HOW TO REALLY KNOW GOD
Tomb of St. John at Ephesus (picture credit Wikimedia Commons)
All Scripture quotations in this publication are from the holy Bible, New International Version, except where noted (published by Zondervan Corporation, copyright, 1985)
Copyright © Jim Gerrish 2015
The epistle of First John, though it is small, is one of the most important books in the whole Bible. It tells us clearly how we can know God and have a saving relationship with him. This is the key to real religion— having a personal relationship with God through his Son Jesus. John tells us how we can know God through Jesus Christ and also, how we can know that we do know him. All the rest of religion is mere commentary on this one central and extremely important theme.
This little book is without introduction or salutation. It is different in style from other New Testament letters. Indeed, it begins much like the Fourth Gospel, which is also from the hand of John. It does not speak of particular persons or places, as do most of the other epistles. 1 In this respect, it is difficult for us to know precisely to whom it was written or exactly when it was written. “It is clear from the internal evidence of First John that a developing schism within the Christian community led to its writing.” 2 The reason for this schism seems to point to an incipient Gnosticism. This belief might be described as an overemphasis upon some supposed secret knowledge. 3 This “knowledge” was in addition to the knowledge of Christ, of course. It was based on human pride and thus promoted sects and divisions within the early Christian community.
It is pretty well accepted among scholars that the aged Apostle John wrote this letter, and the two other short epistles that bear his name. He also wrote the Book of Revelation and the Gospel of John. This John is one and the same as the disciple, who was brother of James and a son of Zebedee. He, like his brother, was apparently born in Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44) and was a fishermen by trade. We know from historical records that in his old age John migrated from Israel to Asia Minor and settled in Ephesus. This was likely brought on by the rising expectation of war between Rome and Israel, and no doubt John made this move prior to AD 70. 4 There seems to have been a migration of other eminent Jewish believers to the area at this time. These included the evangelist Philip with his daughters. 5
Thus, we can assume that the works of John were probably written from Ephesus. This city was the seat of government of the Roman province of Asia. The Roman proconsul resided in Ephesus, since it was a city of great importance. It was also a wealthy city and a sinful city, that most likely because it was a center for the worship of the goddess Diana.
Christian tradition and ecclesiastical history seem to be almost unanimous as to John’s authorship. The epistle was likely written around AD 90. 6 Early writers who make reference to First John are Clement of Rome; Polycarp of Smyrna (110-140); Justin Martyr (150-160). Many other writers make allusion to it, including Ignatius of Antioch, Papias of Hierapolis and Irenaeus of Lyons. 7 The Muratorian Canon (c. 200) also presents John as the author and states that the little book has a common origin with John’s Gospel. 8 Leading Scottish scholar, F.F. Bruce says, “John lived to a great age, until the time came when he was the sole survivor of those who had been in close contact with Jesus…It needs little imagination to understand how eagerly he would be sought out and listened to….” 9
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched— this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 1 John 1:1
As it has been said, we live on a “visited planet.” In the fullness of time the Almighty God sent his only Son to live on this planet as the perfect example of what a human being should be like. He came here in flesh and blood in order to redeem all of us who are flesh and blood, but who are bound by sin and death. The Apostle John the Beloved is here bearing clear witness to what is surely the most important act in human history, the Incarnation of the Son of God.
The ancient Greek thinkers, likely following the teaching of Plato, seemed to have had a block in their heads concerning this very subject. They came to believe that the earth and the flesh were evil and beyond redemption, while the spiritual realm was the only real realm and the only thing that mattered. For them it was unthinkable that God could come down to earth and take upon himself mere flesh. The Gnostic teachers responsible for this letter being written were simply following the Greek way of thinking. Unfortunately, it was in clear opposition to the Hebrew way of thinking that is seen here and throughout the Bible.
The expression, “from the beginning” is very similar but somewhat different than the expression of John 1:1. Scholars seem divided as to whether or not this expression speaks of the beginning of creation and time, or whether it speaks of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It would seem that John is using the expression much akin to John 1:1 and that he is referring once more to the beginning of creation. As Barclay, that Scottish great, says, “in him eternity entered time; in him the eternal God personally entered the world of men.” 1 Peter Pett, the English Baptist college lecturer and Bible commentator, remarks, “‘That which was from the beginning.’ In the light of John 1:1— this can only signify the eternity of ‘the Word of life.’” 2
With this verse, John launches a withering attack on those who would deny that Jesus came in the flesh and that he was a real man. Many of the Gnostics were what we would call Docetists. The Greek word from which this is taken means “to appear.” Thus, it would mean that Jesus only appeared to be a man but he was in fact a phantom. Such a view would satisfy the Greek understanding, that the world and flesh were evil and that a righteous God would not be able to be associated with flesh. Unfortunately, this view was mistaken.
John comes forward with several eye-witness statements that thoroughly dispute the Gnostics. He says in essence that God really did become a man and that the disciples were all witnesses to this fact. He says, “We have heard” with our ears. The apostle is not presenting some mere hearsay evidence. He is not relating what others have heard but what he himself has heard. After all, the Beloved Disciple was personally with Jesus during the whole of his earthly ministry. He was even present when Jesus died on the cross. He had personally heard the Word of Life. He heard the Eternal God speak through the flesh of Jesus Christ. As British rector emeritus and prolific writer John Stott says, “What the apostle stresses in his proclamation of the gospel is the historical manifestation of the eternal.” 3
Since John was closer to Jesus than the other disciples he heard a lot of things that they didn’t hear. He heard that Jesus was the logos or Word of God (Jn. 1:1); He heard that he was the Living Water (4:10); He heard that Jesus was the Bread of Life (6:35); that he was the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11); and that he was the True Vine (15:1). He heard a lot of other things that they didn’t hear. They were just not close enough.
Not only did John hear with his own ears the words of the eternal God, but he saw the manifestation of God with his own eyes. John tries to describe the Logos saying: “…which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at…” (1 Jn. 1:1).
The first Greek word for “look” used here (horan) simply means to see. However, the second word (looked at) is theasthai. Barclay describes this word saying: “The verb… theasthai…means to gaze at someone or something until something has been grasped of the significance of that person or thing…” 4 The disciples had thoroughly looked at and gazed upon Jesus. They knew he was real and that he was the incarnate Son of God. As John would say in his gospel, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn. 1:14).
Finally, John says that he has not only heard and seen the Lord but he has actually touched him. The Greek here is pslaphan. Stott, quoting Brooke, says it means “to grope or feel after in order to find, like a blind man or one in the dark; hence to handle, touch… examine closely” 5
Since John was closer to Jesus than the other disciples, there were probably many times that he snuggled up to Jesus and spoke privately with him. We see one of those times at the Lord’s Supper. We note that John was leaning against the Lord’s breast during the supper (Jn. 13:25). John could have probably added to his testimony here, “I have even heard his heartbeat!” 6 In Luke 24:39–40, even after his resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples, “‘Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.” Thus we see that the disciples were not only witnesses of Jesus’ fleshly body but of his resurrected spiritual body as well.
John was proclaiming that he had heard, seen and touched the very Word of Life. We can understand by this why it was so important for these early disciples to leave everything and follow after Jesus. He would not appear incarnate again in all human history.
The expression “Word of Life” is an important one. In the Greek language “word” is logos. It was a very popular Greek philosophical concept. Calvary Chapel pastor and web commentator, David Guzik, describes it saying that logos is: “…the basis for organization and intelligence in the universe, the Ultimate Reason which controls all things… It is as if John said to everyone, ‘This Logos you have been talking about and writing about for centuries— well, we have heard him, seen him, studied him, and touched him! Let us tell you about him.” 7
For those moderns and postmoderns who doubt that there is a supreme intelligence behind our universe, we would only mention that several top-notch physicists are now defining the universe in terms like these: J.A. Wheeler says the essence of the universe is information. James Jeans says it is more like a thought, while Werner Heisenberg thinks it is like an idea and George Wald sees it more as mind. 8 All these descriptions are extremely close to “word.”
“The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us” (1:2). Augustine (354-430) says of this: “The life itself has been manifested in flesh, so that what can be seen by the heart alone might be seen also by the eyes, in order that hearts might be healed.” 9 John says later in this verse that it is the eternal life that has been manifested. The Greek word for eternal is aionios and according to Thayer it means “without beginning and without end, that which always has been and always will be, eternal.” Life is zoe and also according to Thayer it “indicates…the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God.” 10 It is this eternal life that has been proclaimed to us.
John says that “the life appeared” or was made manifest. The word is phaneroo, and it means “to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown.” 11 It is important to note that the word for “seen” used here is in the Greek perfect, which speaks of continuing action. Pett says of it, “The perfect indicates something happening in the past and continuing into the present. He cannot forget the glory of it and it is still with him. We heard, and we still hear, we saw, and we still see…spiritually that hearing and seeing still goes on in a deeper way, for it is imbedded in their hearts …” 12 Kenneth Wuest, the noted Greek scholar comments, “Thus the incarnation of the Son of God was the making visible to human understanding, the life which God is.” 13
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1:3). John has discovered that which is too good to be kept for himself. It absolutely must be shared with others. The word for “fellowship” is the common New Testament word koinonia.
This is a very important concept in John’s letter. Pett says it, “…indicates a closeness of relationship. It can signify the marriage relationship, a true and working partnership, a oneness of many, and it can mean to be so close together that all is shared, that their aims and goals are shared, that they have all things that are important in common.” 14 The great reformer, John Calvin, says, “Whosoever, then, really perceives what fellowship with God is, will be satisfied with it alone, and will no more burn with desires for other things….” 15 The apostle is no doubt wishing to make clear that those who have broken the church fellowship or who have left it altogether are running a big risk of losing the life of God that is only revealed in his Son.
“We write this to make our joy complete” (1:4). The reason for his writing is that his hearers may have fellowship with him and with the Father, so that everyone’s joy can become full and overflow. This reminds us of Psalm 16:11: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Guzik says of this divine joy: “This joy is an abiding sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on God, as opposed to happiness, which is a sense of optimism and cheerfulness based on circumstances….” 16 We all know that circumstances can change but true joy always abides. It continues with us and in fact it becomes our strength (Neh. 8:10).
THE LIGHT OF LIFE
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
Light is a very mysterious and wonderful thing. In Genesis, we realize that there was light before the sun, moon and stars were ever created (Gen. 1:3, 14-18). This was undoubtedly the light of God shining upon the darkness and chaos of the emerging creation.
Natural light itself is so mysterious that it has been the subject of much scientific investigation, especially in the last century. In fact, the twentieth century began with several important scientific discoveries related to light. In 1900 the German theoretical physicist Max Planck discovered that light did not only appear in waves, but in particles or quanta, and thus the Quantum Era of physics was born. Albert Einstein was very much involved in the study of light and received the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his correct explanation of the photoelectric effect. Not only did Einstein discover the photon theory of light, but he also went on to propose the incredible theory of relativity.
The physicist F. David Peat speaks of: “…two bombshells…a massive explosion in the twentieth century physics; Their names were relativity and quantum theory, and both theories had something to say about light.” 17
We are surely aware that most of the inventions of the last hundred years were directly or indirectly based upon these discoveries concerning light. Without these discoveries we would be missing things like electric lights, televisions, x-rays, microwaves, computers, iPhones, etc. Perhaps devout people will soon begin to make discoveries concerning spiritual light. What a day that will be!
John says simply, “God is light.” In God there is not a speck of darkness. He is not referring to natural light but to spiritual light. There are a lot of things light symbolizes in the spiritual world. It speaks of purity, holiness, knowledge, wisdom, happiness.18 It speaks of life, love, glory, truth, beauty, majesty, energy, growth, perfection and it represents every essential excellence. Light is fully manifested in the face of Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6). “Darkness, on the other hand, implies all imperfection, and principally ignorance, sinfulness, and misery.” 19 In the presence of light there are beautiful living blooming and growing things. In the darkness there is decay and ugliness, like the gross things we might find under a rock. Darkness is fully manifested in Satan and his kingdom.
It is clear from Scripture that we humans not only once lived in darkness but that we actually were darkness within ourselves (Eph. 5:8-9) because of our sinful nature. Now, through Christ and his sacrifice we have become children of light. We are now delivered from the power of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13). He has brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). That light now shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it or put it out (Jn. 1:5).
To live in darkness is a dreadful and dangerous thing. The pastor and evangelist Ray Stedman tells of a time in his youth when he and some other young men decided to spend a night at the Grand Canyon. They were almost without funds so they decided to get into their sleeping bags and spend the night on the ground there. He says:
We arrived in the park long after midnight and not knowing where the Canyon was we drove on into the park, found a wide spot in the road, pulled the car over. Taking out our sleeping bags we walked a few feet into the trees, threw them down and went to sleep. When we awoke in the morning the sun was high. I woke first, rolled over, and to my astonishment found that I had been sleeping within arm’s length of the edge of the canyon. If I had rolled over in my sleep I would have fallen over the edge of a 500-foot precipice. In the darkness we had not seen it, but the light made it clear. That, in turn, made us grateful that we had not tried to go further from the car that night. 20
John says: “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth” (1:6). The big problem with many Christians in the US is that they are walking in the shadows. When we walk towards Christ the shadows will always be behind us, but when we walk away from him the darkness and the shadows will be before us. Many believers are essentially accepting the rules and the “wisdom” of this present evil age. They are beguiled by the spirit of this age and so they are deeply compromised.
When we walk in the shadows we will begin to lose our witness and our spiritual power. Warren Wiersbe, the internationally known Bible teacher and pastor of Moody Church says, “One of the first symptoms of walking in darkness is a loss of blessing from the Bible. You cannot read the Word profitably while you are walking in the dark.” 21 I remember the situation with a dear friend and church deacon some years ago. He kept complaining that he could just not read the Bible anymore. That sounded strange, but year after year he had the same complaint. Finally, in desperation he confessed that he was hooked on pornography. We prayed together and this stronghold was broken. Now he can once again enjoy God’s precious Word.
There are many other things that happen when we begin walking in the shadows. We lose our love for the fellowship of God’s people. We really become hypocrites, or liars, pretending to be something we are not. Once Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (Jn. 3:19-21).
In the Jewish world the word “walk” has to do with one’s manner of life. In the Hebrew, the word for walk is “halak.” The Jewish people refer to the commands and traditions of Judaism as “halakhah,” or “walk.” The Greek word here in verse 6 is peripateo and it conveys a similar concept. This verb peripateo is present active subjunctive. Thus, it does not speak of a single isolated instance of sin but it speaks of a habitual action of sin. 22 Stott says, “The false claim here is the assertion that we have fellowship with God, while at the same time we walk (that is, habitually live) in the darkness (cf. 2:11; Isa. 9:2; Jn. 8:12; Rom. 2:19).” 23 The Bible says plainly that light has no fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14).
Guzik sighs, “John is much too plain for our sophisticated age, which doesn’t want to see anything in black or white, but everything in a pale shade of gray.” 24
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1:7). Barclay says: “Truth is the creator of fellowship. If men are really walking in the light, they have fellowship one with another. No belief can be fully Christian if it separates a man from his fellow-men.” 25
Once again, here the word for “walk” is present subjunctive and it indicates habitual action, that one is continuing to walk in the light. 26
We have something interesting here. It says that if we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us of all sin. When we think of the blood sacrifice of Christ we probably think of a one-time action. Here we see that the cleansing is a present active verb or something that is done continually. 27 Barclay adds, “The meaning is that all the time, day by day, constantly and consistently, the blood of Jesus Christ ought to be carrying out a cleansing process in the life of the individual Christian.” 28
The world-renowned Bible teacher, Derek Prince, once remarked that the blood of Jesus only cleanses in the light. As we bring our sins to the light we are washed and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. When we seek to hide our sins in darkness, they remain. 29 It is also true that when we bury our sins in the dark it is like burying a seed in the ground. Our sin simply sprouts, grows and bears its ugly fruit.
No doubt, the Gnostic teachers felt that light was primarily knowledge, but John makes clear that it has to do with ethical purity. Baptist professor Bob Utley says “Truth is something we live, not just something we know.” 30
ADMITTING OUR SINFULNESS
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
Many people in our postmodern world do not seem to understand what sin is. The theologian John Hannah says that many folks would likely define sin as a Peanut Butter Binge or as Chocolate Decadence, while they would at the same time not define lying as sin. Sin is often merely caloric in our society.31 Because of our increasing biblical ignorance, there are many people walking around today who would never consider themselves sinners. They feel they are far removed from the inherited sinful nature of Adam and they do not believe the many wicked things they do and say would be classified as sin. John says of these that they are simply self-deceived.
Perhaps we should take just a little time to think about how we got into this situation. In our society, the philosophers have told us that we are all “OK.” Thomas Harris assured us of this in his 1967 classic, “I’m OK, You’re OK.” If we are really OK, we have no need to be concerned about our sin. However, as we observe ourselves and the world around us, it becomes obvious that we are not OK. We have a problem, a very deep problem, and the problem is our sinful nature. We sin and we cannot help sinning.
