Lots of Love from the Letters of John

I John Chapter 1
(1 John 1:1) - Taking on the Antichrists
(1 John 1:1-2) - Eyewitness Account
(1 John 1:3) - Purpose of Proclamation
(1 John 1:3-4) - Joy Made Complete
(1 John 1:5) - The Message
(1 John 1:5) - God is Light
(1 John 1:5-7) - Light vs. Darkness
(1 John 1:7-10) - Exposing Darkness

I John Chapter 2
(1 John 2:1) - The Advocate with the Father
(1 John 2:1-2) - More On Propitiation
(1 John 2:-2-5) - Keeping His Commandments
(1 John 2:5-6) - Imitating Jesus
(1 John 2:7-8) - The Old/New Commandment
(1 John 2:8-11) - Love vs. Hate
(1 John 2:12-14) - Children, Young Men, Fathers
(1 John 2:15-17) - “All that is in the world”
(1 John 2:18-19) - The Last Hour
(1 John 2:20-21) - “You Have an Anointing”
(1 John 2:21-22) - Truth vs. Lies
(1 John 2:23-24) - Abiding in the Son
(1 John 2:24-26) - The Promise of Eternal Life
(1 John 2:27) - Being Taught All Things
(1 John 2:29) - The Righteous Connection

I John Chapter 3
(1 John 3:1) - Exhibition of God’s Love
(1 John 3:1) - Recognizing sons of God
(1 John 3:2) - Revealing the sons of God
(1 John 3:2-3) - “Pure” as He is “Pure”
(1 John 3:3-6) - Jesus and Sin
(1 John 3:5-8) - Practicing Righteousness
(1 John 3:7-8) - Destroying the Works of the Devil
(1 John 3:9-10) - Children of God are Obvious
(1 John 3:11-12) - “Love”, not “Kill” your Brother
(1 John 3:13-15) - Life-savers and Murderers
(1 John 3:16) - Laying Down Our Lives
(1 John 3:17-18) - “In Deed and in Truth”
(1 John 3:19-21) - Getting a "Confident Heart"
(1 John 3:21-24) - Abiding "in Him"

I John Chapter 4
(1 John 4:1-2) - Spirit of Truth
(1 John 4:2-3) - False Prophets
(1 John 4:4) - Overcomers
(1 John 4:5-6) - Listening to…?
(1 John 4:7-8) - God is Love
(1 John 4:9) - Born From Above
(1 John 4:9-10) - Love Expressed Through Propitiation
(1 John 4:11-12) - God's Love Perfected In Us
(1 John 4:13-15) - The Father Sent His Son
(1 John 4:16-17) - Confidence on Judgment Day
(1 John 4:17) - “As He is, so also are We”
(1 John 4:18-19) - Love, Fear, and Hate
(1 John 4:20-21) - Who Really Loves God?

I John Chapter 5
(1 John 5:1) - Born "from above" to Love
(1 John 5:2-3) - Observing His Commandments
(1 John 5:4-5) - Overcoming the World
(1 John 5:6) - Who Came by Water and by Blood
(1 John 5:7-8) - Bearing Witness
(1 John 5:9-10) - God's Witness
(1 John 5:11-12) - Life "in the Son"
(1 John 5:13-15) - Confidence
(1 John 5:16-17) - Sin “Leading to Death”?
(1 John 5:18-19) - “Born of God” Again
(1 John 5:19) - "The World" and "The Evil One"
(1 John 5:20) - Coming to "Understanding"
(1 John 5:21) - "Guard Yourselves from Idols"

II John Chapter 1
(2 John 1:1-2) - The Truth
(2 John 1:3) - Truth and Love
(2 John 1:4-6) - The "New Commandment" Revisited
(2 John 1:7-8) - Many Deceivers
(2 John 1:8-13) - A Dangerous Movement Within

III John Chapter 1
(3 John 1:1-4) - Spiritual Prosperity and Truth
(3 John 1:5-8) - Supporting Faithful Teachers and Preachers
(3 John 1:9-11) - The Deeds of Diotrephes
(3 John 1:12-14) - Standing for the Truth

Taking on the Antichrists

Early in the church’s history, many of the problems came from the Jewish element. Hence in much of the apostle Paul’s writings, the issue of "The Law of Moses" versus "The Faith of Christ" was in the forefront. But by the time that the apostle John begins to write his epistles, an antichrist element had developed within the church. These antichrists are known to history as Gnostics, and became a very dominant factor over the course of the centuries from AD 100 onward. Influenced by Greek philosophy, and claiming to have "inside information" not apprehensible by others, these Gnostics often held that the body was bad and man was depraved from birth. The logical conclusion, then, that what the scriptures would call "sin" is not choice but inherit in human nature.

Questions concerning Jesus would then arise. Did Jesus Himself sin? The answer to that being, "No," the next question would be, "Did Jesus have a body?" Based on their initial propo­sitions, the antichrist would have to say that He did not ever take on flesh. Thus John clearly exposes this view in his second epistle: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world," says he, "those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist" (2 John 1:8). In these letters, then, the apostle is going to confront these Gnostics head on, exposing their spiritual emptiness, their lack of love, and the immorality resulting from their flawed views.

"Our hands handled the Logos of Life," said John, fighter for the faith. Right out of the opening gate he is going after the destructive philosophy of the Gnostics. He knows that such teaching, while cloaking itself in deceptively positive terms, is counterproductive, and will destroy the faith of those entangled in its web!

Eyewitness Account

Modern sceptics regard the gospel eyewitness accounts of the life and times of Jesus the Messiah as unreliable. They make that charge claiming that the apostles could not be objective in their reporting. Yet in every other case, the best accepted historical accounts are those given by eyewitnesses. Flavius Josephus, for example, was an eyewitness of the Roman onslaught on Jerusalem culminating in its destruction in AD 70. He served as a transla­tor for the Roman general Titus in the final stages of Jerusalem’s destruction. (Titus was the son the initial general Vespasian in the onslaught who then went on to become Emperor Vespasian; Titus himself became Emperor after his father’s death.) His account of the Jewish Wars is regarded as reliable, and considered valuable, because he was an eyewitness. The problem with the gospel accounts is not really that they were unreliable witnesses, but because of the statements they record from the Lord Jesus Himself, such as "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6). Mankind in general want to do what they want to do, and when the specter of God appears on their horizon telling them that they are in the wrong, then that specter must somehow be blotted out. Hence the eyewitnesses of the Majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ must be discounted.

Those antichrists who were in opposition to the truth were leading people down the path to death. They were apparently charismatic individuals, very persuasive men, and good story tellers. They fabricated their "inside information" out of nothing, bending and perverting truth along the way. But they had no substance in comparison to John. He had seen Jesus in the flesh, he had seen the blood flow from Jesus’ dead body, he had seen Jesus buried, he had seen Jesus resurrected, and he by revelation had seen Jesus seated at the right hand of power in glory. It is no minor statement for the apostle to make, that the "life" was manifested to him.

Who, then, is to be believed? The eyewitness account, or those who claim, even in modern times, to have superior information?

Purpose of Proclamation

Jesus, the light and life of the world, was manifested to John and his fellow apostles. But this manifestation would have been worthless unless it could be verified, announced in believable form, and then be able to be acted upon. The new covenant teaching—the apostles’ doctrine—is designed to bring all these to the attention of any rational hearer that he may take the appropriate revealed action. Satan and his assistants, in perpetual opposition to the Almighty, work to create massive confusion regarding the manifestation of this Life. This confusion is designed to obfuscate the clear revela­tion of that which comes through Jesus Christ, and thus misdirect the souls of men into the fires of an eternal hell. Some of those first century agents of the devil were the antichrists, the Gnostics who denied that Jesus came in the flesh, and therefore set in motion a whole chain of false doctrines.

Jesus Himself, in His prayer on the west side of the Kidron before He crossed to the Garden of Gethsemane for the final time, expressed His deep concern about this fellowship. The Father had given Jesus all authority over mankind, He averred in His prayer to the Father, "that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:2-3). For this, John labored, preached, and taught.

Joy Made Complete

Jesus, the Life, was "with the Father." It is worthy of significant pondering to consider that the Lord Jesus had to leave that position "with the Father" to make it possible for the believing/obedient among mankind to have their own personal fellowship "with the Father." The core of John’s eyewitness testimony, then, is that Jesus suffered and died in bearing the sins of mankind, then rose on the third day from the dead, and ascended to glory on the fortieth day following His resurrection. "The Life," he asseverates, "was manifested to us." Since that Life was manifested to John and his fellow apostles, it is their duty and delight to proclaim that manifestation, that others might participate in the life also.

These dangers and movements have not ceased to work. Sometimes the modern names have changed, but the false doctrines and the deceitful techniques have continued to function down to this day. Modern saints need to pay attention to these movements and modern anti­christs, and heed the words of the apostle John. "And these things we write, so that our joy may be made complete!"

The Message

Simple words, big concepts! The apostle John’s concepts are so sweeping that it can be difficult to follow his thought processes, because, in part, the readership thinks "too small." As he presents the picture of Jesus, he calls Him "the Word of life." The truth of eternal life, and the means of attaining eternal life, are revealed only through Jesus Christ. "What was from the beginning," is terminology the apostle uses to denote that the incarnate Word existed from all eternity and before the foundation of the world. Processed properly, these concepts stagger the mind! These concepts, then, were revealed to John and his fellow apostles, and they were to proclaim (as witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the right hand of power) them to the peoples of the world, that individuals among those peoples themselves might possess eternal life. This, therefore, says John, is "our joy."

Following his sweeping introduction, the apostle makes this blockbuster statement: "And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). This is the great summary verse of the whole Bible! The core thought expressed in these simple words can be brought to the attention of the hearers of the word of God by using italics and an ellipse: "This is the message ... God is light." That’s it! The core truth of the word of God is that "God is light." It takes the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, to set the stage for, and the matrix for, mankind to under­stand and believe the message revealed through Jesus Christ about who God is.

Many things that the Old Testament introduced could only be understood though the teaching intro­duced into the world by the apostles. The apostle Peter’s comment is instructive here. "As to this salvation," he emphasized, concerning that which only came under the terms of the new covenant, "the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry." The prophets, such as Moses, Samuel, or his successors onward, did not understand what they wrote down. They were "seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow." That the Christ had to suffer and die before He could live forever is one of the things hidden from the prophets of old. But not only was the suffering and death of Christ spoken of, the glories to follow were significantly emphasized! "It was revealed to them," Peter added, "that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you." The awesome truths of the Christ were for those "upon whom the ends of the ages have come." As Peter continued, he noted that the things announced to the new covenant brethren came "through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven," things so lofty that into them "even angels long to look" (1 Peter 1:10-12). Thus the apostle Paul would comment that what he called "the mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory," was manifested only because "it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and [new covenant] prophets in the Spirit" (Ephesians 3:5). That is why John says, "This is the message which we heard from Him."

But this message of life given to the apostles, if it remained only with the apostles, would be essentially worthless in carrying out God’s eternal purpose. Hence the missive, given by Jesus (or the Spirit of Jesus) to the apostles, "we announce to you." The message and its terms are announced! They are not sold at auction, they are not bartered in the marketplace of men’s ideas. They are announced on a non-negotiable, a "take it or leave it," basis to the world. Those who "take it" enter into the eternal life which John proclaimed; those who "leave it" enter into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

God is Light

This is the message for the ages: God is light! Three simple words are in this statement, but it takes the entire Bible to bring a clear understanding of its meaning to mankind. The scripture focuses its attention on Jesus, as John made evident in his gospel account. "For the Law was given through Moses," the apostle had stated, put­ting the entire Old Testament in the proper perspective, "grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). "The Law," the apostle Paul phrased it, "has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith," and hence, in apprehending the truth concerning the Christ, we appropriate for ourselves the grace of Christ (Galatians 3:24). John’s "gospel" continues on: "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). The explanation of who God is, then, is one of the major purposes of the word of God.

This is all communicated to mankind now in the holy scriptures. The mind of man, designed by God ultimately for this purpose, can process the Christ of prophecy. The honest individual, looking for the truth of God, can read the record of Jesus’ sojourn in the flesh, can marvel at the accounts of His resurrection and appearances on earth, and can stretch to understand the radiant brilliance of the glorified Christ as the finished product of the revelation of God to man. In this way, the saint understands the substance of the message, "God is light!"

