Posts Tagged 'Letters From and Old Man'

Letters From An Old Man, Part 11

1 John 5:13—21

The thing that strikes us first in these concluding verses is their similarity to what John wrote in his gospel—

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:31)

Elsewhere in this letter John had suggested several reasons why he wrote it, but, just like in his gospel, he left the main purpose until the very end—

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.  (verse 13)

The phrase “these things” points the readers back to the things he has written throughout the letter.

The second thing that strikes us about verse 13 is exactly to whom the letter was written.  Note the phrase:  “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God.”  John has a specific and exclusive group of people in view; Christians who continue to place their faith in Christ.   He is not an evangelist here; he is not trying to win converts with his letter; he is writing to people who already have faith and his is purpose is singular in nature:  “…so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  The phrase “you may know” means properly, “to know with certainty.”  These people already know that they have eternal life, but John wants them to have assurance.  His gospel was written in order that people might have life and his letter in order that they may know with full assurance that they have it.

There is a minor but important lesson here for us.  Even believers, whose faith seems unswerving, need encouragement and words of assurance from time to time.  False teachers, bad teaching or just the cares of day-to-day living can all conspire to wear our faith down.  This is why church is so important.

1.  The grounds of our assurance, verses 14—17

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

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.

John actually repeats himself in these two verses, for earlier he wrote—

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.  (3:21—22)

There are two points of interest in these four verses (Kistemaker).

  • Confidence.  Three times previously John wrote about confidence; twice in connection with judgment and once in connection with prayer.  The Greek word used each time, parresia, and means to “have full assurance” or “confidence” or to be “convinced” of a thing.  In Christ, then, we have confidence not only of the future, but also of the present.  We know we have access to God and that when we pray to Him He hears us.   In John’s writings, “hearing” not only means “being listened to, but “heard favorably” (Barker).   This is exciting news for the genuine believer:  when we pray, God hears our words with a favorable attitude.  But, there is a qualifier:  when we pray, we must pray according to God’s will.   This is, of course, exactly how the Son of God prayed—

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  (Matthew 6:10)

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  (Mark 14:36)

Our confidence (or boldness) is linked to our freedom:  we must approach God.  When we have a need or a petition, the onus is on us to approach God.

  • Promise.  Verse 15 seems repetitious, but John adds a word of encouragement that is absolute.  When a believer prays according to God’s will, he not only has the assurance or the confidence that his words are being heard, but that he possesses the answer to the prayer the moment it is prayed.  John could not write more directly or definitely when he wrote the words, “we know that we have what we asked of him.”   John does not write in the future tense (we will have), but the present tense:  we have.   In other words, during the process of praying, we have the answer.   Now, that answer may take a while to be manifested, but we need to have the assurance that the thing asked for will be granted, if the prayer is prayed according to God’s will.   This cannot be stressed enough.  We are not pray in hopes of convincing God to fulfill some desire of ours, even if it is a worthwhile desire.  No, we must learn to lift up our wills to meet God’s will and pray to that end.

With verse 16, John seems to be starting a new topic, but he is really continuing the same topic, namely, prayer.  Believers should never pray only for themselves or only for their own needs, especially if those needs are spiritual in nature.   The sense of what John wrote is this:  If you, as a Christian, see a fellow Christian falling into sin, you are obligated to pray to God on his behalf.  This is God’s will; there is no question about it.

The question that comes to mind is this:  Why does John say we should pray for such a person?  Why not simply tell the person to pray for himself?   Here is another minor, yet very important lesson.  As members of the body of Christ, we are all interconnected.  If one member commits a sin—and here the suggestion is an “inadvertent sin”—that sin not only affects the one who committed, but it also affects the entire church.   Or, another way to look at it, when a brother sins, he not only sins against God, but against the body of Christ, as well.  So, that brother needs to be forgiven through intercessory prayer as an expression of the church’s forgiveness.   This is in line with the teaching of Jesus in John 20:23—

“If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

The second half of verse 16 bears closer examination because is somewhat difficult to understand.  What did John mean when he wrote:

There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that.