Stott comments, “John’s affirmation is equally applicable today to those who deny the fact of guilt of sin by seeking to interpret it solely in terms of physiological, psychological or social causes.” 32 Today sin is often seen as syndrome. For instance, alcohol abuse is now defined as a disease or syndrome, relieving the person of any and all responsibility.
Well, the Bible is crystal clear that we are all sinners. In Romans 3:23 we read: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” In Galatians 3:22 we read, “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” The Bible assures us that we have inherited a sinful nature due to Adam’s fall, but it also says in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
In our verse under discussion here we should note that “sin” is singular. Stott feels by this that the reference is to that inherited principle of sin or self-centeredness that we have all received from our forefather Adam. 33 It is almost as if sin were a part of our genetic makeup.
This verse has a lot of implications for some branches of Christianity, where a great emphasis is placed upon “sanctification,” as some act of God that rids us from all future sin. This verse blows such a doctrine to shreds. It is clear that sin will continue to show up in believer’s lives until we are made perfect on that last day. Even the great Apostle Paul could still classify himself as the “worst of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Once someone came up to the evangelist D. L. Moody claiming that he had reached the point that he no longer sinned. Mr. Moody remarked, “Well, I’d like to ask your wife about that.” 34
No doubt, John was facing false teachers who did not take sin too seriously. There were in fact two streams of thinking in Gnosticism. One group felt that salvation was an intellectual matter entirely and therefore it really did not matter how a person lived. The body was evil anyway. The other group believed the body was evil and thus it had to be controlled in its desires. 35
The Scripture also plainly says that if we will confess our sins God will forgive us. What a wonderful promise! The Greek word “confess” is homologeo, and it means essentially to “say the same thing” that God is saying about us. 36 God says that we all are sinners and when we confess, we simply say, “God, you are right. I am a sinner!” In truthfully admitting this, we cannot go on our merry way sinning, but we must turn away from our sinful life and turn to God as we receive his total forgiveness. Sometimes it is even necessary that we repay the loss that we have brought upon others (Lk. 19:8).
When we truly confess our sins it is a first step into the Kingdom of God. The crusty British commentator John Trapp (1601-1669) says, “No man was ever kept out of God’s kingdom for his confessed badness; many are for their supposed goodness.” 37
“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1:10). If God says we are all sinners how can anyone dispute this? If we say that we are no longer sinners because of our doctrinal beliefs we make God a liar. The Gnostic heretics were liars. They felt that their superior enlightenment made it impossible for them to sin. 38
There are plenty of folks around today who involve God in their sin. It is common to hear people say “Well, we are divorced because he (or she) was not the right one for me.” God says that the two shall be made one and shall not be separated (Eph. 5:31; Matt. 19:6). Other people say after being divorced and finding another partner, “God just put us together.” Such talk is common in our day, but Jesus says in Matthew 5:32, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” God also says, “I hate divorce…” (Mal. 2:16). Often by our unbiblical talk today we also make God out to be a liar.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense— Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 1 John 2:1
John addresses his flock as “my dear Children” (teknia – expressing the Greek diminutive) and by this we realize his tender affection for the flock.1 He was, after all, their aged pastor and spiritual father. The early church leader Jerome tells this story about the venerable apostle. It seems that he often used to repeat this phrase, “Little children love one another.” When they asked him why he did this he responded, “Because it is the Lord’s precept, and if it is done, it is enough.” 2
John’s earnest desire is that his dear children would be kept form sin. Of course, we see this desire and command also in the teaching of Jesus (cf. Jn. 5:14; 8:11). Sin is defined as lawlessness, doing what the Law of God forbids, or omitting to do what the Law of God requires. 3 Here John speaks concerning acts of sin 4 and not the habitual pattern of sinning that we will see later in 3:6, 8, & 9. As we have mentioned earlier (vs. 1:8-9), we are all sinners by our very nature and we will not be completely free of sin until our bodies are redeemed. Still, the Lord desires that we overcome sin as much as possible while we live on earth. This is feasible with the many-faceted helps of our Lord Jesus.
The apostle says that if anyone sins we have an advocate (paraklētos) or paraclete with the Father, who is Jesus Christ the Righteous. Since he lived a life totally without sin while on this earth (Heb. 4:15), he is able to help us with our sin problem.
The word advocate represents a very important biblical concept and we need to try and understand it. The Lord desires that we stop sinning (Jn. 5:14), but he wants us to know that if we do sin we have an advocate who will plead for us. The word paraklētos is a complex one. In the most common sense of the word, it speaks of someone who comes alongside to help us or someone who acts on our behalf and intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). 5 So, we have here the picture of a supporter, a counsellor and a helper. This is obviously also a picture of the Holy Spirit who works in our lives (Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26) and who helps us.
Another meaning of this word, one which is not the most common, is that of one who comes to our legal defense. Barclay says of this usage here, “In the passage in the First Epistle the translators are almost unanimous in rendering paraklētos by the word advocate.” 6 Barclay says that this idea of giving legal assistance was the word’s most common usage in secular Greek. 7
So, we see that the word has a wide meaning. It certainly speaks of Christ who intercedes for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25) and pleads our cause (Heb. 9:24). Wiersbe remarks here: “Christ is making intercession for us (Rom. 8:34), and the Holy Spirit is also making intercession for us (Rom. 8:26-27). We are part of a fantastic “heavenly party line.” 8 Since Satan is the persistent lawyer and prosecuting attorney, he is always presenting his case against us (Rev. 12:10). It is nice to know that we have a mighty defense counsel in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We should be aware, as Gregory the Great (540-604) says, “A righteous advocate never takes unrighteous cases, which ours of course are. What can we do, dear brothers? The only way to get around this is to follow what Scripture says: ‘The righteous man accuses himself first of all.’ Therefore a sinner who weeps over his sins and accuses himself is set on the path of righteousness, and Jesus can take up his case.” 9
“Our advocate does not maintain our innocence but confesses our guilt. Then he enters his plea before the Father on our behalf as the one who has made ‘the atoning sacrifice…for our sins’” 10
Guzik tries to bring all this down to the present, saying: “Our Advocate asks to approach the bench. As he draws close to the Judge, he simply says: ‘Dad, this one belongs to Me. I paid his price. I took the wrath and punishment from this court that he deserves.’ The gavel sounds again, and the Judge cries out, ‘Guilty as charged! Penalty satisfied!’” 11
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2). Here we have another very important Greek word, hilasmos (atoning sacrifice). This word is often translated as “propitiation,” which means “satisfaction,” and is used only here and in 4:10. It is important to note that this word was originally employed in the pagan world for one who was attempting to appease, placate or bribe an angry pagan god by presenting a sacrifice. This is not the same idea as in the New Testament, where our God is a loving God. Some have sought to avoid this idea entirely by translating the word as “expiation” (RSV), or the annulling the guilt of our sins. 12
We cannot exactly get away from the idea of propitiation though. Utley says the word, “implies that Jesus placated the wrath of God (cf. Rom. 1:18; 5:9; Eph. 5:6; Col.3:6). God’s holiness is offended by mankind’s sin.” 13 John Stott says, “…there are other biblical words and phrases which indicate that in some senses he does need to be propitiated.” 14 James Burton Coffman, the 20th century leader of the Churches of Christ adds, “…there is a sense in which the anger and wrath of Almighty God were indeed turned away by the sufferings of Christ.” 15
The term hilasmos is also used in the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament (LXX). There it speaks of the mercy seat, or the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. It was at this very place that atonement was made for the sins of Israel. Therefore, it answers to the Hebrew kaapar. This word speaks of the covering or atonement that is made for our sins. 16 The Duke University scholar, Alan Culpepper, sums up: “He took the blood from the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the ‘mercy seat: (hilasterion)’ covering the Ark of the Covenant, thereby cleansing and sanctifying the people…” 17
We see that this propitiation is not just to redeem believers but is available for the sins of the whole world. There is no idea of a limited atonement here. God is drawing all people to himself (Jn. 12:32) and he desires all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Stott says, “a universal pardon is offered for (the sins of) the whole world and is enjoyed by those who embrace it; cf. 4:9, 14 and Jn. 1:29; 3:16; 5:24.” 18
The great hymn of Charles Wesley pictures all this so beautifully:
He ever lives above
For me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace. 19
HOW DO WE KNOW THAT WE KNOW GOD?
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 1 John 2:3
Actually, John gives us three ways that we can know that we know God. We can know that we know, when we obey his commands, here and in verse 5, we can know when we walk in his likeness (v.6) and when we love our brothers (v.10).
In this respect, Christianity is not too far removed from Judaism, which also stressed the obeying or keeping of God’s commands. We realize that what has changed between Judaism and Christianity is the dynamic in how commands are to be kept. In Judaism obedience was up to the individual, but in Christianity we have the power of Christ and the help of the Holy Spirit living within us.
Commands and laws often are a sour note to modern and postmodern Christians. We like to quote (or misquote) Romans 10:4 “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” It would be better if we quoted this passage from the NKJ translation which says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Christ is not the end of the law as many suppose, but the end of the law for righteousness. Christ actually came to establish the law and to fulfill it. He says in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus has come to write the law of God on our hearts and in our minds (Jer. 31:33).
It is important to note here that John is not using the regular word for law (nomos). He never uses this word for Christian obedience. Rather he uses the Greek word entole, which has reference to a command, an order, charge or precept. 20 We usually do not think of Jesus giving commands or charges and yet, according to my count, there are over a thousand of these commands in the New Testament. So we have more commands in the New Testament than the 613 commands the Jews say that are in the whole Torah or Law. Sadly, Jesus’ commands are mostly ignored by present-day Christians. We see the Master asking in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Once more, we need to emphasize that we cannot obey or keep the commands of the Lord by our own power. Paul sums this up well, saying in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” So, it is Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in us that enables us to be obedient. We just have to be willing to receive that help.
Martin Luther was such an example of a Christian trying to live by his own strength.
He tried to keep God’s commands but it was all in vain. He would beat himself and spend entire days in protracted fasts. He would lay long hours on the cold floor of the monastery. He tried every way possible to keep the commands, but his trying drove him to despair. At long last he discovered Paul’s words, “…The righteous will live by faith” (Rom.1:17). With that discovery he spent the rest of his life actually keeping God’s commands.21
Of course, the one who keeps the Lord’s commands is the one who loves him (Jn. 14:15, 14:21). He is also the one who really knows the Lord. The word for “obey” or “keep” shows up here and in 5:3. It is the Greek teeroomen. It means to guard or keep, like we would guard a precious thing. It means to keep safe, and it pictures one observing the commands so as to keep them. 22 This concept is still very popular in modern Israel with the words shomer mitzvoth (guarding the commandments).
In this verse we have revealed to us the possibility of knowing God. This is an astounding thought, that we could actually become acquainted with the King of the whole universe! The key to this acquaintance is Jesus Christ whom the Father has sent to earth for this very purpose. We cannot miss the fact that acquaintance with God is based upon obedience to Jesus’ commands (cf. Jn. 8:51-52; 14:15, 21-24; 15:10, 20). Dean Overman remarks about this knowledge: “…one may argue that the most powerful form of knowledge is not empirical, but an encounter or personal acquaintance with the divine.” 23
We need to take a close look at this word “know.” It was used in the Old Testament for the closest of personal relationships (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5). In the New Testament the words for “know” are ginōskō and oida. These speak of knowing facts about some thing or someone. 24 So, together with the Old Testament concept we have a rather complete knowledge spoken of. The knowledge of God is an experimental knowledge. We know him better as we walk with him and experience him day by day.
So, it is God’s great plan that all people should know him personally. At the end of the age we will see this come to pass. In Jeremiah 31:34, we read: “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.” In Habakkuk 2:14, we also read: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
John goes on to use some very tough talk for those who do not keep the Lord’s commandments. He says, “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (2:4). “Since he considers knowledge of God practical and experiential, to claim to know God and at the same time to disobey his commandments is to lie and to be devoid of all truth.” 25
There are several Scriptures that back up this teaching of John. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus tells us: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Jesus’ brother James teaches: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (Jas. 1:22). Clearly, the one who does not do what the Lord says is at best a hypocrite, and hypocrites are subtle liars. That prince of English preachers, Charles Spurgeon, said: “An unchanged life is the sign of an uncleansed heart.” 26
John, like Paul often does, is using a diatribe style here. Likely, the false teachers were making some claim that they really knew God. The apostle calls their claims bogus.
“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him…” (2:5). Later in his little book (5:3) John will say, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” The word for “obeys” or “keeps” is present subjunctive, and it speaks of a habitual and continuous action 27 The word for “complete” in verse 5 is from the Greek teleioo. It means that one is mature or fully equipped for an assigned task. It does not mean that one is completely sinless. 28
We see in this verse a great proof that we are in God, if we are habitually keeping the Lord’s commandments. This is one way we can know that we know him. In Philippians 3:10, even the great Paul longed to know the Lord better, so this longing should certainly be present in our lives today. “True knowledge of God does not end with speculative ideas, as for the Gnostics, but with obedience to the moral law and with the presence of God’s love in the believer.” 29
Stott says: “Being a Christian consists in essence of a personal relationship to God in Christ, knowing him, loving him, and living in him as the branch lives in the vine (Jn. 15:1ff)…Christian conformity is to the example of Jesus as well as to his commands (cf. 2:29; 3:3, 7: Jn. 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:21).” 30
“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (2:6). In 1:6, we touched on the concept of “walk” from a Jewish perspective. The Hebrew word for walk is halak. Based upon this, the whole concept of the Jewish life or walk is linked to this word. It is called halakhah as we have said. To walk as a Jew, one would need to carefully keep the commandments and traditions of Judaism. We remember how God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 17:1: “…I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” One of the high water marks of Old Testament theology is found in Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Surprisingly, what John is saying here in verse 6 is that we have a Christian halakhah. It is based upon the life of Jesus and how he walked or lived among humankind. However, John’s Greek word here is peripateoo, and it has a similar meaning of to walk about, to live, or to conduct oneself.
We might ask, “How then did Jesus live?” He lived a life of complete submission and obedience to the Father. He spoke what the Father spoke and he did what the Father did (cf. Jn. 8:28; 12:49). God could say of Jesus on several occasions that he was “well pleased” with him (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Peter in describing Jesus says of him, “he went around doing good” (Acts 10:38). Interestingly, this same thing was said of the blessed Christian woman Dorcas, whom Peter raised from the dead (Acts 9:36). She apparently lived in the Lord’s pattern. In Romans 2:7, Paul writes, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”
We don’t want to leave this section without some emphasis on the words “to live” or “to abide” in him. The word is meno and it means “to abide, to remain, to sojourn or to tarry.” The picture implies “position, relationship, fellowship, friendship, dependence, harmony and communion.” 31 Pett says that this theme of abiding is central to understanding John’s letter and that it is pictured in John’s gospel (15:4-7) with the idea of our abiding in the vine, or abiding in Christ. 32 Utley agrees that our being in him is a recurrent theme and is seen in many Johannine writings (cf. Jn.14:20, 23; 15:4-10; 17:21, 23, 26; 1 Jn. 2:24-28; 3:6, 24; 4:13, 16). 33 The great preacher and writer F.B. Meyer says: “…The outer walk is the best evidence to ourselves and others that there is an abiding union between us and Jesus.” 34
AN OLD COMMANDMENT MADE NEW
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 1 John 2:7
John’s common expression “dear friends” (agapetoi) is again better translated “beloved ones.” 35 No doubt, by his speaking of a new command, John is referring back to Jesus’ teaching on this found in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Of course, John may also have been referring to the greatest of all commandments in Mark 12:30-31: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The command to love the neighbor as oneself was always in the Torah (Law) in Leviticus 19:18. However, Jesus put the commands together in a remarkably new way.
There is a sense in which truth is always old. We do not originate new doctrine. We need to flee from any teaching that is totally new. No doubt, some of the Gnostic teaching was brand new to everyone. In Acts 26:22, Paul assures his listeners that everything he was saying to them was found in Moses and in the prophets. In Jeremiah 6:16, the prophet advises Israel: “…Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…”
However, there is a sense in which Jesus’ commands were like new. John says, “Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (2:8). His commands are new because they are now illuminated with heavenly light. They are seen in a completely new perspective. The Venerable Bede (673-735) says, “God’s commandments to love was old because it had been around since the beginning of time, but it was also new, because once the darkness was taken away, it poured the desire for new light into our hearts.” 36 The true light of Christ is now shining and all things look differently in that light.
It should be noted that the Greeks had two words for “new.” The word “neos” meant new in relation to time, while the word “kainos” meant new in relation to quality. 37 We should note that it is the word “kainos” that is used here. In the light of Christ there is an entirely new quality to the old commandments.
