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 Works versus Faith (Part 21) — The Book of 1 John (Part 2)

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Statesman63
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Statesman63

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PostSubject: Works versus Faith (Part 21) — The Book of 1 John (Part 2)   Mon Feb 25, 2019 9:44 pm

Works versus Faith (Part 21) — The Book of 1 John (Part 2)

Verses 12-14 is an interesting passage that is often glossed over.  I should preface it with this: one’s age has nothing to do with one’s spiritual maturity.  A child who is 10 years old physically could be spiritually older than a 35 year old adult.  An “old” person at 90 years old could be a spiritual baby if he or she just got saved.  Two people, let say twins even, who get saved at the same time may or may not remain at the same spiritual age over time.  Moreover, spiritual age is not always linear in one direction.  A person who was saved and progressed for 15 years, but then gets tempted and falls away can go from spiritually mature back to a baby’s age spiritually.  

Let’s look at verses 12-14 in detail.  In verse 12, John says, “I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His Name.”  We established earlier that John’s intended audience is Christians.  Among these Christians are those of different levels in their Christian walk.  John understood that his readers would include new Christians, mature Christians, and everyone between.  The Greek word “children” in this verse means “babies.”  He is literally saying, “I write to you babes in Christ...”  John first addresses brand new Christians who just got saved.  John’s message to them is reminding them that their sins have been forgiven.  That should be one of our first messages and reminders to brand new Christians.  God has wiped the slate clean—the slate that had once made us guilty of an eternal punishment of death—God wiped that slate clean in Christ.  To have our sins forgiven requires only faith in the finished work of Christ.  God does the forgiving, not based on merit.  If it were based on merit, no one would ever be forgiven, because His standard is perfection, which all has fallen short of.  These new converts have only their faith because being brand new, they are not yet developed or haven’t yet experienced what it’s like to walk with Christ.  

Verse 13a says, “I write to you fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.”  John is not referring here to literal fathers, but rather any mature Christian.  This is a person who has had experience with Jesus and “knows” who He is.  This person has been with Jesus for many years and developed into a mature Christian.  We just learned that the way to “know” God is through a consistent life of obedience.  This is to be juxtaposed with verse 13b, which says, “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.  Twice, John says that the young men overcame the evil one.  He says it again at the end of verse 14.  The evil one is Satan and includes his dominion of demons.  When John talks to the “young men,” he is talking to the spiritual teenager.  Now why would John attribute Satan to the teenager twice?  Because when a person becomes a teen, that is the time of Satan’s greatest attack.  I don’t remember where I read the statistic, but I recently read that most people who get anxiety panic disorders first get them between the ages of 15-17.  (Strange, I got mine when I was 16).  Satan attacks the spiritual teenager because he does not want them to grow up and become men.  How a person responds to the teenage years often determines how that person will be years into adulthood.  Those are very important times of development.  The teenager who does not respond appropriately to the battle against Satan, is one who deters their spiritual development and maturity in the Lord, often for years to come.  The teenager who does respond to Satan’s attacks and overcomes, is one who is on the path to spiritual maturity that John here is outlining.  They are timely with their spiritual development.  It is easy to waste years in life.  God is waiting on us to develop before giving us the next part of His plan and will for our life.  The longer it takes for us to develop, the longer He holds off.  We can again consider Israel’s disobedience and consequential delay of entering the Promised Land that God had for them.  

Many Christians today flunk the teenage years of spiritual development because there is a dangerous doctrine today that teaches we should just ignore Satan and he will go away.  Satan is the great deceiver and he wants us to simply ignore him and give him free reins to continue deceiving us.  The verse that we just read: “...you have overcome the evil one,” indicates that the teenager was in a battle with the evil one.  Satan has been defeated legally through the Cross, but until he has been locked away in the Lake of Fire, he is still a great threat to us Christians.  His greatest weapons against us is veiling the Truth and promoting his lies.  What do we need the full armor of God for if Satan is not a threat?  The armor of God passage says that Satan shoots flaming arrows at Christians and we need to always be on guard with our shield of faith.

