1 John 5:13-21 – The assurance that comes from knowing Christ

1 JOHN 5:13-21.

The assurance that comes from knowing Christ.




Come to end of I John. Three basic Tests that John has set out in this letter


Q> What are these tests that John has referred to constantly?


– Belief

– Righteousness

– Love


These tests are not so that we can pass – these are the hall marks of the Christian faith. These are not there to trip us up BUT to give us confidence and assurance.


In his gospel John gives the reason for writing?


Q> Who was the gospel written to/for and what was it purpose


– for unbelievers

– reason given in  John 20:31 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (NIV)


Q> who was this letter written to and what was its purpose?

– to believers

– reason in 1 John 5:13

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (NIV)


Q> What is a key phrase that appears throughout these verses?

– “WE KNOW….”




In 3v21-22 confidence in prayer was linked to obedience to God’s commands.

In this present verse it is linked to conformity to God’s will.


Q> What is prayer according to God’s will?

– not a way of manipulating God.

– not a way of changing God’s mind?


Psalm 37:4

4 Delight yourself in the LORD

and he will give you the desires of your heart. (NIV)


I used to think I had God over a barrel on this BUT as we delight ourselves in the Lord our desires become his and we then ask what according with his will.


Q> What about asking in Jesus name?


John 14:13-14 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (NIV)


ILLUS.: Secretary does things in the name of the Boss – eg. letters – BUT she knows tha Boss well enough to know what he wants said and often exactly the way he would.

As we grow in Christ we grow in the confidence that we will ask according to his will and that he will hear us and answer!!


All true prayer is simply a variation on a theme – “Your will be done….”


2. SIN UNTO DEATH – what is is?


The Xns assurance of eternal life and of answered prayer is no excuse for selfish contentment.


Q> What does John tell us about -“Being my brothers keeper”?


3v17-18 showed that we are to be concerned for materials needs of others and here in 5v16 to be concerned for the spiritual well being.


What does “SIN unto death OR not unto death ” mean??


physical death?  NO! clearly not physical as the life with which it is contrasted is clearly spiritual life!!



 a specific sin? – in the OT there some capital offences [Lev. 20:1-27 ……]

– in the early Church a list of grosser sins developed which led to ‘mortal’ and ‘venial’ sins – the seven dealy sins…. BUT there is no NT justification of this arbitary classification of sins.

[v.17 … all wrong-doing is sin]


Apostasy?? the renunciation of faith – the denial of Christ


Q> is apostasy possible for a true Believer??

– 3v9 – would John contradict himself ?? unlikely!!


blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? – pesistently rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit and attributing the Work of the Spirit to Satan [Matt.12v22-32]

John descibes such people in Jn3v18-21 – “…Love darkness rather than light…”

THUS will die in his sins [Jn 8v24]


Q>  objection – how can such a one be a brother??

– look carefully at the verse the sin unto death in not referring to a brother


Q> is the sin NOT unto death the sin of a Xn??

Q> – Can you pray for God to give a Xn life?? v16??

– a Xn has eternal life [Jn3v36]


Q> So who are these two groups??

– both unbelievers?


Q> Does the word “brother” refer exclusively to Xns?

– it is used in scripture – even in this letter – in a broader way

cf. 2v9 !! a brother still in darkness!!?


Q> How do you think the context of the situation to which John is writing may help us in this understanding??

– the gnostic teacher who had gone out from the church!!! – anti-christs — denying the Son — [2v22-23; 2Jn 9]


John does not want any misunderstanding about sin so adds v.17

All wrong-doing is sin!!




Q>  vv.18-20 what three things are Christians assured!

          – that our salvation is safe [- that we cannot continue to sin]

A Xn can only hope to keep the commands of God IF God keeps him  —– we pray this at end of Lord’s Prayer ” … deliver us from Evil….”  OR “Deliver us from the Evil One …”


          – that we are not controlled by Satan

KJV – “the world lies in the control of the Evil One…’

Q> What does this tell us about the world??

