I JOHN



Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

This letter was written by the Apostle John, the same disciple who leaned upon the breast of our Saviour at the Last Supper of our Lord and His disciples. It seems to have been written as a sequel to the gospel record that bears his name, and to which the first three verses of this epistle seem to refer. The entire letter is written in a very loving manner, and points out those things, which identify God's children, as well as some that differentiate between them and the wicked. In it John also reminds us that Jesus will come again, and when He does, "we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." He cautions us against believing "every spirit," and tells us how to distinguish between the spirit that "is of God," and the one that is not. The principal purpose of this letter seems to be the comfort and assurance of the believer, and it is accompanied with stern warnings against the false pretender.

Chapter 1


(Verses 1 through 4) "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."

 

This introduction establishes for us that John's testimony is not from hearsay, nor supposition. And, in fact, he is not even dependent upon revelation for it, but is simply reporting that "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life." This witness then is absolutely "first hand." Also it concerns "that which was from the beginning." This testimony of which he speaks must be that given in his gospel record, for it starts thus; "In the beginning was the Word," and takes us through the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. In this resurrection, and only in it, "the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." In that one action our Lord brought life and immortality to light. All who were ever raised from the dead before Him, even those whom He raised, were only brought back to natural life, to again face death at a later time. But He says, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Here the apostle says, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." What he testifies is that which he has seen and heard, not "heard of," or received by hearsay. He has borne witness of what he saw the Lord do, and what he heard Him say, not what someone else has reported that He did or said. His whole purpose in doing this is "that ye also may have fellowship with us." As this same apostle said in John 20:31, "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name." Some seem to derive joy from starting with such quotations as this and developing an argument about how one is brought to believe this testimony. And in many places John sets forth the underlying cause, but here his emphasis is not upon such, but upon the fact itself, that they do believe; and those who believe have life through His name. His declaration of these things is for the purpose of causing others to be brought into fellowship with him, for there is a fellowship among believers that cannot be extended to unbelievers. "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." Now John says, "And these things write we unto you that your joy may be full." The more we read and hear of the works and teachings of our Lord, the greater is our joy.

 

(Verses 5 through 7) "This is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, That God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."

 

This is a very simple declaration of a basic truth. Before considering it, however, let us look at a statement made by our Lord. "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." Surely this gives us the key to John's usage of the terms, "light" and "darkness," in this passage. The former means "good," and the latter "evil." So, in God there is light, or good, only, for in Him is no darkness, or evil, at all. Therefore any who claim to have fellowship with Him, but continue on in sin, are doing nothing but lying. They are doing nothing that relates to truth or good. Those who walk in the light, or do good works, acceptable with God, have fellowship one with another, and without making any boastful claims at all, show by their works that the blood of Christ Jesus the Son of God has cleansed them of all sin.

 

(Verses 8 through 10) "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."

 

The apostle continues in his simple straightforward manner pointing out that the arrogant attitude of one who claims that he has no sin and has not committed any sins, proves him to be a liar, and also one who would accuse the Lord of lying, while those who have been humbled so by the Holy Spirit that they confess their sins, have His promise of forgiveness; and He is faithful and just. Therefore the sins of those who confess their sins, are forgiven readily by Him.


Chapter 2


(Verses 1 and 2) "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

 

John's address, "My little children," shows his great care and love for those to whom he writes, as a loving father to his little children. "These things write I unto you that ye sin not." His purpose in writing these things is to warn us against sin and, by telling us more about our Lord, to encourage us to resist the temptations to sin that are always before us. "But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." This is not intended to give us a license to sin, because we have an advocate with the Father, but to comfort the repentant child of God, who after striving faithfully to serve the Lord, yet finds that he has fallen short. Such are never to despair, for we do have such an Advocate. Not only is He our Advocate, but He is Himself the propitiation, or legal satisfaction, for our sins. He is the One Who has paid the price for our sins and has set us free. "And not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." At this point, one or the other of two positions must be taken. Either John means that every human being in the world has had satisfaction made for all his sins by "Jesus Christ the righteous," and will therefore be a partaker of His glory when He returns; or he means simply Christ Jesus is the satisfaction for all the sins of every one in the world whose sins are forgiven. The former position is totally contrary to the doctrine of all the apostles and our Lord Himself. So we find it completely untenable. The latter is in perfect harmony with the teaching of our Lord and all His apostles; and therefore is exactly what John means by it.

 

(Verses 3 through 6) "And hereby we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk as He walked."

 

Even the Apostle Paul declared in chapter 7 of his epistle to the Romans that he could not render the perfection of obedience to God that he desired, and finally in that discussion, he came to this conclusion: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." Surely no one would take Paul's statement to mean that any one can with the mind serve the law of God while abandoning himself to sin in the flesh. Instead, it means that while he is consenting to the law of God and striving to keep His commandments, he still because of the weakness of the flesh, finds himself falling short; and his only hope of deliverance is through our Lord Jesus the Christ. Neither does John's statement in this quotation demand perfection in service. He also, in verse 1 of this chapter, recognizes our weakness. Therefore his expression, "keep His commandments," is accepted of God as fulfilled when we are honestly and sincerely striving to serve Him to the best of our ability; and this should be kept in mind as we study this epistle. It is then by the fact, that we desire to, and are striving to, keep His commandments, that we are assured that we do know Him, while the one who claims to know Him, but is making no effort to serve Him, is a liar and has no truth in him. One who is striving to serve Him is by his work proving that God's love is perfected in him. Whoever makes a claim of abiding in God, or of God's abiding in him, is under obligation "to walk even as He walked." Again, he is not saying that we must be absolutely perfect, as He was, but there must be an honest effort to walk as He did, that is, to keep His commandments.