1 John 13c reads, “I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.”  This entire passage cannot be fully understood in our English translations.  John mentions “children” again.  But this is not the same Greek word of “children” mentioned in verse 12.  The word translated, “children” in verse 12 means “babies.”  The word translated “children” here in verse 13c means “toddlers.”  In verse 12, John said of babes, “Your sins have been forgiven.”  Here, for toddlers, John says “you have known the Father.”  The word “known” in 13c is not the same Greek word as the word “known” in 13a (also in 14a) that was attributed to the fathers’ knowing.  The Greek word “known” in 13c refers to a basic recognition of knowing.  Whereas the word used in 13a and 14a for fathers refers to an intimate knowing.  New born babies do not yet know their parents.  So John did not say in verse 12 that the babies know God.  When a new believer gets saved they have not been saved long enough to know God.  However, as a baby grows up and gets to know their parents, they know them by recognition.  They are now able to say, “ma-ma” or “da-da.”  They now know their parents and how they look, but they know them by recognition.  They do not yet know them intimately.  Only the fathers, the really mature Christians, are able to know their own Father intimately.  

Please follow this closely, because understanding this helps one understand what John will later say, particularly: “No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him”—and other similar verses.  John precedes those verses with this passage in chapter 2 to help guide them in their understanding of what he will later talk about.  

1 John 2:14a reads, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.” Both times, referring to the fathers, John uses the same word “know,” which is the Greek word that means “intimate knowing.”  And both times, John says, “who is from the beginning” when referring to the fathers.  The fathers, as we stated, refers to mature Christians.  We know God is from the beginning of time and pre-eternity (He has no beginning).  But for the mature believer’s experience, God is from their beginning—that is, when they first became a Christian.  The mature Christian has been-there-and-done-that.  The mature Christian understands that trials are good in that they refine our maturity, and without trials, a Christian cannot grow.  The mature Christian understands that God disciplining us because of our sins is for our good.  God disciplines us to bring us closer to Him and it matures us.  The mature Christian understands Truth versus the opinions of this world.  The mature Christian is able to call evil evil, and good good even while the world has it backwards and calls evil good, and good evil.  The mature Christian is able to discern the spirits and always wears the full armor of God and walks with the Spirit.  The mature Christian has put away their idols and pride.  The mature Christian has years of experience overcoming the evil one.  The mature Christian knows and loves God.  The mature Christian obeys God and loves his brother.  A disciple of Christ is a mature Christian—that is, one who takes up his cross for the cause of the Kingdom.

John refers to babies and toddlers only once for each respectively.  He addresses the teenager and fathers twice each.  The babies and toddlers are learning the basic truths of the Gospel.  The teenager and fathers are applying what they know and learned to their daily living, and they represent those who Satan attacks most.  Those are his greatest threats.  So in 14b, John speaks again to teenagers, saying, “I write to you young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”  There’s our word “abides” again.  To abide, as you know now, means “to hang out with” or “to have fellowship with.”  The Word of God should abide in the life of the teenage or the maturing Christian.  In fact, that is the weapon needed to defeat this evil one that John says that the teen will be battling.  Without the Word of God, the teen cannot overcome the evil one.  Jesus exampled that when Satan tempted Him in the desert.  I know the Reader is fully aware of that passage.  Jesus didn’t battle Satan with the opinion of man.  He didn’t call up His buddies and ask, “What do you think?”  Jesus used the Word of God, of which authority Satan has to submit to, to battle and defeat Satan.  The Bible says in Luke 4:13 that Satan left Him until an opportune time—in other words, Satan will be back to try to attack you again, so be ready for him.  Also, 14b says, “...because you are strong...”  The teenage years are often when the teen starts lifting weights to put on muscle.  The Word of God is the spiritual weights that teens need to implement in order to become strong in the Lord.

1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.”  Sadly, entire doctrines have come out teaching the opposite of this verse.  The byproduct of this is called the gospel of prosperity.  John says do not love anything in the world.  We are to not have the same aspirations as others who seek the American dream.  Our aspirations should be pleasing God and accomplishing His will, not a pursuit of stuff.  We are supposed to trust God who will add things necessary to us when He sees our faith and love for Him.  To love anything in the world on the same level as you love God is to have an idol in your heart.  John goes on to say, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  We cannot love God and something else and call ourselves loving God.  God does not share His glory with anyone or anything.  To love anything within the vicinity of loving God is to negate the truth of your love for God.  You are bringing an eternal God down to the level of that thing.  We are not to love any created thing as the Creator.  Consider the transition of a brand new Christian who prior to believing in Christ was taught and conditioned to love the things of the world.  There is growing process that Christians go through that involves God’s discipline, that breaks down their love for the world and brings them to a clearer understanding of what it means to love God.  Until the Christian learns to stop loving the world, they are postponing their spiritual growth towards loving God.  No one can love the world and God at the same time.  God is the opposite of the world.  His ways are not the world’s ways; His will is not the will of the flesh.  Going with the majority vote or the popular opinion often put us in antagonism with God’s opinion.  

