“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.
“27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. 28 My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word. 29 Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” Psalm 119:27-29
The Lord has been teaching me a lot about shame the past few years. Having grown up with shame-based lies in America and having served as a missionary in a shame-based country for several years, this issue of shame has weighed heavily on my soul. In this devotion I will address shame in a Christian’s life.
It is important to understand that shame is not from God. When God made the first man and woman, they were naked and unashamed before the Lord and one another (Gen. 2:25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, God did not come to condemn them with shame, He came to cover their sin and shame (Gen. 3:9-21). For example, when Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (3:10). God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat” (3:11)? God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin. Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. I Peter 5:8).
Guilt says, “You did something wrong.”Shame says, “You are wrong.” Satan uses shame to condemn us and keep us from drawing near to God and one another.
In my devotions this morning, the Lord led me to revisit some verses I wrote about 3.5 years ago to help me overcome my battle with shame. The Psalmist writes, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works” (119:27). We need God to help us “understand” or discern the pattern (“way”) of His commands (“precepts”). Take time to invite God to help you understand how to apply His Word to your deep struggle with shame. The Lord wants us to focus (“meditate”) on the “wonderful works” He is doing deep inside of us rather than on our sin and shame. Shame tends to focus on behavior and external reformation. God’s grace and truth focus on the heart and inward transformation. Before God can change our behavior, He must change our hearts (cf. Mark 7:14-23).
As God leads me to deal more deeply with my shame, I discover that my “soul melts from heaviness” (119:28a). The word “melts” (dalaph) means “to drip or leak because cracks are not mended.” The idea is that our soul is broken and unable to retain what God gives us. Shame keeps us from believing the truth about God’s love and acceptance of us. As a result, our soul is broken and weighed down with the “heaviness” of sadness and shame. And a cycle of shame develops whereby we mess up, confess our sins, and then try harder, only to repeat the same sin because we continue to believe the shame-based lies that fuel our shame. And we stay bound to this cycle of shame. We cannot break this shame cycle until we deal with the wounds that the shame-based lies are attached to. It takes God’s Spirit to heal these wounds to our souls.
Few things are more unbearable than the heaviness of shame. It is a burden that God never intended for people to bear. Yet Satan will use shame to keep us from becoming the people God intended us to be. What is God’s remedy for this weight of shame in a Christian’s life?
“Strengthen me according to Your word” (119:28b). We do not have the strength to overcome this weight of shame on our own. Only God has the power necessary to win this battle. The word “strengthen” (qum) means “to arise or stand up.” In the context, this refers to God giving us the ability to arise from the depths of our sadness and shame by means of His “word.” The strength we need to overcome shame comes from the truth of God’s Word. If we do not make our home in God’s Word (cf. John 8:31-32), we will not win this battle with shame. No amount of determination, willpower, or “trying harder” will overcome the weight of shame. We must invite God’s Word to do that for us. How?
“Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously” (119:29). Shame is based on lies the enemy has attached to past wounds in our lives. Lies that say:
• “I am bad or unworthy.”
• “No one could love me as I am.”
• “I cannot depend on others to help me.”
• “I am defined by my sin and shame.”
We must ask the Lord to expose and remove the pattern (“way”) of lies that keep us enslaved to the weight of shame. And then ask Him to “grant me Your law graciously,” not harshly. The only verse of the Bible where Jesus specifically describes His heart reads, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:29). Jesus says His heart is “gentle and lowly” (humble), not harsh and proud. Our pride can lead us to deal harshly with ourselves and others. But Christ invites us to “learn from”Him how to deal gently and humbly with ourselves and others so we “will find rest for” our “souls” in our discipleship relationship with Him. So, ask the Lord Jesus to gently replace the shame-based lies in your soul with His liberating truth. Truths that say:
• “I am loved and cherished by God.” Psalm 27:10
• “I am totally loved by Jesus just as I am.” Romans 5:6, 8
• “I can depend on others to help me through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
• “I am defined by the Light and Love of Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:2, 8
I want to share a “Lies versus Truth” exercise that is adapted from Michael’s Dye, The Genesis Process: For Change Groups Books 1 and 2 Individual Workbook (Michael Dye/Double Eagle Industries, 2012), pp. 222 -228.
With your mentor or with a group of accountability partners, review some of the most common false beliefs or lies listed below and their corresponding truths. There are blank spaces at the end where you can write in the lies you believe and their corresponding truths that are not on the list. Say each lie to yourself and only focus on the ones that FEEL true. You will know if your heart believes it is true because it will feel true. Even if it doesn’t make sense, go with the feeling. Replacing the lies with the truth is how real healing takes place. The truth is a Person, Jesus Christ (John 1:14; 14:6), not a concept or a Book. Jesus can supernaturally speak truth into our limbic system (right brain where lies are inserted) in a way that no one else can because He is full of truth and is the truth (John 1:14; 14:6; Heb. 4:12-13). Faith in Jesus’ truth produces healing, and faith comes from hearing a personal word from God (Rom. 10:17).
For each lie your heart believes, say the lie to Jesus. Ask Jesus to tell you what is true. He may bring to your mind a Scripture with which to replace the lie. Meditate on that truth until the lie does not feel true anymore. Ask Jesus if there is anything else He wants to share with you. Say the lie again and see how true it feels. If it still feels true, you may need to meditate on the truth some more or even ask for help. Pray and ask the Lord to heal and seal off any wounds, demonic influences, and behaviors that the lie created. God may show you that you need to forgive the person who caused this lie to be attached to the wound he or she gave you.
1. God cannot be trusted
God cannot lie and is always faithful (2 Tim. 2:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18)
2. God is out of control with His anger
God is slow to anger and gracious (Ps. 145:8)
3. I am alone and unloved
I am cherished and loved by God the Father (Ps. 27:10)
4. God could never love me
God has always loved me (Jer. 31:3)
5. Nobody would love me as I am
God loves me just as I am (Rom. 5:6, 8)
6. I am bad because of what was done to me
I am precious to Jesus because of what was done to Him (Matt. 13:44-45; I Cor. 6:19-20)
7. I am unwanted
I am chosen by God (Ephes. 1:4)
8. God is against me
God is for me, not against me (Rom. 8:31-32)
9. Someone has or will condemn me
In Christ I am free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 34)
10. I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthy
No one and nothing can separate me from God’s love in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35, 37-39)
11. I do not have what it takes
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
12. I am defined by my sin and brokenness
I am defined by the light of Jesus Christ (Ephes. 5:8)
13. My past is a hitching post
My past is a guidepost (Ezek. 18:14, 17)
14. I am what I do or what others say about me
I am what God says about me (I John 3:1-2; 5:1)
15. I am a sinner because I sin
I am a saint (one declared righteous by God) who sins (Ephes. 1:1; I John 1:8, 10)
16. My behavior tells me what to believe about myself
My belief about myself determines my behavior (Prov. 23:7)
17. Whatever I do, it will never be good enough
In Christ, I am good enough (2 Cor. 5:21; Ephes. 1:6)
18. I must be perfect to be safe
I am hidden with Christ in God, forever safe and secure (Col. 3:3)
19. I am a disappointment
I am a delight to God (Ps. 17:8; Zeph. 3:17)
20. God won’t be there when I need Him
God is always available to help me (Ps. 121:1-4; Isa. 41:10, 13)
21. I should never be angry, anxious, depressed, or lonely
Anger, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are signals to draw close to God. (Ps. 4:4-5; 42:5; 72:21- 26; 2 Tim. 4:16-17)
22. Failure is the end of the world
Failure is an opportunity to learn (Ps. 37:23-24; Luke 22:31-34; Heb. 12:11)
23. No one understands me
Jesus understands me because He made me (Ps. 139) and walked in my shoes (Heb. 4:15)
24. I could never be forgiven
I am totally forgiven in Christ (Ephes. 1:7; Col. 2:13-14)
25. I am a loser
I am a winner seated next to Christ (Ephes. 1:20-21; 2:5-6)
26. I am a mistake
I am God’s masterpiece (Ephes. 2:10)
26. I cannot change
All things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26)
27. If I am not in control, something bad will happen
When I yield to Christ’s control, I can have peace (John 16:33; Phil. 4:6-7; cf. Isa. 26:3)
28. I cannot cope without alcohol/anxiety/chemicals/food/sex/ shopping
I can cope through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)
29. I need people’s affection and approval to be complete
I am complete in Christ, lacking nothing (Col. 2:10)
30. Christians cannot be trusted
I can learn to trust Christians who are safe (John 13:34-35; Gal 6:1-2)
31. I must be liked and loved by everyone
I am likeable and loveable, but not to everyone (Isa. 53:3; John 15:18-19)
32. Sex with a beautiful woman is the greatest sign I am loved
Christ’s dying in my place for all my sin is the greatest sign I am loved (Rom. 5:8; I John 4:9-10)
33. I am worthless
I am worth fighting for (Exod. 14:13-14; 2 Chron. 20:15, 17)
Prayer: Precious Father God, please give me the understanding and discernment to permit Your Word to speak to my deep struggle with shame. Help me focus on the wonderful work You are doing inside of me rather than on my failings and shortcomings. I confess that my soul melts from the heaviness of my sadness and shame. Please strengthen me as only You can with Your Word so I may arise out of this pit of shame. I pray Your Holy Spirit will expose and remove the shame-based lies that keep me bound to this cycle of shame and replace them graciously with Your liberating truths from Your Word so I may become the person You created me to be. Replace my false identity that is based upon shame-based lies with my new identity in Christ that is based upon Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
When the ascended Lord Jesus Christ addressed the fifth church in Asia Minor he offered eternal rewards to the faithful “few” in Sardis. “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” (Rev. 3:4). The all-knowing Judge knew of a “few names… in Sardis who” had “not defiled their garments” and “shall walk with”Christ “in white” because they are “worthy” or deserving. This cannot refer to salvation because no one deserves to be saved from hell. The Bible clearly says that salvation is a free gift apart from any works (John 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23b; 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9; Rev. 21:6; 22:17). Instead, walking with Christ in white is a privilege reserved for the faithful believer who is undefiled in his Christian life.
Then the Lord Jesus says, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before Hisangels.” (Rev. 3:5). The risen Lord Jesus promises to the “overcomer” who is “worthy” (3:4) to be honored, the following eternal rewards:
– “Clothed in white garments.” “White garments” are symbolic of one’s works (cf. 19:8) and are pure and free of defilement (cf. Rev. 7:9, 13; 19:14; Matt. 22:11-12). In the ancient world, white robes also connoted festivity and victory. Sardis boasted of her trade in woolen goods and dyed stuffs. Only the believers who remained faithful to Jesus Christ until the end of their lives on earth could enjoy His intimate fellowship in His coming Kingdom (“walk with Me”; cf. Rev. 7:14;22:14).
Bob Wilkin writes, “Would you not want to be identified as closely as possible with the Lord Jesus and glorify Him, even in your clothing? The quality of your eternal garments will be determined by what you do in this life. Once this life is over, it will be too late to influence your worthiness to walk with Christ in white.” (Robert Wilkin, The Road to Reward: A Biblical Theology of Eternal Rewards Second Edition [Grace Evangelical Society, 2014 Kindle Edition], pg. 46).
– An honored name that is supremely secure. When Jesus says He will “not blot out his name from the Book of Life,” Arminians teach that Jesus is saying a non-overcoming (unfaithful) believer will lose his salvation. (see J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ [Scottsdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1961], pp. 329-331). But this would contradict Jesus’ clear teachings in John’s writings elsewhere.
For example, Jesus taught, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35; cf. 6:38-40; 10:28-29). Christ guarantees that those who come to Him in faith “shall never hunger” or “thirst” for eternal life again because the need He met can never reoccur. The results of believing in Christ are permanent even if we are unfaithful to Christ (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13).
Christ also said, “38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:38-39). Jesus came down from heaven to do His Father’s will which was that all whom the Father had given Him should lose nothing, including their salvation. If Jesus failed to keep believers from losing their salvation, He would have failed to do His Father’s will. And that presents a moral dilemma. For if Jesus failed to do His Father’s will, then He would have sinned and could no longer be God. But Jesus Christ has never lost one believer and He never will because He is God (John 1:1; Titus 2:13) and He always does the will of His Father.
If a believer ever lost his or her salvation, Christ would have failed to keep this promise and many more (John 3:15-18; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-26; et al.). To properly understand Jesus’ words, “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (Rev. 3:5), it is important to answer an important question.
What is the Book of Life? There appear to be several “books” or records that God keeps in heaven (cf. Rev. 20:12). Since God is all-knowing, He does not need to record things in books. People keep books for later recollection, so the figure of a “book” is an example of contextualization: giving revelation in terms the recipients can easily understand.
There is the “Book of the Living,” namely, those who are presently alive on the earth, including the unsaved (Exod. 32:32-33; Deut. 29:20; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3). To have one’s name removed from this book refers to physical death. But the “Book of Life” in Revelation refers to all those who have believed in Jesus for everlasting life (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27; cf. Luke 10:20; Phil 4:3).
Since Jesus taught that eternal life can never be lost (John 3:15-18; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:35-40; 10:28-29; 11:25-26; et al.), it is best to understand Jesus’ words, “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” (3:5), as a figure of speech called a litotes (cf. 2:11) which is an understatement in which a positive affirmation is expressed by negating the opposite. If it is true that one who overcomes (i.e., remains faithful to Christ) will not have his name blotted out from the Book of Life, then what happens if one does not overcome or remain faithful to Christ? Would it not follow that he would have his name blotted out from the Book of Life? If this is truly a litotes, then the answer is, “No.”
For example, if we say, “Michael Jordan is not a bad basketball player,” we mean he is a very good basketball player. However, the reverse does not follow, “If you are not Michael Jordan, you are definitely not a good basketball player.”A litotes cannot be read in reverse (see Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings: Fourth Revised Edition [GraceTheology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition], pp. 684-688, 962-963).
Jesus is saying in Revelation 3:5, “If you remain undefiled to the end of your life, I will reward you with the opposite of having your name blotted out of the Book of Life. You will be given an honored name that is supremely secure.” Such an honored name will be forever cherished by Jesus throughout eternity, which leads to the third reward.
– A name that is publicly confessed or honored before God the Father and His angels. Christ said, “I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (3:5b; cf. Matt. 10:32-33; 25:21, 23; Luke 12:8; 19:17, 19). Only worthy or faithful believers will have their name publicly confessed or honored before God the Father and His angels. Having one’s name acknowledged is not the same as being declared saved. Rather, it refers to the public testimony by the Son of God to the faithful life of the obedient Christian. Conversely, not having one’s name acknowledged is to forfeit the Master’s “Well done” (cf. Matt. 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17, 19).