Clearly, intercession is not needed if the sin committed “leads to death.”  Some scholars suggest that John is teaching the doctrine of “the unpardonable sin.”  However, in this passage, John gives us no clue as to what kind of sin or habit that God will not forgive.  He may have in mind the sin of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3:29), although in the context of this letter, perhaps John has in mind false teaching.  That is, if a brother has sold out to the false teachers, now hates their brothers, and refuses the mercy of God, then the needs of that person should not be prayed for.  Indeed, prayers for a believer who has wandered from the Church should be limited to asking for their repentance and a return to the body of Christ.

2.  Divine knowledge, verses 18—20

In the letter’s final three verses, John summarizes three main things that his readers have learned.  Each of these eternal truths begins with the words “we know.”

  • 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 (verse 18).  The first part of this verse is a repeat of what John wrote in 3:9.  This time, however,  he adds “We know,” suggesting that while a child of God may occasionally sin, his normal state is to resist the temptation to sin (Plummer).

The next clause is a little more difficult to grasp:  the one who was born of God keeps him safe. Obviously two individuals are mentioned, one born of God and the one he keeps safe.  So the question, then, is who are these two people?  As to the one being kept safe, that obviously refers to the believer.  The believer is kept safe and the Devil cannot touch him.  But who is “one born of God?”  It must refer to Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ, the one born of God is the one who keeps the genuine believer from continuing in sin.

  • We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one (verse 19).  This second eternal truth builds on the first one, but emphasizes the believer’s position:  they are children of God.  This is exciting, especially when read with verse 18 in mind.  The one born of God keeps those born of God from sinning! Like the Son of God, genuine believers have their origin in God and like the Son of God, we belong to God.  John contrasts our position as God’s children with the position of the world:  it is under the control of Satan.  But notice what John does not say:  he does not say that the world belongs to Satan, merely that at this moment he has control of it.  We know that his control is temporary and was given to him by God.  Consider what Satan told Jesus in Luke 4:6—

And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.

One day, though, things will change—

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:   “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,  and he will reign for ever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15)

  • 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  (verse 20).  This last eternal truth is a summary of the whole letter (Barker).  This verse alone strikes a blow to the false teachers and their teaching.  Genuine Christian faith is all about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who through the Incarnation came into human history.  Plummer comments—

Both revelation and redemption are His gracious work.  With Him we could neither know God nor overcome sin.

The Son of God has “given us understand,” wrote John.  Kistemaker makes a keen observation—

In a world of deceit and falsehood, God has revealed Himself in the Son of God as the one who is true.  God has not forsaken us to the powers of darkness, but has endowed us with the ability to discern truth from error.

That is such a powerful thought.  A Christian need never be deceived because God sent His Son “so that we may know him who is true.”  How do we acquire this knowledge?  Through knowledge of the Word to be sure, but the verb to know is this case illustrates knowledge acquired through association.  In other words, as we fellowship with God the Father and His Son, we come to know the truth.   The false teachers by contrast, taught that only fellowship with God was necessary.  Time and again throughout this letter, John has confronted that teaching to stress the absolute necessity of fellowship with both the Father and the Son.  God can only be known through grasping the historical and spiritual reality of the Son.  Divine revelation cannot come apart from knowledge of the facts surrounding Jesus Christ, and those facts are put forth in the Word of God.

The last phrase, He is the true God (NIV), has caused some debate.  The NIV assumes John is referring to Jesus Christ; HE is the true God.  Others believe John is referring, not to Jesus, but to God the Father as being the true God.   It’s all a matter of translation and interpretation and both views could correct.

Those who hold to the first view point out that the whole emphasis of John’s letter was to show Jesus Christ’s position as the Son of God.  A major theme, for example, is that eternal life descends from, not the Father, but the Son (1:2).  It seems logical, then, that at the summation of this majestic defense of the divinity of Jesus Christ, John should make the definitive statement to that effect:

He is the true God.

3.  Conclusion, verse 21

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

The letter ends on a distinctly affectionate note.  John, for the last time, uses the term “dear friends,” or “loved ones” in addressing his readers.  Despite their problems or wavering faith, they forever remain close to John’s heart.  But the admonition to avoid idols seems a bit out of place, not having been even hinted at in the rest of the letter.  Did John write this last verse?  Did he intend to write a little more?  Was more written that is now lost?  Not likely.   The connection between the false teachers and their teaching and idolatry is clear:  to leave the truth for a lie is the ultimate apostasy from the true faith.  To follow after false teaching is to become nothing more than an idolater.  John could not be blunter.  The purpose of the false teachers was to promote a false god, an invention of their own minds.   And believers should give a wide berth to people and teachings like that.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

Letters From an Old Man, Part 9

Faith is the Victory!