Light vs. Darkness

God is, from a human perspective, a long-term planner and executor. To set the stage for the ultimate spiritual message He wants to communicate, He created a physical world with its physical attributes. "Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ " recorded Moses, "and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness" (Genesis 1:3-4). From the Creation onward, then, man has daily experience with "light" and "darkness." His body operates on the "circadian rhythm," he prepares for the oncoming night, and he greets the dawning day. Thus enveloped in the regular and unceasing cycle, he is thus prepared to deal with "light" and "darkness" in the spiritual realm.

The key, therefore, is to "practice the truth." God understands the necessity of improvement for the saint coming into the light out of the darkness and offers him grace for the purpose of growth. But if that perspective were to shift over to where the saint now begins to justify poor behavior, then there is a serious problem. "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie."

Exposing Darkness

God is sinless, and has no fellowship with sin. Jesus, as the great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek in glory, is thus described as "separated from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). "The devil," the apostle John would later say in this epistle, "sinned from the beginning" (1 John 3:8). The devil and his angels’ sins took place in heaven, and it took the entire execution of God’s plan (sending Jesus into the world, His taking the form of a human being, His dying on the cross as the sacrifice, and His ascension to heaven as high priest) to purge sin from heaven. In fact, the first act of Jesus at His ascen­sion was to cleanse heaven. "When He had made purification of sins," the writer of Hebrews described, "He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3). He purified heaven before He took the throne!! God has no fellowship with sin.

The goal set before each saint is that he "may not sin"; that is, that each may walk in righ­teousness and holiness before the Lord his God. The probing light of the word of God exposes the evil desires of those who still want to make the claim of being Christians but fulfill the lusts of the flesh and of the mind. Hence the thrust of these words by the apostle: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." The dishonest individual is thus shown to be in the sinkhole of destruction. On the other hand, the honest Christian is shown to be faithful and true, walking in light just as God is light. The difference is where each will spend eternity; one in eternal darkness, and one in eternal light!

The Advocate with the Father

The issue of man and his relationship to sin can be a bit chal­lenging to explore. Because sin is so pervasive, some have assumed that sin is not a choice, that man is born a sinner or that sin is inherit in the fleshly body. These assumptions are not borne out in the word of God. Passages such as Ezekiel 18:20 make it clear that sin cannot be inherited: "The person who sins will die." Sin is not resident in the body, since Jesus plainly states that it comes from the heart of man (Mark 7:21). Sin is a choice, and God holds each adult-level minded individual accountable for his personal sin. The statement that "all have sinned" does not set aside the point that the decision to sin was a result of each individual’s choice. The just God is thusly fair in holding each person accountable for his own sin and issuing the penalty of second death in the eternal lake of fire, unless that individual is redeemed by Jesus.

Furthermore, the possibility of Jesus’ propitiatory work is potentially open to any of the race of men who desire to be reconciled to God. "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

More On Propitiation

At the cross, at the cross," are the opening words of the old song, "where I first saw the light ..." These words, penned at an earlier time when Calvinism was more openly paraded than at the present, speak of a special illumination by the Holy Spirit apart from the individual’s choice. Only a step or two removed from the theology of the early Catholic thinker Augustine, Calvinism also places an undue emphasis on the cross. Somehow, these exposi­tors proclaim, the work of Christ was finished on the cross, and so those in the process of redemption are taken mystically back to the cross where the blood that spilt out on the ground washes away their sins. Hence, in their thinking, the cross is the point of propitiation, the point at which mercy is granted. To think that the work of Jesus was finished on the cross (merely because He said, "It is finished!" in referring to His work in His earthly body), and the corollary that the blood shed at the cross by itself is the means of mercy, is very shallow thinking. It does not take into account what is revealed in the complete picture painted by the word of God.

This propitiation is what the apostle Paul is speaking of when he comments that saints’ justification is "through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed pub­licly as a propitiation in His blood through faith" (Romans 3:25). Because it was Jesus’ own spiritual blood (which was offered by Him as the High Priest in the tabernacle that is "not of this creation") the apostle John uses the terminology "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins." Furthermore, in prospect, He is the propitiation "not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 1:2). Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Keeping His Commandments

There is a lot of confusion concerning new covenant state­ments about keeping the commandments of God. The modern-day variations of the Judaizers of the first century immediately want to point out that "keeping the commandments" obviously includes observing the fourth of the Ten Commandments of the Law—the Sabbath! Others want to jump on the Old Testament dietary requirements as included in the commandments of God. Others, the nature of man being what it is, find extreme interpretations of the "commandments" to be observed, often pulling some obscure scripture out of context and using it as a basis for their particular religious observances.

Books like 1 John have to be understood in light of other scriptures, such as the book of Acts and Paul’s and Peter’s writings. These other new covenant scriptures make it very clear that there is a clear line of demarcation between old and new covenants, and that the new is not like the old. So the immediate and quick jump to the commandments given at Sinai as recorded in Exodus is not a sanctioned new covenant jump.

The Gnostics [antichrists] of the late first century were good salesmen. They were so suc­cessful in drawing saints away from the teaching of the apostles that the Holy Spirit had the apostle John write a couple of epistles exposing these men for what they were, and making sure these books were preserved as part of the sacred writ to be passed on to future generations. These Gnostics in no way loved the souls of the brethren; they were interested in promoting these antichrist doctrines for the sake of personal gain and prestige. While they clearly said that they knew God, they by their actions, as measured by the word of God, were liars, and the truth was not in them. Modern antichrists need to be exposed in the same way!

Imitating Jesus

Talk is cheap. Great swelling words never carried their pur­veyor over an inch of ground, nor did mere expressions of intent ever accomplish a task. Good intentions and great words must be translated into proper actions, and the definition of "proper actions" must be provided by the word of God. If someone were to say that he loved other people, but was teaching a false plan of salvation, then those are empty words. If someone were to say that he loved the poor, but was stealing money from other people’s wallets to distribute, then those are empty words. The one who "does not keep His commandments is a liar." Such is the divine analysis.

The antichrists (ancient and modern) maintain that the body, as part of the material realm, is bad. Hence the individual, regardless of good intentions, is trapped in a situation where he may want to do good but can’t because of the sin which indwells his body. Thus those late first century antichrists, the Gnostics, were continually walking in darkness while claiming to walk in the light. They also therefore were not keeping the commandments of God and were in fact a bunch of liars!

The apostle John, in this epistle, is totally destroying the doctrinal positions of the an­tichrists, and exposing their behavior to anyone who will process his words. Contrary to the position of the ancient antichrists, that Jesus did not possess a physical body and therefore was in a condition where He did not have to sin, the apostle states plainly in his opening salvo: "What we have seen with our eyes," he declares, "what we have beheld and our hands handled ..." Clearly Jesus sojourned in a physical body, and yet did not sin. The Gnostics were a collection of rotten sinners and walked in darkness.

The apostle John, in this epistle, also totally destroys the doctrinal positions of modern antichrists, who maintain that Jesus did not sin because His body was different from that of Christians. He did not inherit sin, would be one way of stating that position, or that He was not totally depraved like the human race would be another. Whatever the argument, John destroys it with these words: "the one who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same manner as He walked." If that is not possible, then God is a cruel and ridiculous Master. But He is not: He provides the working of the word within and the strengthening of the inner man by the indwelling Spirit. So, get walking!!

The Old/New Commandment

The apostle John is laboring in word to salvage the church of God which was being ravaged by the late first century antichrists. They were great salesmen, and were accomplishing their purpose by offering the first century saints a twisted gospel which had a built-in excuse for continuing in sin. Appeals to the flesh sell well, and unless the individual was a truth-seeker, he would be pulled in by such appeals. Many were falling for this onslaught on the gospel, and the church in general needed correction and direction. With the other apostles executed or far away, John is the one to step forward with reminders, doctrines, and exhortations.

The antichrist Gnostics of the late first century were clearly men "of flesh." Regardless of their pretenses, as men of flesh they would exhibit the characteristics of the flesh. There would be rampant immorality, fighting and jealousy, sensuality of every sort, and no doubt drinking and carousing. For some it would be out in the open; for others the deeds of the flesh would be hidden as much as possible. In either case, for those able to discern things spiritually, the fruit of walking in darkness would be evident.

The faithful saints of God "keep the commandments of God." They have their minds set on the things of the Spirit, and as a result bear the fruit of the Spirit. Their conversation is focused on things above, their interests are Biblical, and their time is spent on matters that are profitable for the expansion of the kingdom of God. Laying aside the unfruitful deeds of darkness, they are step-by-step walking as Jesus walked. They are truly "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world."

Love vs. Hate

Satan exerts tremendous energy and propaganda to confuse both the meaning of love and the meaning of hate. It is as Isaiah the prophet commented during the days of Israel and Judah’s decline: "Woe to those who call ‘evil’ ‘good,’ and ‘good’ ‘evil’; who substitute ‘darkness’ for ‘light’ and ‘light’ for ‘dark­ness’; who substitute ‘bitter’ for ‘sweet,’ and ‘sweet’ for ‘bitter’! (Isaiah 5:20). "Love" and "hate" are powerful driving forces inside mankind; hence it is that the "master of confusion" has spent great effort in derailing the God-given definitions of those two terms. Whether it was the Romans at the time of Nero, or moderns from AD 2000 onward, Christians are often regarded as engaging in "hate speech," arising from their supposed hatred of mankind. This, of course, is the work of Satan who twists the language. True Christians, who base their lives and views on the scripture and walk in the footsteps of Jesus, love all members of the human race. Cor­respondingly, they hate evil, sin, and idolatry. Because they will not compromise, they are regarded as those who hate, and whose preachments are "hate speech."

The apostle Paul had warned his protégé Timothy of the arise of wicked men. "But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (II Timo­thy 3:13). What is interesting here is that the deceivers themselves are deceived, by the great deceiver himself! The Gnostics of the late first century were in the process of deceiving many, pretending to walk in the light while dragging as many as possible into the darkness with them. "But the one who hates his brother," John pointedly remarks, "is in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:11). Claiming to be super-enlightened, the Gnostics were clearly blind. "But if your eye is bad," averred the Lord Jesus, "your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matthew 6:23). How true!

Children, Young Men, Fathers

God is the great and perfect communicator! The challenge He has, as Jesus often pointed out, is to get people really to listen. Consequently, He uses common examples from earth’s experiences to be able to connect with the sons of men who are so often wayward and confused. One of the means He has of communicating is using the process of the growth of children into adults to illustrate growth of Christians. The baby learning to grab onto things, the small child taking its first steps, the little one learning to talk in sentences, the boys and girls learning the lessons of life through their experiences, the laddies challenged in growing up and the lassies stretched in developing into mature young women, both men and women struggling as the saddle of responsibility settles heavily on their shoulders ... These are universally common for the individual, for his children, for his nieces and nephews, and for his neighbors. Hence the All Wise has a beginning point universally applicable in having conversation with the descendants of Adam.

Using the natural progression of human growth as a basis for his communication, the apostle is thus able, in a very few simple words, to encourage the brethren at every level. God, the perfect communicator through Spirit-inspired John, motivates and strengthens each saint, that each might overcome temptation and sort his way through the perils of false teachers. Overcome!!!!

“All that is in the world”

Men often go to great lengths to justify their lusts. The philosophy/religion called "evolution" is one clear example. The apostle Peter, prophesying of those in the future who would deny the Flood and maintain a uniformitarian outlook, noted, "In the last days mockers will come with their mocking, follow­ing after their own lusts" (2 Peter 3:4). Their clear motive for kicking God out and maintaining that everything in life results from heaped up random mechanical actions is so that they might justify their lusts. The foundation for Catholicism is that all are born sinful, and the foundation for most of Protestantism is that all are born totally depraved. All these are designed to give man as a whole a religious/philosophical basis for justifying his continuation in the lusts of the flesh. This, then, is "the world."