The Bible teaches that believers in Jesus during this church age will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven to receive rewards according to their works (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12) during the Tribulation period on earth. Believers who lived in disobedience and failed to grow spiritually, like the believers in Sardis, “will be saved, yet so as through fire” (ICor. 3:15). Although they have eternal life by believing in Jesus, they will suffer the loss of rewards and be denied the praise that Christ could have given them before His heavenly Father and the holy angels if they had been faithful to the Lord’s calling in their lives.
Imagine being on the new earth with King Jesus in the future (Rev. 21-22), and He publicly honors you by acknowledging your name before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity. If you are the kind of person who likes to receive approval, praise, and recognition before others, this acknowledgement or confession of your eternally honored name in the future by the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, will greatly motivate you to persevere in faithfulness to the risen Lord Jesus now, no matter what the cost. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He understands our hearts and what will motivate us to live faithfully for Him, even when people dishonor or forget our names on earth now.
Praise Jesus for offering us eternal rewards in the future that consist of dazzling eternal clothes and an eternally honored name which will be publicly praised by Him before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity to motivate us to remain faithful to Jesus now no matter what the cost. To hear Jesus’ praise in eternity is far greater than any praise we could ever receive on earth.
Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, only You are qualified to judge Your church. Thank You for warning us of the loss of reward and for giving us the remedy for our spiritually immature condition. Lord Jesus, we do not want to compromise our faith and waste our Christian lives by living selfishly. Please help us to stay spiritually alert and remember what we have been taught by godly teachers in the past. Thank You for offering us eternal rewards in the future that consist of dazzling eternal clothes and an eternally honored name which will be publicly praised by You before God the Father and His angels throughout eternity to motivate us to remain faithful to You now no matter what the cost. To hear Your praise, Lord Jesus, in eternity, is far greater than any praise we could ever receive on earth. May we hear and practice what Your Spirit says to us so You will receive maximum honor and glory in eternity. In Your mighty and most honorable name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.
I recently heard a pastor preach on James 2:14-26. He began his message saying that a pastor preached at the funeral of one of his relatives who professed faith in Christ but went on to live contrary to God’s will until the day he died. This pastor stated at the funeral that those who were Christians would see this man in heaven because of his faith in Jesus. In this message I heard recently, the pastor asked the question, “Is that true?”Will that man be in heaven who professed faith in Christ yet lived contrary to the will of God? The pastor stated his position up front and basically said, “No.” His reason? Because genuine saving faith always manifests itself through good works.
Here is a summary of his message on James 2:14-26:First, we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephes. 2:8-9), but that faith is never alone (James 2:14-26). Saving faith always produces good works (cf. Matt. 7:16-20; John 15:1-8; Ephes. 2:10). When comparing Romans 3:28 with James 2:24, this pastor stated that James 2:24 was referring to post-conversion good works whereas Romans 3:28 was talking about pre-conversion good works.
Second, if a person says he has saving faith but does not produce good works (James 2:14), he only has a head or intellectual faith like the demons (James 2:19), not a genuine saving faith like Abraham or Rahab (James 2:23-25). If you say you have the Spirit of God, you cannot live without good works. The presence of God’s Spirit will always produce good works.
Third, there is a sense that genuine saving faith is a part of justification and is accompanied by good works which will accomplish final vindication. According to his view, good works must be part of a believer’s final justification before God.
In the conclusion of his message, he asked, “What do we do with this?” First, we are to reflect on our own lives. If we say we have faith but show no good works, we are a fake Christian. We have deceived ourselves by saying we are a Christian when we are not. We are living a duplicitous life. The solution? Turn from your sin and trust Christ for your salvation.
Second, be more fervent in evangelism. People who think they are saved but living contrary to the will of God need to evaluate their lives to see if they are truly saved. We must take this message to them.
Third, we must see the intimate connection between faith and works. Why do we do good works? Are our good works driven by faith to please God? Or are we doing good works in our strength to impress others or ourselves?
As I listened to this message, it raised more questions than answered. Must my life be characterized by good works to be truly saved? If so, how many good works and what type of good works are enough to get to heaven? How long can I experience failure in my Christian life and still know I am saved? In other words, what sin is too bad, too much, and too long to keep me from going to heaven? What if I live a godly life all my Christian life but fail miserably on the day I die? Am I saved? These are questions that only God can answer. Those who give specific answers to these questions are trying to do something only God is qualified to do.
After hearing this sermon, I felt deep compassion for the people listening to this message and I thought to myself, how can anyone, including the pastor, possibly know for sure they will go to heaven when they die? If I am understanding him correctly, a professing believer cannot know for sure he is saved until the end of his life. If he or she has produced good works to the end of their lives, then according to this view of James 2:14-26, they are saved and will go to heaven. The pastor did concede, however, that it is possible to have a death-bed conversion and go to heaven without having produced good works beforehand.
After the church service was over, I did tell the pastor that his message presented the Reformed point of view as well as I had ever heard. He thanked me and I left it at that.
I am deeply compelled to take a closer look at James 2:14-26 to see if it is possible to know for sure one is going to heaven even if his or her life is not characterized by good works. This is a greatly debated passage among students of the Bible. Many Bible interpreters of these verses recognize the tension between faith and works. In fact, Martin Luther was so distraught over this passage that he wanted to take the book of James out of the Bible because he felt it contradicted the great truth that led to the Reformation – Paul’s justification by faith alone apart from works.
The three primary interpretations of James 2:14-26 are:
1. It refers to a person who was a believer but has lost his salvation. He used to have saving faith but does not have it any longer. This is the Arminian viewpoint. 
2. It refers to an unbeliever who professes to be a Christian but has never truly exercised saving faith in Christ. His faith is only intellectual assent to gospel truth or head faith, not saving or heart faith which always manifests itself through good works. This is the view of Calvinism or Reformed Theology. This was the position I heard in the recent sermon.
3. It refers to a genuine believer who is not living by faith. He is not behaving consistently with what he believes. He needs to keep his faith alive and energized by putting it to work. This is the Free Graceviewpoint.
How can Christians keep their faith alive and energized? James 2:14-26 gives us two ways to do this.
First, GET INVOLVED WITH OTHERS (James 2:14-19). When interpreting Scripture, it is always best to begin with what is clear to interpret the unclear. Let’s begin with what Jesus taught one must do to go to heaven or have eternal life. There is no better place to discover this than the gospel of John which was written primarily to tell non-Christians how to obtain eternal life (John 20:31). Throughout his gospel the apostle John uses the word “believe” (pisteuō) ninety-nine times in the Greek Majority Text  and its most basic meaning is “to consider or be persuaded something is true and therefore worthy of one’s trust” 
Repeatedly in John’s gospel, Jesus taught that one must believe in Him alone for eternal life: 
“Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:15
“Whoever believes in Him should perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life.” John 5:24
“Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life.” John 6:40
“He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” John 6:47
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
Jesus never said, “He who believes in Me and produces good works has everlasting life.” Christ always taught that faith alone in Him alone results in the present acquisition of everlasting life  (John 3:14-16; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-27; et al.). God’s Word will not contradict itself. We must let the clear always interpret the unclear. So, what is James talking about when he says that faith without works cannot save (James 2:14)?
In the context of James 2:14-26, James just finished talking about the dangers of showing favoritism to the rich and neglecting the poor (James 2:1-13). Such favoritism is an example of living contrary to the faith they professed. Were they really putting their faith into practice and applying their beliefs to their behavior? Their preferential treatment of some people raised this question in James’ mind. 
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). Some versions of this verse reflect the Reformed bias of the translators by inserting the qualifying words “that” or “such” so it reads “Can that faith save him?” (NASB) or “Can such faith save him?” (NIV) instead of the actual reading of the Greek text. By inserting the words “that” or “such” in front of “faith,” the translators are saying that there are different kinds of faith, true faith that would save him and “that” faith which would not save him. 
But in the Greek text there is no qualifying word (“that” or “such”) before the word “faith.”  When the definite article “the” (hē) precedes the abstract noun “faith” (pistis) it emphasizes the noun. 
“The Greek language often employed the definite article with abstract nouns (like faith, love, hope, etc.) where English cannot do so. In such cases the Greek article is left untranslated.”
It is important to observe that “in this very passage, the definite article also occurs with ‘faith’ in vv 17, 18, 20, 22, and 26. (In v 22, the reference is to Abraham’s faith!) In none of these places are the words ‘such’ or ‘that’ proposed as natural translations” by translators with a Reformed bias. This exposes their lack of consistency in translating the Greek text.
According to the Arminian position, “if someone says he has faith but does not have works,” he may never have been saved, or he may no longer be saved. The Reformed position says, “if someone says he has faith but does not have works,” he is not truly saved because saving faith always produces good works. The Free Grace position holds that “if someone says he has faith but does not have works” there are three possible reasons why he has no works. Instead of judging whether that person is a genuine Christian, evangelist Larry Moyer encourages the Christian worker to ask the following questions to help that person assess where they are at: 
Does the professing believer believe the simplicity of the Gospel? That is, do they believe that Christ paid the full penalty for their sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, so that God can now forgive them based on what He has done for them, not what they do for Him? A professing believer may not grow because they have not understood the gospel and believed in Christ alone for salvation and therefore do not have the Holy Spirit inside them to empower them to become more like Christ.
Have they been trained by a disciple of Christ since professing faith in Jesus?Too often the reason a new believer does not grow is not because of the use of the word “believe” in gospel presentations, but because the church has neglected to come alongside of new believers to teach them how to live the Christian life.
Has the professing believer believed in Christ and then fallen away from the Lord?The Bible makes it clear that believers can fall away from the Lord and live contrary to His will. Examples include King Saul (I Sam. 28:4-19), David (2 Sam. 11), King Solomon (I Kings 11:1-13), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), the Corinthian believers who were factious, immoral, and prone to drunkenness (I Cor. 3:1-6:20; 11:29-32), the Galatians who lapsed into the worst form of legalism (Gal. 1:6-9; 2:11-3:4; 4:16-5:4; 6:12-13), the Ephesians who engaged in Satanic arts for up to two years after their conversion (Acts 19:1-20), the readers of James who were arrogant, argumentative, slanderous and temperamental (James 2:1-13; 3:1-18; 5:1-6), and Demas (2 Tim. 4:10; cf. John 15:6; I Cor. 3:15; Heb. 6:4-8). The reasons a believer is not growing may be because of unconfessed sin (I John 1:7-10), disobedience to God’s commands (I John 2:3-6; 3:24), hatred toward other believers (I John 2:7-11; 3:10-15; 4:7-21), love for the world and the things of the world (I John 2:15-16), deception by false teachers concerning assurance of salvation and the identity of Christ (I John 2:18-27; 4:1-6; 5:6-13), misunderstanding his true identity in Christ (I John 3:1-9), not practicing righteousness which includes failure to love other Christians (I John 3:10-18), and not confessing that Jesus is the Son of God (I John 4:14-15).
Which is easier to do? To say a professing Christian with no works is not saved and evangelize him? Or to say a professing Christian with no works needs us to come alongside him and help him become a doer of God’s Word and not just be a hearer only (James 1:22)? It is much easier to try to evangelize professing Christians who do not go on to grow in the Christian life than to walk with them through the discipleship process. I believe the Arminian and Reformed positions promote judging those who struggle in the Christian life more than getting more involved in their lives to teach them to obey God’s Word.
Clearly, James makes works a condition for salvation as the question, “Can faith save him?” (James 2:14b) expects a negative answer in the Greek text. “Of course, faith without works cannot save him.” James says a faith without works cannot save you.
But the apostle Paul says a faith with works won’t save you. “Now to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephes. 2:8-9). Paul and James seem to contradict each other. James says you cannot be saved without works. Paul says you cannot be saved by faith with works.
The reason James and Paul differ with each other is because they are talking to two differentgroups. When Paul is talking to sinners about how to become a saint, he says it is by faith alone apart from works (Rom. 4:5-6). But notice who James is talking to – Christians or non-Christians?
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). Notice the phrase, “My brethren…” The word “brethren” (adelphoi) is a term that is always used of genuine Christians (cf. James 1:2, 9, 16, 19; 2:5, 14-15; 3:10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19). When you read the entire book of James, you quickly discover he is writing to believers who are “brought… forth by the word of truth” (1:18) and who “hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1). These people are brothers in Christ. They are saved from hell. So, when James talks to saints about how to experience the God Who has already saved them from hell, he says it by faith with works (James 2:14-26). If you want to know how to get to heaven, read Paul. If you want to know how to bring heaven to earth because you are already saved from hell, read James.
So, do works have any part in getting us to heaven? No. Faith in Christ alone is the only basis of eternal salvation from hell. Eternal salvation is a gift, not of works lest anyone should boast. No person can take credit for his salvation from hell because it is apart from works. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Rom. 11:6). If works are made a condition for getting to heaven, then eternal salvation can no longer be said to be attained by grace. So, James cannot be talking about eternal salvation by grace because God’s Word does not contradict itself.
So, what kind of salvation is being addressed in James 2:14?  Faith without works cannot save us from what? The word “save” (sozō) means “deliverance.” in the New Testament and it does NOT always refer to salvation from hell. In fact, 70% of the time the word “save” in the New Testament refers to deliverance from circumstances. For example, when Jesus’ disciples were about to drown in the midst of a storm at sea, they said to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matt. 8:25). They were referring to being saved from physical death. In I Timothy 2, when Paul was talking about the role of men and women in the church, he said, “Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” (1 Tim. 2:15). The context is talking about women being restricted from teaching or leading men in the local church. Hence, Paul is talking about women being saved from this restriction through childbearing, that is, she is able to teach and lead her children and be fulfilled doing so if her children continue in these godly virtues.
James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” Is James talking about being saved from eternal damnation? If so, then we would need to include anointing with oil and prayer as a condition for eternal salvation as James 5:14 suggests. Clearly James is referring to being delivered from physical death caused by the sickness.
What James is telling us is that faith without works will not save us from what he has already discussed in the book. First, faith without works won’t save us from A LIFE RUINED BY SIN. James 1:19-22 says, “19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James tells the saved how to save their souls from a life ruined by sin. They must be doers of the word and not merely hearers.
James warns his readers, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:15). If believers pursue sin long enough and hard enough, it will ruin their lives and the lives of those around them. So, the way to be saved from a life ruined by sin is to do what God says to do.