1 John 5:1—5

One of the things that becomes obvious when reading the Bible is how often it repeats things; phrases, words, thoughts and things like that.  John does that a lot in his first letter.  In fact, to the modern reader, it seems almost cumbersome to the point where we skip over whole paragraphs because they sound so familiar.  This is the case with the first paragraph of chapter 5.  However, as we shall see, while the words sound familiar, John is introducing a whole new line of thinking.

Love for the Body of Christ—members of the Church—proves or demonstrates our love for God.  But that love must be for every member of the Church.  It is easy to love certain people; people that agree with everything we say are easy to love; people that are attractive are easy to love; people that love us back are easy to love.  But not so with disagreeable people or people who aren’t so pleasant to be around.  Yet we are to love all members of God’s church equally.

John begins with a deep thought.

1.  Believe in the Son, verses 1, 2

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.

The first three words are important to understand.  The subject of the verb is a small Greek word pas, translated as “everyone” in the NIV.  It is a stronger word than if John had said, as is common in Biblical writing, “he.”  But that word does cause problems for anybody can say they believe that Jesus is the Christ, born of God.  If we take out all the extra words, the meaning becomes clear—

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…loves his child.

The word “child” refers to those born of God, that is, His children, Christians.  So love for God must be followed by love for His children; faith in Jesus Christ cannot be separated from love for God’s children.  There are three main points in these two verses:

Faith.  I use the word “faith,” but John used the word “believes.”  The verb of the sentence is pisteuon, “believe.”  Previously, John wrote things like this—

    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.  (1 John 4:2)

    If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  (1 John 4:15)

    It sounds like John is saying the same thing in these two verses as he is now saying in 5:1, but it’s completely different word with a completely different meaning.  The verb used previously was homologei, and that word is used as a verbal expression of faith; it is confessing with your mouth that Jesus is the Son of God.  In chapter 5, however, John is not referring to a mere understanding and verbal statement of belief; he is referring to an inner witness or a spiritual conviction that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God.  Simply signing on to a creedal statement is not what John is writing about here.  If that were the case, anybody could be considered a Christian.

    This kind of “belief” or “faith” is linked to the main verb of the first sentence, which is the word “born.”  This means that the believer is a child of God—he is born of God—because God causes a spiritual birth to occur inside the person’s heart and soul.  The believer’s “belief” or “faith” in the Divine Sonship of Christ is undeniable proof that he is born again, and that faith causes him to love other members of the Church.

    Love.  The second part of verse one binds faith and love together.  “Believing” in Jesus (which is in the present tense in the Greek) is a direct consequence of being “born of God” (also in the present Greek tense) and becomes another test or proof of that rebirth.  From this spiritual reality, John writes love will be manifested to other believers.   John Calvin writes about love for the brethren like this:

      Since God regenerates us by faith, he must necessarily be loved by us as a Father; and this love embraces all his children.

      Obedience.  John states a truism showing that faith and love are linked; whoever loves the father will love those born as he has been born.  The words used of “father” is ton gennesanta, which means “progenitor,” meaning Christians “came out of” God; we proceeded from God.  In obedience, we love others who proceeded from the same Source.  A lot of people stumble over verse two because it is unexpected.   After what John as written, we expect John to say this:  “This is how we know that we love God:  by loving his children and obeying his commands” (Barker).  Instead, this is what we read this—

        This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.

        At first reading, that sentence is awkward and it doesn’t even seem to make sense.  The best paraphrase I found is from Glen Barker’s excellent commentary on 1 John—

        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 also.

        In fact, it is not just John’s opinion; his brother said exactly the same thing years earlier—

          If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  (John 15:10)

          2.  Overcome the world, verses 3—5

          This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

          This group of verses is among the most powerful and encouraging in all of Scripture, and deserves more attention than we can give them.  Nevertheless, there are five key points to be noted.

          (a)  Love for God.  As a writer, John comes up with the best pithy definitions for such big ideas as eternal life and other deep spiritual truths.  Here he gives us the definitive definition of what love is:  “to obey His commands.” What is significant about this definition is that feelings, emotions, and words are not what love for God is all about; it is about action; it is about doing things in accordance with God’s will.