John says that the darkness is “passing” and the word he uses is paragetai. Wuest tells us the word means “to pass away” or “to disappear.” He likens this to a parade going by on the street. 38 Since all parades have an end, the wicked parade of Satan and all his dark hosts will soon be over.
Bruce comments that “two great affirmations about God in John’s first epistle are that ‘God is light’ (1:5) and ‘God is love’ (4:8, 16).” 39 Here we see these two great affirmations bound up together.
THE GREAT DANGER OF HATRED
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 1 John 2:9
Wiersbe remarks, “it is impossible to be in fellowship with the Father and out of fellowship with another Christian at the same time…You can’t be a Christian alone…The Christian life has two relationships: the vertical (Godward) and the horizontal (man-ward)…” 40 There is an interesting passage in Matthew 5:23-24. Jesus says: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” In the church we are bound together. As we are a unity, we make up a glorious, invisible, new temple to God (Eph. 2:19-22). The brother or sister with whom we have a conflict may be a pillar in that new temple or even part of the altar where we are about to present our gift. How can we proceed without making things right with our brother or sister?
In Matthew 5:21-22, we see a splendid example of how Jesus takes an old thing and makes it new: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…” We cannot help but think of Cain here. John will deal with him in the next chapter. Cain was jealous and angry with his only brother Abel. His anger quickly turned into murder. Even after his horrible act of becoming the world’s first murderer, he still made the contemptuous reply to God in Genesis 4:9, “…Am I my brother’s keeper?”
We cannot walk in the light and hate our brother or sister. To do so is to walk in the darkness. No doubt, the Gnostics had lured some new Christians out of the light and back into the shadows of false belief. In the darkness, the flower of love withers away rapidly and the evils of suspicion and hatred grow in its stead. This is inevitable when one chooses to walk is in the darkness. Paul Hoon describes the new situation of these deceived Christians as one of “loveless arrogance.” 41
“Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble” (2:10). Love and light seem to go together. Love fulfills the law (Rom. 13:8). Love encourages the members and builds up the body of Christ (1 Thess. 5:11). Wiersbe says, “Just as the fruits and flowers need sunshine, so God’s people need love if they are going to grow.” 42 We need to remember that love is not something we conjure up but it is a gift that is bountifully given to us by God. In Romans 5:5 we read that “…God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Since it is freely and abundantly given we can share it in a free and abundant manner.
If we love, we will not stumble and more important still, we will not cause others to stumble. The word for “stumble” is the common one “skandalon.” Real Christian love will not be a scandalous thing. It will not become a trap or a snare where others are caught. It will not offend the brothers and sisters. Wiersbe says, “The best way to help other Christians not to stumble is to love them. Love makes us stepping-stones; hatred (or any of its ‘cousins,’ such as envy or malice) makes us stumbling blocks.” 43
“But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him” (2:11). There is a great penalty for walking in the darkness. In the darkness a person will eventually become blind. We note this from some of the fish found in caves. Certain of these fish no longer have eyes. When a faculty is neglected it begins to atrophy like the mole that also loses its eyesight because it mostly lives underground. 44 C.S. Lewis says:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. 45
SOME LOVE NOTES TO GOD’S DEAR CHILDREN
I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 1 John 2:12
Much ink has been spent by writers and scholars in an attempt to give logical sense to verses 12-14. However, Bruce remarks, “No completely satisfying explanation has been given by commentators of the duplication of this threefold encouragement.” 46 Barclay says that although this section in not exactly poetry, it is still poetical and rhythmical and should be interpreted as such. He states that “Literalism and poetry do not go comfortably hand in hand.” 47
The big question one faces here is, “to whom is John writing?” Is there just one group of people (the church) or are there are three separate groups? It has been suggested that John is addressing the whole church with his first use of “children.” The Greek word he uses is the common teknia in verse 12. When he addresses children again in verse 14 he uses a different word, paidia. He is obviously writing to three groups within the one church.
Another question we are faced with, “Is John writing to different chronological age groups, or is he writing to different spiritual age groups?” Stedman says, “These have no relationship to physical age whatsoever, or to sex. It is possible for a man sixty years old in the flesh to be six months old in the Lord…A young man of thirty can be a babe in Christ…” 48 Some of the ancient Latin commentators, such as Augustine, think that these different expressions represent three different stages of spiritual pilgrimage. 49
When John Wesley went around England preaching, he would often preach on the text, “You must be born again.” Someone once said to him, “Mr. Wesley, why do you always preach on that text?” Wesley replied, “Because you must be born again.” 50
John assures the dear children who are born again that their sins have been forgiven on account of Christ’s name. The Greek word for forgiven is “aphiemi,” and it means that the sins have departed or that have been sent away. The tense is perfect passive indicating that these sins were put away by the cross of Jesus. 51 Whether we are speaking in a chronological sense or in a spiritual sense these little children are truly forgiven. Guzik says, “God’s forgiveness does not come by degrees. Even the youngest Christian is completely forgiven.” 52
“I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father” (2:13). In Bible times, the fathers were the elderly men who were often entrusted with the welfare of the church. However, spiritual fathers do not have to be elderly. When we bring a person to the Lord, we might be a younger person ourselves, but we have still brought a spiritual child into the world. Nevertheless, the church is always blessed by its fathers, who have long experience with spiritual things. The spiritual fathers should be honored just as natural fathers are to be honored (Deut. 5:16).
It is of note that “Father” occurs more often in the writings of John than in all the Synoptic Gospels taken together. 53 John tells us that the fathers have a great knowledge of the one who is from the beginning. Barclay comments on the word “know” saying: “To know God was not merely to know him as the philosopher knows him, it was to know him as a friend knows him. In Hebrew, to know is used of the relationship between husband and wife and especially of the sexual act, the most intimate of all relationships (compare Genesis 4:1).” 54 The idea of knowing God personally is spoken of throughout the Bible, especially in the prophets of Israel (cf.Isa. 52:6; Jer. 31:34).
Next, John commends the young men. “Young men” in the Bible is generally alluding to a group between ages 20 to 40. This group is in the prime of life. The difficult tasks of society fall upon them, especially this is the case in matters of defense. Babies and old men are not sent out to war. These young men are commended because they have overcome the evil one. The “evil one” or “wicked one” is called “ton poneron,” or “the pernicious one.” This word poneron speaks of evil that is in direct opposition to
the good. 55
These young people (spiritually speaking) are already overcomers. This is a special word for John (ninikekate). This word with its various endings is used fourteen times in John’s letters and Revelation and only eight times in the remainder of the New Testament. It is especially used in Revelation and we can see by this that the end days will be a time for the church to overcome. I have often said that in the last days there will be only two kinds of people left on the earth, the overcomers and the overcome. If there is any task that the church today needs to focus upon it is the task of growing overcomers. Paul neatly sums up this doctrine in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Albert Barnes, the 19th century American scholar, speaks to such as these… “You have triumphed over the passions which prevail in early life; you have combated the allurements of vice, ambition, covetousness, and sensuality; and you have shown that there is a strength of character and of piety on which reliance can be placed…It is right to call on those who are in the prime of life, and who are endowed with energy of character, to employ their talents in the service of the Lord Jesus, and to stand up as the open advocates of truth.” 56
At last, John addresses the children. As we have mentioned, he uses a different term (paidia) here. Coffman remarks that there has never been a good explanation of why John uses the two different words for children. 57 Perhaps he wished to distinguish his remarks here from his general greeting in verse 12. Little children have one great distinction. They have a loving Father and they are born of him and constantly in his care.
“I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (2:14). John here repeats his charge to fathers and to young men. He repeats, as elderly people are often prone to do. The Holy Spirit who is the final author of God’s word always allows writers to be themselves, but he still guards every word so that the whole is complete and inspired in every respect.
The fathers are again commended for knowing God and the young men are once more commended for being overcomers. The Wesleyan revivalist William Godbey says here: “the old men are mighty in the Scriptures and the young men invincible on the battlefield.” 58 However, we see that the young men are strong in the word of God also. In Ecclesiastes 12:1, it is written: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…” Sometimes people fall away from the godly and evangelistic vigor and zeal they displayed as young believers.
It has been noted by many that the tense of the verb mysteriously changes here. John no longer says “I write,” (grapho) but “I have written (egrapsa). Several commentators feel that this is what is called an epistolary aorist in the Greek. Barclay explains this saying, “…Greek letter-writers had a habit of using the past instead of the present tense because they put themselves in the position of the reader.” 59
This seems to be only a matter of style. Stott remarks about this saying: “There is really no difference in meaning between the two tenses, as the NIV rightly indicates by translating all six ‘I write to you…’” 60
A WARNING ABOUT LOVING THE WORLD
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15
The “world” mentioned here is the Greek kosmos. This speaks of an organized system (the opposite of chaos). However that system can act in total opposition to God. 61 This word is very similar to the Greek aion, which can also mean “world” or “world system.” The scholar Trench has a very good description of the “world.” He says it includes, “All hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral, atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale.” 62 Barclay says of kosmos that it “acquired a moral sense. It began to mean the world apart from God…to John the world was nothing other than pagan society with its false values and its false gods.” 63
In our Christian societies the word “world” is often abused and taken to the extreme. Stedman complains, “Each of us has heard it used to denounce everything from buttons to beer, from opera to operations, from the waltz to the watusi. Anything that is currently the subject of Christian disfavor has been crammed into this passage, labeled ‘worldliness,’ and denounced.” 64
But on the serious side, the world and worldliness are grave threats to the Christian life. We no doubt remember the sad story of Demas, that one-time assistant to Paul. In 2 Timothy 4:10, the apostle laments, “…for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me…” Surely, we remember the stern words of James who says, “…don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). In Romans 12:2, Paul challenges us to no longer pattern ourselves after the world but to have our minds transformed with Christ.
Many things fall under the category of “the world,” things like unrighteous desires, gluttony, greed, power, position, worldly glory, lusts, promiscuous sex, a desire for things and for stuff, to name a few.
As Christians we must set our minds on things above and not on things of the earth (Col. 3:1-2). We must look for the unseen things and not those that are. The things we see are temporal but the unseen things are eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). Like our father Abraham, we must always be on the lookout for a city that has foundations whose builder is God (Heb. 11:10). The world and its things are passing away as John will soon tell us. We remember the words of the young missionary martyr Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep (i.e., his life), to gain that which he cannot lose” 65
“For everything in the world— the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does— comes not from the Father but from the world” (2:16). Here the author is not talking about the world in the natural, that wonderful and beautiful creation of God. He is rather speaking about the world system that is fallen and is always prone to sin and rebellion against God. Later in 5:19 John will declare, “…the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Satan uses absolutely everything in this system to come against the Creator. The lust (epithumia) of the eyes is a very important thing. We realize that our natural mother Eve had such a lust in her heart. Genesis 3:6 says of her, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it…”
The lust of the eyes still gets us into a lot of trouble. “The eyes are the gate from the world to the flesh.” 66 Our eyes draw us into all kinds of evil, lust and adultery. Our eyes cost us plenty as we watch the glittering TV and Media commercials. Guzik says, “They probably make a powerful appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or to the pride of life. Many successful ads appeal to all three…” 67 The wonderful gadget presented is available for a limited time and in limited supply. We can have it for only $19.95, and if we hurry and order immediately they will send us two for the price of one. We soon find that what we have is more “stuff” to clutter our lives and fill our attics.
John next speaks of “boasting of what he has and does.” The Greek word here is alazoneia. If we compare it to the same word used in James 4:16, we will see that it means arrogance, boastfulness and proud self-sufficiency. 68 Barclay describes the proud boaster saying, “…The alazon…is the braggart…he talks of his friends among the mighty and of the letters he receives from the famous. He details at length his charitable benefactions and his services to the state. All that he occupies is a hired lodging, but he talks of buying a bigger house to match his lavish entertaining.” 69
We can see that from the pride, lust and boasting of the world many other evils stream. We have the evils of racism, sexism, injustice, neglect of the poor and helpless. We have all kinds of crime, lawlessness, sensual gratification. The “world” in the last analysis is a place that few of us would really wish to live.
“The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (2:17). All this reminds us of this portion the famed Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. 70
As John says, and as we have said previously, the desires of this world and the “seen things” will soon pass (2 Cor. 4:18). While this world will be remade in glory, the “fashion” of this present evil world is passing away (1 Cor. 7:31). Thus we should find ourselves only but strangers and pilgrims here (Heb. 11:13).
When we take careful note we realize that our natural lives are passing away also. We are allotted but few years. Psalm 90:10 tells us: “The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
Even the natural world around us is passing. This is a scientific principle known as entropy. According to this principle, the earth and solar system are running out of usable energy. This reminds us very much of Hebrews 1:12, where it speaks of the Messiah folding up and setting aside the universe as he would fold up worn out clothing. In short, the present earth itself will become a casualty of the last day.
The really good news is that the person who does the will of God will live forever. This is something that is too good to be imagined. In John’s gospel he connects this eternal life with knowing God as he has also spoken of here. He says in his gospel, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (Jn. 17:3). The relationship we are now forming with Jesus and his people will go on and on forever and ever.
LOOKING OUT FOR ANTICHRISTS
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 1 John 2:18
John tells us that this is the last hour of history. This is no doubt a figure of speech indicating that the end is near. Wuest reminds us that the word “hour” does not have an article. He says this means that John is not referring to a particular time, but to a particular character of that time. 71 John may be saying something like this, “Hey everyone, we are beginning to face ‘last hour’ stuff.”
Perhaps it would be good for us to get some understanding of the end days as the Bible speaks of them. Daniel 9:24, is likely the most mysterious verse in all of Scripture (read vs. 24-27 for the whole picture). In this one verse God encapsulates history by dividing it into a period of “seventy sevens.” These are probably seventy time-segments of seven years each. This very long period most likely began with the Second Decree of the Persian king Artaxerxes in 445 BC. In this passage we are dealing with a total of 490 years. However, by the time Christ appeared, clearly sixty-nine of the seventy time periods of seven had elapsed. Only one period of seven years remained. We can now understand why New Testament people felt they were living in the last days.
Were they mistaken? Two thousand years have now elapsed and the end has not come. How do we explain this? It is important for us that the decree of the King Artaxerxes had to do with rebuilding Jerusalem. It seems likely that when the Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem as well as the Temple in AD 70, the divine time clock stopped. After two thousand years we are still living in the last days and still approaching the end of the age. We are “seven minutes till midnight,” or “to a new day,” so to speak. We can guess that the restoration of Jerusalem in our time, as well as the final rebuilding of the Temple sometime soon, will bring on the end of this period and usher in the last day. This is called the Day of the Lord, or the consummation (cf. Matt. 13:39-40; 24:3 ff.; 28:20). Until that time, we continue to live in the “times of the Gentiles” as Jesus mentioned (Lk. 21:24), and the “last days” (2 Tim. 3:1) or “end of all things” (1 Pet. 4:7) as Paul and Peter mention.
John alerts us that antichrists are on the way and even present in our midst. We also need to take a little time to understand the doctrine of antichrist in the Bible. To get at the root of this doctrine, it is once more necessary for us to return to the Book of Daniel. We remember that Jesus gave a lot of credence to Daniel as he made his end-time teachings (Matt. 24:15).
The figure of antichrist first appears in Daniel 7:8, as the “little horn” in Daniel’s dream. Later he appears in Daniel 8:23, as the stern-faced king in another of Daniel’s visions. This king is more fully revealed in Daniel 11:36-45. The interpretation of these passages is difficult because Daniel is weaving in the picture of one who has been called the Old Testament Antichrist, the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c. 215-154 BC), with the end days. This king was a near-perfect picture of the one who would come in the last days. Antiochus conquered Israel, defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig upon the altar, set up a statue of the Olympian Zeus at the temple, and severely persecuted Israel. Finally, it was the valiant Maccabees who arose to cast off his rule. Daniel makes it abundantly clear that Antiochus is the type of the last day antichrist.
The New Testament picks up on this picture in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Paul speaks of another man of lawlessness who will deceive many and will set himself up in the temple showing himself to be God. Revelation tells us that the entire earth will worship him (Rev. 13:11-12). However, with the appearing of Christ, he will receive his certain doom (Rev. 14:9-11). He will at last be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 19:20).
John makes clear that we are not only dealing with the final Antichrist but that we are dealing with a spirit of antichrist that is already in our midst. Paul may also be referring to this when he speaks of “the secret power of lawlessness” that is already working in our midst (2 Thess. 2:7). Obviously, John was seeing this spirit of antichrist at work in the Gnostic teachers who were denying that Christ came in the flesh and who were luring new Christians off and into their ranks (cf. 1 Jn. 4:2-3). The frightening truth is that antichrists are very much evident in our world today. Guzik comments, “In other words, though the world still waits to see the ultimate revealing of the Antichrist, there are little “previews” of this man and his mission to come. These are the antichrists with a
little “a.” 72
We should note that the Greek prefix “anti” according to Barclay can mean either against or in place of. “Antichrist can mean either the opponent of Christ, or the one who seeks to put himself in the place of Christ.” 73 John makes clear that these antichrists can come right out of the church itself.