Secondly, faith without works will not save us from AN UNFAVORABLE JUDGMENT AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST. “12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13). The Bible tells us that all Christians will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ after they die or are raptured to have their Christian lives evaluated to determine what if any rewards they will receive (Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor.3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-11). If we are critical and merciless toward people now (James 2:1-11), then God will show less mercy to us when He judges our lives in the future (James 2:12-13). So, can faith alone save us? No, James says faith without works cannot save us from a life ruined by sin or from an unfavorable judgment in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
James then gives an illustration of this. “15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16). Just as words of assurance from some ungenerous believer cannot save his naked and starving Christian brother or sister from physical death, so too, faith without works cannot save our lives from the consequences of sin. Correct beliefs, such as Jesus is God, the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, or salvation is by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, cannot save us from a life ruined by sin any more than warm wishes will save a needy brother from physical death.
You can have accurate theology and be useless to God and others. There are Christians who have sound theology, but they are useless to God! They can dot their i’s and cross their t’s but they are not seeing their souls saved from the power of sin. They are not seeing their lives transformed by the grace of God. Why? Because their orthodoxy has not become orthopraxy. Because they are not putting their faith to work. Sometimes we say, “I’m waiting on God.” But could it be that God is waiting on you? If we want to keep our faith alive in these uncertain times, we must go beyond the well wishes and desires to help others and actively get involved with them.
For example, we can say, “I love people of all colors,” but if we are not actively getting involved with people from other cultures or ethnicities, we are not demonstrating the truth of our words. Our faith will not grow in this area if we are merely hearers and not doers.
Notice that James is talking about helping a needy Christian “brother” in these verses. He is not talking about giving handouts to some stranger who is begging for food or clothing. We are to give priority to believers first. This was especially true in James’s day when Christians were actively being persecuted by the Roman government. We need to balance this with other Scripture. Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”Second Thessalonians 3:10 says, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” Free food (or clothing or money, etc.) should not be given to those who can work but choose not to. To do so rewards laziness and irresponsibility. God wants us to get involved in needy peoples’ lives, starting with the church.
If you are feeling down, one of the best ways to get picked up is to focus on the needs of other people. Just talking about it isn’t going to benefit the needy people in your church or community. We must put our faith into action. The more you get involved with needy people, the stronger your faith will become in the Lord.
Look at what James says next, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17). Faith without works is a “dead” or useless faith that has lost its fervor or fire for Christ. Faith without works is unproductive just as idle words are useless to a brother or sister in need.
The word “dead” does not mean one’s faith was never alive. For example, when you see a “dead” animal on the roadside, does that mean that animal was never alive? Of course not. Likewise, when James says a genuine Christian’s faith is “dead,” he is not saying it has always been “dead.” It must have been alive first before it could become “dead.” When believers fail to put their faith to work, their faith will become “dead” or useless to God and others over time.
For example, if all we ever do is talk about reaching and teaching people for Christ, but we never act on it, then our faith becomes useless to others. Reaching and teaching people for Christ is what the United States of America needs more than anything right now during these troubling times. Until people obtain peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1), they are not going to have peace with themselves or other people regardless of the color of their skin (cf. Ephes. 2:8-18).
A dead faith means the believer has lost his fire or fervor for Christ. If I were to visit another church and upon leaving, I said to my wife, “This church is dead,” I’m not saying there are no born-again Christians there. I am saying that church is not on fire for Christ. Our faith won’t do anyone any good if we don’t exercise it.
What does a dead body and a dead faith have in common? Both are immobile and inactive. They also tend to decay and stink. If we fail to do good works, our faith will lose its vitality, it will weaken, and eventually decay and stink. Like a dead car battery, it is useless. It was once alive, but it has become dead or useless due to a lack of use. But the way to jump start a dead faith is to put it to work.
In James 2:18-19, James encounters a skeptic. This skeptic insists that there is no connection between faith and works to justify his carnal lifestyle (James 2:18-19). This skeptical person objects to James’s view of faith and works by saying it is absurd to see a close connection between faith and works. “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). In other words, this person says, “Let’s say you have faith and I have works. You can no more start with what you believe and show it to me in your works, than I can start with my works and show what it is that I believe.”
Then in James 2:19 the objector tries to illustrate that there is no connection between faith and works, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). The skeptic is saying that the demons believe in the oneness of God, the same way James does, who does good, but they only tremble instead of doing good. He is saying that faith cannot be made visible in works! Why would someone argue this way? Because his beliefs are not supported by his behavior. “Faith and good works are not related to each other so don’t criticize me if I don’t practice what I preach.”
Some use James 2:19 to say that believing in Christ is not enough to be saved from hell because the demons believe in God but are not saved because they have not submitted to God or obeyed Him. It is important to understand the following simple observations about James 2:19: 
1. THIS VERSE IS NOT ABOUT SALVATION FROM HELL BECAUSE JESUS DID NOT DIE FOR DEMONS, HE DIED FOR PEOPLE (Rom. 5:8; Heb. 2:16). Therefore, demons are not savable. Demons are unsaved because they willfully rebelled with Lucifer against God (Isa. 14:13-15; Ezek. 28:11-19) and are condemned to everlasting fire in hell prepared for the devil and his demons (Matt. 25:41; cf. Matt. 8:29; Jude 1:6). This is why demons “tremble” when they think about God. Their trembling has nothing to do with lacking insufficient faith. Jesus’ work on the cross did not save demons. His work on the cross destroyed the devil and his power (Heb. 2:14-15). Nowhere in the Bible does God offer demons eternal life because demons are not savable.
2. BELIEF THAT GOD IS ONE IS NOT SAVING. What makes faith saving is the object of faith, not the amount or duration of faith. Demons really do believe there is only one God which is monotheism. But believing that God is one does not get anyone to heaven. Therefore, this verse is not to be used evangelistically. There are many world religions (e.g., Islam and Judaism, etc.) that believe God is one, but you will not see them in heaven because they have missed the object of saving faith – believing in Jesus Christ alone, Who died for their sins and rose from the dead, to give them everlasting life (I Cor. 15:1-6; John 3:14-18; 6:47; 14:6 20:31; Acts 4:10-12; 16:31; Ephes. 2:8-9). What makes saving faith saving, is the object, not some special kind of faith. Not all facts about God are saving. Believing in Christ for eternal life is a saving fact. Believing that God is one is not a saving fact.
3. SINCE THE WORDS OF JAMES 2:19 BELONG TO A SKEPTIC, THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED TO PROVE SUCH AN IMPORTANT THEOLOGICAL POINT. Bing writes, “a quick survey of commentaries shows the difficulty of properly interpreting this verse in the context of James 2:16-20. At question is when James’ words end, and the objector’s words begin and end. If, as some argue, verse 19 is spoken by an objector to James, should it be used to prove a crucial theological point? Also, if it is from such a difficult passage to interpret, should it be used as a primary text to prove or disprove anyone’s salvation? Much clearer passages dismiss works as necessary for obtaining eternal salvation (e.g., Rom. 4:4-5; Ephes. 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-5).” Using this verse to dismiss the use of the word “believe” in gospel presentations misunderstands the author’s intended meaning and leads to misapplication.
The second way to keep your faith alive in uncertain times is to GIVE GOD YOUR OBEDIENCE (James 2:20-26). In James 2:20-25, James refutes the skeptic’s arguments by referring to two supreme examples of faith’s connection with works. The way to fire up a Christian’s faith is to PUT IT TO WORK like Rahab and Abraham put their faith to work and were justified before men (James 2:23-25). “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). James reaffirms that faith without works is dead or useless. The issue is that your faith is unproductive. The Lord is pleading with us in this passage to put our faith in gear and move out! Don’t sit back on the fact that you are saved forever and God’s never going to kick you out of His family, and therefore you become a lazy Christian.
He then states that Abraham was justified by works. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (James 2:21). It was well known to James and his readers that Abraham was justified before God by faith alone (Gen. 15:6) about thirty years before he offered up Isaac (Gen. 22). His justification before God was apart from works (Rom. 4). If Abraham had failed to obey God in offering up Isaac, would he have remained justified before the Lord? Yes, because justification before God is always based on faith alone, not good works whether before, during or after your conversion. “5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.” (Rom. 4:5-6).
James goes on to say in “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22). Abraham’s original justifying faith was strengthened and matured by his act of obedience in offering up Isaac. How? His faith grew from a conviction that God could overcome his inability to have children to the assurance that God could actually resurrect his son’s own body from physical death. Hebrews 11:17-19 says, “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”
James continues, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23). Abraham’s original justifying faith before God was “fulfilled” or “filled-full” of meaning as a result of this act of obedience. His obedience revealed his faith to men. The Scriptures were fulfilled in that Abraham showed his faith by his works. His obedience justified him before men in such a way as to show him to be righteous on a practical level. People could say Abraham was a “friend of God.” Friendship with God requires obedience. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14). Jesus was speaking to the believing disciples when He spoke these words in John 15. They were already saved from hell (cf. John 1:35-2:11; 6:69). This is why James 2:24 speaks of two kinds of justification.
“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24). The word “only” (monon) is an adverb and modifies the verb “justified” implied in the second clause.
“The key to this understanding is the Greek adverb ‘only’ (monon), which does not qualify (i.e., modify) the word faith, since the form would then have been monōs. As an adverb, however, it modifies the verb justified implied in the second clause. James is saying that a by-faith justification is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also a by-works justification. The former type is before God, the latter type is before men.”
Thus, it could be translated, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only (justified) by faith.” There is a justification by works and a justification by faith. Justification by works is before men. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” (Rom. 4:2). People can be justified by works, but not before God. Why? Because God can see faith without works. He knows life is there apart from our works. This is why justification before God is always by faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 4:5; cf. Gen. 15:6). But people cannot see faith apart from works. Hence, justification by works is before men, justification by faith is before God. James never speaks of justification by faith and works before God. He doesn’t say Abraham was justified by faith and works at the same time, nor does he say Rahab was.
“Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25). The story is clear. The Israelites were going to take Jericho. The Jewish spies came in to spy out the land. Rahab, “the harlot” – the prostitute, the hooker, the whore – the woman who lived a life of failure – hid them and then secretly sent them out so they could escape. Rahab’s physical life was saved because she had works. God saw Rahab’s faith when she “received the spies”(Heb. 11:31). But men could not see her faith until she acted on it by “sending them out another way” (James 2:25b). Rahab was truly a friend of God because she was their friend. While all of Jericho perished under God’s judgment, Rahab lived because her faith lived! So yes, faith can be shown to men from our works. Abraham did it and was called the friend of God. Rahab did it by sending the spies away safely.
We are called to act upon the faith that we have. We can know what is right. We can already be saved from hell. We can come to church two or three times a week. We can be on our way to heaven and yet not experience heaven as a part of history! Until we act upon the Word of God and start living it out, what does it profit? Faith without works will not profit a brother or sister in need of food or clothing nor will it profit the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26). James compares faith to the body and works to the spirit. When does a human body die? When it loses its spirit which keeps it alive. When does a Christian’s faith die? When he stops using it. Like a muscle, if you stop using it, it atrophies and withers away. You won’t experience the transforming power of God if you stop putting your faith to work! Just as the human spirit gives life to the body, good works give life to your faith (James 2:26). You can have correct belief and lots of Bible knowledge, but if you stop acting on that belief and knowledge, your faith will weaken and become a creedal corpse.
A little girl who really believed in prayer, had a brother who made a trap that caught little sparrows, and she prayed that it would fail. Suddenly, for three days her face was radiant when she prayed and her absolute faith in the futility of the trap was so noticeable that her mother asked, “Julia, how can you be so confident?” Julia smiled, “Because, dear Mama, I went out three days ago and kicked that trap to pieces.” She literally put her faith to work.
If we are going to keep our faith alive in these uncertain times, we must put it to work. Not by kicking traps, but by meeting the felt needs of the people God is calling us to reach – by introducing them to Christ and by discipling them and sending them out to do the same. We can decide today how we will live our lives in these chaotic times. Will you choose to keep your faith alive and vigorous by putting it to work in obedience to God? God wants our faith to thrive, not die. What about you?
In the message I recently heard, I understood the pastor to say that genuine saving faith is a part of justification and is accompanied by good works which will accomplish final vindication. I call this backloading the gospel. That is, one must manifest good works as a necessary proof of genuine salvation. This is also known as Calvinism or Reformed Theology.  Those who backload the gospel by requiring good works to stay saved represent Arminianism. There are other teachers who mistakenly frontload the gospel by requiring good works to go to heaven (Roman Catholic & Traditional Protestantism). Whether you frontload or backload the gospel with good works, you are still teaching you MUST HAVE GOOD WORKS to ultimately go to heaven. Consider these options in this chart which are taught today:
Faith in Jesus Christ + good works = maybe heaven
Faith in Jesus Christ = maybe heaven if you maintain good works, confess your sins, remain faithful, etc.
Faith in Jesus Christ = salvation + good works to ultimately arrive in heaven
Romanism & Traditional Protestantism
Each of these scenarios requires good works to ultimately arrive at heaven. This is NOT GRACE. “But if it is of works, it is no longer grace.” (Rom. 11:6). Good works are not the means of obtaining or maintaining salvation from hell but are designed to be the result of receiving God’s free gift of salvation (Ephes. 2:8-10). When good works are required to enter heaven, how will you ever know when you have done enough?
Faith in Christ alone will still take us to heaven (John 6:47) even if it does not produce good works through a life of obedience. But faith without works will not save us from the damaging effects of sin now (James 1:15, 19-22) and an unfavorable experience at the Judgment Seat of Christ in the future (James 2:12-13). When we do the Word of God and not just hear it, people are able to see what we believe and benefit from our actions (2:14-20). James illustrates this principle with the lives of Abraham and Rahab (James 2:21-25). Both were justified before God through faith alone, but both were also justified before men through a faith that was made visible through good works. When we put our faith into action through obedience to God’s Word, our faith is energized and we develop a closer relationship with Christ (James 2:26; cf. John 14:21; 15:14) that other people can see and benefit from.
I pray the church would return to the true gospel which says faith alone in Christ alone gets us to heaven (John 3:15-18; Ephes. 2:8-9). But bringing heaven to earth is through the discipleship (sanctification) process and it is based upon faith plus works (Matt. 28:18-20; James 2:14-26).
Failure to distinguish salvation from discipleship (see chart below) has caused much confusion among Christians and non-Christians.