– The world is not struggling to be free – it is lying – perhaps unconsciously asleep – in the arms of Satan – helpless in his grasp UNTIL God come to the rescue.


          – that we can know Christ — historically and experientially

Christ is true – [real]

God is true – [real]


Without Christ we could have no knowledge of God NOR fellowship with God.

[compare John 14v19b – 23]



v21 – Any recognition of idols – of any kind – is incompatiable with true worship of God.


Q> How would you define an idol?

– a God substitute!!


[cf Jude 21 & 24.]





1 John 5:6-12 – Testimony concerning Jesus

1 John 5:6-12.

Testimony concerning Jesus:The outer objective events & the inner subjective experience.


Review Background: Gnosticism [in its early stages]

Q> What are the main teachings of gnostic thinking?

– matter is evil

– spiritual is good

Q> What implications does that have for the Christians?

-esp. regarding the person of Jesus Christ

– Christ not really human

– Jesus not really divine

cf. 4v2; 2Jnv7. ” Acknowledging Christ come in the flesh”


6 This is the one who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.

Q> How can water and blood be a testimony about who Jesus is?

– three possible explanations:-

1) the sacraments           – water ref.to Baptism

– blood reference to Communion

[difficulty is no ref. to body].

2) blood and water from the side of Jesus on the cross [Jn 19v35]

Q> What does this signify?  – water=cleansing / blood=sacrifice

But the context in which John is writing – we must bear in mind the ‘gnostic’ problem – the distinction they made between Jesus and Christ. Cerinthian Gnostics – Jesus natural child of Joseph and Mary upon whom Christ descended at his baptism and left before his crucifixion.

3) Water – signifying his baptism – not where he became “Christ” but where he was Declared to be “Son of God” – commissioned and empowered

Blood – reference to his death.

[The heretics would have agreed that Jesus was Christ at his baptism but NOT at his death (Christ supposedly having left him)] John therefore emphasizes He is Christ at his death also!! Thus v6 “This IS he……” [present tense]  HE is both the man Jesus and the Christ of God.

Q> Why is this so important?

– If Jesus is not the Son of God and if he did not die for our sins then he CAN’T reconcile us to God.

So these are outer objestive historical witnesses.

Q> Is there a sense in which these to symbols are also present witnesses?

– water to cleanse from all pollution – sin…

– blood to atone for all guilt

SPIRIT – And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

Q> Who is this Spirit [cf. 4v2]

Q> What does the fact that the Spirit ‘testifies tells us?

– that the Spirit is a person not and “it”

John 15:26

26 “When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (NIV)

John 16:12-16

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Q> What is the major function of the Spirit?

– to bear witness to and glorify Christ!!

Q> Is the Spirit’s witness historical??

– Yes = he came at Pentecoste

BUT also subjective and inward.


Q> How does the Spirit bear witness?

– 1 Corinthians 12:3 3 Therefore I tell you that no-one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no-one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

1 John 3:24 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (NIV)

Q> What verse in Ephesians 1 tells us about the Spirit’s witness?

– Ephesians 1:13-14…………. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession — to the praise of his glory. (NIV)

God bore witness to His Son in History and he bears witness to him today by his Spirit in our hearts.

This is God’s testimony about Jesus –IF we accept man’s testimony how much more should we accept God’s!!


10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

God helps us to understand WHAT we believe – Q> What else does the first part of v.10 tells us about the witness in us??

– THAT we believe!!

Q> What is the ultimate witness that God gives to testify to the fact that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God??

– v.11 – 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

– eternal life itself !!!

Vs. 11-12 tell us three important things about eternal life –

Q> Can you spot these three things

i) it is a gift

ii) it is through Christ alone – God gave his Son [historically] and now gives Him [as people turn to him for salvation].

iii) it is now and to come [life of the age]

There are two issues that John is dealing with in this passage. [vs.6-12]

Q> Can you identify them  – broad catergories?