The Antichrist or Man of Lawlessness seems to be a personality much desired in our lawless world. So many want to live in lawlessness today and they may soon get their wish. However, once they have it, they will then realize their eternally dreadful choice. Guzik again comments, “We should take notice, because the world stage is set for a political and economic ‘superman’ to arise, a single political leader to organize a world-dominating confederation of nations.” 74
“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (2:19). Clearly, these who are called antichrists went out from the church. The theologian C.H. Dodd puts it: “Membership of the church is no guarantee that a man belongs to Christ and not to Antichrist.” 75
Jesus says in Mark 13:13 “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” In the Christian faith there is the great doctrine of perseverance (see 1 Jn. 2:24, 27, 28). True faith does not flee but it stays and bears fruit. 76 It remains to the end. We should be under no illusions here. It is the Lord himself who brings us victoriously to the end of our faith journey. We think of the verse in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Or we think of that wonderful passage in Jude 1:24-25, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
KNOWING THE TRUTH
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 1 John 2:20
No doubt, several of the Gnostics, along with some of their deceived followers, were bragging about the secret knowledge they received with their initiation. There is something about human nature that longs to be “in the know” especially about super-secret things.
John comes against their supposed knowledge claiming that Christians now have a secret knowledge about all things. In this verse John uses the Greek word pantes (all). Translators have struggled with this word, as to whether it means “you all know,” or “you know all things.” The NIV chooses the former meaning that “all know.” However, the ASV chooses “ye know all the things,” and the NKJ also chooses, “you know all things.” In any case, through the Holy Spirit’s anointing the least believer has received a vast array of spiritual knowledge available to him or her.
Bruce says of pantes that “his anointing teaches you about everything.”77 In my 70 plus years of being a Christian I have found this to be true. In fact, at about age 75 it became necessary for me to put up a website without having one ounce of knowledge about how to do such a thing. I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit gave me wisdom and knowledge about this and actually made the task easy and fun for me (cf. Jas. 1:5). I have ended up putting together three sites so far. Praise the Lord! Of course, the Lord expected me to fully cooperate and do my best to study and prepare myself on this subject.
Let us think a little about the anointing of the Holy Spirit (chrisma). There has been a lot of confusion about this doctrine, especially since the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have come along. Many have acted like the Gnostics and have prided themselves in a special Holy Spirit anointing that has given them some unique wisdom and power. They call it “the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” or “the Baptism.” Some refer to it as a “Second Blessing.” Most of these folks seem certain that this anointing is something the average Christian does not have.
These ideas do not square with simple Scripture. Paul says in Romans 8:9 that “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Christians in early ages felt that the Holy Spirit was something one received at salvation and baptism. They never heard of a “Second Blessing.” Even the popular term “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is only seen on seven occasions in Scripture. These verses are Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16; and 1 Corinthians 12:13. In all but one of these occurrences, it speaks of a one-time historical event, the coming of the Holy Spirit. The one occasion that it does not speak of this, it is actually referring back to the historical event.
Much better terminology would probably be the “filling of the Holy Spirit” as we see in or the common expression “Spirit filled.” In Ephesians 5:18, we even have a command to be filled with the Spirit. While being filled with the Spirit can describe our initial Holy Spirit experience, as in the case of Paul (Acts 9:17), it can also describe a common and continuing experience that happens to the Lord’s followers (Acts 4:8; 4:31; 13:9; &13:52).
Stedman says, “… If you have believed in Jesus Christ, you all have received this anointing from the Holy One, the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 78 Wuest says that the “…anointing is never repeated. The Old Testament priests were anointed with oil just once, when they were inducted into their office [Exo. 30:23-25]. The NT priests (the believer) is anointed with the Spirit just once, when he is inducted into his office as a priest (when he is saved)….The anointing is for the purpose of placing the Holy Spirit in a position where he can be of service to the believer, namely, in the saint’s inner being.” 79 While the anointing is a one-time thing the filling of the Spirit can and should be repeated.
We all just need the Spirit we have received to completely overflow us, running down our heads and faces, even down to the hem of our garments (Psa. 133:2). We need it to spring like a river from our inmost beings and quench the thirst of our generation. In the Bible there are several Scriptures that seem to describe the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in us from conversion and welling up within us. In 2 Peter 1:3-4, the apostle says: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Paul, in his glorious introduction to Ephesians, exclaims: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). It is thus quite true that the best of heaven was given to us with Jesus. In Colossians 2:9-10 (NKJ), Paul even says: “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him.”
In John 4:14, Jesus says: “but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He speaks of it again in John 7:37-38: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’” Verse 39 makes clear that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit.
So the believer today can rest assured that he or she has the anointing of God. That Spirit will teach the believer all things (Jn. 14:26) and will guide the believer into all truth (Jn. 16:13). We have no need to long for some secret knowledge that is offered us. Those who have this anointing and this seal, can resist Satan’s spirit, which is the antichrist spirit.80 This Spirit of God will seal us for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30).
“I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth” (2:21). All those who are born of God know the truth. Concordia professor Paul Kretzmann says, “…Therefore all true Christians are well able to recognize, to detect, all teaching and living that is not in agreement with the truth.” 81 It was precisely this that Jeremiah promised in the New Covenant that all God’s people would know the truth, from the least to the greatest of them (Jer. 31:34).
“Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist— he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (2:22-23). John now tells us who the real liars are. They are the ones who deny that that Jesus is the Son of God. Stott says, “The false teaching of those who have left the church is now revealed. It is a denial that Jesus is the Christ.” 82 Pett declares, “There is no greater lie than to deny the Christhood and Sonship of Jesus.” 83 Such a one is an antichrist. That makes us wince when we think of all the so-called Christian intellectuals and others today who have a problem saying that Jesus is the Son of God or that God came to earth in the flesh of Jesus.
John says very clearly that it is impossible to have the Father without having the Son. Many people today think they know the Father but they have no regard for the Son or they even despise him. Such a religion is just not possible. The Son introduces us to his Father. We can only know what the Father is like by looking at his Son who came to us in the flesh. Jesus says in Luke 10:22, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Stott says that we cannot possess the Father unless we confess the Son. 84 The wonderful thing is that when we have the Son, we have the Father also.
REMAINING IN THE SON
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us— even eternal life. 1 John 2:24-25.
Stott says here: “Christians should always be ‘conservative;’ in their theology…The continuous obsession for ‘the latest ideas’ is a mark of the Athenian not the Christian (Acts 17:21).” 85 Therefore: “The Christian can never weigh anchor and launch out into the deep of speculative thought.” 86 When it comes to the truth of God the new-fangled things are definitely not better than walking in the old paths.
The gospel we have heard from the beginning must remain in us. The Greek for “remain” or “abide” is “meno.” This is an important word for John. In fact, he uses it six times in these few verses. 87 Jesus and his gospel must feel at home in our lives. We must at all times seek to make them welcome. We should silently ask the Lord how he feels about what we are reading and doing or about the places we are frequenting. Those who remain in the Lord will find that the Lord is remaining in them.
These verses assure us that we can have eternal life. Coffman says, “No other religion, not any philosophy, nor any code of ethics, nothing whatever, throughout the long course of human history has ever promised eternal life…” 88 The amazing thing about this life is that we can begin enjoying it right now. Guzik comments, “….if we don’t have eternal life now, we won’t get it when we die….” 89
CHILDREN WHO ARE TAUGHT OF THE LORD
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 1 John 2:26
It must seriously grieve Satan when people turn their hearts to the Lord and receive his salvation. How quickly the devil must dispatch his demons to try to lure these back into the darkness. Wiersbe tells the story of a Native American who was a new Christian and was visiting in Los Angeles. He stopped for a moment to listen to a cult preacher. The Christian friend wondered if this new believer was about to be deceived. Finally, as he walked away, the Native American remarked, “Something in my heart kept saying, ‘Liar! Liar!” 90
“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit— just as it has taught you, remain in him” (2:27). John has already spoken about the anointing of the Spirit. Here he emphasizes that the anointing teaches us.
Isaiah 54:13 assures us that “All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace.” In John 14:26, it is written concerning the Holy Spirit: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
We are told that we have no need for anyone to teach us. Let us say that we have no need that anyone teach us, unless we really think that we have no need that anyone teach us. When we think in this way, we are in great need to being taught because our pride has overcome us. All of us have a need at times to sit under anointed teachers. God gave teaching as a spiritual gift just so we could all enjoy that benefit (1 Cor. 12:28).
“And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (2:28). The appearing of Christ or his parousia has the meaning of the Lord’s personal presence at his coming. 91 We cannot imagine the glory, majesty and beauty of this appearing! The Lord will come in all his holiness and draw his holy ones to himself. For his parousia, John desires that we will have parresia or boldness to meet him. 92 If we are walking with the Lord and staying in the light we will not have to shrink away at his coming but we can stand confidently.
“If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (2:29). Many scholars are quite certain that this verse belongs at the heading of chapter three rather than at the end of chapter two. We remember that chapters and verses of the Bible were added many centuries after it was written, and therefore chapter breaks do not always come at the appropriate places. As Jesus comes in his righteousness, all who are righteous in him will be joyous in his presence. The unrighteous will look for caves and other places to hide from his presence.
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1
This has to be one of the greatest statements regarding our salvation to be found anywhere in the Bible. It is a picture of divine love lavished upon us as we are ushered into the heavenly family. Meyer notes how astounding this statement is, and he marvels, “Why God should have made us his children is incomprehensible!” 1 Kretzmann says of this passage, “The image of God, lost by the Fall, is being renewed in us once more. Christ Himself is being formed in us (Gal.4:19). What unspeakable, immeasurable majesty is ours!” 2 The early Methodist biblical scholar, Adam Clarke adds: “Whole volumes might be written upon this and the two following verses, without exhausting the extraordinary subject contained in them, viz., the love of God to man.” 3 This special love of God is known by the Greek term of agape.
Of course, as the image of Christ is formed in us, the world is not pleased. The world hates him and therefore as we reflect his image, the world will hate us also. Barnes comments: “and it is no wonder that, having wholly mistaken his character, they should mistake ours.” 4 Just as Jesus was destined for suffering as the natural Son (Lk. 24:26), we too are destined for suffering as the adopted sons (Jn. 15:20).
Perhaps it would be good here to clarify our relationship to the Father as regarding his Son the Lord Jesus. The Bible is clear that God has accepted us into his family as adopted sons (Rom. 8:14-17, 23; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 3:26-27; 4:6-7; Eph. 1:5), while Jesus is the true and “only begotten” Son of God.
Barclay points out, however, some things we know from the Roman adoption procedure. He mentions how the adopted son lost all obligations and connections with his former family and at the same time gained all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family. He had as much right to be an heir as the natural born son.5 Through Jesus, we believers are now sons of God in the fullest sense. As we live by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14), Jesus is not ashamed to call us “brothers” (Heb. 2:11). We are even predestined to be conformed to his image (Col. 3:10). Paul points out in Galatians 4:6 that we have now received the Spirit of sonship, and we can call him “Father” or “Daddy.” In Romans 8:16, we see that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are God’s children. Calvin cautions us though with these words: “…He, in short, means that the more abundantly God’s goodness has been manifested towards us, the greater are our obligations to him.” 6
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (3:2). Wiersbe states here, “First John 3:1 tells us what we are, and 1 John 3:2 tells us what we shall be.” 7 When Christ appears we shall be made like him. We were originally made in the likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). However, the Fall did much to mar that image within us. It was man’s destiny to bear that image 8 and thus Christ came to earth to restore it. Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” We really are not able to imagine the glory and splendor of our new spiritual body as we are made like Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him….” He will transform our lowly bodies like his glorious heavenly body (Phil. 3:21). That is too much to even imagine!
“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (3:3). Because of these glorious truths, what must we do? We must purify ourselves just as the people of old did a ritual purification before approaching the Lord and his temple. Our purification is not just ritual however, but it is in Spirit and in truth. It is done as we allow the Holy Spirit, the word of God and the blood of the Lamb to daily cleanse us. The word “purify” is present tense here and it conveys the idea of being constantly purified. 9 Pett explains this further saying: All who have this hope set themselves “diligently about making themselves pure, through the word, through prayer, through meditation, through exhortation, through hearing the word, through godly living, through continual submission to God, through yielding their lives and bodies…” 10 In 1 Peter 1:15-16, we read: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
God has a process of sanctification going on for each of us but we must do our best to cooperate with that divine program (2 Cor. 7:1; Jas. 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 3:13-14). No doubt, that program was interrupted for those early Christians who were being lured away by the Gnostic teachers. These teachers probably felt their special knowledge would exempt them from moral flaws and that what was done in the body was not too important anyway.
LIVING IN LAWLESSNESS
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4
We have pointed out how many Christians feel they have nothing to do with the Law. Here John makes clear that we do have something to do with it. If we sin we break it. If we sin we become lawless because sin is lawlessness. The Greek word for Law is nomos and the word for lawlessness is anomos and this word negates law. 11 While the unbeliever sins against law the Christian sins both against law and against love. Sin is mentioned in this verse in the singular, speaking of the root of sin and not individual sins. Wiersbe says, “Sins are the fruit, but sin is the root.” 12
“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin” (3:5). When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him he exclaimed: “…Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). There are a lot of things we can do for ourselves but we cannot take away our own sin, and that is no doubt our greatest and most pressing human problem. Jesus came to earth to do the big thing that we could never do for ourselves. He came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).
One reason he could help us with our sins was that he had no sin. The New Testament bears constant witness to this fact (cf. Jn. 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22-23). It required a pure Redeemer to make us pure and to keep us pure.
“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (3:6). This is a difficult and straightforward statement of John. Utley says of it: “He wrote in black and white categories (also found in Dead Sea Scrolls). For him one was in Christ and thereby righteous, or in Satan and thereby sinful. There was no third category. This serves as a ‘wake-up call’ to peripheral, cultural, part-time, funeral-only, Easter-only Christianity!” 13
Utley continues saying: “This passage has been the center of the controversy between Christian perfectionism (cf. Romans 6), sometimes called entire sanctification, and the continuing sinning of the Christian (cf. Romans 7).” 14 Even in the early centuries there was some teaching around that a Christian must not sin after baptism. That similar idea has been carried over with some “sanctification” movements up till modern times. In many ways this is a dreadful doctrine. It has caused numerous saints to live their lives in unnecessary fear and condemnation.
Even some of our Bible translations seem to foster this misunderstanding. The NAS version of 1 John 3:6 says: “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” The NKJ version says, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” Other versions have it right, including the NIV which says: “No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” The words “sinning” and “sin” used here are in the present tense indicating habitual acts and the habitual character of the person involved. 15 No one can be a real Christian and maintain a habitual practice of sinning. “What is important is that we never sign a ‘peace treaty’ with sin. We never wink at its presence or excuse it by saying, ‘Everybody has their own sinful areas, and this is mine. Jesus understands.’” 16 We cannot continue in sin.
Every Christian will sin occasionally but it is in no way his or her lifestyle. John has already assured us that if we say we are totally without sin we are liars (1 Jn. 1:8). Barnes asks, “Who can maintain that Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob; that Moses, David, or Job; that Peter, John, or Paul, were absolutely perfect, and were never, after their regeneration, guilty of an act of sin? Certainly they never affirmed it of themselves, nor does the sacred record attribute to them any such perfection.” 17
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SINNERS AND SAINTS
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 1 John 3:7
Long ago the early church writer Oecumenius (about 990) said: “The person who does what is right is righteous, and the person who does what is wrong is wicked. It is as simple as that.” 18 Once again, the word for doing righteousness is present tense, indicating a continuing and habitual action.
We must quickly clear the air here lest people think that they can really be righteous on their own. There is no one righteous before God, not even one person (Rom. 3:10). Rather, righteousness is imputed to us as a gift through Christ. Romans 1:17 reads: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” So, we gain righteousness as a gift from God and it is received by simple faith in Jesus. Once a person has gained this status with God, that person will begin to live a righteous life. It is simply a fruit of the relationship with Jesus. The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon once said it well, “The grace that does not change my life will not save my soul.” 19
The false teachers were no doubt quite skilled in making their evil philosophy and their wretched works seem righteous and attractive. By this deceit they were leading many astray. It is true today that so many false religions at first seem attractive. We must remember to respond to these like the Psalmist who wrote: “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.” (Psa. 119:104).
