But in a very real sense, being omnipresent God, he's capable of keeping his promise. When he said to his apostles and to us, his church, lo, I'm with you always, even to the end of the age, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always, literally all the days, all of your good days and all of your bad days, all of your victorious days and all the days where you tasted defeat, all the joyful days and all the sorrowful days, he's with you. Do you ever doubt your salvation and worry that you might transgress one too many times for the Lord to accept you into heaven? In today's lesson, Stephen's going to show you from God's Word what God wants all of us to know with absolute certainty.
Christians are forgiven and saved once and for always through Jesus Christ our Lord. Our security isn't dependent on how firmly we grasp Christ. It's found in his grip on us.
Learn all about this right now. God has touched on some of the most critical issues of the Christian experience that most often bring doubt and concern to our minds and hearts. He does the same again as he begins to wrap up his closing comments at verse 18, which is where we find ourselves in our study through this letter, 1 John 5 and verse 18. You might get your pencil ready because he's going to start repeating himself again with several key words, and there it is again in verse 18, we know.
You ought to circle that. Again in verse 19, we know. Again in verse 20, and we know.
Obviously, a preacher loves this because you've got your outline just about laid out for you. Then in the middle part of verse 20, that we may know. That word, that verb to know appears again and again. We know, we know, we know, we know these things are true.
Now in this final paragraph, for the sake of an outline, John will give us at least five assurances, five assurances that every believer can know for sure. First, we know that the believer no longer lives to sin. Look at verse 18, just the first phrase. We know that no one who is born of God sins.
Let me read that again. We know that no one who is born of God sins, and you're immediately wondering, is that reassuring? Last I checked, I was still sinning. In fact, the older I get in the Lord, the more I realize I'm an awful sinner.
Things that you might have managed away or not thought much of, you grow in the Lord and even the littlest thing grieves you because you recognize what it is. It is sin, right? So what does John mean, no one who is born of God sins? Well, before I explain what he means, let me give you several interpretations that I slugged through.
I won't take you through the agony, but let me give you a couple of thoughts, and it might help answer as we go along the way. Some believe, perfectionists believe, Armenians believe, that Christians can lose their salvation by sinning, and this text is proof positive that you were never really born again because you sinned. So that must mean then, if you're sinning, that you lost whatever it was you thought you had. You got your letter from God, and you got dropped, so you got to get saved all over again. There's another view that the Christian can gradually overcome sin and arrive at a place of complete sinlessness. Christians eventually stop sinning. I've had people over the course of my ministry tell me they've arrived at that state.
I've always wanted to call their spouse and just check up a little bit on them. Tell me that they no longer intentionally sin, and there's the loophole. If they commit a wrongdoing, well, it's just an unconscious mistake, an unfortunate choice.
How often do we hear that? It's an impulsive action without premeditation, so it doesn't qualify as sin. These people are trying to gain an understanding, some kind of assurance, especially in light of a verse like that, so they're saying, well, maybe we're just going to reach a point where we are completely sinless. Well, keep in mind from 1 John 1.8 that if anybody says they're not sinning, they're lying, deceiving themselves.
So you got to measure that in here with 1 John 5, verse 20. Still, another view holds to the opinion that your sin nature sins, but not your new nature. Now, they may have some truth to that, but nowhere in the Bible are we allowed to be divided and say, well, that was the old me, and so it doesn't matter, and so the new me hadn't sinned anymore. That was the old, unregenerate flesh doing that, not me. I'm not responsible for that. Now, the old man is responsible for that. That really wasn't me.
How many times have you ever heard that? That wasn't me. That really wasn't me. Well, who was it then? You're on the video. It looks like you. It sounds like you. It is you.
That's convenient, isn't it? That view turns liberty into licentiousness. The flesh will do whatever the flesh will do, and I'm really not responsible for that, and boys will be boys, so why make a big deal out of that? It's just the old me, not the new me.
Let's focus on the new me. The truth of Scripture is that while our fallen flesh, our fallen minds and bodies are definitely sinful, every believer is responsible for sinful action. Otherwise, we wouldn't need Scripture about confession and forgiveness and discipline and the advocacy of Christ.
Another view of this verse says that John is presenting to us an ideal that we ought to strive toward. Let's do our best to never sin again. Let's all decide in here. We committed our last sin on our way here. I'm not asking you to tell me what it was, but for the last time you sinned. Buck up. Here we go.