When Christians use discipleship conditions to tell a non-Christian how to get to heaven, they are making it more difficult for that unsaved person to be saved since they are missing the object of saving faith – believing in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of eternal life. They also undermine the assurance of salvation among Christians because it is impossible for them to know if they have done enough to know for certain they will go to heaven. God does not want His children doubting they are saved because they will live by fear instead of by faith (I John 5:13; cf. 2 Cor. 5:6-8). May all Christians repent or change their minds and submit to the Lordship of Christ by proclaiming the object of saving faith to a lost world – believing in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life. And after a person believes in Jesus alone for eternal life, may Christians disciple or train that new believer to follow Jesus as His disciple all the days of his or her life (cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-27, 57-62; 14:25-33; John 8:30-32; 13:34-35; 15:1-8) so they may glorify God now (Matt. 5:16) and throughout eternity with the eternal rewards they will receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I Cor. 3:8-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; Rev. 4:9-11).
Prayer: Precious Lord, this message really cuts deep into my apathetic heart. My knowledge of the truth can grow greatly, but if I do not put it into practice, my faith becomes dead or useless to You and to others. No wonder I have lost my fervor for You Lord Jesus. My head is swollen with Bible knowledge, but my heart is cold because I have not applied what I already know to be true. Thank You for exposing the judgmentalism of my heart. I have avoided my own responsibility of putting my faith to work by focusing on the shortcomings of others who profess faith in Jesus without any accompanying good works. Only You can determine if a person is truly saved from hell because only You can see a person’s faith in Christ apart from any works. This world would be a much better place if all Christians would put what they know into practice. Lord, I want to be a part of the solution to the world’s problems by putting my faith to work. It is so easy for me to sit back and criticize others for doing very little while I, too, talk about faith more than I live it out. Forgive me, Lord, for being preoccupied with myself and what I know to be true instead of putting it into practice. Please show me whom You want me to get involved with so they can benefit from my relationship with You and come to know You as their Savior. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
 Proponents of this view are James Arminius, The Works of James Arminius: The London Edition 3 Vol., (Baker Books, 1986); William J. Abraham, Wesley for Armchair Theologians (Louisville, KY: Westminister John Knox Press, 2005); Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation edited by Clark H. Pinnock and John D. Wagner (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2015); Kenneth J. Collins, The Scripture Way of Salvation: The Heart of John Wesley’s Theology (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1997); Kenneth J. Collins, The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007); F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism (Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications, 2011).
 Proponents include Donald W. Burdick, “James,” in Hebrews-Revelation Vol. 12 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981); John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent: with the Antidote, 6th Session, can.11; Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982); Buist M. Fanning, “A Theology of James,” in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament Edited by Roy B. Zuck (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), pp. 417-35; John F. MacArthur, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), pp. 139-155; John F. MacArthur, Hard to Believe: The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus (Nashvile: Thomas Nelson, 2003), pg. 93; Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James,The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000); Joseph K. Pak, “A Study of Selected Passages on Distinguishing Marks of Genuine and False Believers,” PhD diss., (Dallas Theological Seminary, 2001); John Piper, “Battling the Unbelief of Bitterness (1988, Sermon 658),” http://www.desiringgod.org/resourceLibrary; John Piper, Beyond the Gold (Desiring God Radio, May 14, 2006); John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007); Paul A. Rainbow, The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2005); Alan P. Stanley, Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? The Role of Works in Salvation in the Synoptic Gospels (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publishers, 2006).
 Proponents include Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pp. 401-430; Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2867 – 2890; John F. Hart, “How to Energize Our Faith: Reconsidering the Meaning of James 2:14-26,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 12, no. 1 (Spring 1999); Zane C. Hodges, Dead Faith: What Is It? (Dallas, Redencion Viva, 1987); Zane C. Hodges, “James,” The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition Edited by Robert N. Wilkin (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 541-562; R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979); R. T. Kendall, Once Saved, Always Saved,Reprint (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2004 ed., London: Hodder and Straughton, 1984); John Niemela, “Faith Without Works: A Definition 1,” Chafer Theological Seminary Journal 6, no. 2 (April 2000); Robert Wilkin, “Another View of Faith and Works in James 2,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 15, no. 2 (Fall 2002).
 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 816-817.
 Scripture quotations in this article will be from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
 In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”Jesus came so that those who believe in Him may have eternal “life” as a free gift and experience it more “abundantly” both now and in eternity. When eternal life is addressed as a present possession it is always received as a free gift by believing in Jesus alone (John 3:15-16, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 11:25-26; cf. I Tim. 1:16; I John 5:13). But when eternal life is referred to as a future acquisition it refers to an eternal reward (a more abundant experience of that life both now and in eternity) that is based on obedience to Christ’s Word and sacrificial living for Him (John 12:24-26; cf. Matt. 19:28-29; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30; Gal. 6:7-9; I Tim. 6:12, 19).
 Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on James, pg. 49.
 R. Larry Moyer, You Can Tell It! Seminar On Personal Evangelism Instructor Manual, EvanTell, Inc., 2003, 46-47; Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pp. 108-113.
 The Greek word translated “brought forth” (apokueō) is the same word used in James 1:15, “And sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth [apokueō] death.” “Sin, James is saying, ‘gives birth’ to death, but God ‘gives birth’ to believers!” (Hodges, “James,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 544.)
 The Bible refers to three types of salvation (see diagram below): Past salvation refers to being saved from the penalty of sin the moment a person believes in Christ (Acts 16:31; John 3:16-17; Rom. 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9) and is called justification. Present salvation involves being saved from the power of sin in the Christian life (Mark 8:34-38; Phil. 1:19-20; 2:12-13; James 1:21-22; 2:14-26) and is called sanctification. Future salvation is when we will be saved from the presence of sin (Rom. 8:18-23; Heb. 1:14; 2:3-5; 9:28; I Pet. 1:5; I John 3:2) and is called glorification. Always pay attention to the context to determine the tense of salvation.
 Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pp. 982-983.
 Adapted from Charlie Bing, “Demon Faith and the Misuse of James 2:19,” GraceNotes – no. 47 at gracelife.org.
“4:21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 5:1a Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” I John 4:21-5:1a
When I was conducting discipleship training seminars in the Philippines, I would sometimes be asked by participants, “What if a person professes faith in Christ but does not go on to grow spiritually or produce fruit in their Christian life, are they truly saved?” This question assumes that a genuine Christian will grow spiritually or produce good works, and if he or she does not, then they are not saved. This kind of thinking is common among those who believe the book of I John was written to provide tests to see if you are genuinely saved and going to heaven when you die. 1 Those who hold this position would say if a professing Christian does not love his Christian brother, then he or she is not truly saved.
When I was asked this kind of question, I would encourage our seminar participants not to judge the professing Christian who doesn’t go on to grow in the Christian life. Instead, I encouraged them to ask the professing Christian three questions to help that person discern their own spiritual condition.2
Does the professing believer believe the simplicity of the gospel?That is, do they believe that Christ paid the full penalty for their sins when He died on the cross and rose from the dead, so that God can now forgive them based on what He has done for them, not what they do for Him? A professing believer may not grow because they have not understood the gospel and believed in Christ alone for salvation and therefore do not have the Holy Spirit inside them to empower them to become more like Christ. If they do not understand the gospel, it is essential that we share the clear gospel of Christ with them so they may believe in Christ alone who died for their sin and rose from the dead to receive His gift of eternal life and the Holy Spirit to help them begin growing in the Christian life (cf. John 3:14-16; 7:37-39; I Cor. 15:3-6).
Have they been trained by a disciple of Christ since professing faith in Jesus?Too often the reason a new believer does not grow is because the church has neglected to come alongside of them to teach them how to live the Christian life. It is much easier to say a struggling new believer is not saved and evangelize him or her than it is to get more involved in their lives and disciple them. Also, it is unrealistic to expect new believers to be where we are at in a few weeks when it has taken us several years to grow to where we are at now.
Has the professing believer believed in Christ and then fallen away from the Lord? The Bible makes it clear that believers can fall away from the Lord and live contrary to His will. Examples include King Saul (I Samuel 28:4-19), King David (2 Samuel 11), King Solomon (I Kings 11:1-13), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), the Corinthian believers who were factious, immoral, and prone to drunkenness (I Corinthians 3:1-6:20; 11:29-32), the Galatians who lapsed into the worst form of legalism (Galatians 1:6-9; 2:11-3:4; 4:16-5:4; 6:12-13), the Ephesians who engaged in Satanic arts for up to two years after their conversion (Acts 19:1-20), the readers of James who were arrogant, argumentative, slanderous and temperamental (James 2:1-13; 3:1-18; 5:1-6), and Demas (2 Timothy 4:10; cf. John 15:6; I Corinthians 3:15; Hebrews 6:4-8).
It is important to warn the Christian who has fallen away from God of the painful discipline of God now (cf. John 15:6; Heb. 6:7-8; 10:26-31; 12:5-11, 28-29) and the painful loss of eternal rewards in the future at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matt. 8:12; 22:11-13; 24:48-51; 25:24-30; Luke 19:20-26; Rom. 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:8-15; 4:5; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; I John 2:28; 2 John 1:8; et al. ).
Asking these three questions will help you discern what the professing believer needs. Don’t just assume they are unsaved because they are not manifesting enough fruit. Meet them where they are at so you can more effectively impact their lives.
The book of I John informs us that the reason a believer is not growing is because he or she is out of fellowship with God (1:1-4ff). This may include having unconfessed sin (I John 1:7-10), disobedience to God’s commands (I John 2:3-6; 3:24), hatred toward other believers (I John 2:7-11; 3:10-15; 4:7-21), love for the world and the things of the world (I John 2:15-16), deception by false teachers concerning assurance of salvation and the identity of Christ (I John 2:18-27; 4:1-6; 5:6-13), misunderstanding one’s true identity in Christ (I John 3:1-9), not practicing righteousness which includes failure to love other Christians (I John 3:10-18), and not confessing that Jesus is the Son of God (I John 4:14-15).
In our study of I John, we finished the body of the epistle (2:28-4:19) which ended with the words, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (4:19).3 The way we make our love for God visible is by loving other Christians (I John 4:12-16). Some Christians may read 4:19 and say, “It is easy for me to love God because He does not have any faults or imperfections. But loving my Christian brother or sister is another story because I have seen them up close and they are full of faults.” 4
John responds to this type of thinking when he writes, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (I John 4:20). John reminds his readers (including us) that a Christian cannot claim to “love God” and at the same time he “hates his brother.” Such a claim is false (“he is a liar”). However, it is understandable for a believer to think it is easier to “love God whom he has not seen” than to “love his” Christian “brother whom he has seen,” especially when he does not like what he sees in a fellow Christian.
“If I can see a physical being and am not willing to meet his physical needs, how can I possibly love a spiritual being whose needs I cannot see? That’s his reasoning. God’s commands draw our love for God and our brothers together. If we don’t keep His commands, we don’t love Him. And He commands us to love other believers. So, if we don’t love other believers, we don’t love God. Thus, to claim to love God when I don’t love my brother/sister makes me a liar.”5
It is important to know that our love for God is not measured by what we say (“I loveGod”), but by what we do 6 (“let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” – 3:18). Nor is Christian love an emotion.
“The word for love throughout John is agapē, a word found only once in all of secular Greek, that is, Greek outside the Bible. And the amount of non-biblical Greek literature we have must be a thousand times more than the amount of Greek we have in the Bible, but this word agapē occurs in that literature only once. That should be a clue to us that this kind of love is only from God. And the issue here is not whether we feel warm and fuzzy toward God, but cold and callous toward our Christian brother/sister. The issue is action.” 7
John has made it clear that loving God involves obeying His commandments, especially the command to love one another (I John 2:3-11; 3:16-24; 4:7-21; cf. John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10-14). If a believer does not obey God’s commands, He does not love God no matter what he says or feels. Hence, a Christian who says, “I love God,” but does not obey God’s command to love his Christian brother, “is a liar” (4:20).8
In addition, God commands us to love both Himself and our fellow Christian brothers and sisters: “And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (I John 4:21). Notice the word “commandment” is singular and includes loving God and one’s Christian “brother” or sister. We cannot claim to love our invisible God if we do not love our fellow believer standing in front of us (4:20). We must not deceive ourselves. God’s commandment has interwoven loving Him and loving His children (4:21). We cannot disconnect them. 9
Imagine someone telling you that he or she loved your head, but they hated your body. How would you feel? It would be hurtful, would it not!?! The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ “is the head of the body, the church…” (Col. 1:18; cf. Col. 1:24; Ephes. 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23, 30). Christ is our head, and His church is His body. How would Jesus feel if we said we love Him, but we detest His body? This would deeply hurt our Lord. When we are unloving toward other Christians, we are unloving toward our head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John anticipated his readers (including you and me) asking, “Who then is my Christian brother or sister?” John writes, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (I John 5:1a). John defines a Christian brother or sister as “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ.” The word “whoever” includes everyone with no exceptions. When the apostle uses the word “whoever,” he is inviting every person to become a Christian regardless of their country, culture, color, good works, lifestyle, or obedience. This includes the worst of people and best of people and everyone in between.
What does John invite every person to do to become a Christian? BELIEVE. In fact, the words God uses most in evangelism in the New Testament are the words “believe” 10and “faith.” 11 Often times, however, Christians substitute other words or clichés to communicate the most important message given to humanity. Instead of using the words God uses most, they tell a non-Christian to accept Christ, be baptized, turn from your sins or be sorry for your sins, confess your sins, pray the sinner’s prayer, give your life or your heart to Jesus, ask Jesus into your heart, confess Jesus is Lord, follow or obey Jesus, commit your life to Christ, submit to Jesus as your Lord and Master, or surrender your life to Christ.
I am not suggesting that no one has been born again when these clichés are included in a gospel presentation. In fact, there have been times in my own life when I have used some of these phrases. I like what evangelist Larry Moyer has said, “God can still use a crooked arrow to hit a target.” God can still use our unclear gospel presentations to help people come to Christ. But why use an unclear phrase or cliché which will do more to confuse a lost person than clarify what he must do to obtain eternal life? Would it not be better to use the clearest presentation possible so that the unsaved person has the best opportunity to respond to the gospel the way God wants him to respond?
The word translated “believes” (pisteuōn) in I John 5:1 means to be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ and is therefore worthy of your trust. 12 To believe “Jesus is the Christ” is to believe that He is the promised Messiah-God (“Christ”) Who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to all who believe in Him (cf. John 11:25-27). The one who believes Jesus is the Christ “is born of God.” The phrase “born of God” refers to new birth.
