Study No.8 (1 John 3:1-10)
Review (1 John 2:18-29)
The First century believers always lived in the expectation that the Lord Jesus would return in their time. For them it was always the last hour. John tells us that Antichrist is coming but that there were many antichrists around even in his day and all of them teaching something about the final Antichrist to come. For the first century believers the Roman Caesars were all antichrists in that they demanded to be worshipped as gods. Augustus was the first emperor to be deified. Emperor worship really kicked in at Pergamum which today is located in Turkey. Pergamum at that time was “the city where Satan has his throne and “the city where Satan lives.” (Revelation 2:13)
Now the antichrists John had in mind were those who were once associated with the fellowship but had left because they had a doctrine that denied they deity of the Lord Jesus and that allowed for sinful behaviour because these heretics said it was sinful anyway. The spirit of antichrist is that which is against Christ and seeks to replace Christ. The word Christ of course means “the anointed one” or “Messiah.” Antichrists are those who have a false anointing and who in some way may even have a Christ of their own making but not the right one. They have an anointing of power but not from the Holy Spirit who Himself is the Spirit of Truth and not doctrinal error. He will never lead us into doctrinal error. He is the Spirit of truth who leads us into all truth (John 16:13).
The word antichrist has two meanings in the Greek language. Firstly it means “against Christ” and secondly it means “in place of Christ.” Satan must first turn Christians away from the true Christ and replace Him with a false Christ, one that is not according to the Biblical revelation. John understood that there would be many antichrists around before the Lord Jesus came back. History and the New Testament reveal that there have always been antichrists around but that in the last days they will multiply and that primarily within the Body of the Messiah. These will by stealth secretly introduce destructive heresies being truth and error laid side by side (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Every believer who has the indwelling Holy Spirit have an anointing from Him that will enable them to distinguish truth from error (1 John 2:20). Many Christians do not have this discernment operating fully within them because they are ignorant of what the Word of God actually teaches. They have no spiritual compass to keep them on course spiritually. Those who know their Bibles and know the power of the Holy Spirit know all things needful to keep them from doctrinal error, from sin and about how to live the Christian life. While they do not know everything they do know what they need to know from the Lord. They will know right from wrong and truth from error and this will increase as they walk moment by moment of every day in step with the Holy Spirit.
Those who deny the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus in an eternal relationship with His father John says are liars, because while professing to Know God they deny His eternal relationship with His Son. In light of this John tells us that He who denies the Son’s eternal relationship with His Father does not have God in their life but those who acknowledge Jesus eternal relationship with His Father also have God in their life. To abide in the truth is to remain constantly living and believing it and in doing this remaining connected to God and experiencing inwardly the eternal life which will come to its fullest expression at the rapture and resurrection.
Our faith is based on the word of God and through hearing it with the eyes of the heart being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, faith is produced (Romans 10:17). When we know the Word of God we will be able to distinguish between doctrinal truth and error. While God uses human teachers He also teaches us personally by the direct revelation to our spirit by the Holy Spirit. This is the spiritual birthright and privilege of every born again, blood washed, child of the Living God. Hearing from God in this way will empower us to remain actively connected with Him in every aspect of our daily living. When we do this we will be ready for the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus and not be ashamed when He appears. Added to this, every born again believer who knows and experiences the righteousness of the Lord Jesus actively at work in their life will be like Him in what they say and do and how they conduct their daily lives in this world according to the Word of God.
Exposition (1 John 3:1-10)
(Vs 1) “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”
John is known as the apostle of love and was the one who leaned on the breast of the Lord Jesus at the last supper. Of all of the apostles John seemed to experience this love in a deeper sense than the others did even though they all had the same love of God shed abroad in their heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). This great love that God has bestowed upon His children is a love of quantity and quality that the world knows nothing about. He does not attempt to describe the length, the breadth, the depth or the height of it because it goes far beyond human comprehension. While it is inexhaustible we are encouraged to seek to know it in a deeper sense. It is not primarily feelings and emotions expressed but a continuous action of the will and not the emotions. We live by faith and we love by faith. It is a faith that works by God’s love expressed as an action of the will (Galatians 5:6).