John now presents the other side of the coin saying, “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (3:8). Bruce comments: “Here the antithesis is between the family of God and the family of the devil; in either family the children may be known by their moral likeness to the head of the family.” 20 The devil has sinned from the beginning, no doubt a reference to the beginning of his evil career. Several Scriptures have allusion to the devil’s work (Isa. 14:9-17; Ezek. 28:12-14), or else speak specifically of him. “He is called ‘the destroyer’ (Rev. 9:11)…father of lies; (Jn. 8:44)…His power is considerable, as is plain from his widespread, malicious activity…He rules from a ‘throne’ (Rev. 2:13), and his dominion is so extensive that ‘the whole world is under the control of the evil one; (1 Jn. 5:19)…” 21
Wiersbe says of the devil, “Christ is God but was willing to become a servant. Satan was a servant and wanted to become God…” 22 Satan is one who sins habitually. Although we might fall into sin occasionally, we must never follow the pattern of the devil and sin habitually.
Godbey remarks at this verse: “Oh, how pertinent this warning today, when the world is flooded with sinning religion.” 23 Clearly, we cannot live in habitual sin and claim to be a Christian. Trapp, speaks of those who would want to “fly to heaven with dragon’s wings; dance with the devil all day, and sup with Christ at night; live all your lives long in Delilah’s lap, and then go to Abraham’s bosom when you die…” 24
We see in this verse that Jesus has come to destroy the works of the devil. The word destroy in the Greek is luō, which means “to loose, to unbind, or to destroy.” 25 Jesus will, in a very real sense, unbind all that Satan has bound and will destroy all his programs. In Genesis 3:15, we read that Satan would bruise the heel of man, but that Christ [in man] would bruise the head of Satan. In Romans 16:20, Paul assures believers that God would soon crush Satan underneath their feet.
James 4:7 promises us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” When Jesus first sent out his disciples to preach the word, and as they were being successful he exclaimed, “…I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Lk. 10:18-19).
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (3:9). Once more, John speaks of a continuing or habitual sinfulness. He is not speaking of a single act of sin wherein some believer occasionally falls prey. When we feel sin trying to encroach upon us, we need to remember that trusty Scripture in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
There is a beautiful story of one resisting temptation in Genesis chapter 39. Young Joseph, who was in charge of all that Potiphar had, was sorely tempted by the man’s wife to have sex with her. Finally Joseph replied, “No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”(Gen. 39:9) In the end, Joseph actually fled from her.
John says here that we cannot continue in sin or maintain a habit of sinning because God’s seed is planted in us. This has been a puzzling Scripture for many. What does it mean to have God’s seed planted in us? Some have thought the seed is the word of God, while others have thought it to be the Holy Spirit within us. Utley feels it is possibly Christ himself, who is called “the seed of Abraham” (Lk.1:55). 26 We may not solve this problem, but it does seem likely that the divine seed is the word of God. Jesus clearly identifies the seed as the word in Luke 8:11. In 1 Peter 1:23, the apostle speaks of the imperishable seed which brings about our new birth. In James 1:21, he speaks of the engrafted or implanted word which is able to save us.
Some scholars think it possible that the Gnostic teachers felt that God had sown seed into the world and through these seed they would be perfected. They felt that only the Gnostics had received these special seeds. 27 “Some supposed that their possession of gnosis had made them perfect, others maintained that sin did not matter because it could not harm the enlightened. Both positions are morally perverse.” 28
“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother” (3:10). As Westcott says, “Life reveals the children of God.” Or as A.E. Brooke has it: “Life is a chance of learning how to love.” 29 Here the subject of loving the brothers and sisters in Christ is introduced and it will be developed through the rest of the book.
Of course, God has given us a shining example of how a person is to live and love. That example is Christ himself. In 1 Peter 2:21-22, it is said of him: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’”
LOVING ONE ANOTHER WITH CHRIST’S LOVE
“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11.
Wiersbe comments here saying that John’s writing is much like a spiral staircase. It always keeps returning to the same topics such as love, obedience and truth. 30 Here he returns to love and will fully develop this subject. It is possible that the activity of the heretics had caused a general lessening of love in the Christian community.31 Perhaps there were many suspicions and much anger against the ones influenced by this false doctrine.
“Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you” (3:12-13). Cain is such a clear example of a worldly man. He cared only for himself and had no regard for others. Strangely, although he was able to converse directly with God, he had absolutely no regard for the Lord’s instruction. He would have fit right into our current “Me Generation.”
Cain murdered his brother out of envy and jealousy. The word for murder is esphaxen and it means to slaughter or even to butcher.32 We get the picture that Abel was truly offered up as a sacrifice, no doubt with his throat being slashed.
Cain was of the evil one, who was a murderer from the beginning. Jesus made an astounding comparison when he disputed with the Jewish leaders. Since these leaders desired to kill him, Jesus told them that their father was the devil (Jn. 8:44). All who murder are of their father the devil and they are walking in the way of Cain. Sadly, Cain introduced murder into the human race and it has been with us ever since. Tertullian spoke of Cain as the devil’s patriarch. 33
We might ask why did Cain want to murder Abel? He wanted to kill him because his brother’s works were good and his own works were evil. “…An evil man will instinctively hate a good man. …The reason is that the good man is a walking rebuke to the evil man, even if he never speaks a word to him, his life passes a silent judgment. Socrates was the good man par excellence; Alcibiades was brilliant but erratic and often debauched. He used to say to Socrates: ‘Socrates, I hate you, because every time I meet you, you show me what I am.’” 34
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (3:14). Meyer says: “Love to the brethren is a sign that we have been born into the family. We may not like them all, yet we can love them. If we love, we live; and if we live in the deepest sense, we shall love…” 35 If we love we have crossed over from death to life (cf. Jn. 5:24; Col. 1:13). It is by this that all people know we are disciples of Jesus (Jn. 13:35).
Conversely, if we live on in hatred of our brothers we abide in death. Jesus makes clear in Matthew 5:21-22, that hatred in the heart is the same as murder. As Spurgeon has said, “Every man who hates another has the venom of murder in his veins…” 36
“Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him” (3:15). Quite simply, we cannot be Christians if we harbor hatred of anyone in our hearts. Someone said that this is like drinking poison and hoping the hated person will die. John wants to make it plain—to hate is to murder. Bede is astounded at this remarking, “The victim is alive, but the slayer has already been judged a murderer.” 37
Perhaps we should make something clear here. “This text has been quoted to prove that no murderer can be saved. This is not said in the text; and there have been many instances of persons who have been guilty of murder having had deep and genuine repentance…”38 We think of the beloved David, who became a murderer in order to hide his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. After some time of deep and agonizing repentance, he was able to say in Psalm 32:2: “Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
LAYING DOWN OUR LIVES IN LOVE
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16
Again, Jesus is our picture of what real love is. While Cain was the example of hatred, Jesus is the example of love. In John 15:12-13, Jesus says: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” The Lord not only taught about it, but he did it by dying on the cross for all of us.
Wiersbe comments, “Every Christian knows John 3:16, but how many of us pay much attention to 1 John 3:16… ‘Self-preservation’ is the first law of physical life, but ‘self-sacrifice’ is the first law of spiritual life…” 39
Now obviously, we all do not have ready opportunities to lay down our lives for the sake of a brother or sister. That was much more common in the first century. In Romans 16:3-4, we learn that Priscilla and Aquila had apparently risked their lives for Paul. Dionysius of Alexandria around AD 262, is quoted by the historian Eusebius concerning a terrible epidemic that befell them:
Very many of our brethren, in their exceeding love and brotherly kindness, did not spare themselves. Rather, they stayed by each other and visited the sick without thought of their own peril. They diligently ministered to them and treated them for their healing in Christ. They died from time to time most joyfully along with them, loading themselves with pains derived from others and drawing upon themselves their neighbor’s diseases…. 40
The early church father Tertullian reports how the pagans would say of the Christians, “Behold, how they love one another; they are ready to die for one another.” 41 The times we are living in are changing rapidly and it is not unthinkable that we in the west should soon be called upon to die for a brother or sister in Christ.
There is a very practical side to this challenge. Wescott says, “The question is commonly not of dying for another but of communicating to another the outward means of living.” 42 Or as Guzik says, “… God calls us to lay down our lives piece by piece, little by little in small, but important ways every day.” 43
James, the brother of Jesus, brings this teaching down to home by saying: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (Jam. 2:15-16).
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (3:17). John certainly backs up the words of James.
The word for “possessions” or “goods” is bios in the Greek. It means, “‘the necessaries of life’ such as food clothing, and shelter….[the] mundane sphere of life on earth…” 44 The great Augustine once said, “If you are not yet able to die for your brother, at least show him your ability to give him of your goods.” 45 The Greek in this verse speaks of shutting or slamming the door of mercy and compassion to the brother. On the other hand, real love for a brother or sister is a “gut feeling” (splagchna) or something felt deep in the heart.
Real love cannot dwell in one who closes the heart. The word John uses for love here as in the first verse is the Greek agape. This is the special love of God that is poured out upon us from heaven. It is the God-kind of love. It is that special self-giving love. John will use this word many times in the remainder of his little book (cf. 4:7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, etc.).
Our generation in the west is thoroughly confused about real love. In the English language we have only one word for love. In the Greek language there were four words for love. There was eros, describing erotic or sexual love. There was storge, referring to family love, then philia, which spoke of brotherly love or affection, and finally agape, that unchanging love of God. 46 It is unfortunate that we have only one word because we see people speaking of erotic love and calling it real love. We see people speaking of selfish love and calling that love too. Much of the Hollywood love is not agape love but erotic kind and in reality is not love at all but only selfish victimization of others.
It is not only John who talks about real love but Paul does the same. No doubt, we would have to say that 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is the most profound description of real love that has ever been penned. In this beautiful chapter we learn that real love is patient and kind. True love is never envious. It is not boastful or proud. It is not rude, self-seeking or easily angered. Real love does not keep a record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil but rather rejoices in the truth. It is always protecting, trustful and hopeful. It always perseveres and it never fails. What a picture of agape or heavenly love!
GETTING LOVE INTO ACTION
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Talk is cheap. In the Corinthians chapter mentioned above, we see that those without the practical applications of love are like sounding brass or a clanging symbol (1 Cor. 13:1). As that old adage goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” One good deed can speak volumes, and our godly actions are perhaps the only gospel that many in our age will ever read.
“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (3:19-20). All through his little book, John is telling us how we can know we are redeemed and how we can know that we know it. We can know it by our love, when that love flows out to others. Strangely, not only can we know it, but others can know it as well.
Through the centuries, this passage has been a difficult one for interpreters. Not only is the Greek a little difficult but it is also hard to know exactly what John is saying. The word peisomen used in verse 19 seems to mean to “convince” or to “persuade” our hearts.47
We can set our hearts at rest in the presence of God. Sometimes our heart and conscience can play tricks on us and make something out to be a lot bigger than it is. The adversary is always alert to such things and no doubt he adds to our discomfort. Barclay says about this, “God judges us by the deep emotions of the heart; and, if in our heart there is love, then, however feeble and imperfect that love may be, we can with confidence enter into his presence. The perfect knowledge which belongs to God, and to God alone, is not our terror but our hope.” 48 We cannot depend on our feelings but on God’s love for us. Even in the midst of his great failure when he denied Jesus, Peter could still reply to the Master in these words: “…Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you…” (Jn. 21:17).
HAVING CONFIDENCE BEFORE GOD
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:21-22
If our conscience and our hearts are clear before God, the way is open for us to ask and receive from him. We should be aware that there are several other requirement put upon us before our prayers can be guaranteed an answer. Stott spells all this out for us saying:
“The incarnate Son as the supreme example of pleasing God and so being heard by God (Jn. 8:29; 11:41-42)…If a prayer is to be answered it must be ‘according to his will’ (5:14; cf. Ps. 37:4; Jn. 15:7)…We must also pray in Christ’s name (Jn. 16:23-24), and for God’s glory (Jas. 4:2-3).” 49 He goes on to say that one must be cleansed from his sins (Ps. 66:18; Prov.15:29; Isa. 59:1-2; Jas. 5:16), forgiven himself and also forgiving others (Mk. 11:25). He must believe in God’s promises (Matt. 21:22; Mk. 11:24; cf. Jas. 1:5-7). We can surely understand by this why some of our prayers remain unanswered.
One great requirement which John continually emphasizes is that of obedience. Gregory the Great once said: “It must be understood that if we are to get what we ask for from God we have to obey his commands. The two things go indissolubly together.” 50 As fathers, it is very easy for us to give a gift to a beautifully obedient child, but extremely difficult to give a gift to a disobedient one. When we spend our lives in loving obedience we can expect to receive from our Father. Psalm 37:4 expresses this well: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Before we leave this verse we need to look at the word “confidence” which is parresia in the Greek. Wuest describes this as “freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech, free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.” 51 It is in this manner that we should all appear before our Heavenly Father. We should not want to hide or slink away.
HIS COMMANDMENT TO LOVE
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:23
This is Christianity at its simplest, to believe in Jesus and love one another. We cannot love without believing and we cannot really believe without loving. 52 Paul sums it up in Galatians 5:13 saying, “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Calvin says of this section: “This is a remarkable passage; for he defines briefly as well as lucidly in what the whole perfection of a holy life consists.” 53
“Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (3:24). John comes back to one of his favorite words, which is “live” or “abide” (menei). As continually obedient children, we can live in God and he can live in us. The Venerable Bede says, “Therefore let God be a home to thee, and be thou the home of God…Eph. 3:16-17.” 54
This is the first occasion in John’s little book that he mentions the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is specifically the Spirit who is the presence of Christ living in us. Paul tells us in Romans 8:15-16, that it is through the Spirit that we can now cry “Abba, Father.” That, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
In Israel, there had always been prophets and spiritual manifestations of one sort or another. These prophets, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, had played prominent roles in the nation’s history. The early church also had its prophets. We immediately think of Agabus, who predicted the great famine in the days of Claudius (Acts 11:28). We think of Philip and his four daughters, who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9). We are told in church history that Philip and his daughters had, in later years, migrated to Asia Minor and were no doubt in fairly close proximity to John. 1
Barclay says of primitive Christianity, “In the early church there was a surging life of the Spirit which brought its own perils.” 2 It is true that Israel, throughout her history, had always faced the peril of false prophecy. Quite simply, the false prophet in ancient Israel was to be put to death (Deut. 13:1-18). Jesus in his ministry warned his disciples about the false prophets who would appear (Matt. 7:15; 24:4-5). He made clear that in the last days false prophets would arise and show mighty signs and wonders (Matt. 24:11, 24).
We get the impression that in time, even the true prophetic gifts actually became problematic to some of the churches. The Didache, which could have been written near the First Century, has this to say about the prophet who would visit the churches: “He will not remain except one day, but if there be need, also the next. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. However, if he asks for money, he is a false prophet.” 3 Hermas speaks of a false prophet in the churches saying, “He fills their souls with expectations, according to their own wishes.” 4
As time passed, the prophetic gifts waned in the churches. By modern times the prophet and prophetic gifts were but a faint memory. However, by the early Twentieth Century, prophecy began to be restored by the Pentecostal and later Charismatic Movements. These movements also did much to reestablish the spiritual fervor to the churches, and many ordinary Christians realized that they had spiritual gifts of prophecy and discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10; 14:1, 29-32). Many miraculous events began to take place in churches throughout the Twentieth Century and up to the present time.
We can be thankful for such spiritual gifts since they spark renewal and often reveal what is false in the church. No doubt, most Christians have prophetic insight from time to time. I certainly do not claim to be a prophet. Yet, I remember many years ago, when our children were young, how I once took our oldest son with me to visit a church in the city. When the ministers began the service, I had an awful feeling and that feeling grew worse and worse. Finally, in desperation, I gripped the hand of our small son and we hurried out of the church. The very next week, we read in the paper that the two ministers of that church were arrested for some very serious criminal activity.
It is not unusual today to run into people who have prophetic gifts. It is good when these gifts are used for the building up of the Body of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:12). It is also not unusual to find people today who have the gift of discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 12:10). Actually, it would be beneficial for the church to have many more of these gifts working in its midst. It would no doubt save us from some modern and postmodern heresies. Whether we like it or not, or whether we even know it, we are in the grips of a spiritual war (Eph. 6:12).
Prophetic and other spiritual gifts must be regulated by the congregations. In the early church we see that prophets were often regulated by other prophets (1 Cor. 14:29, 32). It is surely necessary for pastors and leaders to watch over the use of these powerful gifts. Unregulated gifts of prophecy have caused great ruin for many in modern times and have resulted in several false spiritual movements that are still with us.
The Bible tells us that we should not despise prophecy but rather learn to test all things to see if they are from God (1 Thess. 5:20-21). John uses the Greek word dokimazō, which means “to test with a view toward approval.” 5 The final test of prophecy is whether or not it lines up with Scripture. It is particularly alarming that a few recent prophets have demanded that people listen to their new revelations, and that they not pay too much attention to the Scripture, since they feel that revelation is a progressive thing.