Verse 16 states, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (ESV).  The “pride of life” includes pride in your achievements and possessions.  Use caution when calling a possession a blessing.  A possession is initially a blessing, but it can turn into a curse.  There is nothing in the possession that makes it bad, but it can become bad when it captures our hearts and gives us pride.  Lust of the flesh and eyes is not from God.  The world says you must have the better car or shoes, etc.  Those of the world covet so much that they rob and even would murder another for their car or shoes.  We are to worship the Lord and put Him above all things and then we will be free to enjoy His creation with the proper mindset.  Verse 17 says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”  Remember, eternal life begins the moment the person believes.  Many Christians are not experiencing the life that they have because of their sin and idols they have in their heart.  John wants us to experience Christian living.  If we want to live today—that is, enjoy Christian abundant life living then we have to do God’s will.  We must do the will of God in order to not fall out of fellowship and into death which is living outside the life of God.  Jesus said to His disciples, “I have come so that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”  The life in abundance is there when we believe, but can go unexperienced or God makes us blind to it when we disobey.  As long as we are loving the world, God is not going to take the blindfolds off so that we can see and experience the abundant life that indeed we Christians actually have.  

In the next section, John goes into warnings about the antichrist.  I’m going to skip commentary on that part because not only is it clear, for the most part, but also because does not fit the purpose of this study.  Note that for every instance that the NIV uses the word “remains” that the word “abide” better reflects the Greek word.  For instance, verse 24, which says, “See that what you have heard from the beginning abides in you.  If it does, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”  Some readers see the “if” conditional and the NIV word “remains” and conclude that we can possibly lose salvation by our actions.  But the Christian is commanded to abide or have fellowship with the Word that they heard from the beginning, which will put them in fellowship with the Son and the Father.  This is what that is saying.

I’m skipping down to verse 28, which reads, “And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming.”  It is possible for a saved Christian to be ashamed at the coming of Jesus.  A Christian who does not live his or her life abiding with Christ, but rather abiding with the lusts of the flesh and this world will be ashamed if Jesus were to pop in the sky with all of the Saints at this moment.  Such a Christian will be saved and taken up to the sky after seeing the dead bodies of the saints rise from the ground and meet their respective spirit in the sky.  They will also be judged at the Bema Seat of Christ for all of their sinful deeds in the body.  If we live a life of constant abiding in Christ, John says that it is also possible to have confidence in that day.  Not only will we be judged for our sins, but we will also be rewarded in that day for our good deeds.  Can you imagine being confident in that day?  Our confidence will be in the Lord and His grace.  And by the way, whenever we breathe our last is when we will meet Jesus face to face.  We don’t know when His return will be; nor do we know when we will breathe our last and go to Him before He comes to us.  

Verse 29 reads, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him.”  Here John says how to recognize a Christian.  John spoke of the maturing process of the Christian already.  A Christian’s natural growth process is towards righteousness.  The Holy Spirit in the Christian and God’s discipline leads the Christian towards righteousness.  Righteousness is given, not manufactured or earned.  In Christ, all are righteous; we are called Saints.  Righteousness is our new nature.  But righteousness is also a command.  God commands us to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  No person naturally knows how to live a righteous lifestyle.  The Word of God teaches righteousness, and the Spirit of God and grace empowers us to do it.  Just having the instructions is not enough to live the Christian life.  The flesh is not righteous, just the new spirit of a Christian.  The soul is becoming righteous through spiritual nurturing of Truth and righteousness.  Jesus’ resurrection did not renew the flesh, rather it renewed the spirit of a person.  The flesh still rebels against God.  Your soul, or personality, is growing and being refined by God to become more like Christ.  So with this process at work, we should be able to recognize a Christian by their righteousness.  The difference between a good work and a good deed is that good works bring glory to Jesus; good deeds are good acts of benevolence, which can be the same act as the good work, but the end result is glory for man, not God.  The world cannot do good works; they are able to only do good deeds.