The pull of "the things in the world" is an immediate gratification of some kind. The illicit sexual encounter, real or imagined, results in an instantaneous rush. Longing looks at the automobile paraded for sale will result in a person making a stupid purchase, but with a sense of fulfillment "right now." The shout of the man, when confronted with the scriptures about immersion into Christ, saying, "I am Russian, my people are Russian Orthodox, so I must be Russian Orthodox," feels good to him as he defends his country and his faith, but is a clear example of pride’s blocking the way to understanding truth. These are temporary, in contrast to the positive picture the apostle John paints. "And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17). That abiding forever is worth setting aside any of the temporal appeals of the world!

The Last Hour

Saints and others have been waiting for "the last hour" for many generations. Jesus Himself warned all future brethren to be ready for that last hour. Referring to disciples as "slaves," He used the picture of the Master returning unexpectedly to check on the servants. "The master of that slave," He said of one who became derelict in his duties, beating his fellow slaves and eating and drinking with the drunkards, "will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know" (Matthew 24:49-50). Thus saints have been expecting Him at "the last hour."

God allows false teachings such as this to arise from within or without; this is a means He has of keeping the true church pure. "And for this reason," was the apostle Paul’s analysis, "God will send upon them a deluding influence, so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness" (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). A supposed saint who does not value truth above all else will be snagged by some false doctrine. "If they had been of us, they would have re­mained with us, but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they are not of us!" The modern saint would do well to pay attention to what happened even to those who were taught by the apostles and by those who had the gifts of the Spirit extant in the first century.

“You Have an Anointing”

The apostle John in his letters brings out certain concepts not really talked about in other New Testament writings. For instance, he uses the term "anointing" as applied to Christians. To process this, a brief look at some history is required. God is the One who clearly introduced the practice of anointing kings in Israel, begin­ning with Samuel’s anointing of Saul as the first king. As the line of kings in Judah came to an end with the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC, the remnant increasingly looked to the prophecies of a coming Messiah, "the anointed one," for hope.

When Jesus was dunked by John the Immerser in the waters of the Jordan, the heavens opened up, the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form upon Jesus, and the voice from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:16-17). This, in the words of the apostle Peter, is the description of how "God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). Jesus rightly claims the title Christ as the Greek equivalent to the Messiah, anointed with the Holy Spirit rather than with oil, and thus begins to fulfill all the Old Testa­ment prophecies of the Coming One.

The immersion of Jesus really illustrates the absurdity of the antichrist belief that Jesus could not have possessed an actual physical body. Luke’s account is interesting here: "Now it came about when all the people were immersed, that Jesus also was immersed, and while He was praying, heaven was opened ..." (Luke 3:21). All the people had bodies, and those bodies ruffled the water as they went down and came up. If Jesus had no body, there would have been quite a stir, starting with John the Immerser himself, at no ruffling of the water when He went down and came up. The focus instead is on the descent of the Holy Spirit and the message of the voice from heaven. "You know the truth," John reassures the faithful brethren. "The anointing which you received from Him abides in you," he stresses. And, as a result, "You abide in Him."

Truth vs. Lies

Those who teach false doctrine always have to lie at some point. At some point, they have to look at the plain teaching of scripture and say, "It doesn’t say that," when in fact it does. Some of the lies are direct, and some are subtle; regardless, they are lies. By contrast, God, in His communication with man, always tells the truth. He may communicate through His Old Testament prophets, or His New Testament apostles, but He always tells the truth. Thus the apostle Paul, in writing to the Ephesian breth­ren, would note: "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation ..." (Ephesians 1:13). The forces of darkness use people to twist the truth, and the scripture therefore has many warnings about false doctrine and calls for saints to stand for the truth. Against one such group Paul wrote, "But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you" (Galatians 2:5). It is always truth vs. lies!

"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance," asserted the apostle Paul, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures," he also asseverated, and "He was buried," and "He was raised from the dead on the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). This is the truth! He bore our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). To deny that Jesus ever had a body is clearly a big lie, and the basis for many other big lies. Who is the liar? And who is it who tells the truth?

Abiding in the Son

Lies are always destructive. But lies about things eternal are the worst! The devil, according to Jesus, "is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). He is also "a murderer from the begin­ning," and it is his goal to drag as many people as he can to hell with him. The primary tool, then, that he is going to use is the practice of lying and promoting lies. He lied to Eve in the Gar­den, and still lies. "But I am afraid," said Paul to the Corinthians, "lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). The Gnostic antichrists of the first century were denying that Jesus came in the flesh, and were thus twisting the gospel. Lies, lies, lies.

The "good confession" contains elements of both Jesus’ humanity and His divinity. In effect, the Gnostic antichrists of the first century denied both, and thus were condemned to hell. That was ultimately why their teaching was so dangerous.

In order to be a Christian, a person has to confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, or that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." His immersion then immediately follows, and in that moment he is born again; for him that is the beginning. "As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and in the Father" (1 John 2:24). As Paul reminded Timothy, "And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: ‘He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.’ " (1 Timothy 3:16). Anything else is a lie!

The Promise of Eternal Life

God has given His saints a number of promises. Because of His character, He keeps His promises, as the One who is faithful and true. "For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him [Christ] they are ‘yes,’ " (2 Corinthians 1:20). God is faithful in­deed. "Repent," said Peter and the other apostles to the crowd assembled on the Day of Pentecost, "and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will re­ceive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). This was the inspired response to the question, "What shall we do?" when the gospel message was preached for the first time. Then was added these words: "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself" (Acts 2:39). The promise is a reference back to "the gift of the Holy Spirit," the indwelling Spirit who makes it possible for the newly born again individual to belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). God is faithful, and He keeps that promise.

John belabors the point: "And this is the promise He Himself made to us: eternal life." Every saint should periodically stop and consider this promise of eternal life as contrasted to eternal death. When people’s focus is too much on earth, eternity drifts into a distant, hazy, and "unimportant" background, which is the devil/deceiver’s goal. God’s goal is for His children to see the value of eternity. If they continually set their minds on the Christ in glory, then they will have the promise of eternal life realized. Worth doing!!

The Anointing

The Bible is like a woven tapestry, and the threads must be fol­lowed through the entire document in order that God’s truth might be defined and understood. One of those great threads or themes is the topic of "anointing." The tabernacle of Moses and its appurte­nances were anointed. The priests of the Old Testament were anoint­ed. Some of the Old Testament prophets were anointed. Even some foreign kings were anointed. The Lord spoke to the prophet Elijah the Tishbite, for example, and told him to anoint Hazael as the next king of Aram (Syria), Jehu as the next king of the northern nation Israel, and Elisha as the prophet to succeed him (1 Kings 19:15-16).

But the focus is on the anointing of the kings of united Israel and subsequently of Judah. "Fill your horn with oil," God said to Samuel the judge and prophet (1 Samuel 16:1). When David was finally identified as the next king in original Israel, the Al­mighty again spoke to Samuel, saying, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he" (1 Samuel 16:12). From the descendants of David, it was repeatedly prophesied, the Messiah [Hebrew], "the anointed one," the king or Christ [Greek – Christos] would come.

The concern of John in this epistle is that the saints remain true to the doctrines of God, and not be carried into the strange doctrines promoted by the Gnostic elements working in the first century church. He wants the true teachings coming from the Spirit of Christ Himself to be held onto by the saints, and that they "abide in Him."

Being Taught All Things

The apostle John says a great deal in a very small space. He takes the entire body of the Holy Spirit’s teaching contained in both "the law of Moses" and "the faith of Christ," and condenses it into the phrase "His anointing teaches you about all things" (1 John 2:27). All doctrines connected with Christ emanate from the concept of His anointing—not only His anointing with the Holy Spirit while He was coming up out of the waters of the Jordan, but also His "receiving from the Father the promise of the Spirit" as He took the throne in glory. For example, in a very open prophecy, Daniel predicted that "the Messiah [the Anointed One] will be cut off and have nothing," pointing to His execution on the cross. His death "put an end to sacrifice and grain offering," inasmuch as the perfect sacrifice obliterated the need for these temporary offerings (Daniel 9:25-26). In another instance, David spoke of a time when the Lord’s Anointed would be installed as King "upon Zion" (Psalm 2:6). From being the promised descendant of David according to the flesh, through His crucifixion, on to His exaltation to the right hand of power, "His anointing teaches you about all things."

At the end of the line, so to speak, there are only two possibilities concerning where a person will spend eternity: heaven or hell. Any thinking person can clearly see that heaven is the good and sensible choice. But the devil and his deceiving assistants work very hard to get that clear choice obscured, and people’s attention misdirected. "Let that abide in you which you heard," John said. "Abide in Him," is John’s statement which cannot be over-emphasized, so that those who once walked with Christ will not "shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." An eternity in hell is beyond comprehension, but that is the "end of the line" for the deceiving antichrists, who are themselves deceived.

The Righteous Connection

"The wrath of God," averred the apostle Paul, "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). The scripture establishes clearly that the goal of God is to reproduce His righteousness in the thoughts, words, and deeds of those who would claim to be His children. He clothes His holy ones with Christ in their immersions into Him, and continues His teaching, in conjunction with His indwelling Holy Spirit, to produce practicing righteousness in those who make a claim to godliness.

The goal of the devil, as the initial rebel, murderer, and liar, is to reproduce his character in the sons of men. As the ultimate deceiver, he works particularly among those who would claim to follow Christ by convincing them that being righteous in word, thought, and deed is not possible. "All inherit Adam’s sin at birth," is a core teaching of Roman and Greek Catholicism, enveloping upwards of 1.4 billion people on this planet. The corollary is that they remain sin­ners through their deaths. Another teaching, at the core of Protestantism, is that people are born totally depraved, and remain so throughout their earthly lives. Another teaching, particularly among those of what might be called Restoration Movement heritage, is that a saint is engaged in a sanctified struggle depicted in Romans chapter seven, and, try as he might, he is going to remain in bondage to sin. All these doctrines impinge the mind with the pre-set that the indi­vidual will always remain unrighteous. And these doctrines all began with the teachings of the antichrists of the late first century with which John is dealing!

The antichrist system of thought—whether exhibited in the first century Gnostics, or the 21st century Catholics, 21st century Calvinists, or 21st century Restorationists—that the body is by definition "bad," creates a mental block or carnal mind-set which prevents the individual from really trying or desiring to "practice righteousness." In this thought framework, the devil wins. Everyone needs to be reminded that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."

Exhibition of God’s Love

Those who contemplate how the nature of God is revealed in His holy word can only exclaim, "How great is our God!" In the book of Revelation, the twenty-four elders are pictured as giv­ing glory to God for His creative power exhibited in the physical realm. "Worthy are You, our Lord and our God," they utter their praises, "to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created" (Revelation 4:11). But the fullness of their adulation is expressed when they give glory for what was done in the spiritual and eternal realm. "Worthy are You," exclaim they, concerning the Lamb, the Lord Jesus, "for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Revelation 5:9-10). It is also noteworthy that His motivation in doing so was His love for mankind. "God demonstrates His love toward us," are words the apostle Paul pushed to the forefront for the brethren, "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Only in contemplating what it was to be in darkness, to be held captive in the devil’s domain, and then to be transferred into the kingdom or family of God can the saint begin to process the power of John’s words: "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and such we are!" Why, then, would those so honored be pulled back into being mere sons of men by the antichrists and antichrists’ doc­trines? Only by keeping the focus onward and upward can the saint maintain his picture of who he is and therefore live victoriously. That is why John says, "SEE how great a love ..." That is why John says, in reference to being children of God, "such we ARE!"

Recognizing sons of God

When Jesus came into the world, He was not really seen for who He was. What plaintive words are these with which John opens his gospel account! "He was in the world, and world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him." Maybe the Jews, having been entrusted with the oracles of God, would do better than the Gentiles? "He came to His own," is the inspired answer, "and those who were His own did not receive Him." A few, however, did recognize His Messiahship, as the thought continues, "As many as received Him, He gave the right to become children of God"; in other words, to those who would be obedient to the gospel and be born of the Spirit (John 1:10-13).

The sons of God, partakers of the divine nature, are magnificent in the spiritual realm. They are children of light, and shining powerfully on the inside, as contrasted to those who are in darkness. They are strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man, as contrasted to those who are still in slavery to sin. They are accomplishing great things in prayer, in edifying the saints, in spreading the gospel to the lost. They are, in the words of Jesus Himself, known by their fruits. But the world does not know for what fruits to look. "For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him."