– Christology – who Jesus is.

– Soteriology – where salvation and eternal life are to be found!!

If you believe in Jesus you have eternal life – if you have eternal life it is because you believe in Jesus!

Eternal life begins now but will continue in a more wonderful way after this life!

John Newton about heaven

When I get to heaven I shall see three wonders there – the first wonder will be to see many people there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see there; and the third and greatest wonder of all will be to find myself there”

1 John 5: 1-5 – Victorious Christian living

1 John 5v1-5.

Victorious Christian living: a gift and a goal.



John deals with many things in this passage before us – many important teaching and beliefs of the Christian faith. But we need to remember the John is not a theological text book but to a group of Christians living in the first century who are having to deal with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. A life which was very different to the one we live in.

It was probably about 60 years since Jesus had died – the Christians had hardly received red-carpet treatment. They had been persecuted and ridiculed – yet churches had been planted all over the Roman Empire in spite of Rome’s oppostion. And it was these people and not the Roman armies who could say …..”we have overcome the world

1 John 5:4 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (NIV)

But we live in a very different world to the one that Jonh’s readers lived in. We do not have to fear persecution or physical torture – [some of our fellow Christains in other parts of the world do] – we live in a society where you can believe what you like and no one really cares too much. Does that mean that the enviroment in which we live is not hostile to the gospel and that this passage of scripture is not as relavant to us as it was to the original readers.

Our society is hostile to the gospel – in a secular society where New Age philosophy thrives – why?? — because secular thinking has pushed religious thought into the realm of “Private Matters” so that anyone and everyone can formulate there own ideas about religion and a public, objective evaluation is impossible. Our secular society protects every religious idea no matter how bizarre or dangerous it might be.

SO Lesslie Newbigin is correct when he writes the following:-

What we have is a pagan society whose public life is ruled by beliefs which are false. And because it is not a pre-Christian paganism, but a paganism born out of a rejection of Christianity, it is far tougher and more resistant to the gopsel than the pre-Christian paganisms with whicvh Foreign missionaries have been in contact during the past 200 years. Here, without the possibility of question, is the most challenging missionary frontier of our time.

 [quoted by Martin Robinson in “A World Apart”  p.29]

So far from John’s letter being irrelavant – it is more up to date than tomorrow’s news!

All through his letter John has put forward three tests and he brings them all together in the first 5vv of Chapter 5 – Righteousness [obedience] — Love — Belief.

If today’s Christians are going to be victorious like the first century Christians then we too need to pass the same tests.

THE THREE TESTS: Belief, righteousness, love.


1. The first element in victorious Christian living is belief [faith].

When John speaks in this passage about belief he is not simply referring to mental ascent to a particular propostional truth. Christian belief is not simply adhereing to a written creed. The church over the years has put things down in creeds and Satements of Faith — these may be helpful but it is too easy to be theologically correct but spiritually dead. Of course it is important what we believe about Jesus – about his nature and work BUT the emphasis must always be on a living belief and a trusting in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

Creeds and doctrines have not overcome the World BUT Jesus Christ God’s Son has overcome the world.

What does John mean when he speaks of “Overcoming the world”?? We need to remember that the Bible speaks of the world in different ways. The word “world” — here it is primarily referring to the system / or people who are against God or at least not for God.

As we saw in 4v5-6 The world listen to its own and recognizes its own because the world is saying what they want to hear and what they agree with. This explains why they are so popular!!

Jesus warned his followers that the world would be hostile to them and to their message.

John 16:33

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

It is easy to focus on the world out there – it is kind of distant and remote. We can develop a kind of them and us mentality. BUT the world is not just out there it is also inside of us.