As Paul writes; “And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of the Messiah that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17b-19). The amazing truth is that God should love us as sinners who, by nature and birth, are great rebels, devilish, earthly, fleshly, wicked, with hearts filled with evil intent, pride, jealousy, lust, greed and hate and afflicted with all kinds of malice (Jeremiah 17:9). Only the spiritual rebirth from above can make us spiritually brand new deep down on the inside of us (2 Corinthians 5:17).
The manner in which He loved us was to send His One and Only Begotten Son to die for us at the cross, the Righteous One dying for the unrighteous ones that He might bring us back into a personal relationship with God (1 Peter 3:18). He, who knew no sin, became a sacrifice for sin on our behalf that we might be made the righteous ones of God through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:22).
Men may well die for a noble cause or for a friend but who would die for a murderer, a terrorist, a rapist or for a very wicked person? Well the Lord Jesus died for all men everywhere and that without exception. As Paul also writes; “For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, the Messiah died for the ungodly. It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, the Messiah died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
This then is the manner of love which God has bestowed upon us as great sinners and rebels in his sight. It is this love that transforms a ‘sinner’ into a ‘saint.’ As for the unsaved in the world they do not comprehend this manner by which God loves. These spiritual truths are spiritually discerned by those who have the inner knowledge and enlightenment of them through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). If you feel the weight and burden of sin, and know that you have sinned and rebelled against God and his laws and commandments, and feel within yourself the sentence of death and hellfire to come, then do not delay, do not run away from the Lord Jesus but run to Him. Go to that eternal fountain of His blood opened up for uncleanliness and sin and wash and be clean from all spiritual contamination and defilement. His blood, shed for you at the cross, has fully and forever atoned for all of your sin (1 John 2:2). That forgiveness is bestowed upon repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus that results in the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-39).
When, by faith in the Lord Jesus, you avail yourself of that cleansing blood it will cleanse you from all and every sin and keep you free from its grip and power (John 1:7-9). On the basis of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus God will pardon and cleanse you and save you from the wrath to come (Romans 5:9).
(Vs.2-3) “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Right now as believers, we may be conscious of the inward spiritual corruption of the fleshly nature with its passions and desires that are constantly at war with the desires of the Holy Spirit who is also living in us (Galatians 5:16-18). While we desire to be more like the Lord Jesus we also find within us a dark and sinister side that wants to go in the opposite direction. We want to be gracious, loving and kind as the Lord Jesus is but deep within us find dark innate desires to be greedy and selfish and self-centred fighting to control us. This is where, by faith, we desperately need the power of the Holy Spirit moment by moment to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:22-26).
When we see that in our flesh dwells nothing good we cannot imagine what the future glory and perfection will be like. However, when the Lord Jesus appears the second time we shall be instantly changed to be like Him in every way. As Paul also writes; “But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus the Messiah, who, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). This is our eternal future as God’s children. All of us see through a dark glass dimly now but then when our Lord Jesus Messiah comes back we will see Him face to face and know as we are known by God (1 Corinthians 13:12).
The Lord Jesus is our Bridegroom and if we are His bride we will want to be spiritually ready and dressed, having on the garments of salvation and clothed with the robe of His righteousness and be clean from sin and spiritual defilement. Having been cleansed by His blood from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and through perfecting holiness in the fear of God we will be ready to meet Him at His Second Coming and prepared for the wedding feast.
In scripture there are numerous references connecting the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus with holiness and outworked righteousness in those who are eagerly waiting for Him. These will not be living in sin and practicing unrighteousness and neither will they be lovers of this world and the things this world offers. And so John continues to write…
(Vs.4) “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
The Gnostics separated the spiritual from the natural. They were into all kinds of mystical experiences and revelations and spiritual experiences of one sort or another that were not based on the Word of God. Because they considered the flesh evil and that it would always sin they lived that way. However, a salvation that does not save a sinner from the power of sin is not Biblical salvation. We are told that the Lord Jesus “would save His people from their sins, not in them.” He saves from the power and penalty of them in this life and in the life to come from the very presence of sin.