Revealing the sons of God

The physical creation is the mechanism by which the truly spiritual creations come into existence. The process is simply stated by the apostle Paul: "The spiritual is not first, but the natural." After the natural is in place, "then the spiritual" (1 Corinthians 15:46). Natural man is part of the natural process begun at Creation. While God "forms the spirit of man within him" at conception (Zechariah 12:1), the individual comes into existence by the natural relation of male and female, and enters the world without having made the choice to do so himself. The only "creation" that comes into existence by its own choice is the "new creation"!! These are the true "children of God."

It has long been known that "no one can see the face of God and live" (Exodus 33:20-23). When the face of God, the face of the One who will sit on the Judgment Throne, appears, it will vaporize the entire material universe (Revelation 20:11). Hence mankind must be resur­rected before this appearing occurs—some to a resurrection of life, and some to a resurrection of eternal judgment—and receive a body that is not part of the material creation. In this way, "every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced Him" (Revelation 1:7). For those, then, whose citizenship is in heaven, their bodies will be transformed "into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21). This, therefore, is the revealing of the sons of God. "We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is."

“Pure” as He is “Pure”

"When He appears," the apostle John had noted, "we shall see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2). And while every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced Him, only those who have been immersed into Christ—and have maintained and have developed their faith—will be able to see Him as He is, in all His glory. One of the key issues in this individual’s development of faith is his purity of motive. When "the Lord comes," affirmed the apostle Paul, He "will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts" (1 Corinthians 4:5). It is clear that if a person has hidden motives and an impure agenda, that he will end up on the wrong side of that judgment. It is not surprising, then, that the Lord Jesus Himself would say, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).

But can it be done? Essentially the command is to be as pure as God is pure. Many have contended that even the child of God, born of water and Spirit, is still a sinner and cannot ever be anything but a "filthy garment saved by grace." But scriptures set forth a picture of a new creation, born from above, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, capable of walking in the footsteps of Jesus. John had already stated that "the one who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). Here, in the next chapter, the apostle and the Holy Spirit add that the saint "purifies himself as He is pure." How pure is that?

Jesus and Sin

The antichrist movement that was ravaging the first century church was essentially an immoral movement. It appealed to the flesh, offering the excuse that the body was bad and therefore it had to keep sinning. For those who did not want to do the personal work necessary to "purify" themselves "as He is pure," this offered a release from what these lawless ones would consider a burden. The whole thought process of these antichrists illustrates the condition of those whose mind is set on the things of the flesh. What begins as a somewhat plausible excuse (the body is part of the material creation and is therefore sinful) actually ends up with a ridiculous conclusion (Jesus did not have a body). But when the fleshly mind wants the excuse, it does not care what is reasonable or what the conclusion is.

The conclusion the apostle John and the Holy Spirit reach is this: "No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him" (1 John 3:6). The antichrists were saying that everyone must keep sinning because sin is resident in the body, and it is impossible to meet this standard. (Modern antichrists still believe that sin is resident in the body, that belief showing up even in Bible translations such as the New International Version. The term "sinful nature" is their translation of the word "sarx" and the thrust of their thought is that the body is "bad" from birth.) God is calling the saints out of this depraved thinking, putting before them the exordium, "Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure" (1 John 3:3). Let us, then, with the positive mind-set the scripture sets before us, be in the process of purifying ourselves!

Practicing Righteousness

Make no mistake about it! God does not sin, and He cannot countenance sin. Jesus Christ, our High Priest and Intercessor and Redeemer, is described as "holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). If a person who would style himself "Christian" is insistent that he is clearly and absolutely a sinner, then is Jesus separated from that individual? Recognizing that Jesus is the only intercessor and the only way of salvation, this is eternally serious; no person separated from Jesus is going to enter the glorious side of eternity! The righteous Father, then, is repeatedly insistent that His children of faith are "saints" rather than "sinners." This has to do with the way God wired the human brain. Thoughts give rise to words and performance. Human experience tells us, then, that desultory thoughts lead to desultory performance, and truly positive thoughts lead to positive performance. A person who views himself as a loser will lose; a person who views himself as a winner will, over time, win! This is especially true in the spiritual battle: the individual who believes he is a sinner will sin and will continue to lose; the individual who believes in God’s picture for him will overcome.

The spiritual war for the mind was raging in these early congregations. Those who lost that war went with the antichrists and lost their fellowship with Christ and His church. "They went out from us," is the Holy Spirit’s analysis, "but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). That same spiritual battle is raging today. The propaganda forces of modern antichrists maintain that the body is bad; the individual should try to practice righteousness but he will always fail because sin is somehow resident in his body. This is "doctrine of the devil!"

Destroying the Works of the Devil

Selfishness is a form of pride, and is thus really the opposite of humility. Time and time again the word of God calls for people to be humble before the great God of creation, the God of Israel, and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the famous lines from the Old Testament comes from God’s response to Solomon at the dedication of the newly built temple in Jerusalem. God had noted that He might send famine upon the land, or locusts, or pestilence, but He said that if "My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). James, writing under the terms of the new covenant, brought an old covenant quotation over, noting that "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). The apostle Peter adds his instruction, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7). The true children of God will humble themselves and do what the One with the mighty hand commands.

It is important to remember one of the most cogent statements of Jesus, brought forth when He Himself was engaged in a heated verbal dispute with the Jewish hierarchy. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father," animadverted our Lord. "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). The selfishness exhibited in adult-level members of the human race at the core stem from Satan Himself. Their lies, their desires, their bending of events and people to serve their own purposes are just the outgrowth of their having lost their fellowship with God and having been transferred to the domain of darkness. Jesus came into the world to rescue people from that domain, to transfer them into the kingdom of Christ, and in their new lives to destroy the works of the devil. Modern antichrists and their destructive doctrines need to be exposed, and saints need to live and teach the principles of Jesus to a very dark world.

Children of God are Obvious

"The mind set on the flesh is death," said the apostle Paul, "but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6). It is not uncommon for someone whose mind is set on the things of the flesh to present himself as someone who is very saintly and focused on spiritual things. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were prime examples. Described by the Lord as "whitewashed tombs," He noted, "You too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:28). So it was with the antichrists that the apostle John exposes in his epistles. They appeared very religious in their discussions, and clearly posed as leaders in the various congregations. But the apostle is blunt in his statement, exposing these people as just as lawless as the Pharisees. "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness," is his simple, straight-forward statement, "and sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). The antichrist doctrine denying that Jesus came in a physical body and suffered the same temptations as the rest of the human race promoted an underly­ing lawlessness, and destroyed the mind-set that would result in an individual’s purifying himself in line with the purity of Jesus.

"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious," points out the apostle. "Anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:10). The antichrist philosophy that the body is bad guarantees that its adherents are going to continue in sin, and thus it is obvious that they are children of the devil. The children of God, on the other hand, know that they are born of God, their visual picture is that they cannot sin, and their focus is on "walking in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6).

“Love”, not “Kill” your Brother

As long as the apostle John keeps talking about "love," it must be reiterated that "loving your brother" means being concerned about his eternity as the first priority. When the priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to sacrifice with the crowds in celebra­tion of Paul’s healing a man in Lystra, that was not an act of "love," although it might have seemed so to the ignorant or emotionally carried away people present. When that priest wanted to offer a sacrifice to Zeus, he was in the process of propagandizing the pa­gans, and working on sending their souls to hell. Someone who is a propagandist for doctrines that send people’s souls to hell does not love them, regardless of how "kind, compassionate, caring," or "helpful" he may seem.

The saints of God, whose picture is such that they cannot sin because they are born of God, end up "practicing righteousness" in imitation of the practicing righteousness of Christ Himself. The Gnostics, operating under the proposition that the body is bad, of course are go­ing to be practicing sin and furthering the works of the devil. They, in effect, like Cain, "are of the evil one." They, like Satan ("Satan" means "adversary") are going to be direct adversaries of those who were preaching the truth. They, like the devil ("devil" means "one who slanders") are going to be slandering those who were taking the gospel to the lost and living righteous lives—righteous so as to cause no hindrance to the gospel. Why would they engage in such op­position and engage in such slander? Their minds were set on the things of the flesh, and "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God" (Romans 8:7). In consequence, they were hostile toward those who were working God’s program; they were walking in the footsteps of Cain. Why would they "kill" their brothers? Because their brothers’ deeds were righteous, and theirs were evil. Modern saints: pay attention!!

Life-savers and Murderers

Evil qualities like "pride" and "hate" can be hidden under a careful veneer of geniality and good-naturedness. Sometimes "hate" is explosive, and sometimes "pride" shows itself to public view. But generally both of those are working a long-term agenda, and hence have to be hidden in order to effect their outcome. "Hate" in particular can be a simmering monster, boiling below the surface, waiting for the strategic moment before it pops into the foreground. As the sage of Proverbs noted: "He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18). The devil, then, the big liar and the father of lies, clearly is concealing his hatred—hatred, especially of God, and of those who follow the commandments of Jesus. The antichrists of the days of the apostle John were these types who hid their hatred of God and of the disciples of Christ. John is in the process of exposing them for what they are to the view of the saints, those who will see with spiritual eyes.

The apostle John, in this general epistle to the first century church, is laboring to expose just how wicked and destructive the antichrist philosophy is. The antichrist doctrine that Jesus did not come in the flesh, or its more palatable modern counterpart that Jesus did not have a body like we have, is what gives men the excuse to keep sinning. Jesus, by contrast, made it clear that His words cut off any excuse for sinning. The antichrists—ancient or modern—therefore hate Jesus, and they hate any of His disciples who proclaim the truth that saints are to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Such disciples are encouraged by that knowledge that "we have passed out of death into life!"

Laying Down Our Lives

The apostle John frequently uses the phrase "we know" in his comments to faithful brethren. This certainty of "knowledge" is based on factual presentations of the gospel and scriptural teaching rather than propaganda or "hype." The apostle begins his first epistle by taking his readers back to facts of which John was a witness. "What we have heard," says he of himself and the other apostles, "what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled..." They had visible, audible, and tangible proof that Jesus was resur­rected with a "flesh and bones" body, albeit with nail holes and spear wounds still evident. Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, and the gospel truths followed, explained by logical presentations beginning from that point. Thus the words of John, backed by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, "we know," are factual words and not mere promotional material.

What does "laying down our lives for the brethren" look like? What are the practical applications of this precept? There is a whole set of writings called "the new covenant" which gives principles and more detailed instructions in what it means to lay down our lives for the brethren. First of all, there will not be any "brethren" if the lost are not being saved. It is important to remember that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly," and that we, in imitation of the Master, are to go and do likewise. Secondly, "we" are to do everything we can, inside the guidelines the new covenant lays out for us, to love and edify the brethren. This ranges from "Be hospitable to one another without complaint," to "Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so by the strength which God supplies" (1 Peter 4:9,11). This comes under the heading, consistent with the apostle John’s appeals, of "above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). "Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called," was the apostle Paul’s entreaty, "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3). There are hundreds of pages more of instruction on "laying down our lives for the brethren," if we need them!

“In Deed and in Truth”

Edgar Guest wrote a poem about how he would rather see a sermon than hear one. God knows, however, that the sermon really and truly must come first; otherwise the proper action with proper motive will not be forthcoming. People can perform acts of kindness without being particularly scripturally directed. So God needed to inject His knowledge into the world by revelation (for our time, the completed Word of God) in order for men even to begin to know what love, especially God’s love, is. "For since in the wisdom of God," the apostle Paul informed the Corinthians, "the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the ‘foolishness’ of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). The knowledge of God and the knowledge of God’s love must begin with the preaching before there can be any meaningful demonstration of that love to the lost and to the brethren.

Edgar Guest said that he would like to see a sermon rather than hear one. The true Christian would make sure that Edgar Guest heard the truth as well as seeing the truth in action. "Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth!"

Getting a “Confident Heart”

The Christian is to examine himself in the sight of God. He is to examine his salvation, his motive, his performance, his method, and his love. Because the bar of performance that has been set is the perfection of Christ, the saint’s heart can quiver a bit and feel as if he is falling short of God’s expectations. While God wants each of His children of faith to make an honest examination, and while He continues to set the performance bar high, He does not want His "child" of faith to wallow in a pit wherein he lacks confidence. Hence God has provisions for mercy, grace, and justification to provide for maximum motivation without regret for the sincere saint. Those who really try to follow the commandments of God as defined by the new covenant writings continue to be welcomed into the fellowship of God and the council of the holy ones.