1 John 3:1 says, “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.”  Many Christians don’t realize the privilege it is to be adopted as a child of God.  Initially, that was only Israel’s privilege, save a few Gentiles engrafted in occasionally.  And we are really privileged because the adoption is a free gift to be received by faith.  As pointed out earlier, John’s intended audience is Christians.  He is writing to people who are already saved.  And by the way, no Christian should be questioning his or her salvation.  John affirms here that a child of God “is what we are!”  He goes on to say that the world does not understand us because it does not understand God.  Therefore, we shouldn’t take the world’s misunderstanding us personally.  The world’s truth is subjective.  They do not understand the objective Truth of the Word of God.  The world does not understand demonic influences and their deceptions either.  The previous verse said that we can know, or recognize a Christian based on their righteous works.  But don’t expect the world to know you by your righteous works.  God must first be known before His children can be recognized.  But it is important that we don’t give God a bad reputation.  We should look completely different than the world and not talk like them, behave like them, or share their world view.  Our opinion should be based on the objective Word of God, which is far different than the source of the world’s understanding of right and wrong.  Since we are the light of the world, we should not be Shadow Christians and blend with the darkness of the world.  

1 John 3:2 says, “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.”  Romans 8:19 states, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”  We don’t know the intricate details of our new bodies, but we are told that our bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrected body.  Our new bodies will be able to consume food because Christians will attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and eat with Jesus.  Jesus ate while in His resurrected body.  Jesus also walked through doors and floated up to the clouds and above.  We also know that our resurrected bodies will be undefiled by sin.  And our bodies will never die again.  Indeed they will be physical bodies in the sense that we will be able to pick up physical objects and interact with physical things.  Yet, they will be spiritual in that there will be no defilement of that flesh.  John says that we will see Jesus in full light.  There are aspects of the resurrected Jesus that are still a mystery until we get there.  

Verse 3 is not translated well in the NIV.  The ESV reads, “And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”  The NIV says, “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” The NIV implies that the statement is referring to the previous verse, as it says, “...who has this hope...”  We would have to look at the previous verse to see what “this hope” is referring to.  But the ESV is more accurately rendered.  By putting your hope in Jesus, you purify yourself.  You are trusting in the Pure One who purifies those who hope in Him.  He is the one doing the purifying.  He does it through our faith.

John just told us how to purify ourselves.  Let’s not forget this point as he then goes on to tell us that we are all lawbreakers in verse 4, which reads, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”  Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  When we put the two verses together we discover that all break God’s law.  Sin itself is always against God’s law.  God’s law teaches righteousness, which no one can claim because it must be held in perfection to be credited as righteousness.  Righteousness can only be imputed to us through the Cross by faith in Jesus Christ.  Sin is against righteousness, obedience and Truth.  John says in verse 5, “But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins.  And in Him is no sin.”  Jesus does for us what we could never achieve through obeying the law.  Jesus appeared so that He will take away our sins.  

The last part of the verse 5 goes with the next verse.  It says, “And in Him is no sin.”  We saw that there is no righteousness in sin, because sin is lawlessness, and the law only shows us what righteousness is without making us righteous.  But in Jesus, there is no sin.  So in order to not be in sin, we must abide in Jesus, which verse 6 states, “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.”  There may be sin in us, but there is no sin in Him.  So by abiding in Him, that is, by fellowshipping with Jesus or keeping a mutual loving relationship, we stop sinning.  If we do not stop sinning, then the reason for that is that we do not understand who Jesus is—we do not know Him.  We do not understand His holiness, wrath to sin, what He went through to take away our sins, nor do we understand the power He gives us through His Spirit via grace to stop sinning.  We reveal that we do not know Him if we try to fellowship with Him and yet bring our sins with us while we attempt to have fellowship.  As already noted: baby Christians do not know Him.  They have to learn of Him.  Nor do long-standing Christians who are immature and slow developing know Him.  They are in the process of learning of Him, whatever speed that might be.  Mature Christians know Him and fellowship with Him freely.  So it is impossible to abide with Him and continue in sin.  One can have pseudo fellowship if they are living in rebellion, but it is not the real thing.  Many Christians on Sunday look the part, but their lifestyle might reveal that they do not know Him.