          (b)  His commands are not burdensome.  To the unsaved, God’s will is a strange thing; living righteously, putting the needs of others ahead of your own needs, etc.  But when God becomes part of our lives—when He takes up residence in our hearts in the Person of the Holy Spirit—those “righteous requirements of the law” become, not a burden, but an attainable lifestyle because those of us who are born again seek and hunger after righteousness, and we consciously avoid those things that would hurt God and our relationship with both Him and other in the Church.  Indeed, living according to the commands of God becomes a way to freedom and liberty all men seek but never find apart from God.  The words of Psalm 119:47 come to mind—

          I delight in your commands because I love them.

          (c)  Everyone born of God.  This is another one of those translations that is more of an interpretation than a translation.  In the Greek, the word the NIV has translated “everyone” in pan, which is usually translated as “whatever” or “everything.”  The NIV has decided what John was referring to is this:  “people who are born again overcome the world.”  This is, of course, correct. However, Alfred Plummer in his commentary on 1 John offers an insight worth considering—

          It is not the man, but rather it is his birth from God which conquers.

          Is this not precisely what Jesus said?

            [T]ake heart! I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

            Incidentally, “born of God,” is in the present tense, meaning it is an ongoing process.  We are born again one time, but the translation process—our moving from this world to the next—is happening even now.

            (d)  Has overcome the world.  Because Jesus has been victorious, we are victorious because we are in Him.  Jesus has overcome the evil one and set His people free from his power forever.

            The battle has thus been decided, even if it is not yet over.  (Gunther)

            (e)  This is the victory.  The Greek literally says, “The victory that is victorious has overcome the world.”   What is it that overcomes the world?  Many read this verse and see that it is our faith that overcomes the world.  But still, the Greek construction of this phrase must also be considered.  John may have in mind that it is our faith in Jesus Christ that enables us to overcome the world, but he may also be telling us something else.  John is referring back to an event in the past.  In other words, John is referring to a victory already won, and that by our faith in that victory, we have may be partakers of it.  Jesus accomplished the victory, and we are part of that victory.

            Conclusion

            When we think of great men and women, we think of heroes; those very public people who do things worthy of our attention.  The media love people like that.  Young people idolize heroes and try to imitate them.

            The Bible is full of heroes, especially the ones noted in Hebrews 11:4—32.  When we look at these heroes, we regard them as being almost superhuman or more than human because of all the endured.  But what is that made these Biblical men and women so great?  It was their faith in God that made them conquer, and the faithfulness to the ideals of God’s Word that made them victorious.  May it be so with us.

            Letters From An Old Man, Part 7

            1 John 2:29—3:10

            Last week we looked at John’s very stern attack on the false teachers who were threatening his friends. These false teachers, said John, had at one time appeared to have been part of the Body of Christ, but had left to follow their own strange teachings which denied the deity of Christ. The apostle calls these men “antichrists” because what they were teaching was in opposition of the Gospel of Christ and detrimental to the spiritual well-being of certain believers whose faith, perhaps, was not as strong as it should have been.

            We come now to the second major division of 1 John, which is 2:29—4:6, in which John gives his readers a way to know beyond the shadow of any doubt whether or not they are true believers (Glenn Barker). These tests, which are remarkably simple, are as follows:

            1. Doing what is right, 2:29—3:10
            2. Loving One Another, 3:11—24
            3. Testing the spirits, 4:1—6

            1. A common sense statement, 2:29

            If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

            What a simple way to tell if you, or someone who claims to be a Christian really is or not. Bengel comments on the profound truth behind this verse—

            The righteous produces the righteous.

            If a person claims to be a child of God, then that person will demonstrate the same qualities as his Father in heaven has. To be righteous does not mean be being right, but rather it means being holy. Believers, in other words, will live lives in obedience to the will of God, thus they will be holy just like He is holy. This reminds us of one of what Peter wrote—

            [F]or it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

            Peter is actually quoting from Leviticus; a command from God to His people. Being holy is not an option for a person who would claim to be a believer. Being holy means doing what God wants you to do; it means living in constant obedience to His commands. However, the way John has worded this sentence, a person’s conduct is right because they are children of God. Some might be tempted to read it the other way; a person is a child of God because their conduct is right. This is not at all what John is implying nor what he is saying. Our conduct reveals our condition, we don’t create our condition by our conduct, for that would be salvation by works, something no true preacher of the Gospel would ever preach!