When the disciple of Christ knows that the blood of Christ has cleansed him from all sin, his heart no longer condemns him. "Beloved," John writes in endearing terms, "if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God" (1 John 3:21). It is tremendously reassuring to the saint for him to know that all has been forgiven, that there is open communication between him and the Father. In this confidence, which the Father earnestly desires that each of His children of faith possess, the Christian can move forward, victoriously fighting the good fight of faith.

Abiding "in Him"

"Confidence" is a major factor in a person’s performance. If a saint walks in confidence before his God, he is able to perform and to provide service to Jesus His King. If he is insecure, or his "heart condemns him," he is timid when he should be courageous, he is wavering when he should be decisive. This confidence is also im­portant in a saint’s "assurance of faith" in approaching the throne of God. The Father is very interested in each of His children’s spiritual success, and He has therefore gone to great lengths to give the saint a "clean heart" and thus also a "confident heart." The apostle John reminds the brethren, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God" (1 John 3:21).

The antichrists of the first century did not "believe in the name" of the Son of God. They were lawless and rebellious, and smart enough to cover that rebellion with religious terminology. The faithful saint, on the other hand, fighting for his spiritual life under the pressure from these Gnostics who often positioned themselves as leaders and teachers in the local congregations, is reminded that his faithfulness is not without reward. His heart is clean and does not condemn him. "And the one who keeps the commandments," is John’s further assurance, "abides in Him, and He in Him" (1 John 3:24). Properly understood, this is the greatest reward of all. The name of the eternal city, chosen by God Himself, is "The Lord is there" (Ezekiel 48:35). To be able to be in the presence of the Lord, and to be in His presence eternally, is to be most earnestly desired by all followers of Jesus Christ. Not only to abide in Him, but to know that He abides in us...forever!!

Spirit of Truth

The apostle John comes back time and time again to the idea that the Spirit of God indwells the Christian. "The anointing," noted he, concerning the saint’s receiving the Holy Spirit in his immersion just as Jesus was visibly anointed with the Holy Spirit in His immer­sion, "which you received from Him abides in you" (1 John 2:27). The disciple of Christ, then, is regarded as "knowing the truth." "But you have an anointing from the Holy One," is John’s comment on this point, "and you all know" (1 John 2:20).

In order for the brethren of Christ to know for certain that they know the truth, and to have the security that they received the indwelling Holy Spirit, God went to a lot of work to establish the truthfulness of His word. The prophecies, the types and antitypes, the accuracy of the historical record, the evincing of His long-term plan with Israel, the marvels of Jesus Christ during His earthly sojourn, the bringing in of the Gentiles...and so much more establish to the objective mind that God is the author of the scripture. On that basis, then, the individual knows that when he is immersed into Christ, he receives the indwelling Spirit. John phrases it thusly: "And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1 John 3:24).

The apostle John put forth another test for the brethren: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (1 John 4:2). That test would keep the first century Gnostic antichrists from having any credibility with the brethren. But the brethren would have to test those spirits with care and thoroughness. Then, as now, some of the false teachers were very crafty in presenting their false doctrines, and only a precise and exhaustive examination would expose their errors. "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God." Good advice then, and good advice now!!

False Prophets

Every century has false doctrines introduced by false teach­ers and false prophets. Jesus Himself warned, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15). Filled with some sort of selfish ambition, these wolves feast on the sheep, shake people’s faith, and destroy congregations. Utterly ruthless, they smile and joke and flatter people for the sake of gaining advantage. They look like sheep, but these are the wolves about which Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). The key is to know what kind of "fruit" for which to look. "Test the spirits," the apostle John had said. "Do not believe every spirit," was part of the sincere exhortation. "Many false prophets have gone out into the world." The spirits need "testing," and the fruit needs "inspecting."

The devil has had another 2000 years or so to work on creating false doctrines since the time of the new testament writings. The "Darwinian revolution," for example, has totally changed the general world view about the Bible’s authority, about the nature of man, and many other things. The modern church therefore has to fight a major battle to combat this "spirit of error" in order to establish that the Bible is indeed the word of God. The false prophets have come, teaching that a person is saved by "faith alone," and denying the necessity of immersion into Christ for salvation. The "lying spirit" has shown up in creating all kinds of confusion about the indwelling Spirit, about the baptism in the Spirit, about "speaking in tongues." The plethora of false teachings pushed in every area of human existence by false teachers creates major problems for modern evangelism. It takes a lot of one-on-one teaching to dismantle the ideas that get into the heads of potential Christians, and a lot of repetition from scripture in order to show them the Bible way. The apostle John’s statement is so, so true: "many false prophets have gone out into the world."


The life of a Christian is guaranteed to be challenging. Paul and Barnabas, as they closed off their first missionary journey, warned the brethren in these fledgling congregations which had been established, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). In addition to the physical persecution to which these early saints were subjected, there were the confusion factors of false teachings and baseless rumors which abounded. "For there are many rebellious men," the apostle Paul reminded Titus, "empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things which they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain" (Titus 1:10,11). Paul also warned Timothy about false teachers, "men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:18). Controversy and confusion always abound!

The eternal souls of men hang in the balance in this great warfare. God, therefore, is not idle in this conflagration. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all," the apostle Paul pointed out to the brethren in Rome, "how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). God was willing to send Jesus into the world to be crucified to rescue lost men; He is also willing to strengthen the brethren through the Holy Spirit within so that they might be effective in prosecuting the warfare against false doctrine and carrying the torch of spiritual freedom to truth-seekers in all the corners of this dark world. What encouraging words: "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them!" And praise God for His indwelling Spirit: greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world!!

Listening to…?

Jesus would often say words to the effect, "He who has ears, let him hear" (Matthew 13:43). From God’s perspective, people actually choose to whom they will listen. If they choose to listen to the beckoning voices of darkness, that is that path they will choose. If they choose to listen to "the voice of Jesus" (that which is written in God’s word), that is the path they will choose. Another way that Jesus expressed the concept was in these words: "And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 13:14). Every individual of an accountable age is responsible for whom he decides to follow, or to whom he decides to listen.

Everyone chooses which voice he is going to hear. Most people, unfortunately, do not want to hear the teaching of the Holy Spirit as revealed through the apostles. They will, in the words of the apostle Paul, "turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:4). It had to be somewhat frustrating to the apostle John to see so many turn away from the truths he and the others had brought into the world, and so few by comparison who would be­lieve and obey the words from God. This frustration would possibly have been magnified, since the antichrist movement began within the church. "They went out from us," he had pointed out to the brethren earlier, "but they were not really of us" (1 John 2:19). "They are from the world," was his warning reminder to the faithful brethren. "Therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them." Anyone who listened to the voices of the antichrists, of ancient or modern times, is of the world.

God is Love

Satan hates God, and Satan hates man. Satan is a liar and the father of lies, and he hates the truth. The great deceiver knows he is going into the hell fire, and he hates mankind so much that he is trying to drag every son and daughter of Adam and Eve down with him. He thus engages in deception. He collaborates with the other demonic forces who use "liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron" to confuse people, and to turn people away from the apostles’ doctrine so that they too follow the downward path into the lake of fire. God, however, loves people, and it is not His desire to send people into Gehenna, "the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). "God our Savior," said the apostle Paul, "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3,4). The war, then, for the eternal souls of men is between God and Satan, between love and hate. And each adult-level person is choosing one of those options

Love and truth are just different faces of the same coin. "God is love," is certainly true, and just as certain is the statement of Jesus that He is "the truth." God, "who cannot lie" (Titus 1:2), is not happy with liars and those who teach lies as doctrines. Thus, those who tell lies and teach unscriptural doctrines are agents of satanic-driven hate; such were the antichrists. The saints of God, by major contrast, love the brethren by teaching the truth, by helping struggling brethren in compassionate ways, and reaching out to the lost with the gospel. They love "in deed and truth" as well as "with word or with tongue" (1 John 3:18). They take up their crosses daily, and deny themselves for the sake of the gospel. They are not swayed by peer pressure or the appeal of earth’s accolades; they fix their eyes on Jesus above, and march through the obstacles of persecution and ridicule because they love the truth and they love souls. "God is love," and they in imitation of God (Ephesians 5:1) exhibit His character to the world.

Born From Above

One of the key words connected with scriptures is begotten. It is the past participle of the verb beget, which we scarcely use in modern English, and as such its meaning is a bit obscure. Beget has to do with fathering a child, that "fathering" being evident at the child’s birth. Hence, in the King James Version, it is said that "Abraham begat Isaac" (Matthew 1:2), or, if we were to use a little more modern terminology, "Abraham begot Isaac." Isaac, then, was the first and only begotten son of Abraham through his wife Sarah. Begetting has to do with physical birth. But God is going to take the physical term connected with a physical birth and give it a more spiritual meaning as it applies to Jesus, who is going to be described as "the first-born from the dead" (Colossians 1:18)

Hence the apostle Paul defined begotten as it applied to Jesus when he was preaching in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia: Using Old Testament scripture in addition to his personal eyewitness testimony to prove to the skeptical Jewish audience that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, he quoted from Psalm 2. "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You.’ " (Acts 13:32-33). The term begotten as it applies to Jesus’ Sonship has to do with His being resurrected from the dead and seated at the right hand of power. It is important to note that He had that title the only begotten Son from all eternity, but as it played out in the revelation to mankind, the specific point in time where the "today" applies is the consummation of the ages when Jesus took the heavenly throne. It is similar to the apostle Peter’s statement on the day of Pentecost where, at the conclusion of his message, he stated, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Jesus always was the Christ, but in the revelation of these truths to mankind the apostle used the expression made Him Christ to express a specific point in time as to how this played out for the understanding of those who would obey the gospel. This is how the plan of God, as expressed by the apostle Paul, was executed, that Jesus "was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit" (Romans 1:3-4). Jesus always was the Son of God, but the specific point in time in which that was made known to the sons of men was His resurrection all the way to the throne on high. This is what begotten means when referring to Jesus as "the only begotten Son of God."

"By this the love of God was manifested in us [that is, revealed to the world through the apostles], that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9). Jesus, as the One born from above, made it possible for those who are truly His disciples to be born from above also. This tremendous love on God’s part was also expressed by the apostle Paul. "For we were foolish ourselves," he noted, listing some of the fleshly proclivities into which we fell. "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:3-5). In that "washing" (referring to immersion into Christ) and "renewing" by the Holy Spirit, the individual is thus "born from above," or begotten in a spiritual birth in the likeness of Jesus’ being raised from the dead and seated on the heavenly throne. Hence Paul describes the spiritual birth of a lowly run-away slave: "… my child [in the faith], whom I have begotten in my imprisonment" (Philemon 1:10). The love of God is indeed manifest!!

Love Expressed Through Propitiation

God really does love all men. His love of all was exhibited in the prophetic words of Ezekiel as he looked to a prophetic Israel (the Gentiles who would come into Christ). " ‘Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!’ " the prophet cries out. "For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Therefore, repent and live.’ " (Ezekiel 18:31-32). How powerful and wonderful it is, then, that "that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him" (1 John 4:9).

Fleshly-minded men think of the word live as getting the most out of the blessings of earthly life. But when God uses the word live, He uses it in a spiritual meaning and in terms of fellowship with Him. There may not be many earthly bless­ings for the one who is in fellowship with the only begotten Son, but there is the blessing of eternal life, which far outweighs any earthly blessing. Those who walk by faith "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). True life is in the realm of the eternal, and only those who are truly spiritual place the correct value on it.

It is interesting and significant here that the apostle John states his proposition this way: "In this is love … that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The apostle is anticipating that the brethren would have enough spiritual depth to be able to process beyond the cross to the ascension of Christ as the high priest of the new covenant. The Gnostic antichrists among the churches to whom John wrote denied that Jesus even had a body for the sacrifice, much less a resurrection from the dead and an ascension to the power position on high. Therefore they "knew not" the love of God, and thus they had no true love for the brethren.