Some theologians or Bible students will respond, “Oh, yes, there needs to be a confession of faith in Christ, but the person also needs to manifest fruit or good works or his or her profession of faith is false. A good root produces good fruit.“
There is a problem with this response which I will now illustrate. I live in the Midwest where deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall. Our state’s tree is the oak tree. During the winter, you could not tell if an oak tree was dead or alive simply by looking at its outward appearance. No one could tell if an oak tree is dead or alive in the middle of winter here … except God. Since God knows everything, He can see the root when all we can see is the fruit. Just because there is no fruit for a period of time does not prove there is no root. 13
Since God can see faith alone with no accompanying outward manifestation, he only requires faith alone in Christ alone to be justified before Him (Rom. 4:5; Gal. 2:16) or have eternal life (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; et al.). But for people to see another person’s faith, it must be accompanied by works. This is why the Bible distinguishes justification before God (faith alone – Rom. 4:5; Ephes. 2:8-9) from justification before man (faith plus works – James 2:14-26). Justification before God is necessary to get to heaven. Justification before people is necessary to bring heaven down to earth (i.e., discipleship or spiritual growth).
Since Christians are not all-knowing like God, we are to take a person’s confession of faith in Christ as true. This is what Jesus did in John 11. After Jesus claimed to be the resurrection and the life, and He guaranteed a physical resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him (John 11:25-26a), He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b). Christ is seeking a confession from her. He is not asking her to change her life or produce good works. Martha replies, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27). Neither she nor Jesus analyzes her faith to distinguish head faith from heart faith. Martha confidently affirms that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” What Martha believes about Jesus is exactly what John says in His purpose statement is all that a person must believe to have everlasting life (John 20:31). She knows she has believed in Christ, the Son of God, and therefore she is certain she has eternal life.
Does Jesus correct Martha’s response? Does He caution her to wait and see if her faith is real (as so many do today) through the manifestation of good works or fruit first before making such a confession? Does He ask her if she believes in her “heart” and not merely in her “head”? He does not because as long as any sinner comes to believe that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life,” that is, “the Christ, the Son of God,” he or she knows they have everlasting life.
John then writes, “And everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.” (I John 5:1b). The apostle is telling us that our love for God’s children is not based on their lifestyle or performance. It has nothing to do with their worthiness or deservedness. Our love for God’s children is based on our love for the Father of these children.
“If we love the ‘Begetter,’ we should love the ‘begotten.’ If we love the Father, we should love His children. No love for the children? Then, no love for the Father.”14
As I read David Anderson’s commentary recently on I John, I was reminded of people who prayed for our family while all of us were living overseas in the Philippines. Even though some of these prayer partners had never met our children, they still cared enough and loved them enough to ask how they were doing and how they could pray for them. The reason they cared enough to pray for our children and ask about them was because for some unknown reason they loved their father. My children were an extension of me. It did not matter how well my kids behaved or how deserving they were. These prayer warriors simply loved my children because they loved their father. To love the father is to love his children. 15
This is what the apostle John is saying in I John 5:1b. We are to love God’s children because we love the Father Who has begotten them. When we love God the Father, we love those who are born of Him. Whoever believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Begetter also loves all who are His begotten.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your amazing love for us that sent Your only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, to the cross to pay the full penalty for all our sins so we may be born into Your forever family the moment we believe Jesus is the Christ. Although You are unseen, we can make Your love visible by loving one another. Loving You involves obeying Your commands, especially the command to love one another. If we claim to love You Whom we cannot see and disobey Your command to love Your children whom we can see, we are deceiving ourselves. Loving other Christians is not based on their performance or worthiness, but on our love for You, the Father of those You have begotten. Forgive us for thinking more of ourselves than You and Your begotten children. And please help us show Your love to one another as You have shown to us through the Lord Jesus. In His mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 15 cites John MacArthur, Jr., Saved without a Doubt (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1992), pp. 67-91.
2. Jeff Ropp, The Greatest Need in Evangelism Today is One Word: BELIEVE (Jeff Ropp, 2014), pp. 35-36 cites Larry Moyer, You Can Tell It! Seminar On Personal Evangelism Instructor Manual (EvanTell, Inc., 2003), pp. 46-47; cf. Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), pp. 108-113.
3. The majority of Greek manuscripts contain the word “Him” (Auton) in 4:19. See Zane C. Hodges; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 601.
4. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 225.
5. Ibid., pp. 225-226.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2949.
7. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 225.
8. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 601.
9. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2949.
12. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early ChristianLiterature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 816-817.
“19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the Forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20
An anchor was a popular image in the ancient Mediterranean world. Because that economy depended on shipping, the anchor came to symbolize safety and steadiness. The writer of Hebrews used the word to remind believers that God has given us a hope that holds firm in any storm.
Hope is a healthy attitude. In the book of Hebrews, “hope” (elpidos, 3:6; 6:11, 18-19; 7:19; 10:23; 11:1) is the confident expectation of God fulfilling His promises. 1 Anticipating good from God brings comfort to the mind and heart. In contrast, a state of hopelessness is a terrible condition in which to find oneself. It is overwhelming and depressing to think that what you are facing cannot be changed or resolved. For the person who has lost all hope, life looks like a long, dark tunnel going nowhere.
The author of Hebrews was writing to Christians who were facing hardship and persecution because of their Christian faith. Some were tempted to abandon Christ and return to Judaism because they had lost hope. He is urging them to persevere by returning to the hope that they have in Jesus Christ to inherit the promise of ruling with Him.
He uses a metaphor used only here in the Bible (6:19) of an “anchor” (ankyran). But instead of going down into the ocean, this anchor goes up into the heavens, behind the veil, where Jesus has entered as a Forerunner for us. He has become our High Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek. The main reason a ship needs an anchor is to ride out storms so that it is not blown off course or into the rocks or reefs nearby. Even in a safe harbor, a ship needs an anchor so that it will not drift, hit something, and sink. Whether in the storms of life or in the harbor during the calm times of life, we all need an anchor for our souls so that our lives are not destroyed.
The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to be “diligent” or hard working to the end of their Christian lives (6:11) so they won’t be sluggish (6:12) like he said they were earlier (5:11). Remaining diligent to the end of their lives will enable them to “inherit the promises” of God, especially the reward of ruling with Christ as His companions (Heb. 1:4-5, 8-9, 13-14; 3:1, 14; cf. Psalm 2:7-8; Matthew 19:28-29; Luke 22:28-30; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21). How can we remain faithful to Christ so we can inherit the promise of ruling with Him?
First, we must rely on the promises of God which cannot fail (Heb. 6:13-15). This is what Abraham did during the storms in his life. Abraham’s life is the story of God initiating and promising, with Abraham responding in faith. God appeared to Abraham while he was still named Abram, living in Ur of the Chaldees. He commanded Abram to leave his relatives and that city and go to a place that God would show him (Gen. 12:1-3; cf. Acts 7:2-3). Abram’s obedience was not easy. In that day, you didn’t just pack up a moving truck and head out on the highway, keeping in touch with the folks back home through frequent emails and phone calls. To move hundreds of miles away meant permanent separation from family and friends. There were unknown hardships to be encountered. Would the people of the new land be hostile or friendly? Could you provide adequately for your family there? What about learning the new language? There weren’t real estate offices to help you get resettled into a new home. Where would you live?
But Abram obeyed (Gen. 12:4).God had promised to multiply Abram, making him the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2; cf. 13:15-16; 15:5). His name, Abram, meant, “exalted father,” but his wife Sarah was barren. They were getting up in years but had no children despite God’s promise. Can you imagine the encounters he had as he and Sarah moved into Canaan? This seventy-five-year-old man says, “Hello, my name is Abram [exalted father].” The Canaanite responds, “Nice to meet you. How many children do you have?” “None yet.”
But then God added insult to injury. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, reaffirmed His promise to multiply him exceedingly (Gen. 17:2-4), and then changed his name to “Abraham,” meaning “father of a multitude” (Gen. 17:5)! He has been waiting for twenty-four years since God first promised to give him a son. He still has no children, except for Ishmael through Hagar. But now he tells everyone that God has given him a new name, “father of a multitude”! It would be like a bald man named Harry, and God says, “Let’s change your name to Bushy-haired Harry”!
Years after God blessed Abraham with his promised son, Isaac, he was then told by God to sacrifice Isaac. “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” (Gen. 22:2). Can you imagine how difficult this must have been for Abraham? He had waited twenty-five years for Isaac to be born. And now God wants him to kill his only son on the altar of sacrifice?!
But Abraham obeyed. Why? The Bible tells us: “17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” (Heb. 11:17-19). Abraham was still trusting God to fulfill His former promise regarding his descendants by expecting Him to raise Isaac from the dead. Now we are ready for Hebrews 6:13-15.
“13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no onegreater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” (Heb. 6:13-15). The phrase “God swore by Himself” signifies that He binds His word to His character. The “promise”to which the writer referred here was the one God gave Abraham after he had obeyed God by offering up Isaac.
In 6:14 when the writer of Hebrews quoted from Genesis 22, the Lord is referring to the messianic aspects of God’s promise. “16 By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:16-18). Just as Abraham’s obedience would reap future blessings in the Messiah’s kingdom, so too, Christians who persevere in obedience to Christ would also reap blessings in His coming kingdom – especially the reward of ruling with Jesus (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21).
The writer was calling his readers to do what God called Abraham to do when He instructed him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah. They too needed to continue to trust and obey, as they had done in the past, even though circumstances appeared as if their perseverance would result in tragedy. 2 The lesson for us is there has never been anyone who trusted in God’s promises and was finally disappointed. God may delay the visible answers to His promises because He always answers in His time, not in ours. We may not see the answer until we are in heaven. But He is utterly trustworthy to keep His Word. If He has promised eternal rewards to the one who perseveres to the end, you can count on it as absolutely true!
The second way to remain faithful to Christ is to rest in the Person of God Who cannot lie (6:16-18a). The author now focuses on “the oath” that God made to Abraham. “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.” (Heb. 6:16). When a person wants to end an argument, one way to do so is to appeal to a higher authority with an oath. For example, some people do this by saying, “I am telling the truth so help me God.” Even God used “an oath” to guarantee His promise to bless Abraham greatly (Gen. 22:16).
“God swore on Himself by Himself and ended any further discussion with His legal affirmation. His promises are as true as He is. Those who believe Him and endure will receive the rewards of His faithfulness.”3
“17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:17-18a). This messianic hope was not only certain for Abraham, but also for the Christian “heirs” who remained faithful to the end. So, the promise and the oath are the “two immutable [or unchanging] things” since “it is impossible for God to lie.”If God lied, He would deny His very nature as the God of truth, Whose very word is truth (Isa. 65:16; John 14:6; 17:17). If God has said that we will rule with Christ if we remain faithful to Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27), then it is true, and we dare not question Him!
We are all prone to bend the truth when it suits our purposes. But God is not like us. It is impossible for God to lie. He has never lied in all of eternity. When we doubt His promises, and especially His promise of ruling with Christ, we are in effect calling Him a liar! Our hope of reigning with Christ if we remain faithful is certain because God’s Person is incapable of lying. God’s doubly strong promise to Abraham, then, can be a “great (doubly strong) consolation” to us, now, because God has also promised us future blessings. Specifically, He has promised that we will receive the reward of ruling with Christ if we remain faithful to Him until the end of our Christian lives (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:25-27).
The third way to remain faithful to Christ is to run to our hope which is anchored in the priesthood of Jesus Christ (6:18b-20). The figure that closes verse 18 is an Old Testament one. “…We might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” (Heb. 6:18b). When we are tempted to give up on God during trials, we can “flee for refuge” to the promises of God. We can “lay hold of” them, just as a fearful person in Israel could flee to the altar of burnt offerings, take hold of its horns, and be safe from his assailants (cf. I Kings 1:49-51; 2:28-39). The cities of refuge also provided safety for the Israelites (Num. 35:9-15; Joshua 20). But we have a much better “refuge” than the Israelites did in Judaism. Our refuge is anchored in the Priesthood of Christ. The “We… who have fled for refuge” implies not every Christian takes refuge in the Lord. We have already seen that this is true (Hebrews 6:1–9). Some Christians produce thorns and thistles for the Lord – they turn their backs on Him with hardened hearts.
In 6:19-20 the writer uses another type of figure to illustrate our hope in Christ. He uses the idea of an anchor which is securely dropped in the harbor. “19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19-20). In the first century, sailors would carry their ship’s anchor in a smaller boat called a “forerunner” and deposit it on the shore, so that the ship would not drift away as waves beat against it.
“The Greek word for forerunner was used in the second century A.D. of the smaller boats sent into the harbor by larger ships unable to enter due to the buffeting of the weather. These smaller boats carried the anchor through the breakers inside the harbor and dropped it there, securing the larger ship. Forerunner presupposes that others will follow. Thus, Jesus is not only the believer’s anchor, but He is like a runner boat that has taken our anchor into port and secured it there.
There is thus no doubt as to whether this vessel is going into port. The only question is whether it will go in with the sleekness of a well-trimmed sailing vessel or like a water-laden barge. Believers who have such a hope in the presence of God should come boldly before the throne of grace (see 4:14-16).” 4
But instead of going down into the ocean, God’s anchor goes up into the heavens, behind the veil, where Jesus has entered as a Forerunner for us to firmly plant this anchor of hope in heaven for our storm-tossed souls. It should keep us from drifting away from God (cf. 2:1). Our anchor rests firmly in the Holy of Holies (“behind the veil”), in God’s presence in heaven, with Jesus. The “veil” was that thick curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the Jewish tabernacle or the temple. The veil was what separated the place of worship from the inner room where God dwelt with His people.
“In the context of Hebrews this hope (elpis) is the blood of Christ. In contrast to the Levitical sacrifices, the author declares in 7:19, ‘there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.’ It is Christ’s blood (not animal blood) that has entered the Presence behind the veil, that is, into the heavenly tabernacle and the very presence of God (cf. 9:11-12). The ones entitled to strong consolation are those who continue holding fast to this hope. Indeed, it is an anchor of the soul that only the priest according to the order of Melchizedek can provide. Those who turn away from this and retreat back to some form of Judaism will find no consolation there.”5
What Hebrews 6:19-20 is saying is we have a hope, anchored in the blood of Jesus Christ. And because of Jesus, we as Christians can come before God at any time. We can because of the high priestly ministry of Jesus, which He is doing right now, on our behalf. We can know the high priestly ministry of Jesus right now in our lives. How? He has torn the divider between us and God as our Father. The veil was torn when Jesus died for us (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). We can now enter the holy of holies; we can unite with the Lord and know His compassion and His care. We can grow in our relationship with Him to the point where we know what makes His heart beat faster with joy or what causes Him to be sad or angry. We can know He is using us to do ministry. In all of this, we can know we are walking side by side with Him as His companions—where we know at our core, we are partnering with Him as His companions. 6
The main reason we need an anchor is to keep us from drifting into things that would destroy us, especially during storms. Abraham had his storms as he waited on God. In two different moments of weakness, he thought that powerful men would take his wife from him, which would have nullified God’s promise of a son through her. And so, he lied that she was his sister. At another moment of despair, he went into Sarah’s maid, Hagar, and conceived Ishmael. But despite these failures, he continued to trust God Who would fulfill His promise.