Lawlessness is that life style which does not bother to keep the moral law of God summed up in the 10 Commandments. In our own strength and by the power of our will we cannot keep them at all and if we break one then as far as God is concerned we have broken them all. As James writes; “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). Having said this we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to keep all of the moral requirements of the law and this includes the 10 Commandments. As long as we walk in step with the Spirit we will not walk in the flesh (Romans 8:1-14). As we walk under the control of the Holy Spirit moment by moment by faith the moral laws and commandments of God are fulfilled in us supernaturally as we are empowered to do them by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).
When John uses the phrase “commits sin” in the text he is not speaking about an individual act of sin that occurs as a result of temptation but a continuous and wilful action. A believer in the Lord Jesus will not be walking in continuous and habitual sin and if they are living a sinful lifestyle as those in the world who are unsaved then it may well be they were never born again in the first place or have backslidden. Either way the wages of sin is death.
While the Lord Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to Him by faith the human will is still involved in the process of salvation and there are some who have come to Him at one time and been saved. They had been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age but have fallen away, having repudiated their faith, having crucified the Son of God all over again (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31).
In the last days we are told that because of the increase of lawlessness the love of most Christians will grow cold and that many will fall away from the faith. Only those who stand firm or have endured to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:10-13). We are saved now but to stay saved we must persevere or endure to the end. This is only possible with the power and strength supplied by the Holy Spirit but He does not override our wills in this matter. The Holy Spirit will lead us to the place of repentance and to the specific sin we need to confess and forsake and He will be right there to enable us to repent but we must do the repenting. The blessed Holy Spirit will not do the repenting for us. Why can we be free from the power of sin even in this life? Well John tells us…
(Vs.5-6) “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.”
A salvation that leaves a sinner wallowing around in the ‘mud’ of their sin and subject to its control is not Biblical salvation. Just to have a spiritual experience and feeling good on the inside is not necessarily a barometer that we are right with God. Now there will be joy and peace in believing and the burden of sin lifted from our shoulders and this will result in righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit as these things mark all who have been spiritually reborn and brought into the Kingdom of God. In fact it is the result of living in the Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). One may have a spiritual encounter with God but does this encounter deal firstly with their sin. Repentance always comes before seasons of spiritual refreshing come from the presence of the Lord, not the other way around (Acts 3:19).
The reason John tells us that the Lord Jesus was manifested was to take away our sins, to lift the power and the burden of them from us. All of our sins were nailed to the cross and when we repent and believe on Him they are taken away from us and we are loosed from their power by His blood applied to our heart, our conscience and to our whole life by the Holy Spirit (Revelation 1:5) (Ephesians 1:7) (Hebrews 9:14).
The secret to keep free from sinning is to abide in the Lord Jesus and remain connected to Him. We can do this through prayer, studying the Word of God, avoiding those things that will lead us to sin, through fellowship with other believers, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, by putting on the full spiritual armour of God every day and above all else by praying in the Holy Spirit on all occasions and continuing to pray without ceasing. These things will keep us from all habitual and even wilful sins.
As we grow in the Lord Jesus the power and desire for sin will diminish as we yield by faith and obedience moment by moment to the leading and power of the blessed Holy Spirit. If we seek to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbour as ourselves we will not want to sin even though the temptations to sin at times will be coming at us thick and fast, and that relentlessly. The reality is that we are in a spiritual battle with spiritual forces that are far more powerful than we are but God has given us the spiritual weapons and armour to fight the battle and win! (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Having said these things John also says that whoever is living a sinful lifestyle has never seen God or encountered Him experientially. Satan is not concerned about the unsaved in the world as he already has them under his power. The ones he is worried about are you and me who belong to the Lord Jesus and not to Satan anymore because we are under new management. Satan’s main weapon is spiritual seduction especially where sin is concerned. Sadly there are many today who claim to know God and have had a spiritual and emotional experience but if they have not been freed from sins grip then can it be said that they are truly saved by Biblical standards? John now addresses this…
(Vs.7) “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. “
The Lord Jesus was not only completely righteous and free from sin but practiced righteousness. He lived what He preached and preached what He lived and no one could find anything sinful in Him (John 8:46). Through the Holy Spirit that same righteousness is dwelling in us and when we live by the power of the Holy Spirit we walk in the same righteousness that the Lord Jesus did because it is His righteousness and not our own by which we live by (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) (Philippians 3:7-9). The question that remains for us who believe is do we practice righteousness? Is it a way of life every day for us? We are declared to be righteous by faith and we continue in that righteousness through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit living deep down on the inside of us. Through Him we can put to death the deeds of the fallen human nature and the flesh with its passions and desires. God’s will is that we be conformed to the image of His Son and if this is occurring then, like Him, we will practice righteousness.