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God…” (4:2). Here is something that is absolutely critical in Christianity. Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God came to earth as flesh and blood. Jesus is not only truly God but he is truly man. This is the basis of our salvation. Today, we have some very prominent groups, including a billion and a half Moslems, who all deny that Jesus is divine and that he came to us as the only Son of God in the flesh. There are some very learned people, even some professors at Christian institutions, who have a real problem with the Incarnation. If we want to really tell about some teacher’s faith we can just ask that person if Jesus was and is God’s only begotten Son and if he came to earth in the flesh. We should not think that this is the only test of Christianity but it remains a very important one.
John continues, “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (4:3). Every spirit who does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God and that he came to live on earth in flesh and blood is an antichrist spirit. John has previously stated (2:18) that there are already many such antichrists in the world. These are not to be confused with the final Antichrist, Beast or Lawless One, who will appear at the end of the age (2 Thess. 2:8-9).
A number of commentators feel that John was actually having a contest with one of these antichrist types in his day. His name was Cerinthus, and he was living in John’s time. This man seemed to have proto-Gnostic beliefs. He denied the virgin birth of Jesus and taught that the Holy Spirit came upon him at his baptism and left him at his crucifixion.6 Irenaeus and Eusebius both tell us a story relayed by Polycarp about John once meeting up with Cerinthus. The apostle had gone to the public baths but upon hearing that Cerinthus was inside he sprang out of the building: “‘Let us flee,’ he cried, ‘lest the building fall, since Cerinthus, the foe of the Truth, is within it.’” 7
Perhaps we should say a word here about the final Antichrist, Beast, or Lawless One. Some ancient commentators like Irenaeus and Hippolytus felt this one would come out of Israel, particularly from the tribe of Dan. 8 Since violently anti-Semitic Moslems now control most of the Middle East, this scenario is not too realistic today. He rather will likely spring from the remnants of the old Roman Empire (Dan. 7:7-8). The worst of his reign will last about three and one-half years and he will draw the whole world into his worship (Rev. 13:11-12). At last he will lead the godless world into a final battle with Israel and the coming Christ. He will be immediately defeated and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). Speaking of that difficult hour, the church father Lactantius (c. 250- c. 325) says: “When these things happen, then the righteous and the followers of truth will separate themselves from the wicked and flee into solitary places.” 9
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND THE SPIRIT OF FALSEHOOD
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
John now returns to a very important concept, that of overcoming the enemy. Utley mentions here that the Greek term nikaō (overcome) appears 6 times in 1 John (cf. 1 Jn. 2:13, 14; 4:4; 5:4, 5). The word appears 11 times in the Book of Revelation, and once in John’s gospel (16:33). It appears only once in Luke’s gospel (cf. Lk. 11:22) and twice more in Paul’s writings (cf. Rom. 3:4; 12:21). 10 This term means “victory.”
The Lord wishes us to be overcomers in our daily lives and especially during the great struggle at the end of this age. We begin that overcoming by believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that he became incarnate in flesh and blood upon this earth.
All of us are even now involved in a great spiritual battle. I remember many years ago that one night there was an especially strong struggle in my dreams. On that night, I felt a very evil presence in my dreams. It seemed that I could not escape from the evil presence so in my dream I decided to wake up. When I awoke, it was surprising to find the evil presence that was in my dreams was also in my room. I seemed powerless to resist this presence or fight against him. It was as if I were paralyzed. Then, I could see what looked like Jesus far away and he was saying to me, “He that is in you is greater than he that is in them.” Suddenly, I received great strength and the evil presence disappeared from the room.
God wants us to resist the devil. He makes us this great promise: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas.4:7). Many people in our society are overcome by evil but God wills that we all be overcomers. The things that overcome people today are too numerous to mention— things like drugs, alcohol, porn and illicit sex. God put us here to rule over all these things (Gen. 1:26). God wants to help us overcome. The church father, Hilary of Arles (c. 443-409) says, “God’s power to save is always much greater than the devil’s power to do harm.” 11
“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them” (4:5). John speaks of the false teachers who seemed so popular and attractive. Westcott says that these teachers represented a great outbreak of what he calls “Gentile pseudo-Christianity” which came to be called Gnosticism. 12 Kretzmann says of them: “They are of the world, therefore they talk as of the world, and the world listens to them. No matter what their pretense and their glamour, the false teachers belong to the world, they have the world’s manner and mind…False teachers usually have messages that tickle the itching ears of their hearers.” 13 Jesus has some advice for such as these: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets” (Lk. 6:26). Barnes notes: “A professedly religious teacher may always determine much about himself by knowing what class of people are pleased with him.” 14
We should not miss the fact that we are absolutely surrounded today by worldly wise men and women who are the Gnostics of our age. They emphasize knowledge as the answer for all humanity’s need, both natural and spiritual. They propose that education will lead us all to a worldly paradise of sorts. The fallacy of this approach often sticks out when there is a campus riot or when highly educated Moslems blow up some poor innocent folks.
“We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (4:6). Stott says: “There is a certain affinity between God’s Word and God’s people. Jesus taught that his sheep hear his voice (Jn. 10:4-5, 8, 16, 26-27), that everyone who is on the side of truth listens to his witness to the truth (Jn. 18:37), and that ‘he who belongs to God hears what God says (Jn. 8:47).” 15
Guzik adds: “This language of fellowship transcends language, culture, class, race, or any other barrier. It is a true gift from God…” 16 It is amazing that within the Christian fellowship, even among simple folks, there is a knowledge and grasp of truth that transcends this world. Think of it, lowly Christians have discovered the essence of truth and reality. They know that truth is fully expressed in the person of Jesus Christ. As they hold to him they hold to truth, for he himself is the truth (Jn. 14:6).
John continues to paint things in black and white. Those who hold to Jesus and his word are following the Spirit of Truth, while those who do not hold to him are following the spirit of falsehood.
GOD’S GREAT LOVE
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
As we have previously mentioned, the expression “Dear friends” is better translated “beloved.” Guzik relates the striking way this sentence begins in the Greek with agapetoi agapomen, “those who are loved, let us love.” 17 This is a simple formula. God is love. If we love we know God. If we do not love we do not know God. C.H. Dodd put it: “The energy of love discharges itself along lines which form a triangle, whose points are God, self, and neighbor…In this passage there occurs what is probably the greatest single statement about God in the whole Bible, that God is love.” 18 There is not in the history of the human race a false god who could be described as “love.”
Culpepper alludes to this whole section of Scripture as merely a commentary on John 3:16. 19 We cannot help but note that this is the third section in the epistle where John deals specifically with love (cf. 2:7-11; 3:11-18). Godbey adds: “This same agapee, divine love, constitutes the sum and substance of the Christian religion.” 20
John says that we are begotten by God and that we know God. The word “know” here is ginosko and it speaks of knowledge by experience. 21 When we know God we love, and that love shows up in our everyday experience as we express our love to God and to one another. Unfortunately, we have a flawed concept of love in our society today. Guzik says, “…when most people use the term love, they are not thinking of true love, the God-kind of love. Instead, they are thinking of a squishy, namby-pamby, have-a-nice-day kind of love that values being “nice” more than wanting what is really best for the other person.” 22
Knowing God and loving him is a day-to-day lifestyle kind of thing. It absolutely must show up in our attitude toward other people. We must love our Christian brothers and sisters first of all and that love must seep out to all humanity. In Galatians 6:10 Paul advises: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
HOW GOD SHOWS HIS LOVE
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9
How fortunate we are to have a God who loves us! God could have been a hateful tyrant like so many of the pagan gods. Yes, there is a God in the universe and he is a God of love. He has forever proven his love by sending his Son down into this world of sin and degradation. He sent him here to live in this depraved world, to suffer all of its abuse and scorn, then to finally die an atoning death for us on a cruel Roman cross.
God sent his only begotten Son for our salvation. The Greek word for “only Son” or “only begotten” is monogenēs, and this word means “unique” or “one of a kind.” 23 This is God’s “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). Calvin says of him, “Christ, then, is so illustrious and singular a proof of divine love towards us, that whenever we look upon him, he fully confirms to us the truth that God is love.” 24
Stott tries to sum all this up for us saying: “The coming of Christ is, therefore, a concrete, historical revelation of God’s love, for love (agape) is self-sacrifice, the seeking of another’s positive good at one’s own cost, and a greater self-giving than God’s gift of his Son there has never been, nor could be.” 25
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (4:10). It is clear that the whole idea of love didn’t spring from us. Rather, it came from God, for love is his nature. Utley remarks how different this is from the world of religion. He says, “Typically religion is mankind seeking God, but Christianity is God seeking fallen mankind!” 26
Jesus became the atoning sacrifice for our sins. The word is hilasmos and we have dealt with it earlier in 2:2. It means “propitiation,” or “satisfaction” for our sins. Jesus came to pay the price for our sins, a price which we could never afford to pay on our own.
LOVE MADE COMPLETE
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11-12
John really wants to pound the message of love into our heads. Sometimes he almost seems redundant with his message. That is necessary for us, and is in fact good teaching.
Do we get it? God loved us and sent his Son for our redemption. Therefore, we must love one another. This is especially true concerning our brothers and sisters in Christ. Wuest translates it: “Divinely-loved ones, since in that manner and to that extent did God love us, also, as for us, we are under moral obligation to be constantly loving one another.” 27
We cannot see God. The Scripture is clear that no human being can see God (cf. Exo. 33:20; Deut. 4:12; Jn 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:16). Moses, who was no doubt in a very close relationship to God, was allowed only to see his back (Exo. 33:20-23). If we were allowed to see just a glimpse of the glory and holiness of his face, it would no doubt destroy us mortals. Although we cannot see God we can see the person next to us, our brother or sister in Christ, as well as the unbelievers around us. Wiersbe relates this touching story:
A Salvation Army worker found a derelict woman alone on the street and invited her to come into the chapel for help, but the woman refused to move. The worker assured her, “We love you and want to help you. God loves you. Jesus died for you.” But the woman did not budge. As if on divine impulse, The Army lassie leaned over and kissed the woman on the cheek, taking her into her arms. The woman began to sob, and like a child, was led into the chapel, where she ultimately trusted Christ. “You told me that God loved me,” she said later, “but it wasn’t till you showed me that God loved me that I wanted to be saved.” 28
When we love others, God lives or dwells in us. We have seen this word “dwell” (meno) several times already and it will be used several more times in the next four verses. God wants to dwell or live with each of us. When we love others God’s love is made complete in us. The word for complete is teleioo. As we saw in 2:5, it means that one is mature or fully equipped for an assigned task.
Stott marvels at this thought saying: “…his love made complete in us…we must not stagger at the majesty of this conclusion. God’s love, which originates in himself (7-8) and was manifested in his Son (9-10), is made complete in his people (12). It is ‘brought to perfection within us…’” 29
LIVING IN HIM, AND HE IN US
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13
Barclay says that in the early church, the Spirit’s coming upon an individual was much more pronounced and visible than it is today. He notes that it was usually connected with the person’s baptism and was a visible manifestation for all to see. The manifestation of the Spirit shocked the magician Simon Magnus and he was anxious to gain such power (Acts 8:17-18). It was also a publicly visible manifestation in the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-45). Barclay points out that there was an ecstatic element involved in the Holy Spirit’s coming and the effects were obvious. 30
John tells us that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us is one way we can know that we know we are Christians. The Holy Spirit is the presence of the Father and Son in our lives (Jn. 14:23). In Romans 8:16, Paul says: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” The Holy Spirit is our helper (Jn. 15:26); he reveals the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10-12); he teaches us and reminds us of the word (Jn. 14:26); he intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26-27); the Spirit floods our hearts with love and with spiritual gifts (Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 14:1-12); he seals us for the day of redemption (2 Cor. 1:21-22). It is through the Spirit that we can call God our “Father” or “Daddy” (Gal. 4:6).
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (4:14). Once more John brings out his eye-witness testimony of Jesus. At this point, in the latter part of the First Century, he was probably the last living witness who had constantly accompanied Jesus in his ministry. John knew without a doubt that Jesus was and is the Savior of the world. Since he was closer to Jesus than all the other disciples his witness is vitally important.
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God” (4:15). This was the one thing the false teachers were unable to do. They could not get it out their mouths that Jesus was the Son of God or that he had come to earth in flesh and blood as our Redeemer. A lot of people, and some with theological degrees, have trouble saying this very thing today, as we have mentioned. This is another of John’s proofs that we can know that we know we are children of God.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (4:16). Again, aren’t we happy and delighted that our God is a God of love? Stott says, “It tells us not only that God loves, but that God is love.” 31 Love is his nature, even his essence. Human love reflects this divine nature. A.E. Brook has it: “We are never nearer to God than when we love.” And Clement of Alexandria (c. 150- c. 215), in speaking of love, once came up with this startling phrase, that the real Christian “practices being God.” 32
The Venerable Bede in commenting on God’s love once said: “God did not want his Son to be an only child. He wanted him to have brothers and sisters, and so he adopted us in order that we might share his eternal life.” 33 What a grand and wonderful heritage we have as children of God and children of love.
The gifted F.B. Meyer tries to put all this into poetic words saying: “The vessel placed beneath the waterfall is filled to overflowing…Love is the wafted fragrance of Paradise…By strong, patient, selfless love thou wilt abide in unbroken touch with all pure and loving souls— whoever and wherever. Where love was crucified there was a garden. Where there is love, lonely places blossom as the rose.” 34
CONFIDENCE IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 1 John 4:17
John has already spoken of our love being made complete in 2:5 and 4:12. “John is not suggesting that any Christian’s love could in this life be flawlessly perfect, but rather developed and mature, set fixedly upon God.” 35
Because our love is complete we can have boldness or confidence on that last Day of Judgment. The word for boldness and confidence is once more parresia as we saw in 2:28, and 3:21-22. The word meant originally freedom of speech but came to mean bold assurance or unshrinking confidence as we approach God. 36
The Day of Judgment was well established in the Old Testament. Boice says of it, “The Day of Judgment is as fixed in God’s eternal timetable as any other day in world history.” 37 There is really no easy way to separate the Day of Judgment with the many other uses of “the Day” in Scripture. The Bible speaks of the Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment, The Day, That Day, and so forth. They are all closely related.
Through love we become like God. He is our loving Father and we are his obedient children. There is no fear in this close family relationship. In a very real sense, the faithful Christian has already been judged since his or her sins have been judged already at the cross. These sins will never be remembered or brought up again. 38 Also, the Bible assures us that we have been justified by faith and now we have peace with God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (4:18). In that beautiful passage of Romans 8:35, 37-39, Paul assures us with these words:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The cure for fear and torment is to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength (Mk. 12:30). When our love of God is complete there will be no room for fear or torment. The word for “torment” used here is the Greek word kolasis. It has to do with correction, punishment, or penalty.39 It was William Shakespeare who said, “A coward dies a thousand times before his death…” Those who suffer fear begin to already suffer punishment. 40 We must always remember that there is no fear when love is perfected.
HOW GOD’S LOVE FLOWS OUT FROM US
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:19-20
In our lost and dying state there would have been no way we could have known God or have loved him. God had to show us his love by sending his only Son, Jesus. The Lord, by his example, revealed the Father’s love as he died on a cruel cross for us. The cross settles all arguments about whether or not God loves us.
When we get our eyes open and see this great sacrificial love of God, we want to love him back. The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “Show me a fire without heat, then show me regeneration that does not produce love to God.” 41 We not only want to love God but we want to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We also want to love our neighbor (whoever that person might be).
If we say we love God and hate our brother or neighbor, we are liars, plain and simple. This makes it clear that if we cannot love those we see we certainly cannot love the One we do not see. Boice comments here, “These verses are the equivalent of saying that a person cannot practice agape-love unless he can first practice philia-love.” 42 Guzik tries to clear this up saying, “It is easier for us, influenced as we are here by sense, to direct love towards one within the range of our senses than towards One unseen, appreciable only by faith.” 43
Perhaps we need to bring this verse down closer to home. Do we really love those who are close to us? The people on earth we often see the most are our families. How can we love God whom we have not seen if we do not love our family members whom we do see? Do we really love our siblings, or are we in constant tension with them? Do we really love our parents, and do we honor them as we are commanded in Scripture (Exo. 20:12)? Do we really love our husbands and wives? Many families are fractured today by divorce, abuse and a multitude of other things. As Christians, we still have a command to love, even in the midst of these great hurts and disappointments.
“And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (4:21). No doubt John is referring to the Greatest Commandments that Jesus gave in Mark 12:29-31.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this:” ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ “The second is this:” ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “There is no commandment greater than these.”
How can we not take God seriously when he has given us such clear commandments about how we should live? Bede says about this, “Who is there who would say that he loves the emperor but cannot abide his laws?” 44
Coffman muses: “What a wonderful world this would be, and what an incredible sweetness would pervade it, if even any appreciable percentage of its population would live by the principles laid down in this chapter of the word of God!” 45
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 1 John 5:1
As we have said previously, John was the disciple who was closest to Jesus. He learned many things about Jesus that the others did not seem to know. He was the disciple who learned the most about the necessity of a new spiritual birth. He has already mentioned this in 2:29, 3:9 and in 4:7. John clearly spelled out the New Birth in his gospel. When the Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus by night asking him questions, Jesus began to speak of the new birth. The learned Nicodemus, although a high religious leader, was astounded by the concept. Finally, Jesus said to him plainly, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’” (Jn. 3:7).