Call me this afternoon and ask me how I'm doing, and I'll ask you how you're doing. Is that what he's saying? The Christians, we can't be perfect, but we really got to strive for perfection if we ever hope to feel any kind of assurance. Well, if you want to recapture the word perfection and redefine it biblically as holiness, yes, we are to pursue holy living, but while that's a worthy goal, John is tying sinlessness to salvation here. If you're born of God, literally born out of God, sourced out of God, born by means of God, the new birth, then you don't sin.
So the question remains, how can you know for sure you have eternal life, verse 13, which I thought we could know, and now here you discover in verse 18 that you can only know you've been born of God if you don't sin anymore, if you stop sinning. What John is saying here in this text is something that he has already said in his letter. Verse 4, he talked about practicing sin, and that's what ought to be inserted in here because of the tense of the verb. That's what John is talking about, and at least in my translation, the word practice doesn't appear. He's talking about the practicing of a pattern and a lifestyle of unrepentant sin that says I'm happy, and by the way, I'm born again, and I love my sin.
John says uh-uh. The pattern for you now is you don't want to practice sin, and the sin you do, you confess, and you repent, and you sin again, and you repent and confess, and you sin again, and you repent and confess. In fact, as you mature in Christ, one of the things that might be very well happening in your life is that the distance between sinning and confessing shortens. The full admission that that was a sin shortens. John is saying here that those who practice sin are not born of God, and does that mean that a Christian can't practice sin, that a Christian can't backslide?
Well, certainly. It doesn't get any worse than Peter in the courtyard and the others who abandoned the Lord. It doesn't get any worse than the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who is disciplined out of the church as a brother who has fallen into unrepentant sin, the sin of adultery. What John is delivering to us is this pattern, this general principle that those who are born of God, as one man said, I've gotten to the point where I can sin, but I really don't enjoy it anymore. Because you realize, so closely associated with that act that violates the character and the nature and the glory of God, that you are now grieved because you realize you've grieved him.
You are sorrowful that you bring him sorrow, right? That's the mark of one who's been born of God. He's troubled by his sin, his acts of sin, and he longs, like the Apostle Paul in Romans 7, to be freed from the wretchedness of who I am, who will deliver me from this body of death.
Oh, I thank God through Jesus Christ. So this is the pattern that we pursue, and the one who doesn't pursue the pattern, who practices without any remorse or repentance, is not born of God. We know that the believer no longer lives to sin. Secondly, we know that the believer is guarded by Jesus Christ.
I love the fact that on the heels of a phrase that could be troubling, John quickly adds the next statement of assurance. Notice verse 18, the middle part. But he who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.
Now let's break that in half and deal with it for a moment. He who was born of God ought to be a capital H. This is a reference to Jesus Christ. Notice the difference in verse 18 between he who is born of God, lowercase h, and he who was born of God, uppercase H. John uses the same term for the believer being born spiritually as he now uses for Jesus being born physically. John changes the tenses of the verb to indicate being born here is important. For the believer, he uses the perfect tense to refer to that new birth for the believer. For Jesus, he uses the aorist tense to refer to that birth at a specific moment in time, and that specific moment in time when Jesus was born physically was in Bethlehem.
He was born physically so that he could go through the process we understand fully is given to us in Scripture so that he in turn could, to those who believe in him, keep you. I love that word, keep. Literally, it means to stand guard like a sentry at his post. And John uses the present tense to reassure us that Jesus never takes a break. He never goes off duty. He never says, look, I'll be back in a while.
You'll be fine, and go somewhere else. It's present tense, continually preserving the believer and standing guard over him, which means then that nothing can happen to us without first passing by our great guardian. And he nods approval. John carries forward with that idea as he writes next in verse 18, and the evil one does not touch him. He uses the definite article as he refers to the evil one, the evil one. The evil one does not touch the believer. He's talking about Satan, the evil one. He's not talking about your neighbor, not talking about your boss, not talking about your gym teacher. He's talking about the evil one, Satan. The evil one, he says, can't touch you.
And you think, well, I'm having a fit with him. What's this mean? It might be helpful to write into the margin of your Bible. This word translated touch is a little soft for me. It's a word that literally means to lay hold of, to grasp.
It could be translated literally to grip, grip of you. Jesus Christ said to his followers, I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish, and no one will ever snatch them out of my hand. Now notice almost with another play on words, John gives us a third truth we can know. Thirdly, we can know that the world is actually gripped by the devil.