And that verse says that no one who keeps sinning has “seen” Him.  What does that mean?  Who in the 21st Century has “seen” the Lord?  That simply means that no one who keeps sinning has intimately experienced Jesus.  To live a Christian life without seeing the Lord means that the person has a vague picture of Jesus, but Jesus does not fully reveal Himself to the servant until they first put away their rebellion.  Only when we repent for real does Jesus reveal Himself to us and then we learn and experience Him on a level that like never before.  The striking thing is that practically all Christians will claim that they “know” the Lord, but only those who truly repented actually do.  They are still saved Christians because they believe in Jesus’ payment for their sins, but they have yet to truly experience the Christian life through fellowship because they have yet to put away their sins.  

Righteousness, by the way, is not what you or I believe to be right or holy.  Only God can define righteousness because only He is fully righteous.  There are various things in God’s law that according to human opinion would not be considered righteous.  By nature we are unrighteous, fleshly beings, so we cannot invent or imagine what is truly righteous.  We have built within us only a general idea of the difference between good and evil because God put it into the heart of mankind to have a general idea of what sin is—not to mention that our most ancient ancestors Adam and Eve ate from the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” from which they learned both good and evil.  But only God’s Word fully discerns for us the distinction between right and wrong.  That’s why many worldly people (including some Christians) believe abortion is right and being gay is right or even believe that cussing is right.  Their source of righteousness is human opinion, which is greatly flawed.  

1 John 3:7 says, “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.  He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.”  This is not salvation by doing.  When we do righteous things then we are being righteous at the time of our righteous action, just as God is righteous.  The nature of a Christian draws the Christian to do righteous things.  This is the growth process we’ve been discussing.  The holy nature of the Christian is not derived from what we do, for the Bible says that our righteousness is like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6).  Our holy nature comes only from the imputation of Jesus giving us His righteousness; however, God calls us to live holy lives which require doing righteous things.  A Christian naturally imitates his Master.  Fellowship creates in us a natural impulse for righteousness, which is made evident through what we do.  It is not enough to think holy things; we must do them.  If you are not doing righteous things then fellowship has not been established.  John here is telling us how to verify that we are in fellowship with God.  If you want to know if you are in fellowship with God, simply ask yourself, “Am I doing righteous things?”  If you are rebelling against Him then you already know that you are not in fellowship with Him.  Remember, fellowship is a relationship.  To establish a sound relationship with someone requires that we do what the other party desires and refrain from doing what displeases them.  God desires righteousness and sin is a stench to His nostrils.  Obviously, if we want to nurture a sound relationship with a holy God then we have to seek to live holy.  

John says in verse 8: “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.”  The devil’s work is to increase mankind’s sin.  It is peculiar that it says that by doing sin makes a person “of the devil.”  I hope that your attuned cautious antennae went up when you read that, as it seems on the surface anyway, to contradict Paul’s teachings.  It is not saying, however, that the person belongs to Satan, even though some modern translations translate it that way.  I promise to explain this verse in more detail when we get to verse 10, which basically is saying the same thing.  But for now, let’s look at the logic of this verse.  Most Christians do not conclude from verse 7 that we are justified by doing right (as it might appear to be saying) because that would blatantly contradict Paul’s teaching.  Verse 7 was not describing the nature of Christians.  The next verse (verse 8 ) states verse 7 in the opposite way.  By doing bad, we are of the devil.  So if the first statement cannot be referring to salvation by righteous works (according to Paul’s teaching), then logically, the next statement cannot be referring to Hell by bad works.  I will disclose here, that the Greek construction of the phrase “of the devil” refers to origin, rather than “belonging” (please refer to Meyer’s NT Commentary).  The act of the sin that the person is committing has its roots from Satan.  To do sin is to imitate Satan.  Note also that this verse generalizes: it says “He who does what is sinful” in general—that includes both non-Christians and Christians.  It does not say, “He who does the worst, and most evil sin, [or any particular sin].”  This is saying that all sin is of the devil—from a white lie to murder.  

And the phrase, “for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” does not refer to the time of when he was created.  We know that the devil started off as the chief cherubim and arch angel.  He started off as a holy angel until he decided to rebel.  His name was Lucifer before he fell, and after which he had his named changed to Satan.  “Sinning from the beginning” refers to the fact that when humans were created, Satan was already into sin.  He has been sinning from our beginning, not his.