God’s Love Perfected In Us

Love is a big word! In English, it is only four letters, but the concept of love—especially God’s love—has many different aspects and is challenging for the brain of man to apprehend. "Love is patient," "love is kind," "love does not take into account a wrong suffered" … these statements just begin to open the door of understanding the magnificent aspects of God’s love. Among other things, love is unselfish. Hence the Almighty and All Wise God, being "love" Himself, set in motion a plan wherein that love could be shared. The two great commandments of the old covenant—"love the Lord your God with all your might …" and "love your neighbor as yourself"—laid the groundwork for what was to be accomplished under the terms of the new covenant. The new covenant gives Christ’s disciples significant reasons why they should love God, and sets in motion the mechanism by which the love of God can be shared.

If God had not created man, then His love would have been encased, and not even under­stood by angels. But by setting in motion His plan to redeem man and to establish fellowship with the redeemed through His Holy Spirit, God’s love is now manifested to the human race and to the angels as well. But if God’s love were to remain with God alone, His love would be incomplete. When, however, His love "is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit," and saints begin to take the message of hope and love to the lost world, then God’s love is being "perfected [made complete] in us." When the saints love the brethren in the church and develop their relationships through interactions, having to learn forbearance and patience and grace, then God’s love is fully "perfected in us." Love your lost neighbor (who may become your brother in the future), and love your brother who meets with you about the Lord’s Table!

The Father Sent His Son

"No one," said John, "has beheld God at any time" (John 1:18). If no one can see Him, how can anyone know that he has fellow­ship with Him, or that He abides in that person? To answer this question, which is one that God wants answered, God made sure that the Bible was written, preserved, translated, and distributed. The Bible, which can be proven to be the word of God, can then authoritatively establish that God exists and that it is possible to know Him through the revelation given through His Son Jesus Christ. "He who has seen Me," said Lord Jesus, "has seen the Father" (John 14:9). It is through Jesus Christ, as revealed in the scriptures, that we may come to know God and to be known by God.

The saint and the congregation which follow "the apostles’ doctrine" are the ones who are secure in their knowledge of their salvation. "The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world," and the ones who believe and obey that teaching are walking in that knowledge. "Whoever," then, in accordance with that which was delivered through the apostles, "confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:15). Those faithful first century brethren were thus reassured of their standing with the Almighty, and were able to face persecution and death with their faith unfazed. The twenty-first century saint can follow the same process, be confident of his resurrection with the righteous at the Second Coming, and also successfully face the challenges in front of him.

Confidence on Judgment Day

The scripture repeatedly refers to the saints’ eagerly looking for Jesus’ return. That expectation can only be eager if the saint is confident in His fellowship with Christ; otherwise, the expectation is very different. As the writer of Hebrews put it, in reference to saints who were not faithful in attending assembly, there is "a certain terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27). Hence the apostle John continually hammers at the first century Christians about being certain of their fellowship with the Almighty based on the truth of God’s word. Anyone being sucked into the doctrines of the Gnostic anti­christs would lose that fellowship and be facing that "fury of a fire."

When the disciple of Christ is in the process of making other disciples, of expounding and defending the scriptures, of exhorting the brethren and refuting those who contradict, he ends up having tremendous conviction about the truth of the scriptures and the faithfulness of their testimony. Based on those scriptures, his belief in them, and his obedience to them, the saint knows where he stands in relationship to the favor of the Supreme Judge. He therefore has "confidence" as he faces the day of judgment, and eagerly awaits the return of the Lion and Lamb of God!

“As He is, so also are We”

"I am the vine," said Jesus Christ as He neared the end of His earthly sojourn, "you are the branches" (John 15:5). His goal, as the vine, was to bear much fruit. But the vine cannot bear the fruit without the branches; hence it is that the Lord has placed Himself in the position of being dependent upon His disciples for the fruit of the harvest to come in. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit," stated the Lord in frank and brutal honesty, "He [the Father] takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:2). The loving Father is working inti­mately with each branch, pruning and trimming it back (discipline, suffering, etc.) so that each Christian can become more effective in his participation in seeking and saving the lost; every non-productive branch is stripped away. This culminates in the block-buster statement of the Lord, "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8).

The most effective "person" in impacting the lost and turning them in the direction of righ­teousness and God was Jesus Himself. In Him, during the days of His earthly sojourn, was the love of the Father for each soul demonstrated. His perfect patience, His kindness, His reaching out to even the "lowest" of mankind…all this was exhibited in the gospel accounts of the Christ who came into the world "to seek and to save that which was lost." Underneath that, however, was the continuing firm recognition that man needed to turn to God on God’s terms. "Unless you repent," averred the Lord, "you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). Having died on the cross to demonstrate the love of God for lost man, Jesus was buried, was resurrected, and was raised to the heavenly throne. In this whole process, the nature and character of God was exhibited for all who might be interested in "knowing God." "No one has seen God at any time," animadverted the apostle John. "The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). This "explanation" of the Father is sufficient to give every saint every piece of information He needs to be a "partaker of the divine nature," exhibiting the character of Christ and fruit of the Spirit to a lost world.

The Father, however, is not content with merely demonstrating His nature or character to His disciples. He has put in motion a mechanism wherein the disciples can themselves also demonstrate the character of Christ to the world. "Be imitators of me," exhorted the apostle Paul, "just as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). How is this to be done? By mere human effort? Just as Jesus came in the flesh, died on the cross, was buried, was resurrected, appeared to the world, and ascended to the throne in glory, so also the follower of Christ. He begins in the flesh, through repentance and immersion into Christ he dies to his old self and is buried, is resurrected to walk in newness of life; he then appears as a light in the world, and is seated with Christ in a spiritual way on that heavenly throne (Ephesians 2:6). His inner man, now "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, is being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). This transformation, accomplished in the inner man, provides the mechanism by which the outer man is transformed also, as he engages in a regular process of renewing the mind.

Jesus is not still on the cross, although most certainly He died on that cross. Jesus is not still standing by the empty tomb, although He certainly was raised from the dead. Jesus is not still appearing to witnesses, although He certainly did for forty days. The Jesus who is, in His current state as it plays out in time for the revelation and understanding of mankind, is the Jesus in glory. The apostle Paul stated that point in this way: "Even though we have known Christ in the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer" (2 Corinthians 5:16).

The Christian’s inner man is raised with Christ and seated with Him on that heavenly throne. The character transformation is occurring. The apostle John states this ultimate picture in these simple words: "As He is, so also are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). This is who we are! Let’s go and bear much fruit!!

Love, Fear, and Hate

Love, fear, and hate are powerful motivators. Love is positive, fear has both positive and negative aspects, and hate (other than hating evil) is negative. One of the great aspects of God’s plan as revealed in the scripture is that God is producing His characteristics in His spiritual children, including the ability to love as He loves. "Let love be without hypocrisy," the apostle Paul exhorted the brethren in taking on the characteristics of the Father. "Abhor what is evil," he further stated, "cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love" (Romans 12:9-10). As the saint "grows in the grace and knowledge of God," as Peter stated, he becomes more like his heavenly Father, has increasingly deeper fellowship with Him, and is less motivated by fear and more by love.

"We love," the apostle re-emphasizes, "because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Saints would not know about the great underlying love of man’s eternal soul if it were not for the information in the apostles’ doctrine that communicates and educates the brethren on this topic. The Gnostic antichrist movement that had arisen in the early church did not have that underlying love as its foundation. As an antichrist movement, its adherents in fact hated the true brethren and were destructive to the purposes of the gospel. The apostle John’s repeated emphasis on "love" and "being perfected in love" were critical for the preservation of the church then, and are equally critical for the preservation of the church now. "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).

Who Really Loves God?

Probably no word is bandied about meaninglessly more than "love." The problem with such bandying is the major destructive consequences which follow. Words are verbal repre­sentations of mental concepts, and an incorrect mental concept leads people’s minds down the wrong road. Hollywood, for example, portrays love as feeling; "follow your heart" instead of using your head. That misdirection, driven by cinema’s influence over countless minds, has contributed in a major way to the breakup of the family, and has sent morals spiraling into the mud tank. Words do have meaning, and concepts have consequences.

The apostle John works constantly on the theme of "love." The antichrists who operated within the early church were very destructive, both to the saints’ eternities and to their dis­cipline in living up to Christian moral values. In their masquerade as proclaimers of a "new gospel," they would pretend to be loving and kind in order to provide the façade for their continuing exploitation of the brethren. Thus John repeatedly hammers on what true love is in his attempt to get the brethren to see through the clever façades of those antichrists.

The "bottom line" is simple: if you really love God, you will love the soul of every per­son with whom you come in contact. If that person is dead in his sins and trespasses, you try to save him. If he is a brother in Christ, you try to edify, encourage, and strengthen him. You exhibit perseverance and patience, concern and compassion, encouragement and exhortation, that you may by all means save some and present every man complete in Christ.

Born "from above" to Love

The plan of God was set in motion before the Creation. The apostle Peter, in commenting on this, stated his proposition this way: Jesus "was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has ap­peared in these last times for the sake of you" (1 Peter 1:20). The goal of God, before the Creation, has been to use the earth as an incubator, to use the race of physical man to produce a race of spiritual man, a race that would be "born from above" by their own choice. This was only possible through the direct intervention of Jesus Christ into the world, for Him to become flesh and dwell amongst the race of physical man. The whole plan of redemption was necessary, as well as giving the indwelling Spirit in accomplishing a new birth for the transfor­mation of physical man into spiritual man. Man could have never done this by his own effort, or even conceived of such a thing; it took that plan and action of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ to get this done. "For we are His workmanship," emphasized the apostle Paul, "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

Since the saint is "born from above" or "born of God," he now begins to love in willing imitation of his Father. "Whoever loves the Father," notes John, "loves the child born of Him" (1 John 5:1). The future of the church depended upon brethren, especially those in a teaching/preaching position, to love the children of faith enough to continue to preach the truth and op­pose the antichrists who were savaging the church from within. The technique often employed by those who oppose truth is to intimidate those who are on the side of truth, to "shout them down," and do everything they can to prevent those who in the right from speaking up. The result is a "silent majority," who are afraid to get involved, or to become visibly vocal, because of the reprisals that would come their way. John is encouraging those who are "born from above" to love their brethren enough to "exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). "He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16). Modern saints, likewise, need to lay those lives down!

Observing His Commandments

The forces of darkness have some significant strength. The apostle Paul, for example, was "thwarted" by Satan in some of his attempts to reach Thessalonica, for example. The same apostle also spoke of how the enemies of the gospel among the Jews "hindered" Paul and his fellow proclaimers from "speaking to the Gentiles" (1 Thessalonians 2:14-18). He also referenced those who promote "every wind of doctrine," and "the trickery of men," who operate "by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Ephesians 4:14). Among those who would be so classed were the Gnostic antichrists working in the first century congregations. These liars (the apostle John’s description – 1 John 2:22) always pretend to take the "high ground." They claim to be enlightened when in fact they are in the darkness. They claim that they are the ones who love, when in fact they are the great haters. Furthermore they charge the ones who are truly enlightened with being in darkness or without understanding, and they charge the ones who truly love others’ souls as being the ones who are unkind, unloving, and unmerciful. In the midst of this manufactured confusion, the saint needs some direction from the scriptures in order to keep his bearings.

Love, then, is the simple carrying out of new covenant instructions. These instructions—these commandments—are not a yoke or a burden as was the old covenant system. "His com­mandments are not burdensome" is John’s straight-forward statement. If "you do what you love, and you love what you do," then your activities are not so much described as work but as passion. Having passion for carrying out the plan and purpose of Jesus Christ changes the perspective of the Christian, and he does not think of the things he is doing for the kingdom as burdens but as blessings. When the saint honestly views his service to the kingdom as a blessing, he really looks forward to ways in which he can creatively make a positive impact for his King. Such a saint really begins to live the abundant life which Jesus had in mind for His disciples.

Overcoming the World

"The world" is a big term, certainly beyond detailed descrip­tion. "For all that is in the world," John had earlier stated, giving his general breakdown, "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world" (1 John 2:15). The antichrist movement within the first century congregations was "of the world," its doctrines designed to pander to the flesh rather than focus on "the things of the Spirit." Because the pull of "the world" is strong, described as "the lust of the flesh," each member of mankind generally adjusts his religious beliefs to justify his personal lusts of the flesh, with the antichrists of John’s time coming up with their own particular justification. Hence the apostle John points out the danger of "the world," and calls for saints to have their personal victories over its attractions and enslavements.