(Vs.8) “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
Now the devil’s work is all sin and rebellion against God and all that it produces in this world and in the lives of the unsaved. Satan sinned from the beginning through pride. He was a murderer from the beginning and a liar and the father of lies and the one who kills, steals and destroys the lives of men and women made in the image and likeness of God (John 8:44). He cannot get God so he goes after those made in God’s image to spite God and to destroy what God has created. The reason the Lord Jesus was revealed was to destroy the devil’s work which is the sin and rebellion within the human heart. War, sickness, disease, famine, terrorism, anti-Semitism, spiritual seduction, lying, adultery, murder, injustice, cruelty, intolerance and every other sin imaginable is all the work of the devil in the lives of the unsaved.
The world was not originally created by God to experience what it does. Adam, the first man gave this world into the hands of Satan, not control over the whole earth, but control over the minds and hearts and actions of men and women made in Adam’s likeness (1 John 5:19). The Lord Jesus, the Second Adam, took it all back at the cross where He defeated Satan and sin. Right now He is saving people from their sins and when He comes back He will save the planet, save Israel and rescue His elect saints from the very presence of sin itself (Matthew 24:231-22). At the cross Satan and his minions from Hades were judged and condemned. When the Lord Jesus comes back Satan will go down into the pit in the earth and chained down there and removed from human contact.
After this the nations will be judged and the Millennial Messianic Kingdom inaugurated. In that day the earth will fulfil the original purpose for which it was created, namely for the benefit and well-being of man. Satan will be released after 1,000 years but immediately be thrown into the lake of fire along with those living on earth that had continuously refused in their hearts to submit to the earthly reign, sovereignty and set laws of the Messianic Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-3).
(Vs.9) “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”
God’s seed of eternal life is the blessed Holy Spirit who produces in our lives the nature and character of the Lord Jesus (Galatians 5:22-25). It is the supernatural power of His indestructible life dwelling deep down on the inside of us which Satan cannot touch (Hebrews 7:16). When this indestructible life is at work in us Satan cannot get a foothold and we will not be able to continue living in sin. The seed of God will keep us in the love of God as we walk by faith (1 John 5:18). Our faith is a faith that works by love (Galatians 5:6). So long as we are controlled by the love of God we will not sin.
We may have physical problems, mental anguish, emotional grief, depression, loss of our faculties, bouts of depression, poverty, sickness, adversity and affliction and persecution and heaviness through manifold temptations but we will not be living a wilfully sinful lifestyle because the seed of God’s Word watered by the Holy Spirit will be active in the soil of our heart producing the fruit of the Spirit in us (Galatians 5:22-25). If we have been born of God then we will not be giving into sin habitually. This is what the text is teaching. This is true Biblical salvation that saves a sinner from their sins and not in them!
(Vs.10) “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
Practicing righteousness as a way of life is the genuine mark of all who have been spiritually reborn from above by the blessed Holy Spirit. They love God and the things He loves and hate the things He hates. They love the Lord Jesus, love the Holy Spirit, love the Word of God, love their brothers and sisters and love the lost because the love of God has been shed abroad in their hearts in abundance by the blessed Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). They practice righteousness because they love God and want to please Him. One may profess to be a Christian but if they are harbouring hate and an unforgiving attitude in their heart towards a fellow brother or sister in the Lord Jesus then they themselves are not forgiven so long as they remain in their unforgiving implacable attitude (Matthew 6:15).
We have the old nature and the new nature within us and we are not perfect so long as we live in this body but it has been said that the nature that we feed the most is the nature that will control us. Paul put it this way when he wrote; “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 13-14). The bottom line is this that if we truly love God we will not want to sin or practice sin!