ILLUS.:  What was the real problem with the Hebrews when the came out of Egypt. The dangers they faced were not the pursuing Egyptians or the Ammorites or Amalekites or the Hittites or any other -ites. They were out of Egypt BUT Egypt was not out of them — they hankered back for the life they had lived in Egypt.

This inside world that is in all of us is the battleground of life. If we can win the inside battle we will win the outside battle. The problem we face in our Christian lives is not out there – it is in here – inside us.

That is where I struggle – Often I know what I should be doing and I don’t do it !!

Paul had the same problem:-Romans 7:18-19 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. (NIV)

It is inside us that the battle goes on. You know what I find most disturbing about myself – it is not that I don’t always do what I should do, that’s bad enough!! but sometimes I find myself not caring that I am not doing something or that I am doing something.

We criticise the world for their worldliness and yet by our critical attitudes we can be just as uncaring and unloving and unkind. We set up standards that others must live by yet fail ourselves.

We spurn open indulgence in worldly pleasure yet secretly cover our own failures with a smugness like that of the Pharisees of Jesus day. “I thank you God that I am not like other men!!”

We are fighting against two worlds – the world out there that is hostile to Christ and the Christian and the world inside us that naturally leans towards the Lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

How do we overcome these worlds?? Well there is just one weapon — faith!!

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  [v4]

This is not faith in our faith but rather faith in one who has already overcome. Overcome has the same root word as victory and it essentially means to have victory in a contest.

Those who have been born of God are constantly under pressure from Satan and his worldly system to abandon their faith in Christ and join the ranks of the unbelievers.

NB that John does not say the Christians CAN overcome or even WILL overcome but we HAVE overcome. This is the victory that HAS overcome the world, even our faith.  [v4]

The victory is not in doubt – not because we are are good and strong – but because Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the one against whom neither evil nor error cannot win because he has already won.

How is it that Christians can share in this victory? Because they have been born of God.

1 John 5:1

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is [HAS BEEN] born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (NIV)

The first element in victorious Christian living is belief [faith].

2. The second element of victorious Christian living is love.

This letter of 1 John has had a lot to say about love. Chapter 4 ended with a strong statement linking love for God and love for one’s brother /sister. This thought is carried over into 4v1 and expanded upon….

1 John 5:1

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (NIV)

Born of God, Father and child all come from the same root word – therefore a literal but slightly awkard translation will be:”Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been begotten of God, and the one who loves the one who begets, loves the one who is begotten of him”

In other words you can’t love the parent without loving the child and you can’t love the child without loving the parent. There is of course an obvious relationship between the children who are born of the same parent. The truth of the claim to know and love God is tested by the love one has for one’s brothers and sisters in the same family. This is a point John has been at pains to make throughout his letter.

Just as it is impossible to claim to love God without loving his children [3v17;4v12,20-21; 5v1] so too it is impossible to claim to love his children without loving God.

I am not saying that only Christians can love – of course all people are capable of love – love on a human level can be very strong and very deep – Because all people are made in God’s image all are capable of having loving relationships. But the kind of love that John is talking about here goes deeper than human love. It is a love that has the characteristics of God’s love.

Love that is self-sacrificing — doesn’t bear a grudge — doesn’t harbour resentment — love gives —-

It is easy to talk of love — it is easy to define love as exemplified in God giving his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross….. BUT the Bible doesn’t command usto talk about love but to do it.

ILLUS.: Eliza Doolittle in “My fair Lady” ‘…. don’t talk of love, show me...’

Christian love is active, not passive. Love is practical or it is not love at all. [P W Heward]

So the question is not ‘Do you love your fellow Christians?’ BUT ‘What are you doing to show your love to your fellow Christians?’

That is why John follows up the test of love with the test of obedience.

3. The third element of victorious Christian living is obedience [righteousness].

1 John 5:2-3 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, (NIV)

How do we know that we love God? – the proof of love is obedience!!