Whoever, then, really believes that Jesus is the Son of God—and all that is implied in that profession—is on the winning track. Such Christians are "destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5). They, furthermore, are marching forward in an undefeatable phalanx, and "no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed" (Isaiah 54:16 ESV). Victory! Victory! Victory!

Who Came by Water and by Blood?

The Father, the perfect communicator, labored long and hard in the Old Testament to connect water and blood. Moses, said the writer of Hebrews concerning the institution of the Law, "took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people" (Hebrews 9:19). In the process, the All Wise was connecting the cleansing properties normally associated with water to blood, which generally would not be considered a cleansing agent. The writer of Hebrews also notes the difference between Jesus and the various atoning and cleansing rituals of the Old Testament, commenting that "if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling [connected with the water of purification] those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ…cleanse your conscience" (Hebrews 9:13-14). The stage was set, then, for the coming of the sacrifice and the Savior, the Prophet and the Priest of God, the One who could and would redeem the sons of man. "This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with water only, but with the water and the blood" (1 John 5:6).

It was comparatively easy for Jesus to come "by water"; all He had to do was to show up on the banks of the Jordan and convince the Immerser that he should dunk the Lord. It was not so easy for Him to come "by blood." That not only took the excruciating death on the cross, but it also took the tremendous power of God to raise Him from the dead and position Him at the right hand of power. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came "not with the water only, but with the water and the blood."

Bearing Witness

The entire Bible rests on testimony, similar to what might be given in court. The witnesses are called, one by one, over the centuries, and their testimony is written down for the benefit of those willing to examine the records. In this way, God has provided a basis upon which a rational faith might be built, a faith that notes the records of the past, verifies the events of the time of Jesus, and sets forth the certainty of the predicted future. Thus the apostle Paul would say, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). The Holy Spirit of God, then, is always the one to whom the authorship of the scriptures is attributed. "Men moved by the Holy Spirit," the apostle Peter pointed out, "spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:20). Jesus noted, when about to quote one of David’s prophecies in the Psalms, that it was "David in the Spirit" who spoke (Matthew 22:43). The entire scripture, therefore, is "the testimony of the Spirit."

When a lost soul comes to the waters of immersion for his redemption and new birth, there are three that bear witness. The "witness" of the water is the most obvious, being physically present at the point of the individual’s being "born of God," as he comes out of a watery tomb but also a watery womb. The blood also bears "witness," in that the blood is now "sprinkled" on his heart to cleanse his conscience from "dead works" that he might serve the living God. The "witness" of the Spirit is there also, causing the obedient penitent to experience a spiritual birth and to become a true child of God. That these three would be "in agreement" at immer­sion signals the importance of that point of obedience in God’s overall plan. The saint thus has a clear line of demarcation when he moved out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and he has three "who bear witness" to that movement. In this magnificent way, the All Wise has provided security for the saint as he faces the challenges and struggles that are generally associated with life in Christ.

God's Witness

God is very desirous, and rightly so, that mankind receive "His witness." The serpent of old, lurking in the depths of the Garden of Eden, attacked the witness God had borne when he said to Eve, "You surely shall not die!" (Genesis 3:4). Thus the war on the "wit­ness of God" began, and thus it continues.

Jesus said, "I am He who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me" (John 8:18). He explained that the witness that the Father bore concerning Christ was the "works" or miracles which He was able to perform. "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me," was the Lord’s challenge, "but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father" (John 10:37-38). Unable to deny the works, the opposition drifted to the charge that "This man casts out demons only by Beezebul the ruler of demons" (Matthew 12:24). Thus the war on the witness of God continued.

"There are three that bear witness," John has just noted in this first epistle, "the Spirit and the water and the blood." Clearly the witness that these three bear is in immersion into Christ where, in the water the blood cleanses the individual from sin and he receives the indwelling Spirit. The false doctrines deny that this being "born of God"occurs in immersion, and the war on the witness of God continues.

The creation itself testifies that there is a Designer/Creator. But the definitive witness is what is written in the word itself, proving by its internal contents that God is its ultimate Author. But the words are not mere words on a page; they "are Spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). These words are living and active, and contain the spiritual DNA which makes it possible for the one who hears, believes, and obeys these words to be "born again." These words make it possible for the three to bear witness: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. These are the very words of God. "The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son." Absolutely correct, and absolutely worth considering!

Life "in the Son"

Satan did major dirty work in the Garden of Eden when he lied to Eve and tempted Adam. "Through one man," the apostle Paul therefore informed us, "sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so [spiritual] death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). This "death" was their separation from God; this "death" was their loss of fellowship with God; this "death" is the opposite of "life," which is defined, then, as fellowship with God. As each adult-level member of the human race walks in the foot­steps of Adam, he steps into sin and thus suffers the same death as Adam. "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God," the Lord explained through Isaiah, "and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear" (Isaiah 59:2). So how is that fellowship to be restored? God, the All-Loving, sent His only begotten Son into the world to pay the price for man’s sin, and then sent the Holy Spirit into everyone who would be immersed by Jesus’ authority and cleansed from sin. "These things we write," says John, speaking for himself and the other apostles, "that you may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:4,3).

A person is either "in Christ" or he is outside Christ. John notes therefore that "he who does not have the Son does not have the life" (1 John 5:12). Every saint must maintain his fellowship; if he loses that fellowship, he loses his standing of being "in Christ." The antichrists of the first century, if they ever had that fellowship, lost it. "They went out from us," was the apostle John’s analysis. The dedicated brother or sister in Christ will follow the teachings of the new covenant diligently in order not to lose what he has gained. As John again points out, "He who has the Son has the life." Thus the apostle Paul would concur, elegantly and forcefully pointing out his desire to "gain Christ," that he might "be found in Him" (Philippians 3:9). Life is "in the Son." Get there, and stay there!!


The earnestness of the apostle John shines through in his epistles. As one of the first two to have Jesus pointed out to him by John the Immerser, having walked with Jesus through the years of His earthly sojourn, having witnessed the crucifixion of Christ and the subsequent resurrection and ascension, and having seen the formation and spread of the church, John is clearly invested. He is therefore intensely concerned about the church’s ability to continue to walk in the apostles’ doctrine. The aged apostle had seen the church fight her way through the issue of the Law of Moses versus the faith of Christ, and had seen the triumph of "the faith." The anguish of his heart can be imagined as he now witnesses the church in her battle against lawlessness, being aggressively pushed by the Gnostic antichrists. He is earnestly appealing for the sincere brethren to hold the course set from Acts chapter two onward.

The apostle himself is a great example of this faith and confidence. Even though he was in exile on the barren isle of Patmos when he wrote the book of Revelation, as he put it, "because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9). Though his external circumstances were challenging, he knew that when he asked of the Almighty, if it was according to His will, He heard John’s praises and petitions. The modern saint, if he maintains his faith and focus, can have that same assurance that God hears and acts, and that he has that precious eternal life in the Son of God!

Sin “Leading to Death”?

Context always plays a huge role in exegeting the meaning of scripture. For example, when the apostle Paul was commenting about the abuse of the Lord’s Supper to the Corinthian brethren, he stated, "When you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20). On the surface, it might seem as though Paul was saying that the purpose of the assembly is not for communion; but in context, it is clear that he was making the point that the reason that they should have been assembling on the first day of the week was for participating in the table of the Lord. Context, then, is very important in understanding this statement in the apostle John’s first epistle: "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death" (1 John 5:16-17). What? Pray for some people and not for others? Doesn’t all sin lead to death? Context is going to be necessary to sort this out.

The faithful Christian can pray with the confidence that he will be heard. In fact, he is invited to pray for brethren who are struggling to get on the right path and to stay on that right path. If the dedicated Christian "sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit a sin not leading to death." That is a powerful prayer, indeed. But the faithful brethren does not need to pray for those antichrist types who are deliberately "going out" from the Lord’s church and developing doctrines such as the idea that Jesus did not have a body. These doctrines are actually crafted to enable the individual to live a licentious life while pretending to be under the cover of Christ’s grace. "There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this." That would make sense; why would a saint pray on behalf of those who started inside the church, and who are deliberately trying to subvert the doctrines of Christ and destroy the church?

“Born of God” Again

"Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness," the apostle John had noted. The Gnostic/antichrist movement which infected the first century congregations thus was an essentially "lawless" movement parallel to that on which Jude had commented, describing the perpetrators as "ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:4). The "lawless" element has no trouble lying while pretending to be truthful, and it has no difficulty in painting a false picture of those who stand for the truth and doctrines of scripture. "The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God," the apostle Paul pointed out to the brethren in Rome, "for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so" (Romans 8:7). Hence the forces of darkness would have been attacking the faithful brethren in the early church, and would have been battering them severely in every way possible. Hence the faithful apostle John writes encouraging words to those brethren, lifting them up and helping them to focus on the big and final picture.

As previously stressed, God did a tremendous amount of work to orchestrate the history of the world, and particularly of Israel. In the process, the Old Testament writings were produced, collected, and distributed to set the stage for Jesus to come to the world. In the first century, the witness to the life of Jesus was verified through the apostles, new testament prophets, and those who had the gifts, and the word spread all over the earth. Today, the number of New Testament manuscripts—over 5,000—establishes for the modern saint the truthfulness of the record. God, in short, has gone to great lengths to ensure the preservation of His word, and that the faithful saint of today might have the same security expressed to the first century saint by the apostle John. "We know that we are of God," emphasized the apostle, "and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). The brother in Christ, child of God by adoption, new creation by the power of God, knows where he stands with God. Nothing else is significant!

“The World” and "The Evil One"

Jesus Christ, said the apostle Paul, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4). Ever since sin entered the world through Adam, earthly existence has been "this present evil age." Sometimes there are times of relative peace, and sometimes there are times of open warfare, but underneath the visible surface the collective corruption of man makes each age "this present evil age." This collective corruption is simply the accumulation of the individual corruption that takes place as each member of the human race chooses to commit sin, and therefore places himself under the dominion of the prince of darkness. Reminding saints of their lives before being in Christ, the apostle Paul noted: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:1-2). There is no room for smugness on the part of any Christian; at one time he too was a part of the problem rather than being a part of the solution.

"We know that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one," including those de­structive antichrists working in the first century congregations. Saints, by contrast, whose faith and obedience is based on what the word of God says, can say, "We know that we are of God." How blessed it is for brethren to be delivered "from this present evil age"! How blessed it is for Christians to be inside the kingdom of Christ. How blessed are those who know that "the evil one does not touch them." How blessed, indeed, are those who know that Jesus came in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, was raised from the dead, and ascended to the power position on high. How blessed are those who as repentant individuals, confessed Christ as Lord, and were immersed into Him. How blessed, indeed, are those who are indwelt by "the blessing of Abraham"!!

Coming to "Understanding"

Jesus said, "If anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, be­cause the light is not in him" (John 11:10). The physical picture of someone stumbling around in the darkness because he can’t see where he is and what is around him is a great picture of the spiritual realm. When a person is in physical darkness, he knows it (unless he is blind, in which case he is in darkness all the time). But when a person is in spiritual darkness, he usually is not conscious that he is in that darkness. God, then, sent His Son into the world to "open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18). Thus the Light of Christ is described as shining in the darkness, but that which stays in darkness does not comprehend the Light.

The antichrists claimed to have more knowledge than the apostles, but in fact had plunged into the darkness. The true saints, following the teaching of the apostle John and the others, were the ones who were in good standing with the Almighty. They are described as "in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ." By virtue of their belief in the gospel and obedience in immersion into Christ, they could make the claim that would stand in the courts of heaven that they were "in Christ." By being "in Him who is true" they had access to all the blessings found "in Christ" as listed in the New Testament writings, to know Him who is true and to be in Him who is true. "This is the true God and eternal life." Amen!