We can face many different types of storms that threaten to rob us of hope in Christ. There are storms of deceit in which false teachings try to blow us off course (Eph. 4:14-15). These teachings may say all Christians will receive the same rewards by their position in Christ so there is no need to persevere to the end. Or they may deny that there are rewards in heaven. We must resist these lies by holding firmly to the promise of ruling with Christ as His companions (Heb. 1:8-13; 2 Tim. 2:12).
There will be storms of doubt, when we question Christ’s future victory over His enemies and our ruling with Him in His glorious Kingdom on earth. We can weather them by coming back to the truth of His promise to bless obedience (Heb. 10:35).
There will be storms of difficulties, where we wonder why God is allowing them and question whether He loves us. We weather them by remembering that God, Who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, will now freely give us all things we need to live a life of faith for Him (Rom. 8:32)! If God did not spare His only Son when we were His enemies, how much more will He give us now that we are His beloved children so we can reign with Christ in the future?!
There may be storms of defeat, where we fall into sin and dishonor our Lord and Savior. We can weather even these storms if we realize that our High Priest is praying for us, that our faith may not fail, and that by His grace, we can be restored and encourage others to hold fast to Christ (Luke 22:32).
Where is your anchor? Where is your hope and security? For some people, it is in the temporary things of this earth. Such things as your appearance, achievements, approval, or affluence all of which can change. The writer of Hebrews invites us to move our anchor to heaven in the Person of Jesus Christ. You can do that by believing in Jesus Who shed His blood on a cross for all your sins and rose from the dead so you may have everlasting life and a future home in heaven (John 3:14-15; 14:1-3; Rev. 21-22). Then you can go directly into God’s heavenly throne room any time through prayer to receive whatever is needed for you to remain faithful to Christ and inherit His promise of ruling with Him as His companions in the world to come (Heb. 1:2-13; 3:1, 14; 4:14-16).
Prayer: Father God, we praise You for Your unchanging promises to which we can flee for refuge when we face storm-tossed times. Thank You for the everlasting hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ Who entered the Presence behind the veil in the heavenly tabernacle as our Forerunner to firmly plant this anchor of hope in heaven for our storm-tossed souls. Our eventual arrival in the port of heaven is guaranteed by this anchor which was deposited there. Having such a hope in Your presence, Father, invites us to come boldly to the throne of grace at any time to receive the grace and mercy we need to remain faithful to Jesus until the end of our lives on earth. Then we may inherit Christ’s promise of ruling with Him as His companions in His coming Kingdom on earth. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2835.
2. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on Hebrews, 2015 Edition, pg. 70.
3. Rick Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions: Position Yourself Today to Be Among Those Who Rule With Christ (Rick Oglesby, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 72.
4. The NKJV Study Bible formerly titled The Nelson Study Bible New King James Version, Edited by Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen, H. Wayne House (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), pg. 1955.
5. J. Paul Tanner, Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 520-521.
6. Oglesby, Among the King’s Companions, pp. 81-82.
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” I John 3:16
God wants His born-again children to manifest their new righteous nature by living righteously (2:29-3:10a) and loving their Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-23). This love for one another is not like Cain who took his brother’s life (3:10b-12). It is like Christ Who gave His own life: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16). Christ is the opposite of Cain. Cain’s behavior was life-taking; Christ’s behavior was life-giving.
Let’s look more closely at Christ’s love. The Bible says He “laid down His life.” Jesus’ love was voluntary. He willingly took the initiative and gave up His life on the cross (Rom. 5:8). Christ’s love was not a response to our love (I John 4:10, 19). He loved us even if we never loved Him. Jesus loves us when our walk of faith is weak or when it is strong. He sticks with us in the good times and the bad. Nothing about us makes Christ love us. He loves us because it is His nature to love. If Jesus waited for us to love Him first, He would still be waiting. Thank God that He loved you and me first. His love does not require that we love Him back.
Secondly, Christ’s gave His life “for us.” His love was vicarious. 1 He sacrificed Himself on a cross as our Substitute to pay the penalty for all our sins (John 1:29; I Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21; I Pet. 3:18; I John 2:1-2). He took the punishment we deserved. You may be familiar with the shooting spree on January 21, 2023, in a Monterey Park dance studio that left eleven people dead, and nine others wounded. The suspected shooter, an elderly Asian man, later shot and killed himself. 2 Suppose that man had not killed himself, but, instead, was captured, tried for his crime, and sentenced to die for it. If it were possible, would you take that man’s place and sacrifice yourself so that man could live? I doubt any of us would. But that’s exactly what Jesus did when He took the place of undeserving sinners like you and me. Who else would die for you except Someone Who loves you that much!
Hatred for a Christian brother or sister makes us like Cain. Love for a Christian brother or sister makes us like Christ. Christ’s love for us is intended to motivate us to sacrificially love our Christian brothers and sisters: “And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16b). Christ laid down His life once for us (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26-28; 10:10), but we are to lay down our lives repeatedly for one another. 3
“It is easy to ‘lay down one’s life’: martyrdom is heroic and exhilarating; the difficulty lies in doing the little things, facing day by day the petty sacrifices and self-denials which no one notices, and no one applauds.”4
We may not have the opportunity to express our love for another Christian by dying in his or her place, so John gives us a tangible example of how we can love another believer. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I Jon 3:17). The word for “goods” (bios) means “life, livelihood,”5 or “resources to maintain life.” 6 The phrase “and shuts up his heart” (kai kleisē ta splanchna autou) conveys the idea of closing or slamming shut the door of one’s sympathies or compassions toward another person in need. 7 John is saying that when a Christian has the resources to help another Christian “brother in need,” and refuses to give him assistance, God’s love does not “abide in” that believer, that is, he is out of fellowship with God.
During the first year or so in the Philippines as missionaries, my wife and I were often approached by someone asking us for money or food, simply because in their eyes we were “rich” Americans. And by their standards, we were rich. But I had closed my heart off toward those in need. I became resentful of people who would approach me as if I was a bank on two feet.
I must say, however, that my wife and I would eventually make a good team when we would go to the market to buy groceries. She would do much of the shopping while I shared the gospel with others verbally or through the distribution of gospel tracts. During one of those visits to the market, God’s Spiritpierced my heart when I watched my wife gently and graciously give beggars some fruit or vegetables along with a gospel tract. I had been telling people at the market about God’s love for them through Jesus, but my wife was showing them that love. The apostle John would have said that my wife was walking as Jesus walked (2:6), but I, on the other hand, was not. God’s love had made its home in my wife’s heart, but I did not allow any room for God’s love to dwell in mine even though I had shared the gospel with many people there.
John addresses Christians like me when he writes, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18). Christian love is expressed primarily with our lives, not just with our lips. Imagine where we would be if Jesus expressed His love for us verbally without any actions. We would still be dead in our sins.
We often tell others, “I love you,” without being prepared to act sacrificially for those to whom we say this. John reminds us that true love involves action (“in deed”) and conformity to the “truth” which involves a genuine concern for the person “as opposed to some self-serving motive.” 8
The apostle John is instructing us to to express our born-again nature as children of God by loving our Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-18). This love is sacrificial.
“Two Americans were challenged to go to Russia and spend some of their time in ministry to orphanages. They weren’t professionals, and it cost them a pretty penny to leave their jobs and pay their own way. They sacrificed, but as they gave their love, they too found love in return. They came to one orphanage of about a hundred kids where the Christmas story had never been told. So they shared the story of Bethlehem, and the inn, and Mary and the manger, and you know the rest. Then they gave each kid some cut-outs to build their own little manger scene. They used brown flannel to make baby Jesus, some cardboard for the manger, and some yellow scraps of paper for straw.
“As these women went around to look at the work of each child, all went well until one of the women got to the table where little Misha sat. He was about six years old, and everything was in perfect order until she looked into the manger. There were two babies in the manger. She thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. What’s happened here?’ So she asked the translator to come over so she could find out where Misha had gotten mixed up.
“As Misha told the story, everything was accurate. He had all the details in place until he got to the very end, and then he began to ad lib. He said, ‘And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, she looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told her, ‘I have no mamma and I have no pappa, so I don’t have any place to stay.’ Then Jesus told me I could stay with Him. Then I told Him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give like everyone else did.‘
“’But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, I thought, what do I have that I could give as a gift? I thought maybe if I keep Him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, would that be a good gift?’ And Jesus said, ‘If you keep me warm, that would be the best gift anyone gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and Jesus looked at me and told me I could stay with Him in the manger … always.’”
“As little Misha finished his story his eyes brimmed with tears and they began to splash down his little cheeks. Then he put his hand over his face, his head dropped down to the table, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone who would never abandon or abuse him, Someone who would always stay with him. The American finished her story by saying, ‘And I learned it’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life, that counts.’”9
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the most loving Person in the universe living inside us. He guarantees to never leave us nor abandon us. This amazing love of our Savior motivates us to love others sacrificially as Christ has loved us. We then discover that when we love, we live. That is, we experience Christ’s life in a deeper and more fulfilling way as we continue in fellowship with Him.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are eternally grateful that Jesus did not express His love merely with words, but also with actions. He voluntarily laid down His life on a cruel cross that all who believe in Him may have everlasting life. O Father, fill us with Jesus’ love so we may love our Christian brothers and sisters with compassionate hearts. Lead us, we pray, to those You want us to love with our lives and not just with our lips. Forgive us for closing off our hearts toward those in need and please renew our love for them. In the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2944.
3. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2022 Edition, pg. 85.
4. Ibid., cites David Smith, “The Epistles of St. John,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 5 (1910), 4th ed., edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, 5 vols., (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-1912), pg. 186.
5. Archibald 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 206300.
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. 177.
7. Robertson, A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament, Kindle Location 206346.
8. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 171.
“Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” I John 3:15
The book of I John is about cultivating fellowship or intimacy with God and other believers in Jesus (1:1-4). The apostle John has addressed barriers to this fellowship with God which include sin (1:5-2:11; 2:29-3:10a), the world (2:15-17), and the Devil and his false teachers or antichrists (2:18-27).
Beginning in 2:28, John talks about how Christians can have more confidence and less shame before Christ at His coming (2:28-4:19). John wants his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to see themselves as children of God who possess a sinless born-again nature (God’s “seed”) at the core of their being so they will manifest God’s righteous nature by living righteously (2:29-3:10a). This righteous behavior is more than human kindness and morality that even non-Christians can manifest. It includes believing in Christ for new birth and loving one’s Christian brother or sister (3:24).
John now wants to expand upon the idea of manifesting our born-again nature (3:9) through loving fellow Christians (3:10b-23). Just as we can conceal our born-again nature by not practicing righteousness (2:29-3:10a), so we can also conceal our born-again nature by refusing to love our Christian brother (3:10b-23). In this section, John will talk about what love is not (3:10b-15) and what love is (3:16-23). Today we will look at what love is not.
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (I John 3:10). Last time in our study, we learned that only Christians can be called “children of God” since the Bible clearly says that a person who believes that Jesus is the Christ is “born of God” (5:1). The way to make their born-again nature visible to others is through practicing righteousness and loving one another as Christ commanded. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that a person is “born of the devil.” Whenever a Christian or a non-Christian sins, he or she is behaving like children of the devil since all sin is sourced in him (3:8).
When John says, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (3:10b), the genitive phrase “is not of God” (ouk estin ek tou Theou) simply means that a Christian who does not practice righteousness nor love his Christian brother does not have actions that are sourced in God. 1 Sin can never be traced back to God regardless of who commits it. God is never responsible for sin whether it is committed by a Christian or non-Christian.
Unfortunately, the NIV translation of 3:10b does not reflect the Greek text when it says, “Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” (I John 3:10b). Nowhere in the Greek text does it say, “God’s child.” This has been added by the translators and reflects their theological point of view, not a careful study of the Greek text.
“There is nothing in this text about not being a child of God. How could there be? One must be a child of God before one could hate his brother. An unsaved person has no Christian brother to hate (cf. 2:9) …John also moves from a broader to a narrower theme. The words whoever does not practice [lit. ‘do’] righteousness can refer to anyone who lacks righteous conduct, whether saved or unsaved. But the words he who does not love his brother introduce a specific kind of righteousness that only a Christian can manifest or fail to manifest.” 2
“By joining together the idea of righteousness (mentioned in 1 John 2:29-3:7) with love (not mentioned in vv. 2-9), John formed a bridge to a new discussion. He now considered love as the appropriate expression of the regenerate life of which he had been speaking. Love is righteousness in action.” 3
One of the biggest barriers to fellowship with God is dealing with our Christian “brother” or sister.Failure to love other Christians breaks our fellowship or closeness with the Lord. Why? Because Christ commanded us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34-35), and when we don’t keep that command, we have sinned against God which interrupts our fellowship with Him (I John 1:5-2:11). We cannot claim to have fellowship with God and hate our Christian brother or sister at the same time (I John 2:9-11).
John writes, “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (I John 3:11). From “the beginning” of their Christian experience, John’s readers heard “the message… that we should love one another.”
It is important to understand the context in which John and the other apostles heard the original command to “love one another.” It was the night before Jesus’ crucifixion when the Twelve disciples had gathered with Jesus in the Upper Room. After their supper and the washing of the disciples’ feet by Christ (John 13:1-17), Christ identified Judas as His betrayer and told him to do his work quickly (John 13:18-29), and then Judas “went out immediately” to betray the Lord Jesus (John 13:30). Judas was the only unbeliever among the disciples (cf. John 6:64, 70-71; 13:10-11; 17:12). Christ removed Judas at that time because what He was about to say was only for the ears of those who had believed in Him.
Jesus said to the believing disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). The apostle John who wrote I John was also the author of the gospel of John. He wants us to understand that the command to love one another is meant for believers, not nonbelievers. Loving one another is a condition for discipleship, not salvation.