John 14:15 & 21

15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. ….. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (NIV)

If  I asked you what Alan asked this morning about being filled with the Spirit “DO you wanted to be filled with the Spirit?” you would all say ‘Yes!!’ If I asked you “DO you wanted to know Jesus in a fuller way? – Do you want to experience his love in a deeper way?” You would answer “YES!!

OK !!  — then obey his commands.

What are some of the commands?? {ASK CONGREGATION TO RESPOND!!!}

– honour father and mother

– father don’t antagonise your children

– pray for kings and rulers

– pray that the lord would send labourers into the harvest field

– love your enemies

– make disciples of all nations

– be filled with the Spirit

– submit to one another

– control your tongue

– consider others better than yourself

Being a Christian is a very practical matter – READ the Book of James

James 2:14-26

14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.

20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (NIV)

To speak of actions that please God can lead some to imagine that we can thus gain approval from God if we have enough Brownie points. Pleasing God is a response to his love and NOT a means of gaining his love!!

These commands are not tiresome or irksome or burdensome!! The gnit-picking rules and regulations of the scribes and Pharisees were burdensome but Jesus commands are not burdensome because his yoke is easy and his burden is light —-

and God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect.

When the world looks at the commands of the OT and NT they seem intolerable – very often Christianity is perceived as a list if rules and regulations -[ unfortunately the Church sometims adds rules that are unbiblical] – but to the one born of God, God’s commands are not burdensome because he has overcome the world.

The Spiritual birth experience is something from outside this world which transplants us into the kingdom of God — into God’s family.  The hold of our old life dominated by the things of this world is broken – the world loses it facinaction and appeal — God’s commands become a delight rather than a drudge.

ILLUS.: Remember your courting days – washing dishes was a pain but washing dishes together with the love of your life suddenly became a delight – because in the words of the song “Love – Love changes everything…”

Do you love God like that!! You can only love God like that IF you are born from above!

The passage ends in v.5 with the affirmation again of belief in Jesus.

STOTT [p.175] “Christian believers are God’s children born from above.

God’s children are loved by all who love God.

Those who love God also keep his commandments.

They keep his commandments because they overcome the world,

 …. and they overcome the world because they are born of God.”

The new birth brings us into a relationship with Jesus Christ – it is this new life in Christ that is characterised by belief [trust] — love  — obedience. It is not one or the other BUT ALL three!!

1 John 4:7-12 – God is love



 1 John 4:7-12. [v8]



Love is probably one of the most talked about Christian characteristics. At Christmas time the awareness of God’s love is heightened. We sometimes sing the little song “Love came Down at Christmas”.

Stickers appear on cars and various other places “God is Love” “Smile God Loves you”.

The Love of God is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of the gospel by nominal and non-Christians and possibly even by some Christians.

“God wouldn’t send anyone to hell he is too loving”. God’s love is seen as a kind of Father Christmas type benevolence.

Another misconception is that we see God as loving because he does/has done loving things. Rather it should be that God does loving things or the things God does are loving because God is Love.

This passage is a high point in scripture, in fact it is a Mt. Everest – a pinnacle of revelation.

How do we begin to understand, let alone describe in words, the Love of God.

Many have tried:

“How good is the God we adore

Our faithful unchangeable friend

Hid love is as great as his power

And knows neither measure nor end”

“Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the sky of parchment made

Were every reed on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade.

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

If stretched from sky to sky”


GOD IS LOVE – But what God is can only be known through his self-manifestation.

It is not enough to SAY that God is Love “… let us not love in word or in tongue …” [3:18] nor is it enough to point to the works of nature ” … the stars declare his handiwork …” This is true but it is not enough.

“This is how God showed his love amongst us:

He sent his one and only son into the world

that we might live through Him” [v9-10]


To list the aspects of God’s love would be impossible – the list would be endless. Let us consider a few of these.


1. Divine Love’s Gift.

Often an illustration of a reality is easier to understand than the reality itself.