            2. God’s true children, 3:1—3

            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. 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. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

            The very first phrase of the very first sentence begins with a command in the Greek. John says: “See!” He is advising his readers to open their eyes and look at how God is manifesting His love all around them. But this is no mere command; it is also a statement of bewilderment and amazement. The phrase “how great” is seen 6 times in the New Testament in this form and always implies “astonishment” and “amazement” at something. What is the amazing thing about God’s love? Simply this: that He shows it all to people who themselves are unlovely and unlovable, in other words, people like us. It is a wonder that God loves us at all.

            But like any Father, He loves His children, and John says that is exactly what we are: God’s children, and by virtue of that relationship, we are loved. What an honor that is! What a glorious and enviable relationship to be in!

            The positive side of being God’s children is that He loves us. But because we are God’s children, the world does not know us. Those four words together mean much more than they appear. The world does not recognize our status as God’s children. Other believers do, but the world does not. In fact, not only does the world not care about our relationship with God as our Father, sometimes the world can be downright hostile to us because we are bound to God. Unbelievers can’t understand us. Brown comments—

            The world does not recognize us because it never recognized him.

            Unbelievers live in world separated from our world. We are in the Kingdom of God and they are not. They are literally incapable of knowing the significance of our spiritual relationship with God. We make no sense to them. Why is John saying this? The most frightening thing for a Christian is to be admired by and approved of by the world. True believers should never ever seek the approval the world in anything they do because to be loved and admired by world would mean the possibility that we have forfeited our status as God’s children. The world of sinful man should have nothing whatsoever to do with us as it had nothing whatsoever to do with Christ. Indeed, to be hated or treated badly by the world may not be a good experience; it does serve to reassure members of the Body of Christ that they are loved by God. And that is infinitely more important than the world’s hatred.

            Verse 2 begins like John is about repeat what he just wrote, but he adds “now.” Our position as God’s children is a fact today. However, there is much more to come. Just like natural children who do not stay children forever, so God’s children must grow and develop. Natural children become adults and enter a whole new world. God’s children will eventually enter a whole new world, too. What that “new world” will be like will not be made a reality to us until the Lord returns. When Jesus appears, John says, we will be like Him, that is, we will become like Him. John is not teaching a new thing, he is simply reteaching what Paul had taught—

            For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

            Today, in our “immature” state and our position as “children,” we may be like Christ in some of our actions as we seek to emulate His perfect life in our imperfect way and as we seek to obey God’s righteous commands as best we can. But when Christ returns, we shall be like Him for at long last we shall look on Him in all His glory with no flesh and sin coming between us.

            What is this hope in verse 3? It is really a two-fold hope. First, it is the hope all believers have that one day they will be like Jesus, and second, the hope that Christ will appear. If we have that hope and if we believe we will be like Jesus and that He will come again, then we will do all we can do to “purify” ourselves. No person is strong enough to keep themselves pure and holy using their own devices. But, as we continually strive to walk in the light—that is, continue in the teachings of the revealed Word of God—that light will serve as a “purifying ray” (Blaney). The light of God’s Word searches our hearts and our inner most thoughts and desires and it will burn its way into our consciences and will until we are able do right and live right. But this is a slow, continuous and often frustrating process. When Christ appears, our change will be in an instant.

            2. What sin is, 3:4—6

            Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

            Even the most genuine, hardworking Christian who tries his hardest to live in continual obedience to the will of God knows that he is still a sinner and that even his best deeds remain tainted by sin. Even the most earnest saint knows that no matter how hard he tries, he will by an act of the will commit a sin. But this in no way means that he is under the control of sin. When we find ourselves on the outs with God because we sinned, forgiveness is available to us, free for the asking.

            However, as we shall learn, the person who continues to live in sin is in deep, deep trouble.

            In verse 4, John uses two very interesting words:

            • Hamartian, translated as “sin” in this verse and it describes the breaking of the law, a breaking of God’s commandments.
            • Anomian, translated “lawlessness,” describing a rebellion against God and is also used of Satan’s rebellion against God.