John really gets deep in verse 9.  From the NAS, it reads, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”  Here, John says “no one who is born of God...”  Only Christians are born of God and this includes all Christians.  John then gives the reason why no one born of God practices sin: “because His seed abides in him.”  God’s seed abides in the believer.  He goes on to say something quite odd: “he cannot sin.”  Again, your attuned cautious spiritual antennae should have alerted when you read that.  What does he mean that a person born of God “cannot sin”?  First, please note that it does not say, “he cannot keep on sinning” as the ESV renders it.  That is an addition and attempt by the translators to clarify the verse, but it is not in the manuscript.  The Greek actually only says “he cannot sin,” that is, he is incapable of sinning.  John, here, is not talking about the Christian in the normal way.  Here, he is referring to the new nature of the Christian.  

The new Christian you is incapable of sinning.  Again it is extremely important for Christians to know who they really are.  Many think that they are sinners.  As long as we think we are sinners we will act like sinners.  But if we just realize who we are in Christ, then we will begin to act like our true identity.  Ephesians 2:1 says, “As for you, you were [past tense] dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live...”  Skipping to verse 4, it reads, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ...”  We were dead apart from Christ, but now we are alive in Christ because Jesus imputed His righteousness to us, which changed our spirits into new creations that is now no longer how it used to be.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  Paul says that we are no longer who we were.  We are no longer sinners, but are now Saints who sin.  I briefly covered this in part one, but again: we are made up of body, soul, and spirit.  The spirit you is incapable of sinning because it has been recreated to be holy as God is holy.  Jesus through the Cross and Resurrection, and your faith in His payment for your sin debt, purified your spirit.  The Cross did nothing in saving your flesh (that is, your body).  God’s plan is to raise up for us new bodies and let these contaminated bodies turn to dust.  And as for our souls, which are our personalities, God is continuously, daily working to purify our souls, which will not be completely pure until we drop our fleshly bodies (via death) and will no longer have to contend with the thoughts and feelings of the flesh.  Both John and Paul agree that the new you cannot sin.  

Paul says in Ephesians 4:24, “...put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Here Paul defines the new self as having been created like God in true righteousness and holiness; we are just called or commanded to put it on—that is, to act out our new selves.  Paul says in Romans 7:20, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”  He is actually repeating what he said in Romans 7:16: “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it [the bad thing], but it is sin living in me.”  Paul is not excusing his sin here, but rather, he is speaking of the new Paul in Christ.  He is referring to his new spirit here.  He later goes on to say, “What a wretched man I am!  Who can save me from this body of death?”  Here, Paul is referring to the flesh Paul that Jesus’ righteousness did not purify—particularly, the “body.”  Our bodies are bodies of death, and sure enough we will die; ultimately because it has been contaminated by sin.  The verse before Paul tells us that we are new creations in Christ, Paul says: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer.”  The context reveals that Paul is referring to Christians when he says that he will no longer regard anyone (anyone saved that is) according to the flesh.  This is why we should stop calling ourselves “sinners” and start identifying ourselves based on our new identities in Christ.  

You are a new creation.  The old has gone and the new has come.  You have been crucified with Christ.  The old you died with Christ’s crucifixion.  The new you resurrected with Christ’s resurrection.  The life you live is Christ living in you, which is the new you.  It is good to know who we are in order to facilitate our walk with righteousness and maintaining fellowship with God.  God planted His seed in the believer, which is the Holy Spirit, God Himself.  Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, is also in you through His Holy Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  Many Christians start by thinking that they are sinners.  By starting with the wrong identity, one will act out the identity that they think they are.  We have to start by saying “I’m a redeemed, righteous saint and the new me cannot sin.”  Only then will we be on the road to controlling the flesh and suppressing its desires.  The new you cannot sin because of the new birth and changed identity you received in Christ.