ILLUST: Remember Abraham in Gen.22 when God asks him to sacrifice his son, Isaac; his only son for whom he had waited so long. God was testing Abraham’s love for him. Imagine if after Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son God said to him, “Well, I’m still not sure if you really love me, I want you to give me your sheep and goats too”


To give his son was the ultimate; the sheep and goats were simply tokens. God has given many gifts but they are simply tokens. Jesus, his only Son, is the ultimate gift.

The crucial point that John is making here is not so much that God sent Jesus but that Jesus whom was sent is God’s ONE and ONLY UNIQUE Son. There have been and still are many tokens of God’s love but Christ is the supreme gift.

“He who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all,

how shall he not also with him freely give us all things.”


2. The Giver of Divine Love.

God’s love is shown in the magnitude of who he is. He gives according to his greatness.

If God had given something that was created it would have cost him nothing. He created everything out of nothing. But he gave the thing / person that was most precious to him. The one that is eternal, unique and uncreated, His Eternal Son.

God is infinite and he gives according to his infinity. How do you put a price on a son? Our view of God’s love is very limited.


ILLUST: Picture a freshly felled tree. The rings on the cross-cut are simply the ends of the lines that run back up the full length  of the tree but are hidden from view by the bark.


In a similar way the cross is a visible sign of God’s love – a Love that stretches to eternity.


3. The Purpose of Divine Love.

What is the purpose of God’s gift to us in Christ? Was it simply the removal of sin so that we would “not perish”? NO! It is that but it is much more, it is also to impart life. Did God do this for his own benefit as some suggest?  i.e. that God created us in order to have something to love. Again NO! God doesn’t need us in order to love or beloved. He didn’t create the universe in order to have something to love. That would make God dependent upon the universe but that is contrary to scripture – rather it is to universe that is dependent upon God.


God loves us because he wants to love us and not because he is deficient in anyway.

God’s Love exists within Himself – not because it is self-love or selfish love. God is Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – he therefore lives in community with himself. God’s love is purely altruistic – it is purely a giving love.


4. The Means of Divine Love.


“This is Love: not that we loved God but that he loved us

And sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” [v10]


God does not shrink from the utmost cost of redemption. It is not that he is laying down his life to defend his own; there are many heroic stories of people dying while trying to save others.


We can understand a person laying down their life to protect their own. But to sacrifice your most precious possession for those who are filled with hatred and hostility towards you is another matter. Jesus was not an unwilling victim of a capricious God; He willingly gave his life for us.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,

Christ died for the ungodly.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man,

though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]


It seems incredible that the means of God’s love should be the death of his Son yet at the same time it is impossible that it could be any other way.


5. The Objects of Divine Love.


            It would not be surprising if we loved God – not that we are by nature capable of loving God – God is great and worthy to be love. But that he loves us is a mystery beyond all mysteries.


“The point is not that the world is so big that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but that the world is so bad that it takes an exceedingly great kind of love to love it at all.”  [R.B.Kuiper]


Natural love needs to be flamed by some quality in the object of love. We fall in love because we are attracted to something in the object of our love. Divine love, unlike human love is not dependent upon its object. God’s love shines upon the most unlovely, unattractive and unworthy – and we all fit into those categories.


Any love that we show is purely because of God’s love for us and we are capable of showing love because God has enabled us to do that. “… love comes from God …” [v7]. There is no room for boasting – if we love each other it is because God has been gracious to us.


Love for each other is something we need to pursue – it does not come naturally. It is a duty, a command calling us to act in a way that is contrary to our nature.


“Dear friends, since God so loved us,

we also ought to love one another” [v11]


We speak of Christian brotherhood (family) but it is not the brotherhood (family) that creates the love but the love that makes the brotherhood.


ILLUST: Biological links don’t make one part of a family – family is when there is a loving relationship.

So it is with God’s family. God loves us – not because we deserve it but because he is gracious. If we are his children he will always love us and be with us in joy and in sorrow.  He will never let us go.