            The two words are not quite synonymous, but both are to be regarded as sin. Guthrie—

            [Sin] is a deliberate rejection of God’s standards and a resort to one’s own desires.

            Sin is putting what you want above what God wants for you, and since sin has its origins in Satan, to sin is prefer Satan over God. This is why John says this—

            He who does what is sinful is of the devil.

            It is one thing to be “overtaken in a fault,” but quite another to continue in that fault for an extended period of time. This is the whole point of verses 5 and 6. In Christ, there is no sin. As God’s children, we are to be like Him. God never makes a demand of His children that we cannot attain; God always gives us the capability. We are to be sinless, and God makes that possible—

            [H]e appeared so that he might take away our sins. (verse 5)

            But there is a caveat: we must not keep on sinning; we must ask for and accept God’s forgiveness, but then make every effort not to fall into the sin again. If a “Christian” is continually in sin, this is evidence that there is a problem with their relationship with God: either they don’t really have one, or they are woefully immature and some drastic intervention is needed.

            3. Who is your daddy? 3:7—8

            Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 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.

            Here is John the pastor, “Dear children,” warning his readers against accepting the teachings of the false teachers. That bad teaching has the potential to take them out of the fellowship. The mere fact that John uses the phrase, do not let anyone lead you astray, shows how easily that may happen. In fact, if a believer is not constantly on his guard and ever mindful about whom he is listening to and what he is reading; he may find himself in the company of the false teachers without even knowing how it happened!

            Living a righteous and holy life out of love for God the Father should be the norm for the genuine Christian, but that does not always happen automatically. A life of holiness is most often learned and is a discipline that must be practiced daily. Jesus had similar thoughts to those of John in Luke 9:23—

            “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

            If we read verse 8 with the wrong attitude, we might get the wrong idea about what John’s point is. John is not intending to say that every Christian who sins is of the devil. If that were the case, God the Father would have no children. In fact, John has already told his readers that Christians do occasionally sin; but what he is getting at here is this: a Christian’s whole life should be motivated by love to obey God and to respond in the appropriate way to the temptations of Satan. One who habitually sins, John says, is numbered among those Jesus referred to in John 8:44—

            You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.

            A child of God wants to please his heavenly Father. Not so the sinner. Charles Gore—

            John has no doubt that behind the rebellious will of men there is a master-rebel, who sinned before they were in being (from the beginning), and who, as the enemy of all good, is called the devil, the slanderer, or Satan, the adversary.

            Of all the sinners who have ever existed, Satan is the worst. But, as John declares in verse 8, Jesus came to destroy the devil’s works. Jesus does this today by providing forgiveness of sin, restoration to fellowship with God, and a continual cleansing of the souls of those who belong to Him. Eschatologically, Jesus will do this when He returns in glory and once and for all ends Satan’s career on the planet. But for now, since Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work, the Christian has no business getting involved in it.

            4. The secret to living right, 3:9—10

            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. 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.

            John restates what he has said before back in verse 6; anybody in Christ cannot practice a life of sin. But here John changes the words slightly by saying, “no one born of God,” which literally means no one with “God’s seed” in them can keep on sinning. John had a two-pronged theology of what it means to be a child of God: we must be in Christ, and Christ must be in us. If we live in Him, then we have been removed from the world, for nobody can live in two places at once, and if He lives in us, then our life will be His life in us and we will endeavor to live even as He lived (Barker).

            Finally, with verse 10, we reach the very heart of what John has been saying. This is his test for determining who the genuine children of God are. John is not writing as a philosopher or professorially, but rather John gives his readers a very practical test: children of God do not sin, but children of the devil continue to sin.

            A person cannot be a child of both God and of Satan at the same time. The child of God, because God’s nature resides in Him cannot continue sin any more than God can sin. We, who call ourselves Christians, should want to do what is right and we should be continually demonstrating our love for God in real, tangible, visible ways in the way conduct ourselves in our day to day lives.

            When we fall into sin, it is not the end of the story. We realize that Satan has led us astray and we turn to God in sorrow and repentance, and humbly ask for forgiveness, which we receive. It is vitally important for all Christians to understand: as children of God, we are never, ever again under the power of Satan. Not even for a second.

            (c)  2009 WitzEnd

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