 

(Verses 7 and 8) "Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth."

 

At first glance, these two verses may seem to be in conflict, inasmuch as the apostle first says, "Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you." The key to harmonizing these statements is that "the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." No doubt the commandment to which he refers is that which our Lord said is "the first and great commandment," coupled with that, which He designated as "the second," "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This is the old commandment, which has been in force from the beginning; but in the darkness, or dimness of light under the law dispensation it was not fully understood. Our Lord, Who is the true Light, has now shined forth, and shown us what real love is, thus making that old commandment new by shining a new light upon it.

 

(Verses 9 through 11) "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."

 

Again the apostle declares that a man is identified not by the claim he makes, but by the works he does. If he claims to be in the light, but still hates his brother, his claim is false. He is still in darkness. John's usage of the word, "brother," does not restrict it to a brother in the flesh, nor even to a brother in the Lord. But it includes our fellow man. For our Lord has commanded us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who despitefully use us; and surely the Apostle John would not intend that we get by with less. We sometimes become so biased in our minds that we think it right to hate someone for the evils he has done, but this is never the case. We must learn to love all men, even as we vehemently hate the evils they do. This does not mean that we should receive then into our fellowship, but that we should love them enough to pray that God may see fit to cleanse them and forgive them of their sins. And if we see them in need, we should do what we can to help them. He that loves his brother shows that he is abiding in the light, and that there is in him no reason for stumbling. On the other hand, where there is hatred there is darkness; and he that hates has such darkness within him that he does not even know where he is going, because the darkness within has blinded him.

 

(Verses 12 through 14) "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one."

 

Although our Lord received little children, blessed them, and even said of them, "of such is the kingdom of heaven," it is somewhat uncertain whether or not the "little children," speaking physically, among the early Christians could have read this letter. Certainly it is possible that someone could have read it to them. But since "little children" is a term of endearment previously used by John in this epistle, it may be that he is using it again more to show his loving care for all his readers than as an address to a particular segment of them. At any rate, he addresses little children, fathers, and young men; and although he says nothing about mothers and young women, it is certain that they also are embraced in this letter. He gives his reasons for this writing. To those whom he addresses as "little children" he says it is "because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" and "because ye have known the Father." To the older ones, "fathers," he says that his writing is "because ye have known Him that is from the beginning;" and this he repeats. To the young men it is "because ye have overcome the wicked one," and "because ye are strong, and have overcome the wicked one." The entire address is to those who are saved, and its sole purpose is for their comfort and instruction. It is not written as an evangelistic effort; but for teaching those who already know the Lord more about His promises, and more about how they ought to live as His children here in this world.

 

(Verses 15 through 17) "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

 

This is, perhaps, one of the most misunderstood passages in John's writings not because it is difficult, for it isn't. It is very simple; but because of one of the very things he mentions, "the pride of life" we try to put the wrong gloss upon the whole matter. His first admonition is, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Because in verse 16 he says, "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life", we immediately think of such evil things as lying, cheating, adultery, murder, etc.; and, although these certainly are not to be loved by the Lord's children, John's warning includes things that we normally consider as much less evil than these, even some things that we are inclined to think of as good things. The word here translated "lust," although it can indicate a desire for that which is evil, of itself only means "desire." In verse 15, John tells us, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." We must keep in mind that if, as we are fully persuaded he was, John was inspired of the Holy Ghost to write this epistle, it is the word of God. And although there are those who seem to think the language too strong, they would be well advised to accept it as it is, without hunting loopholes. Then in verse 16 he tells us why we should not love the world nor the things therein. "For all that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." As noted above, this covers far more than just those things we commonly consider as evil, and reaches into what we think of as the everyday affairs of life. Our Lord said, "Having food and raiment, be therewith content." Yet the desire of the flesh is such that though I may have a suit of clothes that is much better than any thing I had in times past, if I see a brother with a nicer one, I may have a strong urge to discard mine and buy a new one, and if possible, one a little nicer than that of my brother. I may live in a house that I have had for several years, and it may be fully adequate for my needs, but through the years I have climbed a little higher on the ladder of success. So, perhaps I had better buy myself a little fancier house, "one more befitting my station in life." Does this sound familiar? This is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Many more things surely come to mind in this category; and all are things of this world, and things of which the apostle says if any man loves them the love of the Father is not in him. Then he adds a final argument: "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

 

(Verses 18 through 20) "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that it might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things."