1 John 3:10 reads, “This is how we know who the children of God are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”  The careful student of the Bible should ask questions when studying Scripture.  Paul teaches that only faith is required to be a child of God, not doing what is right.  So what’s that about?  And how can a man know the heart of another man?  How can a person know if another is really saved or not?  No one can peer into another’s heart.  Notice what this verse does not say.  It does not say, “This is how we know that we ourselves are a child of God...”  John is describing how to recognize another Christian.  Jesus even said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”  We have no spiritual x-ray to tell the heart of a person.  The only litmus test of distinguishing other Christians is whether or not that person is doing what is right and loving his brother.  Now imagine for a moment, a person who is loving his brother, but is not doing right.  This verse says that person would flunk the test because they would have to be both loving his brother and doing what is right to be an obvious Christian.  The law is right.  It says do not steal, do not murder, do not lie, among the many other things that Moses taught was good according to God’s eyes.  Moses, the law-giver, even said that we must love others.  John is not saying that we must follow the law to become a child of God.  It is not even saying we have to love our brother to be a child of God.  To be a child of God is not of ourselves.  If the requirement of being a child of God now includes loving our brother, then that immediately cancels Ephesians 2:8-9, and it is of ourselves.  Salvation would then require Jesus and myself.  I would now have an opportunity to boast of my claim to salvation because Jesus needed me to love and do what is right for me to be saved.  John is talking to Christians and he is not telling them how to become one, but rather, how to recognize one.  Obviously, there are some unrecognizable Christians.

The natural proclivity for the Christian is to grow in righteousness and to become more like Jesus because God’s seed is in us, directing us.  There are, however, prodigal Christians: that is, Christians who suppress the seed in them and choose to submit themselves to the flesh.  The seed is still in them.  Paul says that the seed is in us until the Day of Redemption (not until the day of condemnation).  Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Christians will be judged for our sins, but not condemned to Hell for them.  Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  We see here that it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit, but the person is still sealed by Him for the day of redemption.  God sealed us.  Mankind (that is, you and I) cannot break a seal that God seals.  He sealed us to a specified date: you cannot become unsealed tomorrow based on stumbling to sin because God sealed you until the Day of Redemption.  You are sealed for your entire lifetime.  You cannot unseal yourself.  Your faith in Christ is what seals you by the Holy Spirit.  If however, for example, you become a Muslim tomorrow, that is denouncing the faith that saved you, and this is the only way to become unsealed and unsaved.  What you do cannot unseal you because salvation is not predicated on what you do.  It is this same Holy Spirit seed that that seals us until the Day of Redemption that John is speaking of.  We can recognize those Christians who submit to that seed that is in them and allow God to change their ways and change them to be more like Jesus.  The Christian who is rebellious, however, and who grieves the Holy Spirit is still a sealed one, but such is unrecognizable by other Christians.  Such is living as if he or she is a child of the enemy.  

I promised we would go back to 1 John 3:8.  It reads, “He who does what is shameful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning...”  A Christian cannot lose his or her salvation because they have been sealed, but it is possible for a Christian to be of the devil and of God in the same day.  Jesus said this of Peter.  In Mark 8, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ.  We learn from the other Gospels that Jesus said something like, “Blessed are you Simon...”  Right after that, in Mark 8:33, Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me Satan!  You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  Jesus called Peter blessed and esteemed him.  A few sentences later, Jesus calls Peter Satan and rebukes him.  Jesus gives the reason for calling Peter Satan.  He says that it is because he did not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.  When we have in mind, not the things of God, but the things of men, we for that moment, become a child of the devil, that is, our actions have adopted Satan’s agenda and values.  Peter never lost his salvation, but he lost sight of his new blessed identity in Christ by setting his mind on things of men.  

To be called a child of the devil is to adopt the devil’s world system and values.  In John 8:44, this same John quotes Jesus, who says to his Jewish audience, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the Truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  Jesus was accusing his listeners of being liars because they were not holding to the Truth.  All lies originated from Satan.  So when we lie, we adopt his invention and personality.  This applies to the Christian as well as the non-Christian.  It is a fact that some Christians tell lies.  Some Christians do not hold to the Truth of the entire Scripture—they pick out only the truths that they agree with and reject the rest.  When whoever lies or rejects Truth, they temporarily adopt Satan as their surrogate father.

1 John 3:11-12 says, “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” Cain did not have love for his brother Abel, rather, he envied him. Incidentally, it is interesting that God still protected Cain in Genesis 4:15 after he killed his brother. Cain had also had godly descendants, which indicates he became a religious, godly father. Genesis 4:26 says, “At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.” The beginning part of Genesis 4:26 tells us that Seth at the time had only one son, so the “men” on the Earth who began to call on the name of the LORD consisted of mostly Cain’s prodigy (not Seth’s). When Cain killed Abel, he was “of the devil,” as we just read in John 8:44 that the devil was a murderer from the beginning. Hatred had filled Cain’s heart. Cain killed Abel in his heart before he murdered him physically.