So here is a “must” in Scripture and we should take careful note of it. This command applies to every person today. Jesus says simply, “You must be born again.” Naturally, we were all born once in the flesh. Now, we must be born in the Spirit. In John 3:3, Jesus says, “…I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The world of religion often misses this critical information. There are millions of “Christians” and “religious people” who have only one birth, but this will never get them into heaven.
It is clear that the new birth is a spiritual birth. It comes to us by our simply believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah and the divine Son of God. When we believe this with all our hearts, we are suddenly changed and born into a new spiritual world. We immediately begin to breathe spiritual air, which is prayer, and enjoy spiritual food which is the word of God. We suddenly have a new spiritual family as we are born into the family of God, or the true church of Jesus. Pett exclaims of these, “They have received new life imparted to them by God, they are a new creation, they have received a life of such quality that it is called ‘eternal life’” 1
We see here that if we love him who begat (the Father) we will love the one begotten of him (Jesus). We cannot love the Father as many claim today and bypass Jesus. Jesus is the way to the Father. In John 14:6, Jesus boldly claims, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If we love God we will also love Jesus. It is just that simple. We will also love the family of God or the true church. Culpepper says “The family metaphors are especially important in the Gospel and Epistles of John.” 2
Godbey speaks of this faith/love connection saying: “Here faith and divine love are set forth as inseparable concomitants, like Siamese twins…constituting the two hemispheres of the beautiful celestial globe of human salvation, faith our side, and love God’s counterpart.” 3 The reader should not miss the universal invitation to accept God by coming to Jesus Christ. (cf. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). 4 This is what the gospel is all about.
“This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands” (5:2). Throughout his little epistle, John has been continually emphasizing the tests of knowing God. They are simple tests consisting of faith, obedience and love. 5 It is by these simple tests that we can know that we know God (v. 13). Yes, the Bible does assure us that we can know that we know. We don’t have to wonder anymore.
How do we know that we know God? We know it by loving his Son Jesus. We also know it by loving his children who are adopted by grace and faith, and these children make up the church of God. When we carry out God’s commands we must love one another. As the greatest command states, we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then, we should love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:29-31). We should love God and others with the agape or God-kind of love.
Scholars Kenneth Barker and John Kohlenberger note here: “This statement troubles commentators because it reverses what is expected…Even as one cannot love God without loving his children, so also it is impossible to truly love the children of God without loving God….” 6
There is a big problem in the western churches. Many so-called Christians today do not feel it is necessary to attend church and be with the Lord’s people. In fact, the mid-90s survey of Wade Clark Roof discovered that 54 percent of evangelical Christians felt it was more important to be alone and meditate than to worship with others. Roof supposed that this was due to the rise of the new “sovereign self” in the west. 7
According to tracking information provided by the Barna Group in 2014, American church attendance had dropped from 43 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in that ten year period.
The groups hardest hit in this drop were the younger Americans, the Millennials and Gen Xers. 8 What a contrast the western churches have with the amazing rise of Christianity on the continent of Africa for instance. Some of these vibrant churches beg their members to limit their attendance to every second or third Sunday in order to give other people a chance to come in and hear the message. 9 The great reformer Calvin says concerning all this, “He has hitherto taught us that there is never a true love to God, except when our brethren are also loved.” 10 James calls this law of love to one another the “Royal Law” (Jas. 2:8).
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” (5:3). In fact, Jesus makes this important statement concerning his commands in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” John has already spoken quite a bit about the Lord’s commandments (cf. 2:3-8; 3:16, 21-23; 4:21). We should be aware by now that we Christians are not rid of commands. We are rather charged to keep them, but with the new dynamic of the Holy Spirit living and working within us. John says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (Jn. 14:15).
We need to understand that the Law of God is not something evil but it is something good. The Law is even claimed to be perfect (Psa. 19:7). As Martin Luther once said: “Grace makes the law lovable to us…and the law is no longer against us but one with us.” 11 We remember how Jacob labored seven years for Rachel and they seemed but a few days because of his great love for her (Gen. 29:18-20).
The problem arises when we have the wrong attitude toward the law. Paul says: “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly” (1 Tim. 1:8). Much like the Holy Spirit, the law convicts of sin. In this sense the law is holy, righteous and spiritual (Rom. 7:12 &14). It would be difficult for us to define sin were it not for the law (Rom.7:7). Much revival preaching in the past thus focused strongly on the law and its commands. We are sorely missing this kind of message today. The law pointed out sin, and in that respect it actually made sin increase, so that grace could also increase (Rom. 5:20). The law is like an x-ray, in that it is diagnostic and shows up our sin, however, the law is not therapeutic. 12 It cannot heal us. Only Jesus can do that. One of the purposes of the law was to prove conclusively that people could not keep it. The law is perfect but we are imperfect.
We have previously spoken of how Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, but he is definitely not the end of the law (cf. Rom. 10:4 – NKJ). Jesus actually came to write the law on our hearts (Jer. 31:33). He did not come to abolish it but to fulfill it in us (Matt. 5:17). However, if we try in our flesh to live by the law as some, we have made a grievous error. Galatians 3:10, assures us, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’”
Human nature is adverse to God’s law. Wiersbe says, “Everything in creation-except man— obeys the will of God— ‘Fire, and hail; snow, and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling his word’ (Psa. 148:8). In the book of Jonah, you see the winds and waves, and even the fish, obeying God’s commands, but the prophet persisted in disobeying. Even a plant and a little worm did what God commanded. But the prophet stubbornly wanted his own way.” 13
John continues: “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (5:4). We are becoming aware that the word “overcome” is a favorite with John. He has already spoken of overcoming in 2:13-14; and 4:4. In the Book of Revelation he will speak of it in 2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 17:14 and 21:7. The word for overcome is the Greek nikaō. As Wuest says, it means, “to carry off the victory, come off victorious.” 14 The word originally referred to Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. No doubt, we have noted that many tennis shoes in our day carry on this name. 15
We are instructed to overcome the world system by our faith in Jesus. In John 16:33, Jesus promises us: “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John has already said in 1 Jo. 4:17, “…in this world we are like him.” Barker and Kohlenberger comment here: “It is best to interpret this statement as referring to a past event; John is emphasizing that the victory he refers to has already been won. By faith we now have access to what was once accomplished by and through the appearance of Jesus on earth.” 16 We must make one thing clear. There is really only one overcomer and that is Jesus. All the overcoming we will ever do is a result of Christ, and his living in us.
“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (5:5). John comes back to his basic confession, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Those who had failed to believe this were overcome already but those who believed it, and all that it implied, were overcomers. So it is today, if we believe in Jesus as the divine Son of God and commit our lives to him, we too can be overcomers. We can overcome the world system that is directly opposed to God. We can overcome it because Jesus has already overcome it. In him we are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37). We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).
JESUS, WHO CAME BY WATER AND BY BLOOD
This is the one who came by water and blood— Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 1 John 5:6
When we approach this section it is important to remember that John was the only one of the twelve disciples present at the crucifixion. During the crucifixion he apparently witnessed something spoken of in John 19:34. When Jesus was at last pierced with a spear, both blood and water gushed out of his dead body. In verse 35, John testifies that he saw this and he relates this apparent miraculous event so that people could believe in Jesus and be saved.
This has been a difficult passage for interpreters, so we want to go slow and try to understand it. Many theories have been given throughout church history as to the significance of the water and the blood, as well as the Spirit who is also mentioned. Some in the past have tried to connect these things with the new birth or with individual baptism but these explanations seem cumbersome.
Perhaps the best explanation is the oldest one given by the early church father Tertullian (c. 160-c. 225). He wrote that John, in speaking of the water, was referring to Jesus’ baptism. He continued saying that the blood referred to his crucifixion. 17 These things are witnesses of Jesus and his mission and we see in Scripture that the Holy Spirit also came as a witness at Jesus’ baptism. Today, a number of modern scholars and commentators have adopted this view.
With his baptism he thoroughly identified with sinful humanity (Matt. 3:14-15). Although he had no sin he allowed himself to be baptized in order to make that identity with our fallen race. At his baptism the Holy Spirit also came upon him in the form of a dove and God himself witnessed that Jesus was his Son in whom he was well pleased (Matt. 3:16; Mk. 1:10-11). So the water and blood were sure witnesses of his Incarnation, that he was truly human and truly God. As Barnes says, “the idea is, that the water and the blood were clearly manifest during his appearing on earth, or that they were remarkable testimonials in some way to his character and work.” 18
This statement of John may well have been included to counter the heresy of Cerinthus, who felt that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism and left him before his death on the cross. Barclay sums it up saying, “Cerinthus taught that Jesus became divine at the baptism, that divinity left him before the Cross and that he died simply a man.” 19 Such a teaching obviously cuts the heart out of the gospel. Barker & Kohlenberger state: “Water and blood become, therefore, the key words of the true understanding of the Incarnation…This coming by water and blood is the basis of our salvation.” 20
“For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement” (5:7-8). Verse seven has been an exceedingly difficult one for translators and scholars over the centuries. For instance, in the old King James Version, verse seven reads: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” While this would be a great verse in our Christological debates, the verse was in none of the original Greek texts of the New Testament. Also, for the first 450 years of the church’s existence the verse was never used in the raging Christological controversies over the Trinity. 21
The debates over verse seven are too complicated for us to get into here. The verse as seen in the King James Version did not appear in any Greek manuscript before the fourteenth century. However, it did appear as notes in the margins as early as the eleventh century. 22 The Greek scholar Wuest says, “There is general agreement among textual critics that the contents of this verse are spurious…” 23 Barclay adds: “modern scholarship has made it quite certain that John did not write it and that it is a much later commentary on, and addition to, his words; and that is why all modern translations omit it.” 24 This is good reason for us to rely on the more scholarly and up-to-date modern translations. The word of God in its original form was true and we can live by every word from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). However, through the centuries certain mistakes have sometimes crept into the various translations.
We can truly say about verses seven and eight that there are three witnesses to Christ mentioned here, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and that the three witnesses all agree together. As Vincent says, “they converge upon the one truth, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh.” 25 We know that according to the word of God there had to be two or three witnesses to a matter in order to establish it (Deut. 19:15; Jn. 8:17-18). Augustine comments: “The church is signified as being born from this blood and water.” Leo the Great (c. 400-461) adds, “This means the Spirit of sanctification, the blood of redemption and the water of baptism, which three are one…” 26
We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 1 John 5:9
All of us are very quick to accept man’s testimony. If a motorist tells us that the highway is blocked ahead, we immediately turn around and find some other way. Although we do not even enquire about the motorist’s name, or how the person got his information, we simply turn around. But how slow we are to accept the sure testimony of the Bible, and of God himself? God has gone to great extremes to testify about his Son, but so few people of the world’s vast population accept this testimony today.
Wuest says of the Greek here, “God has borne testimony concerning his Son with the present result that that testimony is on record…The verb is in the perfect tense, speaking of a past act of bearing testimony with the result that the testimony is on record at the present time.” 27
“Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son” (5:10). The testimony of Jesus as the divine Son of God lives in the believer’s heart. However, for those who do not believe, they are not only missing eternal life that is given by God (Jn. 12:50), but they are actually making God out to be a liar. They, by their unbelief, are blaspheming God. As Stott says, “Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied; it is a sin to be deplored.” 28 “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (5:11). How wonderful! God has offered us free of charge the gift of eternal life. This is the very life of God. It is a life of inexpressibly great quality that goes on forever and ever. What an offer to humanity! However, this life is only available in Jesus his Son. This life can be found nowhere else on earth or in heaven. Guzik says, “John’s confidence is impressive. He wants us to know that we have eternal life. We can only know this if our salvation rests in Jesus and not in our own performance.” 29
“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (5:12). Here it is plain and simple. If we have Jesus living in our hearts we have eternal life. We are, in fact, already enjoying that eternal life to some degree. We have the daily, inward testimony of the Holy Spirit that we have this life and that we are children of God already (Rom. 8:16). The world has nothing that can compare with the quality of this life.
The popular Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig, in comparing the Christian life with atheism, says: “The atheistic worldview is insufficient to maintain a happy and consistent life. Man cannot live consistently and happily as though life were ultimately without meaning, value, or purpose. If we try to live consistently within the framework of the atheistic worldview, we shall find ourselves profoundly unhappy.” 30
JOHN’S CONCLUDING REMARKS
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13
We cannot miss the fact that John wants us to really know that we have eternal life. What a blessing it is to be able to know that we have it! How few people today are there who can testify that they really know this? Stott says, “…it is common today to dismiss any claim to assurance of salvation as presumptuous, and to affirm that no certainty is possible on this side of death.” 31 John would disagree, for this knowledge of eternal life for him is almost the theme of his epistle (cf. 1:4). 32
Stott points out that while the Gospel of John was written for unbelievers, in order that they may have life, this little epistle was written for believers, so that having believed, they may know (eidete) that they have eternal life. 33 According to Wuest, this Greek word is not speaking of experiential knowledge but rather an absolute positive knowledge that is beyond a doubt. 34
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (5:14). John now turns his thoughts to prayer and that prayer is based upon the certain knowledge of God. Someone has said that prayer is like breathing. It is the lifeline of the Christian. Clarke says, “Prayer is the language of the children of God. He who is begotten of God speaks this language.” 35
We note in this verse that we are to pray according to the Lord’s will (cf. Mt. 6:10; Mk. 14:36). There are many instructions and promises made in the Bible regarding prayer. James says, “…You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (Jas. 4:2-3).
We cajole God to do certain things, particularly things we think he should do. However, Robert Law once said, “Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven. It’s getting God’s will done on earth.” 36 There are many beautiful promises made about prayer in the Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 1:20, we read: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” In Psalm 84:11 it is written, “… no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”
People have ceased doing a lot of truly religious things today. They don’t go to church, they don’t read their Bibles and they don’t pray. Many take a casual attitude toward the whole subject of Christianity, or even poke fun at it. The comedian and actor Rodney Dangerfield remarked: “I put a seashell to my ear and got a busy signal.” 37
The great Oswald Chambers gives this beautiful summary of prayer:
We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer…To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature. 38
Wiersbe tells how George Mueller fed thousands of orphans solely by prayer. Mueller said: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of God’s willingness.” 39 God wants to do a lot of things but we hinder his work by not cooperating with him in our prayers. We should pray and not faint (Lk. 18:1). We should literally pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).
“And if we know that he hears us— whatever we ask— we know that we have what we asked of him” (5:15). In verse 14 he again uses the word parresia for “confidence.” The word means not only confidence but it means “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.” 40 When we have this kind of confidence we can know that we will receive whatever we ask. John’s statement is very similar to what Jesus says to us in Mark 11:24: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
THE SIN THAT LEADS TO DEATH
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death” 1 John 5:16-17
Here John lays another difficult passage on us. We might ask, “What in the world is the sin unto death?” Undoubtedly, even many Christians have worried themselves about this sin through the centuries. It is strange indeed that after John has given us instruction on prayer and urged us to pray, that suddenly he tells us not to pray.
It seems that the question boils down (after almost endless commentary found on the subject) to whether this sin speaks of natural death or spiritual death. A number of commentators think it is a reference to natural death, but this does not seem to match up with John’s description here. We must remember that John’s context has to do with false antichrist-type teachers and some supposed believers who have absolutely abandoned their faith. The sin unto death thus makes more sense if it is a reference to spiritual death. Culpepper affirms this saying: “In the case of 1 John…it is more likely that the elder had in mind the Christological heresy of his opponents.” 41 Other modern commentators such as Brooke, Law and Dodd, also see this sin as total apostasy, the denial and renunciation of the faith. 42 The early Christian writer Andreas (seventh century) says: “It is the sin of heresy, or of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which leads to death.” 43
Obviously, when the verse begins, it is speaking of a brother in Christ who commits a sin that does not lead to death. For him, we should pray, and as James says, our prayer will not only raise up the sick brother, but that God will forgive his sins (Jas. 5:14-15). As John continues though, he no longer speaks of a brother but he speaks of those who are apparently apostates or antichrists. Some of these could have come out of the church membership for sure, but they obviously were not of the church (1 Jn. 2:19). A prime example of this type thing was Judas Iscariot. Judas was called and even selected as a disciple, yet Jesus knew he was a devil (Jn. 6:70). He was exposed to a great deal of spiritual light, even participating in evangelistic work, but he renounced all this and betrayed the Lord. It would have been totally useless to pray for such a one. John says, such people who deny the Father and Son should not even be greeted and certainly not invited into their houses (2 Jn. 1:10).