Notice verse 19. We know that we are of God, but we know also that the whole world lies in the power of this evil one, this enemy, this devil. In other words, the world system and all the unbelieving parts of it and all the unbelieving people of it are under the power, the dominating influence, the mastery of the evil one.
This is really a horrifying reality. The world thinks it's free as a bird. The unbeliever thinks that he's celebrating his freedom.
I'm free. When in reality, he's being seduced by the serpent who is even now coiling ever tightly his coils about their hearts to crush and keep them in the end. Present tense verb again, the world lies, is lying, is presently lying in the power of, get this, this word was used in John's generation to talk about the imagery of a child sitting in the lap of their parent.
Can you see that picture? Some innocent child nestled there on their loving parent's lap who might stroke their hair, smile at them, say to them, they're there, everything will be fine. John pulls back the curtain to reveal this horrifying image because there are only two categories of people in the world, one in the grip of Christ and one on the lap of Satan. And the believer is called to effectively infiltrate this fallen system, our world systems and deliver the truth in education, in politics, in the world of finance, technology, every arena of life where you are. You represent the truth.
This is what you know is true because God has revealed it. You warn the world of its eternal peril. I never figured reading a number of years ago about a family who was vacationing in the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado. They actually lived nearby and had driven into this beautiful park for the afternoon, they'd brought along a picnic lunch and they eventually spread their blanket out underneath the spreading branches of a beautiful tree there and they ate at their leisure and they played games and they laughed and just had a great time.
When they were ready to leave, they decided to take a picture so dad set up the camera and got all the family gathered under the tree and he set the time and exposure and then he ran around and they all put their arms around each other and they smiled, the camera clicked away and they then bundled everything up in the car and drove home. A few weeks later when they got their pictures developed and returned, their blood froze, they nearly fainted because they could just make out through the leaves a mountain lion lying on a branch not more than 10 feet above their heads, just with his paws crossed looking down. They had no idea of the danger so close. John says this is the truth of the world. While it celebrates its supposed freedom, it doesn't understand it's in the lap of that lion which will destroy them. The Christian understands the truth. That's why we must be passionate about our mission. We're telling people whether it upsets their picnic or not, that they're in great danger. You see the Christian represents the truth.
This just caused my mind to wander. It warns the world of its eternal peril. It restricts evil and slows decay.
The Christian brings reform wherever possible to those systems. It delivers the gospel. It shines, the believer shines as lights. When do you begin to shine where God has placed you? When does a candle begin to shine?
As soon as it's lit and placed in that darkened room. Just as much as we know that we no longer live to sin, just as much as we know that Christ is our guardian, we also know that the world is right now reclining in the very lap of its deceiver who will claim it in the end. John goes further, number four. We know that Jesus Christ has opened the believer's eyes. Verse 20, and we know that the Son of God has come.
We're going to get to it in a minute where we're told that with it comes insight. But he says, and we know that the Son of God has come. I don't want to belabor or bore you with all of the grammar, but I appreciated one Greek scholar as I worked on the translation pointing out that this is a present tense verb with a perfective sense so that it doesn't matter. But what matters is, you can understand this, he has come and is still here.
I love that. He's come, but in a very real sense, being omnipresent God, he's capable of keeping his promise. When he said to his apostles and to us, his church, lo, I'm with you always, even to the end of the age, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you always, literally all the days. Jesus Christ is with us all the days, all of your good days and all of your bad days, all of your victorious days and all the days where you tasted defeat, all the joyful days and all the sorrowful days.
He's with you. You notice that John writes that Jesus Christ has given us understanding then. He's literally opened our eyes. We were once blinded by the God of this world, Paul wrote in unbelief, but now our eyes have been opened like John Newton, the hymn writer declared with such great joy concerning the grace of God, I once was blind, say it with me, but now I see, was lost, but now am found.
Let me point out something else here in verse 20, and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true and we are in him who is true in his son Jesus Christ. This is the true God. Did you notice the threefold use of the word true?
Hope you're circling them. True, true, true. It's one of John's favorite words, by the way, Alethanas, which can be translated authentic, or in our modern day vernacular, you could translate it real. I love that. Real. Go back to verse 20 and let me read it with that in mind. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is authentic and real, and we are in him who is authentic and real in his son Jesus Christ. This is the authentic and real God. What you just read, by the way, is one of the most stunning, clear, irrefutable, undeniable statements of the deity of Christ you'll find in the New Testament, so make note of it. Another nudge also toward the concept of the triunity of God. The Spirit of God isn't mentioned here, but God the Father is his son Jesus Christ. A reference to the Father, and then a reference to Christ. And then this statement here, that Jesus Christ is the true God. Again, a reference to the quality of essence in this doctrine of triunity. The real God, the God presented in this whole Bible is one God existing in three persons. They are equal in essence, but yet they are subordinate in function.