1 John 3:13-14 reads, “Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you.  We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death.”  Recall that “brethren” refers specifically to Christians.  Recall also that John’s theme for his entire book is fellowship with God.  To have fellowship with God requires loving our brethren.  If a Christian hates his fellow Christian, he or she is automatically outside the fellowship of God.  To be outside the fellowship of God is not only to live in darkness, as we discovered earlier; but also, to be outside the fellowship of God is to abide in “death.”  When we are in fellowship with God we are abiding in life.  Death, as the Bible defines throughout is to be apart from God’s presence: that is, to be separated from the life of God—which is why a person can be physically alive, but yet dead at the same time.  Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:6, “But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.”  God told Adam, “The day you eat the forbidden fruit thereof, you will surely die.”  Adam ate, and yet lived on for centuries more.  But the day he ate, he died.  There are 4 deaths in the Bible:  1. All who are outside of Jesus, who have not accepted Him as their Savior are dead, even though they may still be breathing and are alive physically.  They need to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be made alive—this makes one’s spirit alive, righteous, and perfect, set for Heaven.  2. There is also physical death, where the body dies, yet the spirit lives on. (The spirit never ceases to exist.)  Every human being undergoes physical death, unless the Rapture comes and saves us from experiencing it.  3. There is the eternal death of the spirit of the non-believer.  This is the non-Christian who has died and has never accepted Jesus while physically alive and therefore, has been locked into his or her state of death eternally.  Such a person is currently in Hades in spirit form, awaiting their next quarters, which is the Lake of Fire.  They will also be raised up some type of new body where their worm never dies.  4. A Christian dies when they are out of fellowship with Jesus.  The Christian does not lose salvation, but loses the connection of abundant life and answered prayers, and sanctified protection from God and they enter into His discipline and judgment.  Accompanying this death might come depression, or things not going right for the individual until they repent.

Again, verse 14 states, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death.”  How do I know if I am in fellowship with God and that my prayers are being heard?  Again, the litmus test for knowing that we are in fellowship and good standing with God is when we are loving our brother (our fellow Christian), and doing what is right and not rejecting Truth.  If we are despising members of the Christian family, God snuffs out our light and puts us in death and darkness until we appeal to the Cross and sincerely repent of our rebellion.  This is a good verse because John wants us to know that we are in fellowship with God and not live our lives worried whether or not God is pleased with us.  He wants us to have that confidence.  If you love, your love covers over a multitude of sins, which puts you into fellowship with God.  And if we find that we are in death (outside of God’s fellowship), this verse tells us what to do: love your brother.  To get back into fellowship, we need to repent of our sin and love our brother.  Biblical love is sacrificial and not an emotion (see verses 16 and 17 which I’m not covering for sake of brevity).  Biblical love is also the opposite of hate and despising someone.

1 John 3:15 says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  Both eternal life and the death mentioned in the previous verses refer not to the next life, but to this one.  He is saying that eternal life is not “abiding” in you at the particular moment that you are hating someone.  We know from our study that the Greek word for “abide” means “to hang out with” or “to dwell with.”  This verse is spoken to Christians only, not to non-Christians.  A non-Christian is never commanded to love his brother (and moreover, “brother” here particularly refers to “fellow Christian”).  A non-Christian finding Jesus is their highest priority, though they don’t realize it.  A Christian does not lose eternal life; if that were possible, it was never eternal to begin with.  Eternal life starts in this life time and continues forever without ever losing it.  On this side of life, eternal life comes with benefits (peace, power, answered prayer, etc.) and also refers to the abundant life that Jesus mentioned when He said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  When a Christian despises his or her Christian brother or sister in Christ, they are not “abiding” in eternal life; and, eternal life is not “abiding” in him or her.  Outside of God’s fellowship, you temporarily lose your access to peace, power, answered prayer, etc.  When we stop hanging out with the eternal life that we have, we step into a temporary darkness and death (separation from God’s fellowship), and God responds with His strict discipline to get us back on to the right road.

I originally was going to cover up to Chapter 3 and end it here since I covered the most difficult portions, but I decided to continue this series and finish the entire First John sometime in the future.  We’ll start at 1 John 3:16 when we pick this up again.

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Works versus Faith (Part 21) — The Book of 1 John (Part 2)
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