Wuest comments: “…the ‘sin unto death’ refers in the context in which John is writing, to the denial of the Incarnation, and that it would be committed by those whom John designates as antichrists, who did not belong to the true Christian body of believers, but were unsaved.” 44 This sin may be in some ways connected with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as seen in Matthew 12:28-31; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-29; and 2 Peter 2:20, 21.
W.T. Conners in his Christian Doctrine adds: “When this rejection becomes definite and wilful, it becomes the sin unto death (1 Jn. 5:13-17). It thus becomes moral suicide. It is putting out one’s own spiritual eyes. It does not take place except in connection with a high degree of enlightenment. It is deliberate, wilful, malicious rejection of Christ as God’s revelation, knowing that he is such a revelation. It is deliberately calling white black.” 45
THE TRUE GOD AND THE LIFE ETERNAL
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 1 John 5:18
Once again, John is emphasizing that a born again person cannot continue in a habit of sin (cf. 3:6; Heb. 10:26). That person may have an occasional sin but he or she cannot live in sin, thus making sin a lifestyle. The true believer hates sin and tries every way to avoid it. As Plummer said, “A child of God may sin, but his normal condition is resistance to evil.” 46 John knows for certain about this, since he uses the word oidamen, representing clear certainties. 47
It is not so much that we are able to keep ourselves from sin, but that the one born of God or begotten of God (gennetheis) keeps us from sin. This is no doubt a reference to the indwelling of Christ in us through his Holy Spirit. Because Christ is in us, the evil one cannot harm us. The Greek word is haptetai and it does not speak of just a touch but rather it speaks of Satan grasping and laying hold on the saint of God. 48 The devil is a very powerful enemy but he cannot mess with us if we have established Jesus on the throne of our hearts.
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (5:19). John well knows that although we are God’s children, the rest of the world is under control of the evil one. Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Satan is called the ruler of the kingdom of the air in Ephesians 2:2. In John 12:31, he is also called the prince of the world. Although in this same verse we see him cast out, we must remember that at this time he is still here and that he has great power.
Stedman reminds us of some areas of his power today. He holds great influence over the present age in the things that are worshipped. “There is the worship of Narcissus, the god who fell in love with himself. Is this not perhaps the supreme god of mankind, the worship of self, the worship of man, the exaltation of man?…Bacchus, the god of pleasure, the god of wine, women and song; the worship of Venus, the goddess of love, enthroned in Hollywood and all that Hollywood stands for; Apollo, the god of physical beauty; Minerva, the goddess of science. Everywhere we have enthroned science.” 49
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true— even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (5:20). Jesus has given us the true understanding (dianoian), that we might really know God and that we might grasp what is true and what is not. There is much to do about reality today with all the so-called reality shows. However, even these shows have no basis in reality. Jesus is reality and he is Truth. Wiersbe feels that reality has been the underlying theme of this whole letter and as he closes he reminds us of it again. He says that, “He [Jesus] is the Original: everything else is a copy…Christians live in an atmosphere of reality. Most unsaved people live in an atmosphere of pretense and sham.” 50
Living in unreality is a hazardous thing as Wiersbe jokingly points out:
Shed a tear for Jimmy Brown;
Poor Jimmy is no more.
For what he thought was H20
Was H2SO4! 51
By John’s last statement in this verse, mentioning Jesus Christ as the true God, several commentators see this as a proof that Jesus is God. We know this from a number of places in Scripture but here it is not a one-hundred percent certainty in the Greek. 52
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (5:21). Guzik says here: “This may seem like a strange way to end John’s letter, but it fits in with the theme of a real, living relationship with God.” 53 It does seem strange that John would mention idols here when he has not mentioned them in the rest of the letter. Of course, the saints in Ephesus were surrounded by idolatry and they, in fact, had just come out of an idolatrous lifestyle.
Barclay mentions that the Temple of Diana in Ephesus was one of the wonders of the ancient world. He cites the philosopher Heraclitus who was a resident of Ephesus who said “…that the darkness to the approach of the altar of the temple was the darkness of vileness; that the morals of the temple were worse than the morals of beasts; that the inhabitants of Ephesus were fit only to be drowned, and that the reason that he could never smile was that he lived in the midst of such terrible uncleanness.” 54
While the lure of the temple must have been great, this may not have been John’s concern. Stott citing Brooke notes, “It is more likely, however, that the allusion to ‘the untrue mental images fashioned by the false teachers.’” 55 Smith agrees saying, “John is thinking, not of the heathen worship of Ephesus- Artemis and her temple but of the heretical substitutes for the Christian conception of God.” 56 We can be certain that in Ephesus and the Province of Asia, like in Israel of old (1 Ki. 19:18), there were still thousands (of Christians) who had not bowed their knee to Baal.
Several sources I have cited here are from the electronic media, either from websites or from electronic research libraries. Thus in some of these sources it is not possible to cite page numbers. Instead I have cited the verse or verses in 1 John (e.g. verse v. 1:1 or vs. verses 1:5-6) about which the commentators speak.
1. Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2: New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 1077.
2. Ibid., p. 1078.3.
3. Dr. Bob Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, Introduction. http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL04/VOL04_23.html
4. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p.1081.
Pfeiffer and Harrison add: “How long John remained in Jerusalem after Pentecost is uncertain. He was evidently not there when Paul first visited the city (Gal 1:18-19)…The evidence that he spent the latter part of his life in Asia Minor, and chiefly at Ephesus is too strong to be shaken by other conjectures.” (Pfeiffer & Harrison p. 1463)
5. F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1970), p. 14.
6. Charles F. Pfeiffer & Everett F. Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962, p. 1465.
7. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, Introduction.
8. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1081.
9. Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 15.
1. William Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, Commentary on 1 John, 1956-1959, vs. 1:1-4. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=1.
2. Peter Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, 2013, v.1:1. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=1.
3. John R. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 19 (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1964, 1988, p. 62.
4. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 1:1-4.
5. Quoted in Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 64.
6. Ray C. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, 2010, v. 1:1. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rsc/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=1.
7. David Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, 1997-2003, v. 1:1. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/guz/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=2.
8. Gerald L. Schroeder, God According to God, A Physicist Proves We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along (NY: Harper Collins, 2009), p. 202.
9. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Vol. XI, New Testament (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 2009, p. 166.
10. Quoted in Kenneth S. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954), p. 95.
11. Ibid., p. 93.
12. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 1:2.
13. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 94.
14. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 1:2.
15. John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible Commentary on 1 John, 1840-57, p. 59. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=2.
16. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 1:4.
17. F. David Peat, From Certainty to Uncertainty: The Story of Science and Ideas in the Twentieth Century (Washington: Joseph Henry Press, 2002), p. 1.
18. Paul E. Kretzmann, Kretzmann’s Popular Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, 1921-23, vs. 1:5-7. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=1.
19. Adam Clarke, The Adam Clarke Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, 1832. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=2.
20. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, v. 1:5.
21. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), p. 965.
22. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 101.
23. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 78.
24. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 1:6.
25. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 1:6-7.
26. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 102.
27. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 1:7.
28. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 1:6-7.
29. Derek Prince, War in Heaven, God’s Epic Battle With Evil (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2003), p. 163.
30. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 1:5, 7.
31. John D. Hannah, Our Legacy, The History of Christian Doctrine (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2001), p. 341.
32. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 82.
33. Ibid., p. 81.
34. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 1:6-7.
35. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 2:1.
36. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 967.
37. John Trapp, John Trapp Complete Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, 1865-1868, v. 1:9. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=2.
38. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 83.
1. Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, & David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Commentary on 1 John – Unabridged, 1871-78, v. 2:12.
2. Cited in R. Allen Culpepper, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2005, p. 169.
3. Ronald F. Youngblood, gen. ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986, 1995), p. 1181.
4. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 84.
5. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:1-2.
6. William Barclay, More New Testament Words (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1958), p. 129.
7. Ibid., p. 131.
8. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 968.
9. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 177.
10. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1086.
11. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:2.
12. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, pp. 86-87.
13. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 2:2.
14. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 87.
15. James Burton Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, Commentary on 1 John (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 1983-1999), v. 2:2. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=2.
16. Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, v. 2:2.
17. Culpepper, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, p. 170.
18. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 88.
19. Quoted in Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 50.
20. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 113.
21. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:3-6.
22. Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, v. 2:3.
23. Dean L. Overman, A Case For The Existence of God (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2009), p. 158.
24. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 2:3.
25. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1087.
26. Quoted in Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John,
27. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 114.
28. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 2:5.
29. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1087.
30. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 96.
31. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 116.
32. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:3-6.
33. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 2:5.
34. Frederick Brotherton Meyer, Meyers ‘Through the Bible’ Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, 1914, v. 1:1. “http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbm/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=2”.
35. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 117.
36. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 180.
37. Cited in Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 118.
38. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 119.
39. Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 56.
40. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 972.
41. Cited in Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 2:9.
42. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 973.
43. Ibid., p. 972.
44. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 122.
46. Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 57.
47. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 2:12-14.
48. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:12-14.
49. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.100.
50. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:12-14.
51. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 122.
52. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:12.
53. Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1469.
54. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 2:12-14.
55. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 124.
56. Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, 1870,
v. 2:13. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=2.
57. Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 2:13.
58. William Godbey, William Godbey’s Commentary on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:14. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=1.
59. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 2:12-14.
60. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 100.
61. Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1469.
62. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies, The Pastoral Epistles In The Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1952), p. 102.
63. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 2:15-17.
64. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:15-17.
66. Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1470.
67. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:16.
68. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 2:16.
69. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 2:15-17.
71. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 128.
Wescott adds: “This phrase should be translated ‘a last hour.’ Westcott makes much of this and writes that the omission of the definite article seems to mark the general character of the period and not its specific relation to ‘end.’ It was a period of crucial change.” (Coffman citing Wescott v. 2:18).
72. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:18-19.
73. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, v. 2:18.
74. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John,
75. Quoted in Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, v. 2:19-21.
76. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 2:19.
77. Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 72.
78. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:20-21.
79. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, pp. 132-33.
80. Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, v. 2:20.
81. Kretzmann, Kretzmann’s Popular Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:21-25.
82. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.114.
83. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 2:21-23.
84. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, pp. 115-116.
85. Ibid., p. 116.
86. Quoted in Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 2:24.
87. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:24.
88. Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 2:25.
89. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:25.
90. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 981.
91. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 2:28.
92. Culpepper, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, p.177.
1. Meyer, Meyers ‘Through the Bible” Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, vs.3:1-2.
2. Kretzmann, Kretzmann’s Popular Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 3:1-3.
3. Clarke, The Adam Clarke Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:1.
4. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, v. 4:1.
5. William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975, 2002), p. 125.
6. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, p. 74.
7. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 984.
8. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 3:1-2.
9. Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1473.
10. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:2.
11. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 147.
12. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 985.
13. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 3:4-10.
15. Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1473.
16. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:6.
17. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:6.
18. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 198.
19. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John,
20. Bruce, The Epistles of John, p. 91.
21. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 140.
22. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 985.
23. Godbey, William Godbey’s Commentary on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 3:7-18.
24. Trapp, John Trapp Complete Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:7.
25. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 3:8.
27. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 3:9.
Stott comments here: “It is possible that the heretics of John’s day taught a similar doctrine about a divine element immanent in man; that they called it sperma theou…If so, it is not necessary to suppose that he endorsed their theology…In other New Testament passages the word of God is pictured as ‘seed’ (1 Pet 1:23, 25; Jas 1:18, 23; cf. Lk 8:11)…We shall probably never know for certain precisely what John intended, or his readers understood, by sperma autou. (Stott p. 132)
28. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 129.
29. Quoted in Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 3:10-18.
30. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 988.
31. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1096.
32. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.142.
33. Cited in Trapp, John Trapp Complete Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:12.
34. Quoted in Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 3:10-18.
35. Meyer, Meyers ‘Through the Bible’ Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 3:13-24.
36. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 3:13-15.
37. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 203.
38. Clarke, The Adam Clarke Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:15.
39. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 990.
40. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6 (Edinburgh:, T&T Clark; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.,1988), p. 108.
41. Quoted in Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:16.
Jamieson, Faussett & Brown comment here: “Our life ought not to be dearer to us than God‘s own Son was to Him.” (Jamieson, Faussett & Brown v. 3:16).
42. Quoted in Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1474.
43. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:16.
44. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 154.
45. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 203.
46. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 3:16.
47. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.148.
48. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 3:19-24.
49. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.150.
50. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 205.
51. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 156.
52. Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, v. 3:23.
53. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible Commentary on 1 John, p. 181.
54. Quoted in Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 157.
1. Roberts & Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.5, p. 601.
2. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, v. 4:1.
3. Roberts & Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, p. 380.
4. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 227.
5. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 4:1.
6. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1077.
7. Quoted in Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 89.
8. Roberts & Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, p. 206.
9. Ibid., Vol. 7, p. 215.
10. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 4:4.
11. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 211.
12. Cited in Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.154.
13. Kretzmann, Kretzmann’s Popular Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 4:4-6.
14. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, v. 4:5.
15. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 158.
16. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 4:5-6.
17. Ibid., vs. 4:7-8.
18. Quoted in Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 4:7-21.
Wiersbe notes: “…It has accurately been said that “love does not define God, but God defines love.” (Wiersbe p. 993).
Stott comments: “The Gnostics believed that God is immaterial spirit and light, but they never taught that God is love. It is the most comprehensive and sublime of all biblical affirmations about God’s being…” (Stott p. 161).
19. Culpepper, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, p. 183.
20. Godbey, William Godbey’s Commentary on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 4:7-10.
21. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 4:7-8.
23. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 4:9.
24. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible Commentary on 1 John, p. 86.
25. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 162.
26. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 4:10.
27. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 165.
28. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 996.
29. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 165.
30. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 4:1-21.
31. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 168.
32. Quoted in Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 4:7-21.
33. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 216.
34. Meyer, Meyers ‘Through the Bible’ Commentary, Commentary on 1 John,vs. 4:12-21.
35. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 169.
37. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 4:17.
38. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 998.
39. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 170.
40. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 170.
41. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1
John, v. 4:19.
42. Quoted in Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 4:20-21.
43. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 4:20.
44. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 218.
45. Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 4:21.
1. Pett, Peter Pett’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 5:1.
2. Culpepper, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, p. 186.
3. Godbey, William Godbey’s Commentary on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 5:1.
4. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 5:1.
5. Coffman, Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, v. 5:1.
6. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 104.
7. Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton IL: Crossway Books, 2004), p. 293.
8. Barna Group, Americans Divided On The Importance of Church, Mar. 25, 2014. www.barna.org
9. Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity (Washington: Regenery Publishing Inc., 2007), p. 8.
10. Calvin, Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, p. 91.
11. Martin Luther, Preface To The Letter Of St. Paul To The Romans, Introduction.
Stott adds here: “The pernickety regulations of the scribes and Pharisees were ‘heavy burdens, hard to bear; (Matt. 23:4)’” (Stott p. 173)
12. James R. Edwards, Romans, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1992), p. 177.
13. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 999.
14. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 174.
15. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, v. 5:4.
16. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, pp. 1104-1105)
17. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 5:6-8.
18. Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Commentary on 1 John, v. 5:6.
19. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 5:6-8.
20. Barker & Kohlenberger, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 1105.
21. Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1477.
22. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 180.
23. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 176.
24. Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 5:7.
25. Quoted in Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 176.
26. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, pp. 223, 224.
27. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 177.
28. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 182.
29. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 5:11-13.
30. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, Christian Truth and Apologetics, Third Edition (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), p.84.
31. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 184.
32. Pfeiffer & Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1477.
33. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 184.
34. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 179.
35. Clarke, The Adam Clarke Commentary, Commentary on 1 John, v. 5:14.
36. Quoted in Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 887.
37. Donald W. McCullough, The Trivilization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a manageable Deity (Colo. Springs, Nav Press, 1995), p. 55.
38. Oswald Chambers, The Purpose of Prayer (for Aug. 28) My Utmost For His Highest.
39. Quoted in Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 1004.
40. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 179.
41. Culpepper, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, p.190.
42. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 187.
43. Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, p. 227.
44. Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 181.
45. Quoted in Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 5:16-17.
46. Quoted in Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 5:18-20.
47. Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.191.
48. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 5:18-19.
Utley comments here: “This is Present middle indicative which means the evil one cannot continue “laying hold of him.” (Utley v. 5:18)
49. Stedman, Ray Stedman Expository Studies, Commentary on 1 John, vs. 5:18-21.
50. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT, p. 1006.
51. Ibid., p. 1007.
52. Utley, Free Bible Commentary, 1 John, vs. 5:20.
53. Guzik, David Guzik Commentaries on the Bible, Commentary on 1 John, v. 5:21.
54. Cited in Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, vs. 5:21.
55. Quoted in Stott, The Letters of John, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p. 196.
56. Quoted in Wuest, In These Last Days, II Peter, I, II, III John, and Jude in the Greek New Testament, p. 184.