 

Again the apostle uses that same term of endearment which so often appears in his writings. His message is that we are in the last time. It is evident that John, James, Paul, and Peter, all felt that the return of our Lord was imminent, although He never said that such was the case. However, in spite of the fact that, as we count time, it has been a long while, it still remains that we are living in "the last day," or "the last time." Because this is "the day of grace," and it will be brought to a close by the return of our Lord. John says that our reason for knowing that this is the last time is that the saying we have heard, that antichrist is coming, is fulfilled in that there are already many antichrists. Of course the word, "antichrist," is a compound word, made up of "anti," which means "against," prefixed to "Christ" which means "anointed" and is usually applied to our Lord Jesus, because He is the One Anointed of the Father as Prophet, Priest, King, and Saviour of His people, to take away their sins. So an antichrist is anyone who is against our Lord Jesus the Christ. Although in II Thessalonians, chapter 2, the Apostle Paul tells us about "that man of sin" who is the last manifestation of antichrist, there are many antichrists in the world today. The Apostle John says, "They went out from us." That is, for a while they pretended to be followers of the Christ. But now, to quote the Apostle Peter, "It hath happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog hath turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." Now John continues, "If they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that it might be made manifest that they were not all of us." Notice his last clause in this statement, "That they were not all of us." It is sad, but true, that at any time there is a division, even at the going out of the antichrists, some of God's children will be temporarily led astray; but, thanks be to God, He is able to, and will, bring them to repentance. To those who remain faithful he says, "But you have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things." An unction is simply an anointing; and all anointings recorded in the scriptures were with oil, which, as a type, always signifies the Holy Spirit. So it seems proper to consider this unction as the baptism of the Holy Ghost. When John says, "And ye know all things," he does not mean that we are omniscient. That belongs to God alone; but by the Holy Ghost we have access to the knowledge of God. Remember that James says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God That giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

 

(Verses 21 through 23) "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also."

 

Again the apostle declares that instead of writing to these brethren because they do not know the truth, on the contrary, it is because they do know it, and they know that no lie is of the truth. They are so completely opposite that no lie can come of the truth, but must come from Satan, the father of lies. There is no greater, or bigger, liar than he who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such an one as that is antichrist. He denies the Father and the Son, because if he denies the Son he does not have the Father. The last clause of verse 23 is an addition made by the translators, but it appears to be a true corollary of the preceding statement.

 

(Verses 24 and 25) "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life."

 

Once again the apostle assures us that if we hold on to that which we have been taught from the beginning, we will continue in the Son, and in the Father. That is, we will continue to walk according to the doctrine of the Son, and of the Father, and this is our assurance that we do indeed know Them and have fellowship with those who walk in the light. Then he reminds us that God's promise to us is that of eternal life, not just some temporary benefit.

 

(Verses 26 through 29) "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him. And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of Him."

 

The apostle says that, what he has written to us concerning those who would lead us astray, is not really necessary seeing that the anointing we have of God teaches us all that we actually need to know. Nevertheless he reminds us of these things, and assures us that what this anointing teaches us is the truth all the way: there is nothing false in it, and by it we shall abide in the Lord. Still, once more addressing us as "little children" he reminds us to abide in Him so that, when He returns, we will have no reason to be ashamed before Him, but can meet Him with joy and confidence. Against the background of his insistence that the anointing of the Spirit of God teaches us all things that we need to know, it seems appropriate to consider "If ye know" not as conditional and implying any doubt, but as "Since you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone that does righteousness is born of Him." Again, this is our identification: without it we cannot prove ourselves to be the children of God, and cannot have the assurance that we desire.

 


Chapter 3


(Verses 1 through 3) "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."

 

It is unclear why the translators substituted "sons" for "children" in verses 1 and 2. The Greek word is "tekna," which means "children" with no reference to male or female; for it to be "sons" the Greek word would have to be "huioi." Nevertheless, John's message is concerned with "what manner of love" it is that the Father has bestowed upon us, the result of which is that we are called "the children of God." This calling is to be viewed in the same manner as that of the Apostle Paul, when he says, in II Corinthians 1:1, "Paul called an apostle," that is, the calling is effectual, in that it makes us children of God. So we are now children of God, and what awaits us has not yet appeared; but John assures us that "we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." We often hear people discussing what they think about what we shall know, what we shall do, and how we shall look, in the resurrection, all of which is utter nonsense. John tells us plainly, "It doth not appear what we shall be." Since it had not appeared to him, it is fully evident that it has not appeared to us either. Yet the fact that we do not know what we shall be does not preclude our knowing "that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." This does not mean that we shall all be physical images of Him, so that one cannot be distinguished from another. It means that we shall be like Him in those things that really matter. We shall be sinless, immortal, partakers of His glory, and forever free from pain, sorrow, and death. Now John declares that every man that has this hope in him, that is, every one who is expecting to be glorified with Him, purifies himself, strives to walk in righteousness, even as, or because, He is pure. Simply stated, "Every one who loves the Lord strives to be as nearly like Him as possible in this life."

 

(Verses 4 through 7) "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous."