There is subordination in function. So you have Jesus obeying the will of the Father. You have the Spirit exalting the ministry of the Son. Perfect harmony in this mystery we call the Trinity. And yet I find it interesting as well that throughout the New Testament, just in case we might miss the equality of essence between these three persons of the Godhead, titles are shared. For those that don't believe in the Trinity, it creates a tremendous amount of heartburn, but those of us who understand or believe it, we know exactly what God's doing is reinforcing the truth of his triunity, so that the Son is called God in John 1-1. And the Word was what?
God. You didn't quote the Jehovah's Witnesses Bible. They insert the little word a there to try to deal with this problem. And the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.
There's no a there. The Word was God, and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory. John 1-12. The Son is called God, or verse 14. Jesus is called the Blessed God, Romans 9-5. Jesus is called the Great God, Titus 2-13. The Holy Spirit is called God in Acts 5.
He's also called Lord in 2 Corinthians 3-17 and 18, all of these showing that they are equal in essence. And now here in 1 John, perhaps one of the most striking, irrefutable texts of all, Jesus is called the true, the real God. And by the way, John is taking one last swipe at the false teachers, the Gnostics, who denied in his day, and they're still teaching to this day, the deity of Jesus and the humanity of Christ. They were teaching back in his day that Jesus was just a man, just as they are today, and that the Christ is some sort of spirit consciousness, some mystical, vaporous consciousness. But you notice that John just kind of bundles it all up together in that little powerful phrase here. He effectively says Jesus is Christ, and then Christ is Jesus, and Jesus Christ is God.
Can't get any clearer than that. In fact, you go back in church history to a time when a man named Arius was teaching in the fourth century, the first organized heresy related to denying the deity of Jesus Christ, and since it's in our day, it's been repackaged into Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many others, that Jesus wasn't singularly and uniquely God in the flesh. A pastor and a church leader in the fourth century, with great courage, stood and defended the equality of these three persons in the triunity of God. His name was Athanasius, and because of it, he would be exiled five times or more, banished. Then he'd be brought back. He'd defend the deity of Christ. He'd be banished.
Then he'd be brought back, and he'd defend the deity of Jesus Christ, and be banished. Athanasius would challenge Arius to open debate, as well as in writing, and Athanasius defended the deity of Jesus Christ, and one of his key texts was 1 John 5, verse 20. In fact, on one occasion in a debate, he challenged Arius, they pulled out their Greek manuscripts, and he challenged him to work grammatically and exegetically, textually, show that John the apostle was not clearly declaring the deity of Jesus, that Jesus is God, the antecedent of the true God is Jesus Christ. Show me that that isn't so, Arius. And Arius failed to do it. He couldn't do it.
He can't do it. Grammatically, exegetically, textually, and eventually the church banished Arius as they clarified their doctrinal position that Jesus Christ is indeed equally God, as is God the Father, and with God the Spirit, which we now have for hundreds of years appreciated. But don't miss this. John is clearly telling us that only Jesus Christ, the real God, can open your eyes. He is the one who gives understanding, he tells us. Understanding to believe this truth. Apart from Jesus Christ, you'll never buy it.
You'll never believe it. You'll stay blindfolded in unbelief. In fact, the fifth and final thing we're told that we can know is that Jesus Christ is in himself the source of eternal life. This is the true God and eternal life. You can't have it without him. We are in his grip now, and we will see his glory a little later on.
We're not quite sure when for each of us, but soon. In the meantime, he guards us, he guides us, and he grips us. John says, you don't ever have to worry.
You'll never lose his grip. When your mind is wracked with doubts or fears, I hope the promises that Stephen's shown you will fill you with hope and confidence. These five truths that you can know with absolute certainty are worth remembering.
If you weren't able to get them all written down, that's okay. You can go to our website and listen to this lesson again. You'll find us online at wisdomonline.org. You'll also find this lesson on our app. The Wisdom International app is a wonderful discipleship resource to help you grow in the faith. Search for Wisdom International in the app store for your phone. Stephen has more to teach you from this section of Scripture, and that'll be next time back here on Wisdom for the Heart.
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