our sins the moment we confess them to You, invites us to be honest with You instead of hiding in the darkness of broken fellowship. Thank You, Lord God, for putting Your arm around us when we do fall and walking with us through the pain of our own sinful choices. There are still consequences to face, but we do not have to face them alone. For You are with us and You promise never to leave us or forsake us. Thank You heavenly Father for being faithful even when we are faithless. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Jenna Riemersma, Altogether You (Marietta, GA: Pivotal Press, 2020), pp. 42-43.
2. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 49.
3. Adapted from Ibid.
6. Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (David C. Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 3519 to 3523; cf. Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 589.
7. Tom Constable, Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 25.
8. Ibid., pg. cites Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, Word Biblical Commentary series (Waco: Word Books, 1984), pg. 29.
9. Adapted from Ibid., pp. 50-51.
10. Ibid., pg. 52.
11. Ibid., pg. 51 says “the grammar here will not allow for the ‘historical’ present because the “historical’ present is never used with the verb ‘to be,” citing Daniel B. Wallae, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), pg. 529.
12. Throughout the book of James the author refers to his readers as “brethren” (1:1, 16, 19; et al.), as those “brought …forth by the word of truth” (1:18), and as having “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1), all of which are terms or phrases used of genuine Christians.
13. Adam’s sin nature is passed down through the father. Since Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of a sinful human father (Matthew 1:18, 20), Christ’s human nature is perfect and without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18).
14. Anderson, pg. 52.
15. Anderson, pg. 15 cites cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91; Constable, pg. 46 cites James Montgomery Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979); Raymond Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible series(Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982); F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (London: Pickering & Inglis Ltd., 1970; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986); John Calvin, The First Epistle of John, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries series, Translated by T. H. L. Parker. Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-61); John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); John R. W. Stott, Basic Introduction to the New Testament, 1st American ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964); Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (1883. Reprint ed. England: Marcham Manor Press, 1966); and Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2 vols. (Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1989).
17. Constable, pg. 25; Anderson, pg. 53; Zane C. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 590.
18. Anderson, pg. 53.
19. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1719.
20. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3528.
21. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 156.
22. Anderson, pg. 54.
23. Ibid., pp. 54-55.
24. Ibid., pg. 55.
25. Adapted from Ibid.
27. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3532 to 3537.
“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.
This is the second video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible three transforming principles for overcoming failure.
All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from Goodsalt.com, Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing / FreeBibleimages.org, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, or they are creative common licenses.