 

Any sin, by whomsoever committed, is transgression of the law. This is the equivalent of saying "sin is sin," that is, what people count as "little sins," or "lesser sins," are nevertheless sin, and the transgression of the law, just as are those we consider "gross sins." "And ye know that He [Jesus] was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin." It is not difficult to understand the apostle's statement. He declares that we know two things that are very important. First, we know that our Lord came, "was manifested," to take away our sins, and second we know that in Him is no sin. We constantly hear that He died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins that we might be accounted righteous by reason of His righteousness which is imputed to us; and this is true, but there also is much more than that to it. In Romans 8:29, Paul says, "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son _ _ _." Many will say, "That is to be done in the resurrection." While it will indeed be completed in the resurrection, it is an ongoing thing in the lives of those who are born of the Spirit. In I Peter 2:2, the apostle says, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby," and again, in II Peter 3:18 , "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Surely this indicates growth, or approach toward the image of Christ while we live here in the world. And the Apostle Paul tells us, in Romans 5:3-5, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost Which is given unto us." All of this, together with many other scriptures, shows clearly that He not only paid the penalty of our sins, thus taking away our guilt, but He is at work, through the Holy Ghost, delivering us also from the habit of sinning while we live in this world. In addition to this we know that "in Him is no sin." So whatever He leads us to do is right. If there is sin, it comes from some other source. "Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him." There are those who take this verse, couple it with verse 9 of this chapter, and another expression or two from other places, overlook all the rest, and mistakenly teach that all who are born of the Spirit will live the remainder of their lives in the world in "sinless perfection," and that all who do not thus "live above sin" are doomed to eternal damnation. This is certainly not the apostle's meaning. Such would be contrary to his own teaching elsewhere in this epistle and contrary to that of all the other writers of the scriptures. In Chapter II, verse 1, of this letter, John says, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The King James Version says, "and if any man sin." However, "man" is a word added by the translators, and is not in the original. So it is obvious that the meaning is "If any of you sin," indicating clearly that even at the best we do, we still fall short, and sin. Therefore it follows that the meaning in the verse presently under study is, "Whoever abides in Him does not continue in a life of sin: whoever does continue in a life of sin has not seen Him, neither known Him." This is in perfect agreement with the remainder of scriptural teaching. "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous." Do not let any one deceive you, and cause you to look at the matter in the wrong way. There are those who would try to convince you that you, or anyone else, can become righteous by doing righteous works. This is sometimes a very easy temptation to follow; but consider what John says. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.Ē How is our Lord righteous? Is He righteous, that is, did He become righteous, by doing righteous works? Or, did He do righteous works because He is righteous? Obviously He worked righteousness because He is righteous, and not the other way around. So it is with those who work righteousness. They do it because they have been made righteous by the imputed righteousness of our Lord; and their deeds identify them.

 

(Verses 8 through 10) "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother".

 

Just as those who follow after righteousness are of God, so those who follow after sin are of the devil, for this he has done from the beginning. The purpose of our Lord's coming into the world was that He should destroy the works of the devil. A few of these works are: the whole family of humanity, including the elect of God, were led into sin, and death by sin. Nature itself was cursed, (Gen. 3:17-18). "And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee." And Satan, though never given such, has usurped power over this world to such extent that our Lord referred to him as "the prince of this world," and the Apostle Paul called him "the prince of the power of the air." These are a few of the works our Lord came to destroy. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Let us look at something the Apostle Paul says. (Romans 7:15-20) "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil, which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." The first thing to be remembered about this is that, it is not, and was not intended to be, a license to sin. No one can claim any refuge in this declaration except those who, as was the Apostle Paul, are sincerely striving to obey the commandments of God. Only those who are striving to obey this law can claim that they are consenting, or agreeing to it that it is good. Those who sincerely strive to serve the Lord, although each will readily confess, as does the Apostle Paul, that he cannot do the good that he desires, and does the evil which he strives to avoid, are, in the sight of God, counted as children who have made mistakes, and not as sinners who are the enemies of God. So, in His sight, though they err, they are not counted sinners. The seed of God remains in them; and by it they are kept from sin, because they are born of God. Therefore, as Paul says, "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me", seeing that it is done against my will. John brings the matter to a very simple and easy to be understood conclusion, "In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."

 

(Verses 11 and 12) "For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous."

 

Just as the message has been from the beginning, it remains: "that we should love one another." Do not follow after Cain, who, being of the wicked one, hated his brother, and murdered him for envy, because his own works were evil, and those of his brother were righteous.

 

(Verses 13 through 15) "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."

 

We often hear the first sentence of verse 14 quoted, but seldom hear anything more of this quotation; but let us examine the whole passage. Our first look is at verse 13. "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you." Our Lord says, (John 15:19 ,) "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of this world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." This explains the vehement hatred of the world against God's people in all ages, but there is also something else we should consider by reason of what the Apostle John is introducing with his statement. Notice what the Apostle Paul says, (Titus 3:3,) "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." This is, of course, Paul's assessment of what we were while "in the world," or "in sin;" and therefore is a description of the world. The last two points mentioned, "hateful, and hating one another," give the attitude of the world. Although, as compared to its hatred for the people of God, the world seems to love its own, there is still in it nothing but hatred. If not, how can one account for all the murders, fightings, wars, and other violence continually going on. Even in what we might call the inert form of hatred, which is not hatred in its violent manifestation, but simply a lack of love, we see a constant demonstration of a total disregard for the rights of others. Therefore it is no strange thing, and nothing to be wondered at, if the world hates us. The reason we know that we have passed from death unto life is that our attitude has been changed. Instead of being "hateful, and hating one another," we now love our fellow man, and especially those who serve the Lord. Those whose hearts have not been brought to a love of God and godliness, and to a love of humanity, are still in the same condition in which we were trapped until our Lord set us free. They are still in death. One who hates another, although he may not have made any overt act against him, is a murderer in his heart, for hate brings about murder. "And ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." This does not mean that God cannot forgive and save a murderer. What it does mean is that the man who is filled with hatred, which is the cause of murder, does not have in him the love of God, and therefore at that time does not have eternal life in him, no matter what God may do for him in the future.