Those who claim that I John was written to a mixed audience of believers and nonbelievers to help separate the true professors from the false professors are mistakenly saying that Judas was still in the Upper Room. No. Judas had been sent out. The truth Jesus shared in the Upper Room about loving one another was given only to believers. 4
“The Upper Room truth and 1 John truth is unadulterated truth for an unadulterated audience of believers.” 5
Evans writes, “Imagine a patient claims to have the flu but has no symptoms. A doctor would say, ‘You don’t have the flu.’ Similarly, the ultimate ‘symptom’ or proof of your vertical intimacy with God is your horizontal love for his children.”6 This is why Christ said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).
Why is this command to love one another a barrier to fellowship with God and other Christians? Anderson writes, “Why is it so hard to love our brother? Could it be that our brother has more potential to hurt us than the world? Could it be that we expect evil from the world, but not from our Christian brother? It hurts when a Christian brother does us wrong. It hurts deeply. And we go out of our way to avoid pain.” 7
Before focusing on what love is, John now states what love is not by sharing an example of brother-to-brother hatred: “Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (I John 3:12). Biblical love is not like the hateful and murderous behavior that Cain exhibited toward his brother Abel (Gen. 4:2-8). When John describes Cain as “of the wicked one” (ek tou ponērou), he is not suggesting that Cain was unsaved (3:12a). 8 As with the previous genitives in 3:8, 10, this is a genitive of source which means Cain’s behavior was sourced in the “wicked one,” since Satan was “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). All sin, whether by a believer or unbeliever, is traced back to the Devil since he “sinned from the beginning” (3:8).
“John uses the physical relationship between Cain and Abel as an illustration of the spiritual relationship between Christian brethren. And just as it is possible for one brother to murder his biological brother, it is possible for one Christian to murder another.”9
Hatred toward another person is not confined to the unsaved population. Christians can also hate one another. James accused his Christian readers (James 1:1, 16-18; 2:1; et al.) of murder: “You murder and covet and cannot obtain.” (James 4:2). Why would James accuse his Christian readers of murder if it were not possible for them to commit murder? Likewise, Peter warns his Christian readers (I Pet. 1:2-9, 18-23; 2:10; et al.), “But let none of you suffer as a murderer…” (I Pet. 4:15). If it were not possible for a Christian to commit murder, then Peter just wasted his time warning them not to do so.
Christ even taught that hatred toward another believer (“his brother”) was the spiritual equivalent of spiritual murder (Matt. 5:21-22). 10 Those who deny that a Christian can hate a fellow brother or sister in Christ lack the realism of the Lord Jesus Christ and the New Testament authors.
Why did Cain murder his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8)? John tells us, “Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (I John 3:12b). Cain imitated Satan’s hateful and murderous behavior when he became envious of his “brother’s righteous” behavior and “murdered” him. God had accepted Abel’s more excellent sacrifice (firstborn of his flock of sheep which was a foreshadowing of Christ’s more excellent sacrifice – Heb. 9:11-10:18) that he offered “by faith” to please God (Heb. 11:4, 6) as opposed to Cain’s fruit of the ground offering (Gen. 4:2-5) which was not offered by faith.
Hatred is often prompted by a feeling of guilt about one’s own life compared to another person’s life. Whenever Christians feel guilty because their behavior is contrary to God’s will, they find it easier to experience hatred toward those whom they know God approves. 11 Often conflicts within churches are between those who have God’s approval and those who don’t. God uses those conflicts to manifest or make evident those who have His approval – those who are not causing the division but are promoting peace and unity (cf. I Cor. 11:19). John reminds us that such hatred toward another Christian is “of the wicked one” (I John 3:12a) in that Satan is behind such unrighteous behavior, not God.
How do we respond when another brother or sister in Christ receives a blessing from God like a new car or house, a promotion or raise at work, or public recognition? 12 Are we rejoicing with our fellow Christians when God uses their giftedness to lead many people to Christ or build up the body of Christ with their teachings or services? Or do we respond with criticism, envy, or judgmentalism? John would say the latter is “of the wicked one” (3:12). It is not “of God.”
Cain’s hateful and murderous behavior was worldly, and it should not surprise Christians to see the world hate them when they live righteously and lovingly. John writes, “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13). The world hated Jesus and Christ warned His followers that they can expect the world to hate them when they live according to His values and not the world’s (John 15:18-19). That is a normal response to anticipate from the world. But what is abnormal is for Christians to hate one another.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” (I John 3:14). The only other time John used a similar phrase “have passed from death to life” (metabebēkamen ek tou thanatou eistēn zōēn) is in John 5:24 which speaks of conversion. There Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24). The phrase “has passed from death into life” (metabebēken ek tou thanatou eistēn zōēn)is the same Greek text as in I John 3:14 except for the perfect tense verb which is third person singular in John 5:24 as opposed to the first person plural in I John 3:14. Hence, some interpreters believe that I John 3:14 is saying that the way to “know” you are saved is to love your Christian brothers and sisters.
“But a phrase which is used only twice in John’s writing can hardly be said to have a fixed meaning. The context here must decide its significance. The statements of 1 John 3:14b-15 suggest that the spheres of ‘death’ and ‘life’ are here treated as experiential and determined by one’s actions. If so, the issue of conversion is not in view here.” 13
The word “know” (oida) in 3:14 is different than the word (ginōskō) John used previously in I John 2:3-5 and 3:6. Anderson writes:
“The verb ‘to know’ has numerous OT parallels parallels in which it either speaks of a special intimacy or a deeper kind of understanding. In Gen 4:1 Adam ‘knew’ his wife Eve and she conceived. Obviously, he had more than a casual knowledge of her. ‘To know’ in this case is an example of physical intimacy.
“Hosea gives us several examples of spiritual intimacy. Gomer has been unfaithful and exemplifies the unfaithfulness of Israel. Both Gomer and Israel are in covenant relationships, one with a prophet and the other with Yahweh, respectively. But after she (Gomer/Israel) has played the harlot, God claims He is going to woo her back and says to her in Hosea 2:19-20,
“’And I will betroth you to Me forever;Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,In lovingkindness and in compassion,And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.Then you will know the LORD.’
“This use of ‘know’ speaks of a deeper experience with the Lord than she had known before, that is, spiritual intimacy.
“And Gen 22:12 gives us another example of ‘to know’ as a deeper experience of understanding. God has asked Abraham to offer his son on the altar as a sacrifice. Abraham is obedient. Just before the knife is plunged into Isaac’s heart, the Angel of the Lord says, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’
“Wait a minute, didn’t the Lord know before Abraham went up the mountain what was in Abraham’s heart? Sure, He did; He was omniscient, all-knowing. But after Abraham raised the knife, God experienced Abraham’s faith on a deeper level. There was a deeper kind of understanding.
“Obviously, ‘to know’ in the OT had many uses which took the knower beyond a superficial experience. That may well be what’s going on with the meaning of know in 1 John 3:14. A new believer can have assurance that he will spend eternity with God when he dies based on God’s promises (1 John 5:13). But when he has an experience of outrageous, triumphant love (loving someone who has hurt him), he enjoys the fact that he has passed from death unto life in a fuller, deeper way.” 14
What John is telling us in I John 3:14a is that when a believer loves his or her Christian brother or sister, the passage from death into life which occurs at salvation (John 5:24) can be experienced. That is, when Christians love one another, they can experience God’s “life” or fellowship in a deeper way.
It is important to remember that eternal life emphasizes the quality not just the quantity of one’s existence. All people exist forever. But it is the quality of their existence that differs.Christians can experience an increase in the quality of their eternal life when they love other Christians now. 15
But what happens when believers do not love one another? What happens when Christians hate one another? John tells us, “He who does not love his brother abides in death.” (I John 3:14b). When a believer in Jesus refuses to “love his” Christian “brother,” it plunges him into the sphere of “death” or darkness devoid of God. Hatred toward another Christian places us in the sphere of death experientially which is the same place in which the world abides (cf. 3:13), 16 so we are no longer sharing the light with God. We are out of fellowship with God and other believers when we hate one another. As Paul stated, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die.” (Romans 8:13). The longer we hate another Christian, the more we will experience death or broken fellowship with Christ.
Remember the Greek word “abides” (menō) which means “to remain, stay, dwell, continue,” 17 is one of John’s favorite terms for fellowship or intimacy with God. In this case, abiding in the sphere of death means one is remaining out of fellowship with God. When Christians hate one another, they are no longer remaining in Christ (“life”), they are remaining in death which is devoid of Jesus. 18
When a Christian hates another Christian, that hateful “believer is out of fellowship and experiences the living death of the Christian widow who lives for pleasure (1 Tim 5:6), or the Christian miserably aware of the battle within himself between his sin(ful) nature and his desire to do what is right (Rom 7:24), or the believer whose mind is filled with things of the flesh (Rom 8:6). The believer who walks around with hatred in his heart is miserable and often depressed.” 19
Hatred of one’s Christian brother is not only an experience of “death” (3:14b), but also of murder: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (I John 3:15). Some think this verse is teaching that a Christian cannot commit murder. They argue if he or she does, then they either lose their salvation or they were never saved to begin with.
I believe there is a better way to understand this verse. In the context, John is talking about how Christians can manifest their born-again righteous nature to have more confidence and less shame at the coming of Christ (2:28-29). One way is to practice righteousness (2:29-3:10a) and the other way is to love our Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-23). In this section (3:10b-3:15), John is talking about what love is not. It is not like Cain who envied his brother Abel and murdered him (3:12; cf. Gen. 4:2-8). When a Christian hates another Christian, he is not only abiding in the realm of death or broken fellowship with God (3:14b), but he is also a “murderer” like Cain (3:12). When a Christian hates another Christian “brother,” he may not physically murder him, but he has a spirit of hatred that wants to be rid of his Christian brother, so he would not really care if he died. 20
Verse 15 does not say that “no murderer has eternal life” (as the NIRV paraphrase reads), but “that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Why is this an important distinction to make? Remember, for the apostle John, eternal life is nothing more than Jesus Christ Himself. John wrote of Jesus, “1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (I John 1:1-2). This eternal life could be “heard… seen… looked upon” andtouched and was “with the Father and was” physically “manifested to” the apostles (1:1-2).In case you are still not convinced that eternal life is Christ, John writes, “And we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (I John 5:20b).
Hence, John is not saying that a hateful Christian has lost his salvation or was never saved to begin with. He is saying that a hateful Christian is not “abiding” in Christ, that is, he is not in fellowship with Christ Who is eternal life. The moment a Christian hates another believer, he breaks experiential contact with Christ and plunges into the sphere of “death” or darkness where Christ is not. Eternal life (i.e., Christ) is not at home in his heart as long as the spirit of hatred is there. He loses his closeness with Christ, not his relationship with Him. Christians cannot abide in Christ or be close to Him and hate another believer at the same time.
Dillow writes, “Can a true Christian ‘hate his brother’? Of course, he can. David is a good example of a justified man who not only hated but followed up the murder in his heart with murder in reality by killing Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12:9).” 21
Even though David had committed adultery and murder, the Bible refers to David as an example of those who are justified (declared totally righteous before God) by faith alone in Christ alone apart from any works. “5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin’ ” (Romans 4:5-8; cf. 2 Sam. 12:9, 13; Psalms 32:1-2; 51). Paul quotes David (Rom. 4:7-8) who wrote in Psalm 32:1-2 of the blessedness of forgiveness as he looked ahead to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would pay the penalty for the sin of the world (John 1:29), including David’s adultery and murder (cf. Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-36; Col. 2:13-14).
Paul is saying that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was credited to David and all who believed in His coming death and resurrection in the Old Testament (Rom. 4:5-8; cf. Gen. 15:6; Isaiah 61:10; John 8:56; Heb. 11:26). So, when a person in the Old Testament or in the New Testament believes in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, he or she is covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that God no longer sees their sin, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 3:21-4:25; 2 Cor. 5:21).
“When we harbor anger in our hearts, John says, we are in effect murderers, and we abide in death, the very sphere from which we were delivered when we became Christians. We walk as ‘mere men’ (1 Corinthians 3:3), that is, as if we were still unregenerate. We are ‘carnal Christians’ who are ‘walking in darkness’ (1 John 2:11) and are in danger of losing our reward (2 John 1:8); losing what we have (Mark 4:25) and shrinking back in shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 John 2:28). Jesus Christ is not at home in such a heart. He does not abide there.” 22
The love that will increase our confidence and decrease our shame at the coming of Christ (2:28) is not like Cain’s envious and murderous behavior (3:12) and the world’s (3:13), which breaks a Christian’s fellowship with Christ Who is eternal life (3:14-15; cf. 1:1-2; 5:20). When hatred occupies a Christian’s heart, it is a miserable existence. Lord Tennyson would agree:
“He that shuts Love out, in turn shall be Shut out from Love, and on her threshold lie Howling in the outer darkness.”23
The sobering thing about harboring hatred in our hearts toward another Christian is we tend to become like the one who hurt us. The more we review the hurt that was caused to us, the more we become like that person who wounded us. This is Satan’s strategy – to get Christians to hate one another. He knows that if he can accomplish this, he will greatly diminish the church’s impact on the world for Christ.
Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the Devil which includes hatred toward another Christian (3:8b). Christ gave us a born-again nature the moment we believed in Him for eternal life (3:9; cf. 5:1). This new nature cannot sin (3:9). The way we can express this new nature is by not hating our Christian brothers and sisters (3:10b-15). When we do hate another believer, we are abiding in darkness and death (I John 2:11; 3:14b), and out of fellowship with Christ Who is eternal life (I John 3:15; cf. 1:1-2; 5:20). To remain in this condition does not jeopardize a believer’s salvation, but it does interrupt his or her fellowship with God (I John 1:5-2:11; 3:14-15) and puts them in danger of losing eternal rewards in the future (2 John 1:8; cf. I Cor. 3:8-15).
Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, we praise You for giving us a born-again nature the moment we believed in Jesus so You could destroy the works of the Devil. Please enable us to visibly manifest that nature by loving our Christian brothers and sisters as Jesus loved us. We cannot be close to Jesus when we harbor hatred in our hearts toward other brothers and sisters in Christ at the same time. Please O Lord, increase our love for other Christians so we can grow closer to Christ and one another. Use our love for one another to draw the unsaved to Yourself. In the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
1. This is known as an ablative genitive of source in the Greek language. See 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 3855 and Joseph Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of The Servant Kings:Fourth Revised Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 500.
2. 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. 596.
3. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Location 3856 to 3861.
4. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 166.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pp. 2943-2944.
7. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 166-167.
8. Tom Constable, Dr. Constable’s Notes on I John, 2022 Edition, pg. 84.
9. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 596.
10. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3883.
11. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 596.
12. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 167.
13. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3872 to 3877.
14. Anderson, Maximum Joy, pp. 168-169.
15. Ibid., pg. 169.
16. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3892.
17. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pp. 630-631.
18. Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, pg. 2944.
19. Anderson, pg. 169.
20. Hodges, The Grace New Testament Commentary, pg. 597.
“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” I John 3:6
In the body of his epistle the apostle John explains how we can have more confidence and less shame at the time of Christ’s coming (2:28-4:19). He begins by providing some practical teaching about our new identity in Christ (3:1-10). Since God is righteous by nature (2:29), we can now share in His righteousness through the new birth which has changed who we are at the core of our being. We are now God’s children (3:1a). The world does not understand this new nature because they have not experienced the new birth (3:1b). John goes on to explain that the time is coming when this new nature will be the only nature we manifest because our sinful nature will be taken away and we will receive a new glorified body like that of the Lord Jesus at the time of His return (3:2; cf. Phil. 3:20-21). The certainty that we will be completely conformed (both spiritually and physically) into the image of Christ in the future motivates us to live for the Lord now (3:3).
John wants his Christian readers (2:12-14; 5:13) to change the way they think about sin (3:4-6) because sin can rob Christians of the abundant life Jesus came to give them on earth (cf. John 10:10). Notice I did not say that sin can rob a Christian of heaven. 1 Entering heaven is based on believing in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross which finished paying our sin debt to God in full (I John 5:1, 13; cf. John 3:5-18, 36; 19:30). The book of I John is about how to have fellowship or intimacy with Christ (1:3-4), not about how to get to heaven. John’s concern is that the antichrists or false teachers (2:18-27) were trying to “deceive” John’s readers not to take sin seriously (3:7), 2 which would disrupt their fellowship with God. Hence, John begins this section by addressing the character of sin.
He writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” (I John 3:4). Sin is the very opposite of Christ’s purity and the hope believers have of becoming like Him (3:2-3). All “sin” (hamartia) is “lawlessness” (anomia) 3 or wickedness. 4 When a Christian (or non-Christian) sins, he or she becomes a lawbreaker. It does not matter if you sin once or a thousand times; sin is an act of rebellion against God. 5
The apostle wants to open our eyes to the wickedness of sin. It is revolting to God whether it is a little white lie or a violent murder. It sickens God to look at our sin because He is completely holy, and sin is the exact opposite of His holiness. It also sickens God to see Christians tolerate sin in their lives as though it were no big deal. We may justify our sin by telling ourselves, “No one is perfect.” “Everyone is doing it.”“No one will ever know, so it won’t hurt anyone.”
Look at the contrast between man’s rationalization of sin and God’s repulsion of sin:
Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination.
Man calls it a blunder; God calls it blindness.
Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease.
Man calls it a chance; God calls it a choice.
Man calls it an error; God calls it enmity.
Man calls it a fascination; God calls it a fatality.
Man calls it infirmity; God calls it iniquity.
Man calls it luxury; God calls it leprosy.
Man calls it liberty; God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy.
Man calls it a mistake; God calls it madness.
Man calls it a weakness; God calls it wickedness. 6
Instead of rationalizing our sin, God want us to confess and forsake it (Prov. 28:13). Again, this is not to get to heaven, but to have intimate fellowship with the Lord on earth. The consequences of not taking sin seriously can be deadly. Anderson illustrates this:
“There is a small tree which grows in SE Asia known as the Judas-tree. Long before its leaves appear, gorgeous blossoms grow on its branches. Looking like scarlet sunbeams caught among the boughs, the brilliant beauty of the crimson flowers attracts thousands of tiny insects. The wild bees also seek to draw honey from the exquisitely shaped cups.
“But every insect—bee or butterfly—that comes to rest upon the edge of its blossom is overcome by a fatal, curious sort of opiate, or drug, which the flower- juice contains, and drops dead upon the ground below! So, when walking around Judas-trees, a person sees the soft grass covered with dead and dying, bright-winged insects.
“The Judas-tree reminds us of sin. Sin may look bright, pleasant, and attractive to our eyes; it may appear harmless to indulge in it. But lurking behind the “pleasure of sin” is a fatal poison. And sin is a poison, a wickedness that acts as a drug to take away all our motivation for the Christian life, or worse. Wickedness: that’s the character of sin.” 7
Failure to take sin seriously conflicts with the purpose and purity of Jesus Christ Who came to completely remove sin from our lives. Sin is antichrist. John writes, “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” (I John 3:5). Jesus not only came to save us from the full penalty of our sins when He died on the cross (John 19:30; Rom. 5:9a, 10a; 6:23a; I Cor. 15:3), but He rose from the dead to live inside us to save us from the power of sin in our daily Christian lives (Rom. 5:9b, 10b; James 1:21-25). The day is coming in eternity when Christ will deliver us from the presence of sin in our lives forever (I John 3:2; Rev. 21:4).
The reason Jesus is qualified to do all this for us is because “in Him there is no sin”(3:5b). There was absolutely no sin in the perfect Son of God because He is fully God (I John 5:20; cf. John 1:1, 34, 49; 5:16-47; 6:69; 8:57-59; 11:27; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; et al.) and fully Man (I John:1:1-2; 4:2-3; cf. John 1:14; 4:6; 11:35; 12:27; 19:28; I Tim. 2:5).It took a perfect sacrifice to satisfy God’s holy demand to punish the sins of the world. And Jesus was the only Person qualified for the job (I John 2:1-2; cf. John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I Pet. 3:18).
Although every Christian has sin in their lives (I John 1:7-8, 10), sin is abnormal and unnatural to the Christian life (Rom. 6:1-4). In fact, it is contrary to the purity of Jesus Christ (I John 3:3, 5). Therefore, it must not be condoned or tolerated in a believer’s life.
A few years ago, my family and I visited a church in North Dakota during the summer that was part of a German community. I was so impressed with how everyone seemed to be concerned about the cleanliness of their town. All the lawns were neatly mowed, and the sidewalks were swept and free of grass trimmings. Flowers were strategically planted without a weed in sight. There were no beer cans laying around nor any garbage on the side of the roads. People seemed to take a lot of pride in keeping their community looking clean and tidy.
When we left that place, I wondered what would happen if I showed more concern for the cleanliness of my heart than those people showed for their community? Inward cleanliness leads to outward cleanliness in the eyes of the apostle John. The righteous nature of God which was given to us the moment we believed in Christ (Rom. 4:5; I John 2:29; 5:1, 13), is to be manifested outwardly in our practice – not so we can get to heaven, but so God is glorified before people on earth (cf. Matt. 5:16).
Failure to take sin seriously is contrary to abiding in Christ Who is a sinless Person. “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” (I John 3:6). John has just said there is absolutely “no sin” in Jesus(3:5). It follows that a Christian who “abides in” Christ (a sinless Person), absolutely “does not sin” (3:6). John is saying that sin is never the product of having fellowship or intimacy with Christ (“abides in Him”).Remember “abides” (menō) is one of John’s favorite words for fellowship or intimacy with Jesus.
Unfortunately, many Bible interpreters fail to see this logical connection between the absolute present tenses in verses 5 and 6.They conclude that verse 6 means if a person who claims to be a Christian continues to sin, he or she is not truly saved. The NIV translation conveys this interpretation by inserting the words “keeps on” and “continues” in front of the present tense verbs: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (I John 3:6 NIV). However, continual action is not inherent in the Greek present tense. The translators have added these additional words based on their theological point of view, not a careful study of the Greek grammar. 8
“For example, Jesus refers to His single act of coming to the earth at His incarnation in the present tense in John 6:33 when He says, ‘For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Is there anyone who would like to tell us that the present tense here means continuous action, that is, that Jesus is continually coming down from heaven? I don’t think so. The present tense can mean continuous action, but that is only one of its ten different uses, and it’s a fairly rare usage. There need to be other indicators in the context of the verb before we conclude that the meaning is continuous action.” 9
“It cannot be shown anywhere in the New Testament that the present tense can bear this kind of meaning without the assistance of other words.”10
It is best to understand I John 3:6a in an absolute sense (“no one who abides in Him sins”) because the present tense (“no one… sins”) in the New Testament never bears the habitual meaning (“no one keeps on sinning”) without the assistance of qualifying words like diapantos (“continually”- Luke 24:53; Heb 9:6; 13:15); eis to diēnekes (“continually”- Heb 7:3; 10:1); 11or pantote (“always”). First John 3:6a has no qualifying words.
In the immediate context John affirms that “in Him (Christ) there is no sin” (3:5). Clearly this is an absolute denial of sin in God’s Son. Therefore, the present tense in 3:6a is also an absolute denial of sin in the person who abides in Christ. One cannot abide in a sinless Person (3:5) and sin at the same time.
To say that verse 6 means a genuine Christian will not continue to sin contradicts I John 1:8 which says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Since John includes himself and the other apostles with the use of the word “we” in this verse (1:8; cf. 1:1-7), he must be referring to genuine Christians who say they have no sin and are thus self-deceived. 12 Both I John 1:8 and 3:6 refer to genuine Christians.
But what does John mean when he says, “Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him” (I John 3:6b)? To properly understand John’s meaning, we need to turn to the Greek grammar like we did in I John 2:3-4. Once again, the apostle John uses the Greek perfect tense with the verbs “seen” (heōraken) and “known” (egnōken). You may recall that with “verbs describing a state of being (to know) as opposed to verbs of action (to hit), the perfect tense expresses an intensified state. In other words, ‘to know’ in the perfect tense becomes ‘to know intensively’ or intimately. ‘To see’ in the perfect tense becomes ‘to see very closely.’”13
John is telling us that “whoeversins” (a Christian or non-Christian) – whether it is once or a thousand times – means he or she “has neither seen” Christ closely “nor known Him” intimately. These verbs describe close fellowship with Christ. Sin is never the result of having intimate fellowship with Jesus. When a person “abides” in Christ, he or she has “seen” Him more closely and “known” Him more intimately. Sin is never the product of seeing and knowing Christ in a fellowship sense.
John is not saying that a person who sins has “never” seen or known God. For example, if you see a person with a starving look on his or her face, you can conclude they have not eaten recently, but you cannot conclude they have never eaten. A person sins in the “darkness” (1:6) where he or she is not seeing or knowing God more intimately. Sin is a result of blindness or ignorance toward God. But this does not mean he or she has never walked “in the light” (1:7) where God is seen or known more intimately.
Someone may argue that this absolute denial of sin in the person who abides in Christ also contradicts I John 1:8 which says a Christian who denies he has sin is self-deceived. Hodges comments, “First John 1:8 makes it clear that no Christian can ever claim to be experientially completely free from sin in this life. But at the same time the experience of ‘abiding in Him’ is a sinless experience. One area of obedience is not ‘contaminated’ by the presence of sin in other areas. If a person obeys the command to love his brother, that obedience is not tainted in God’s sight by some different sort of failure in the life, such as a lack of watchfulness in prayer (cf. Eph 6:18).
“When a believer is walking in fellowship with God, He is able to look past all his failures and sin and see the actual obedience that is there. In 1:7 John explained that even while walking in the light, there is cleansing going on by virtue of the blood of Christ. As a believer walks in the light and does what God commands, God sees him as one who is totally cleansed and is without any charge of unrighteousness.
“Thus, when a believer abides in Him, the positive obedience is what God takes account of and recognizes. The sin that still remains is not in any sense sourced in the abiding life, and that sin is cleansed in accord with 1:7. The experience of ‘abiding’ is therefore equivalent to obedience.”14
Hodges also writes, “The fact remains, however, that Christians do not experience the sinless life perfectly on this earth; hence 1:8, 10 remain true. The two ideas are not really incompatible. The Christian still experiences a genuine struggle with the flesh and overcomes its impulses only by the help of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16-26).
“Paul’s thinking also conforms with this view. In his struggle with sin, he was able to conclude, ‘Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it’ (Rom. 7:20). In this way Paul could perceive sin as not a real part of what he was at the most inward level of his being (cf. Rom. 7:25). When he wrote, ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal. 2:20), he implied the same thing. If Christ alone really lives, sin can be no part of that experience. Insofar as God is experienced by a believer, that experience is sinless.” 15
In summary, God wants us to take sin more seriously because…
The character of sin is repulsive to God (3:4).
Sin conflicts with the purpose and purity of Christ (3:5).
Sin is contrary to abiding in Christ (3:6).
To knowingly and willfully sin makes us a stranger to Jesus Christ because Christ is sinless. One cannot abide in a sinless Person and sin. Sin is never the product of abiding in Christ. That is, one cannot deliberately sin and be close to Christ at the same time. A believer in close fellowship with Christ wants sin out of his life. But a Christian who takes sin lightly in his life does not know Christ intimately. If he did, he would take sin more seriously.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for wanting us to take sin more seriously because it can rob us of the joy of seeing You more closely and knowing You more intimately. Too often we can take sin lightly because we are not in fellowship with You. If we were close to You, we would be sickened by our sin as You are. Please help us to see You more closely and to know You more intimately so we will want sin out of our lives. Our sin is a big deal because it caused Jesus to suffer and die in our place on a cross so we could be forgiven when we believe in Him. By Your grace, may each of us abide in Christ and have close fellowship with Him so we can live a life that is honoring to You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
1. David R. Anderson, Maximum Joy: I John – Relationship or Fellowship? (Grace Theology Press, 2013 Kindle Edition), pg. 145.
2. 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 3795.
3. 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. 85.
4. Anderson notes, “This Greek word is used to translate twenty-four different Hebrew words in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT). Most frequently it is used to translate the Hebrew word ‘awon, which means “wickedness” or “iniquity” (Anderson, Maximum Joy, pg. 147).
5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2942.
6. Anderson, Maximum John, pp. 147-148.
7. Ibid., pg. 148.
8. Ibid., pg. 151.
9. Ibid., pp. 146-147.
10. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3805 to 3809.
11. Anderson, pg. 151.
12. Ibid., pg. 145.
13. Ibid., pg. 150; cf. K. L. McKay, “On the Perfect and Other Aspects in the New Testament Greek,” Novum Testamentum, Vol. 23, Fasc. 4 (Brill: 1981), pp. 289-329.
14. 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. 595.
15. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Kindle Location 3818 to 3822.