"Guard Yourselves from Idols"

God’s long war against idolatry did not end with the resurrec­tion and ascension of Christ. It continues, and will continue, until Jesus comes again. As John closes his first epistle, he makes sweeping statements about how God has given saints understanding (through what is written by the New Testament prophets and the apostles) that "we might know Him who is true," and "we are in Him who is true." This understanding of Jesus Christ, given in the complete revelation of the word of God, clearly establishes that "God is light" and "God is love." Knowing this God and being in Him in Jesus Christ make it possible for the saint to have fellowship with Him who is, who was, and who is to come. "This is the true God and eternal life." After completing these great encompassing statements, the apostle closes with these abrupt words: "Little children, guard yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). God’s long war against idolatry did not end with the resurrection and ascension of Christ!

The Truth

The "catholic" epistles of the apostle John ("catholic" because they are addressed ultimately to the "church at large") emphasize "truth." This is certainly true of the second epistle just as it was with the first. John opens his first epistle describing how he and the other apostles beheld the Word with their eyes and handled Him with their hands—they were eyewitness to the truth that Jesus came to earth in a physical body. He emphasized that the saints could know the truth, stating "We shall know by this that we are of the truth" (1 John 3:19). He warned about the devil and false teachers, exhorting the saints to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God"; modern saints test the teachings against the inspired and complete word of God. The apostle closed the first letter talking about "we know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true." This, he said, "is the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:20). The first epistle clearly emphasized "truth." Exposing the Gnostic/antichrists working in the first century church continues as part of the theme in the second epistle, as well as setting forth "the truth."

The devil, of course, is the great liar and deceiver, and is tremendously opposed to the truth. Since the whole world lies in the power of this evil one, the world itself is not only full of lies but is set up so that the truth gets suppressed, ridiculed, and shunted aside. Truth seekers have to overcome all this opposition. They thus have brotherhood-bonding with all those who have fought through those same battles. The churches at the close of the first century were being battered by the Gnostic influences, and need the encouragement from the apostle John. He reassures them that "the truth which abides in us" will be "with us forever." His opening to this short epistle thus contains this expression of joy from John: "I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth" (2 John 1:4). Would that this would be his analysis today!!

Truth and Love

Only "in Christ" are found all the spiritual blessings of God. Listen to these woeful words as the apostle Paul described the lost condition of the Gentiles before they entered "into Christ" in their immersions: "You were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). "There is," said Paul in another place, "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). The problem, of course, is that there is plenty of condemna­tion for those who are not in Christ Jesus. The forces of darkness, including the Gnostic antichrists working in the latter first century churches, always try to keep a person from entering into Christ, or, failing that, to get the saints off track in some way so that they lose their salvation. The apostle John, conscious of this raging warfare, encourages the brethren who will read this epistle.

The "New Commandment" Revisited

Occasionally brethren need to be reminded of Jesus’ state­ment while on His earthly sojourn: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled" (Luke 12:49). He explained that He still had to undergo the immersion of suf­fering, which would be followed by the general upheaval which accompanies the gospel because of men’s rejection of its terms. "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth?" was His query. "I tell you, no, but rather division" (Luke 12:51). The forward movement of the gospel is always accompanied by much friction. Hence it was, in the congregations at the close of the first century, that the antichrist movement was wreaking havoc and putting great pressure on the true Christians. "I was very glad," therefore says John, "to find some of your children walking in truth" (2 John 1:4). The "children" are the brethren, and the "lady" is the congregation to which this epistle is delivered. What is the "bottom line" motivation for the brethren to walk in truth? John includes the point in concluding the sentence: "just as we have received commandment to do so from the Father." "Abba," (Dad), expects that the kids will "walk in truth" regardless of pressure.

Biblical love requires an uncompromising stand for the truth. False doctrine, similar to lying, comes from the ultimate liar and deceiver, Satan himself. Satan is aggressive, and unleashes upon the uncompromising saint every force in his arsenal. Malicious gossip, threats and imprisonments, beatings and misrepresentation … and much more are used to shove the saint off his track of walking in the commandment of love. But the scripture is there to encourage the sometimes battered child of faith: "Therefore, take up the full armor of God," exhorted the apostle Paul, "that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13). Stand firm, brethren, stand firm!! And walk in the commandment!!

Many Deceivers

Page after page of the new covenant writings are lined with positive, uplifting encouragement, but those are interspersed with tremendous warnings. The road the saint travels on his way to what the apostle Peter called "the eternal kingdom" (2 Peter 1:11) is a tortuous one, with many spiritual pitfalls and traps along the way. The disciple of Christ has divine help on this journey, but he must walk by faith and not allow himself to be turned aside by temptations or deceptions. It is his responsibility to sift and sort the messages coming at him, as the apostle John had warned in his earlier epistle: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). The positive encouragements and teachings of the scriptures are there, encouraging the saint to follow the upward call of God. But the warnings are there also, and thus must be carefully heeded.

If a disciple of Christ were to lose his moorings, and be pulled into the tide of this antichrist philosophy, he would lose his salvation. "Watch yourselves," is indeed the warning, "that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward." The apostle is concerned about all the brethren. He knows that anyone who once walked with Christ but who somehow gets imbued with this "new teaching," will lose that salvation, for which proclamation John personally suffered and bled. He truly loved the brethren, and he knew the seriousness of the doctrinal challenge facing the early church. His opening appeal in his first epistle is particularly poignant here: "What we [apostles] have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). The severe warning here in the second epistle is for the brethren to maintain that fellowship with John, and therefore with the Lord, and to resist pressures within the congregation.

A Dangerous Movement Within

Most of the false doctrinal issues that the apostle Paul and others dealt with were doctrines that were from outside the early church. The issue of the law of Moses and its relationship to the new covenant teaching was from outside; it was a holdover from the fact that most of the early Christians were first Jewish. That this pressure was from outside is evident in one of Paul’s statements to the Galatian Christians over the issue of compelling those of Gentile background to be circumcised and keep the Law: "Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh," said he of those of Jewish background being pressured by Jewish society, "try to compel you to be circumcised, simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ" (Galatians 6:12). But the antichrist movement that the apostle John is trying to forestall is a movement that came from within the church, which presented a little different set of challenges. Because it was a movement that began within, those who were a part of it tended to get the brethren off track and to pull those early congregations apart. Commenting on this in his first epistle, John had noted, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us" (1 John 2:19). They were within, but they went out and went on.

The apostle would like to write more on the subject for the brethren, but there apparently is a lot of pressure on the saints, and what he has to say, he needs to say in person. "Having many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that your joy may be made full. The children of your chosen sister greet you" (2 John 1:12-13). He looks forward to greeting the brethren personally, and he knows these bat­tered saints will likewise be happy to see him as well. And the letter closes with greetings from what is apparently a sister congregation.

Spiritual Prosperity and Truth

All sound doctrine is truth, and is based on truth. Satan’s agenda, as part of his warfare against God, is against truth. Jesus, as "the way, the truth, and the life," was contested by the devil and his forces at every turn. But the resurrection triumphed over the crucifixion, and truth could not be kept in a grave. Similarly, the church, also known as "the Way," faced tremendous opposition and encountered much confusion, from the time of her beginning as recorded in Acts chapter two through the close of her recorded history in the new covenant writings. The epistles of John give us a glimpse of the antichrist philosophy and the throes of confusion it caused the church. We moderns can sense the intense concern the apostle had for the purity of her doctrine and preservation of her love for truth, for the brethren, and for the lost. In particular, the third epistle, directed to the faithful brother Gaius, gives us a personal look at some of the inner workings of the congregations as they fended off the Gnostic/antichrists of the late first century AD.

John, the aged, from the time he left his fishing net behind at Bethsaida of Galilee, spent his entire life seeking and saving the lost and fighting to preserve the churches of the first century. "I have no greater joy than this," is his expression, "to hear of my children walking in truth" (3 John 1:4). John had spread the seed of the word of God on a lot of rocky soil in his day, and had seen the weeds choke out many who had so much potential. But what joy he had in knowing that his brother and spiritual child Gaius was "good soil," who was bearing fruit for the Lord!

Supporting Faithful Teachers and Preachers

The word of God is spread by preaching and teaching. "God was well-pleased," said Paul, "through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). Hence we see in the early church (sometimes called the primitive church, meaning "first, or primal") many who traveled preaching and teaching in addition to the apostles. For example, Luke recorded how some came into the regions of Cyprus and Phoenicia. "So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone" (Acts 11:19). Others soon followed, bringing the gospel message to the first significant number of Gentiles to be brought into the fold of Christ. But it is absolutely critical that this message be the total truth; an "adulterated" message is pure poison. With Gnostic antichrists of the apostle John’s time battering on the walls of truth, it would be really important for the brethren to know who was preaching the true gospel, and who was preaching a twisted gospel. Furthermore, it would be of major importance to support in a financial way those brave men who would teach the whole truth about the Christ and not be swayed by the pressures of the day.

Those who demonstrated as trustworthy workers for the Lord are worthy of support. These men of whom John speaks were focused on saving the Gentiles (not using them as "cash-cows") so they did not accept anything from those whom they were trying to convert. John rightly exhorts Gaius and anyone else reading this epistle. "Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers with the truth" (3 John 1:8). It’s always about the truth. Those who preach and those who support are "fellow workers with the truth." May God continue to bless this partnership!!

The Deeds of Diotrephes

There were times in the Biblically recorded history of the church when things were peaceful. After the immersion/conversion of Saul of Tarsus, there was some relaxation from the persecution in which he was the driving force. Luke the physician and inspired historian noted, "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase" (Acts 9:31). Because those times were rare, when they happened, the scripture duly makes its annotation. Generally, however, there were persecutions without and challenges within. And when the apostle John was writing his epistles, the antichrist movement within was creating chaos and many were being pulled into the false doctrines of the antichrist philosophy. It should have been peaceful, but it wasn’t.

The battle of goodness, truth, and light against the forces of evil, lies, and darkness is intense, and will be ongoing until the return of the glorious Christ. The brethren then, and hence the brethren now, are exhorted, "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good" (3 John 1:11). God’s program of "truth" cannot advance by the use of evil techniques. Saints thus have always been exhorted to do what is right regardless of how hopeless it may seem. "Do not be overcome with evil," was the apostle Paul’s eternal exhortation, "but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). "Good" will eventually overpower "evil." The apostle John superadds, "The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God."

John said that when he came to "the church," he would call attention to the deeds of Diotrephes. For all that individual’s pretense, he was in fact an evil, evil man using "wicked words" and unjustly accusing John and those working with him. The antichrists then and now were men "of flesh," opposed to the doctrines which produce practicing righteousness, and deeply hostile toward God, regardless of the language in which they attempted to cloak their agenda. The exhortation is for brethren to "imitate good." It can be done!!

Standing for the Truth

There are, in the midst of difficult times, those who will stand up for the truth. The opposition recognizes that their voices must not be heard, that they must be ridiculed or intimidated into silence. Or, failing that, they must be eliminated. A look at the history of the church as recorded in the word of God shows that all those techniques were used by enemies of the gospel. So while the apostle John does not detail those types of challenges as he talks about the Gnostic antichrist movement, the above-mentioned things would have been ongoing. He does point out that one Diotrephes was falsely accusing John and those who worked with him, and putting major roadblocks in front of those who would preach and teach the true gospel of God. He also commends men who would take a stand for truth and righteousness, and names Demetrius as one of those.

The epistles of John give modern saints a look at the battles the church was facing at the clos­ing decade of the first century AD. In the days of Peter and Paul, the church faced major problems from the attempts of the Judaizers at injecting the Law of Moses into the new wineskin of the new covenant. This effort to function by "law" had to be opposed so the system of "faith" could be shown to be the only system that would transform man from the inside out and bring peace and stability to those congregations. But the apostle John is writing from a time twenty plus years after Peter and Paul passed from the earthly scene, and he now has to deal with the element of "lawlessness" at work within the congregations. Specifically, this lawlessness manifested itself in the antichrist doctrines, beginning with the core concept that Jesus did not come in the flesh. This provided the excuse for rebellious men, operating under the cover of "Christianity," to follow the lusts of the flesh, to follow the lust of the eyes, and arrogantly to function within the sphere of their "boastful pride of life." These John exposes.

The epistles ultimately are about truth and love, and the battle is against the forces of dark­ness whose wish is to crush that message. Love is transmitted by the carrier of truth, and when truth is destroyed or suppressed, then the love of God remains uncommunicated. May modern saints pick up the torch, and continue to "speak the truth in love" and to communicate the love through truth.