 

(Verses 16 through 18) "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."

 

The apostle calls our attention to the supreme example, and says that by this we see love. Our Lord not figuratively, but literally and physically, laid down His life for us. With such an example before us, we should do no less for God's people. John knows that everyone is quick to "jump on the band wagon," as it were, and claim to be ready to do this; and so he gives us an example of what it takes to do this. Instead of setting up a scene in which one would with great fanfare present himself as a substitute that his life might be given for his brother he presents a situation that may be faced at any time. His illustration comes down to this: "If a brother in need comes to me and I have the means to help him but refuse to do so, the question is, "How much of the love of God is in me?" The answer is obvious, "None." Then he admonishes us to do more than talk love. Let it be seen in our actions. This is true love.

 

(Verses 19 through 22) "And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight."

 

It is by deeds and not by words that we assure ourselves that we are of the truth and thus comfort our hearts with this assurance. John gives us a very important caution, "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." If we do something about which we feel condemned in our heart, we need not think that God failed to see it. He is infinitely greater than our heart, and nothing escapes His sight. When we have no condemnation from our heart, we can have greater confidence, and can come more boldly to the throne of grace, while with a feeling of condemnation, we will most assuredly be filled with fear and trembling. When we can have confidence to approach that throne of grace, we feel assured that God will answer our prayers, and as a result we can have that calmness which springs from a closer walk with Him.

 

(Verses 23 and 24) "And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit Which He hath given us."

 

When we look at the law of Moses, we see a multitude of commandments, both "Thou shalt notís" and "Thou shalt's." But John sums up our Lord's commandments to us thus: "And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment". Certainly, to "believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ", is to believe that He is exactly who the scriptures say that He is, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God, the One Who died for our sins, arose from the dead, ascended back to the Father, and promised to return for us, and to bring the world to judgment. Anything short of this WILL NOT DO. So far, in this epistle, John has made it very plain that our loving one another must be manifested in deeds, not words, if it is to be acceptable to God. With this understanding of the two branches of our Lord's commandment, he says, "And he that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him." To give us further assurance he says, "And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit Which He hath given us."

 


Chapter 4


(Verses 1 through 3) "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."

 

What the Apostle John says here is to be applied to those spirits that personally excite our minds to new, or unfamiliar, thoughts and ideas concerning the word of God, and to those spirits that lead men to speak forth messages to us concerning the things of God. The fact that a thought or a message is about God's word does not prove it, or the spirit, which aroused it, to be of God. We must try, test, these spirits. In trying a person before the courts, we must try him by two things. They are, the law, and the evidence. The apostle has set forth the law by which these spirits are to be tried; and the law itself tells us what we are trying them for. We are to try them concerning the claim they make of being of God; if they are of God, they are to be found "not guilty;" but if not of God, they are to be found "guilty," and sentenced to banishment. The law in the case is: "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus the Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Christ Jesus is come in the flesh is not of God." We are all well aware that there are many, who will come before us saying that Jesus has indeed come in the flesh. But before they finish their address, they will attempt to strip Him of all power, and set the sinner up as greater than He, by telling us that He has done all he can, and is begging the sinner to make His work effective, and approve it by accepting Him as his Saviour. "Otherwise," say they. "He is a failure. He cannot do what He was sent to do." According to them, He was sent to save every person in the world, but some will not let Him do that. This is not confessing that "Jesus" is come in the flesh, and it certainly is not confessing that "Jesus Christ" is come in the flesh. "Jesus" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word, "Yeshua," which means "the help of God," or "Saviour," while "Christ" is an untranslated word adopted from the Greek Language, which means "Anointed;" and in the case of the combination, "Jesus Christ," it means "the One Whom God anointed TO SAVE His people from their sins." He was not anointed to try to do this, but to accomplish it, without the loss of a single one of those given to Him by the Father. So the test is, does this spirit confess that the Anointed Saviour has indeed come in the flesh? or does it say that no real Saviour has come, but only a "would be savior" has come? There are, of course, some, who will even deny the whole gospel record of the divinity and the coming of our Lord. In whatever way the denial is made, it still manifests that such a spirit is not of God. Any spirit that does not confess that Jesus the Christ is come in the flesh is the spirit of antichrist, and we have already been warned that it will come; but now it is here, and because of it many false prophets have gone out into the world. The word here translated "false prophet", does not mean one of God's prophets who has made a mistake in his prediction of something, but "one who, acting the part of a divinely inspired prophet, utters falsehoods under the name of divine prophecies", actually nothing but a pretender.

 

(Verses 4 through 6) "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error".

 

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them", that is, you have overcome these false prophets and spirits of antichrist, not by your strength, but by the strength of Him Who is in you, because He is greater than he that is in the world. John's next declaration is one, which seems to be often overlooked. He sets it forth in three parts, and from it draws a conclusion, or result. First, he says, "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them". All these false prophets and antichristian spirits are of the world. Since they are of the world they speak according to worldly ideas and viewpoints, and the world hears and gives heed to them, because they say what it wants to hear. Next, he says, "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us." This establishes as clearly as words can, that instead of our hearing the word of gospel truth, and its bringing us to know God, we must first know God before we will hear, or pay any heed to the gospel, for certainly when John uses the phrase, "heareth us," he is considering himself as a gospel minister. How we come to the knowledge of God is clearly established by our Lord Himself, "All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." (Matthew 11:27) So those to whom the Son reveals the Father hear, or give heed to, the gospel. The other side of the matter is just as sure as this. "He that is not of God heareth not us." Preach to him as we may, he will never hear it unless and until our Lord gives to him the knowledge of the Father. As a result of this John declares, "Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." The fact that one heeds the gospel and the other does not, identifies both.

 

(Verses 7 through 10) "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

 

One should keep in mind that when John speaks of our loving one another, his emphasis is always on deeds, not words, as he very clearly shows in Chapter III, verses 17 through 19. His joining of love and works together is as strong as that of James in joining faith and works; John's teaching on love and works can be summed up in much the same way as James concluded his study of faith and works. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so love without works is dead also." The outstanding distinction between those who are of God, and those who are not is given thus: "And every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God." In keeping with his insistence upon works as the proof of love, he gives the supreme example. "In this is manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Since this shows His love for us, How can we show our love for Him? It is clear that He needs nothing from us. He is all sufficient unto Himself. Therefore the only way left to us to show our love for Him is in rendering loving service to His little children here in the world, and, in fact, serving our fellow-man as we have opportunity. Any thing short of this shows a lack of love to Him.

 

(Verses 11 through 14) "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."

 

It is clearly apparent that the central theme of this entire letter is love, including the love of God for us, our love of Him, and our love one of another. Our love of God can only be demonstrated by our love of one another; and that must be a "working love." Otherwise it would be no love at all. Yet if we have this love one to another, it proves that God dwells in us, and His love is brought to fruitful maturity in us. We are enabled to know this because He has given us His Spirit. Now John brings forth this testimony: "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." Some seem to see this as a contradiction of earlier statements, such as verses 4 through 6 of this chapter. There is no contradiction. When John says, "the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world," there is neither intent nor implication that every individual in the world is to be saved, but rather that He is the only Saviour Who has ever been sent or intended, and that every person who ever has been or ever will be saved is saved by Him; and that His salvation reaches to every nation, kindred, tongue, family, and class of people in the world, instead of being confined to the Jews.

 

(Verses 15 through 19) "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in Him and he is known of God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because He first loved us."

 

In considering the expression, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God," we need to remember the conditions under which Christians were living in the time of this writing. They were being persecuted, imprisoned, and even executed for their faith in our Lord Jesus the Christ. So whoever would openly declare (and that is the meaning of the word translated "confess") that Jesus is the Son of God must be a true believer in Him. Later, after Constantine made it legally an honor to be a Christian, and even today, there might be some who are not true believers, but who for some other reason profess to believe. Nevertheless, against the background of that day, whoever confessed Him must have had the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and he must have been dwelling in God. John then says, "We have known [experienced] and believed the love that God hath to us." Anyone who has experienced the love of God believes it, while those who have not experienced it neither believe it nor want anything to do with it. The very essence of God toward His children is love. This does not at all mean that He is not a God of vengeance and wrath toward His enemies. John's view of God in this statement is as regards His relationship to His children, in which indeed He is love. Therefore one who dwells in love, that is, he whose life shows love for his fellow man, and especially for the saints, dwells in God, and God dwells in him. In this assurance our love is brought to maturity so that, as we look to the Day of Judgment, we have boldness in the assurance that on that day we shall face not the stern and wrathful Judge, but the gentle and loving Saviour. We can have this assurance because we are walking in this world as He did. He was a man of sorrow and suffering as He fulfilled the will of the Father. He blessed those who cursed Him and prayed for those who despitefully used Him and persecuted Him. This we too must do if we would maintain that assurance that is so dear to us. If we have God's love perfected, or brought to maturity in our hearts we have no fear, for perfect love casts out fear. Fear has torment, or uncertainty. So if we have fear, God's love has not yet been brought to perfection, or maturity, in our hearts. Our loving Him is brought about by the action of His love, for He first loved us.

 

(Verses 20 and 21) "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also."

 

In spite of all the loud shouting and long protestations we make about our love for God, they are absolutely worthless unless we love our fellow man, and especially the children of God. Without this love of our brother we are shown up to be liars. First, because it is an absolute impossibility to love God Whom we have not seen if we do not love our brother whom we have seen, and who is made in the image of God; and second, because if we loved God we would keep His commandment, and that commandment is, That he who loveth God love his brother also. When we will not obey His commandments we have no grounds for a claim that we love God.

 

Chapter 5


(Verses 1 through 5) "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"

 

This is the last segment of the Apostle John's discussion of the wonderful love of God and the brotherly love of His children. We discussed earlier what it means to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Here the apostle says that whosoever does believe this is born of God, signifying that it cannot be done without first being born of God. Since God is He "that begat" and Christ Jesus our Lord is "the only begotten Son of God," He "that is begotten of Him," it must follow that he who loves God the Father also loves our Lord Jesus the Christ, for John says, ďand every one that loveth Him that begat loveth Him that is begotten of Him." We then are presented with a measure that assures us that we love God's children, "When we love God and keep His commandments". Here is shown the mutual relation of our love of God and our love of His children. John has all the way through this discussion maintained that our love of God is assured by our love of our brethren; and here he says that our love of God's children is assured by our loving God and keeping His commandments. He further tells us that keeping the commandments of God is the love of God. "And His commandments are not grievous." In verse 4 we find the neuter pronoun, "whatsoever," but in view of the fact that the apostle is considering people, it seems more appropriate to read it, "For whosoever is born of God overcometh the world." Then lest we try to take to ourselves some of the glory for the victory, he continues, "And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Since faith is a fruit of the Spirit, we still must acknowledge that the victory belongs to Him, and He gives us the benefit of it. The only one who overcomes is he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Anything short of this leaves one in the clutches of the world and its ideas.

 

(Verses 6 through 8) "This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit That beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are Three That bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood: and these three agree in One."

 

In looking back on the record we find that Moses was so named by the daughter of Pharaoh, "Because," she said, "I drew him out of the water." When John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness, he preached repentance, and as a sign of repentance, men were baptized by him in water. Thus both John the Baptist and Moses might be properly said to have come by water, but neither can be said to have come by blood. (Notice should be taken that the expression is, "by water and blood," not "with water and blood.") When we look at the work of our Lord, we find that, when the time was come for Him to enter into His public ministry, His official work, He went to John the Baptist, and was baptized of him in Jordan : He came by water. The last act of His ministry is that He went to Calvary 's cross, and was there crucified, shedding His precious blood for us. He came by blood. This is unique to Him. No other has ever done this. He came by water and blood. At His baptism He was witnessed as the Son of God by the Spirit's descending upon Him as a dove, and a voice from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." At His crucifixion He was so witnessed by the earthquake, the darkness, and the centurion who said, "Truly this man was the Son of God;" and on the third day after His crucifixion the Father declared Him "to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Thus He is the One Who came "not by water only, but by water and blood." Remember that the law and the prophets were until John the Baptist; but they came by water only. Jesus came by water and blood. Because the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, is truth and cannot lie, He bears witness to this fact. There are those who would tell us that verse 7 is not a part of John's original writing. They cite the fact that there are some early copies of manuscripts that do not contain it. Nevertheless no one has ever come up with John's original manuscript. And since, in those days, they did not have copy machines as we do today that will make exact reproductions of the original, but all were very laboriously copied by hand; it is just as likely that some scribe left out something which was in the writing from which he copied as that he added something. So the omission in some copies becomes inconsequential, and especially when we consider that the message of verse 7 is in harmony with other teachings of the scriptures. It is noteworthy that John does not say, "There are Three That bear record in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." Instead, the Three are "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost." "Logos" is the Greek word that is here translated "Word." Its original meaning is "a collecting, or a collection". It comes from the verb, "lego," meaning "collect". In use it came to mean a collection of thoughts, ideas, intents, purposes, etc., which, of course, are usually expressed in words, and by this it came to mean "word." John's use of it here, and in John 1, is as the collected thoughts, purposes, intents, and power of God, in fact, the very essence of God. This Word was in the beginning with God, and was God. Nowhere in scripture is it said that the Word is begotten of God; but the Word was made flesh, and took up His abode in that body which was prepared of God for Him, Jesus the Son of God, the Christ. Here John says that the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost bear record in heaven that Jesus is the Son of God, and these Three are One. Many have attempted to explain how the Three in heaven can be One. It seems to be an exercise in futility, since everyone who tries it is more confused after the attempted explanation. Our best course of action is to simply realize that it is true though it is beyond our ability to understand. "And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood: and these three agree in One." Since the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, is in both heaven and earth, He, in addition to bearing record in heaven, also bears witness in earth, by His giving faith to God's elect whereby they are able to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, by giving all necessary spiritual gifts to the church, and by being the comforter of the saints. Both the water and the blood bear witness, as already mentioned in the discussion of verse 6. In addition, believers are baptized in water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, thus perpetuating that witness, while believers also engage in the Lord's Supper, in which they partake of the wine which is the memorial of the blood of Jesus. All of these agree in One, Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

(Verses 9 through 12) "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."

 

The apostle reminds us that we receive the witness of men, that is, we allow it to be used in trials, and accept it as true. If we do this, we had better very carefully consider the testimony just given, because it is the testimony of God, and He is greater than men. The witness, or testimony, He has presented is that concerning His Son which we have just been discussing. So we do well to believe it. Now John says, "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." We do not have to look elsewhere for that witness, for the Spirit has implanted it in our hearts. "He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record God gave of His Son". When one refuses to receive the testimony of a witness, he is said to "make that witness a liar," even when the testimony is absolute truth; and that is the meaning here, not that the unbeliever causes God's witness to be false, for that is a total impossibility. Howbeit his failure to believe God's witness amounts to his calling God a liar. "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son". This is the record that God has given of His Son, and which, some do not believe; and by their unbelief they call God a liar. Yet He remains true. So the apostle concludes this matter thus: "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." There is no middle ground.

 

(Verses 13 through 15) "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."

 

The apostle says that his writing of these things has been directed to "you that believe on the name of the Son of God." This stops the idea that unbelievers have any title to this letter. It is only to believers; and for them it has a specific purpose. That purpose is "that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." It is for the purpose of assuring you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you have eternal life. Such expressions as we find in verse 1 and verses 10 through 12 of this chapter together with others found throughout this epistle give just such assurance. The further purpose of this writing is that, with this assurance of eternal life, believers will be encouraged to hold fast to their faith whatever may come. When John says, "that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God," he does not mean "that ye may begin to believe," but "that ye may continue steadfastly to believe." This is the only meaning compatible with the address of this statement. Let us reverse the order of verses 14 and 15, not to change the meaning, but to make it a little clearer, if possible. "And we know that if He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him." In some places in scripture, God says, concerning some, "I will not hear them." Such statements can not mean that He will not be aware of what they say, but rather that it will not be acceptable to Him, and He will, as we often say, "turn a deaf ear to them," although God's ear is never deaf. So clearly the apostle's meaning is that, if we know that God will accept our prayers, not only will He answer our petitions, but He will even give us the assurance of that while we pray. The emphasis here is more upon the assurance He gives us than upon what He will do. All of this goes back to the apostle's purpose in writing these things, as expressed in verse 13. If we know that He "hears us," we know that we will receive that for which we pray. "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us." Someone will immediately say, "If we have to ask according to His will, what is the advantage of praying? Is it not time and effort wasted? Will He not give us what He wills to give us any way?" This is a ridiculously narrow view of the will of God. Surely we will not argue that God does not already know not only what you will receive, but also for what you will ask, and in what condition your heart will be when you ask it, as well as why your heart is in that condition. But to say that He has purposed to give you this, and withhold that, is a position which cannot be supported by scripture. There are many scriptures that will deny such a stand, among which is James 5:16 , "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Yes, we must pray according to His will; but what is His will? In John 6:37-40, our Lord tells us what our Father's will is, and verse 40, of that selection is especially in harmony with what John is considering here, "And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." In I Thessalonians 4:3, Paul says, "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God." So the will of God might be summed up thus: "His will is that every one who believes in the Son of God be brought into a life of holiness while here in this world, and finally in that last day be raised up from the dead by the Son of God." Since this is His will, any thing for which we ask that is in harmony with this, we can feel confident that we will receive. On the other hand James tells us that any thing for which we ask that we might consume it on our lusts is subject to denial.

 

(Verses 16 and 17) "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death."

 

"If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death". This clearly indicates that we should be able to discern between "a sin unto death" and "a sin not unto death." Otherwise how can we know whether or not to pray for one whom we see sin? Because if it is unto death, we are not commanded to pray for it, and if it is not unto death we are to pray for it. Since "the wages of sin is death", it appears that a sin unto death is a sin for which there is no forgiveness, and of which the sinner shall receive his wages, death. There is no authority on the subject higher than our Lord. In Matthew 12: 31-32, He says, "Wherefore I say unto you all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him: neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Mark 3:28 -29 reads thus: "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation." Both of these passages refer to the same incident. Mark follows this with, "Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." Matthew gives the background of the matter thus: "But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." This precedes the quotation given above. So there can be no doubt as to what sin God will not forgive. That sin is blaspheming the Holy Ghost, which simply consists of speaking evil of the Holy Ghost, for the meaning of "blasphemy" is "speaking evil of" some one, or something. The Pharisees, even as they beheld the miracles Jesus wrought by the Holy Ghost, declared them to be done by the power of Beelzebub, or Satan, the prince of the devils. Surely there can be no doubt that this is the "sin unto death." We are not even instructed to pray for such as commit this sin. If one sees a brother sin any other sin, he is to pray that God will forgive him, "and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death." Any thing one may do that is not right is sin, whether we consider it a great or a small sin; but all sins do not come under the heading of "sin unto death."

 

(Verses 18 through 21) "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him That is true, and we are in Him That is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen."

 

John's declaration in verse 18 is, to all intents and purposes, as Chapter III, verse 9, which we have already attempted to explain. The fact that one is born of God makes him desire to follow our Lord. When John says that such an one "sinneth not," it is not to be taken to mean that he never does any thing he ought not, but that he no longer continues in a life of sin. "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." In the course of this epistle, John has given us several evidences that we are of God, perhaps the most repeated one being, that we love the brethren, or that we love one another, etc. He says that by all of these things we know that we are of God. In contrast, "the whole world lieth in wickedness," that is, there is wickedness all around us, on every side. Verse 20 is so clearly stated that there is hardly room for explanation. We know that God's Son has come, and that in accord with what He Himself has said in Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22, He has "given us an understanding, that we may know Him That is true," the Father. Also we know that "we are in Him That is true," since we are in His Son Jesus the Christ. Paul has told us (Col. 3:3) "For ye are dead and your lives are hid with Christ in God". This One, That is true "is the true God," and our being in Him is "eternal life." John's close of this letter is extremely appropriate, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." Do not let any thing, or any one, come between us and God, Who has done so much for us through His Son Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

 



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