“God loved us when there was nothing good to be

seen in us and nothing good to be said for us” [Anon.]

“God loves each one of his people

as if there was only one of them to love” [Anon]

“The true measure of God’s love is that

he loves without measure” [Anon.]

1 John 4:1- 6 – Spiritual Evaluation

1 JOHN 4:1- 6



The world in which we live is awash with a multipicity of religions, cults, sects, beliefs, movements and philosophies. Everyone has a philosophy of life even if they are unable to articulate it.

The basic philosophy of our sociaety in the UK is Existentialism – to put is in a crude and basic way  is means that “I” is the most important person in the world and “NOW” is the time to live for. So people live for the moment – they get into relationships for the present enjoyment with the view that I can enjoy it now and bail out when I change my mind.  Materialism and pleasure is very much part of extistenial thinking – why have so many leisure centres come into existence in recent years and why has the holiday and tourist industry flourished so?? Is it simply because we are ecomonically better off with more disposable income?? Well that surely plays a part. BUT the philosophy behind it motivates the public to buy into it.

We would be naive to think that because we are Christians that we are immune from the influences of the philosophy of the day. The Church is influenced all too often by the dictates of society. So a churchman can openly state that adultery is an acceptable practice [as the bishop of Edinburgh said this past week 6 January, 2013]. BUT ultimately what I think, or what you think or what society thinks is only secondary — it is what God thinks that is important.

How do we as Christians discern the truth in this morass of opinion.

After all it is not what we are that is important but what we do!!” so said a guest on a chat show this week.

Why can’t I do as I please I’m not hurting anyone!”

The arguments often sound so plausible! We live in a society where truth is relative. A 1991 poll in the USA showed that 67% of American believe that there is no absolute truth.

There is no moral absolute: what is right and wrong varies from situation to situation – 69% of Americans agree. We have no reason to believe that the UK is any different — it may well be a higher percentage.

The result is that the only virtue is tolerance, an open-mindedness that teaches that ALL values are equally valid so long as they are sincerely held. The only value that is NOT toleranted is the view that there is absolute truth.

So what we end up with is what Colson in his book , The Body, says [p.228] “There are no absolutes except the absolute that there can be no absolutes.”

Is it possible to distinguish between truth and error??  One of our problems is that we try to reason out way to the truth – if there is an absolute truth that is!!

While it is true that we are intellectual creatures who have reasoning abilities — truth and error are not the exclusive possession of the intellectuals.

The test that the Bible puts forward is NOT an intellectual test but a spiritual test  – That is NOT to say that as Christians we throw our intellect out the window. This has been an accusation levelled against evangelicals, and not without cause — we do need good intellectuals in evangelical circles BUT the ultimate test is a spiritual one.

Sin has not only affected the moral character but also the intellectual ability of mankind. It is the Spirit of God who redresses that problem. It is the Spirit who leads us into ALL truth.

1 Corinthians 2:9-14

9 However, as it is written:

“No eye has seen,

no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared for those who love him” —

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God….. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)

From a Biblical perspective there are some tests by which we can know what is true and what is false.




1 Dear friends, 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.

Every era of history has its own particular philosophies and beliefs – the time that John wrote this letter was no different.

MATTER IS EVIL> Gnosticism, or what came to be known as Gnosticism later on,  taught the matter was evil – thus flesh was evil. The way to overcome the flesh therefore was to abuse and punish it. This was done by following a system of good works which of course brought salvation down to the level of human effort.

EVIL IS IN THE MIND> Because the spirit was “good” [according to Gnosticism] evil originated in the mind. Thus the way to salvation was through good thoughts and the flip-side of this was that hell is a state of mind.

ILLUS.: I lead a Bible study for enquirers and new Christian in RSA – on the first night a man told me that hell was  state of mind and that he had already been there.

Judgement is then a mental process which takes place now –

John is making it clear in this passage that behind all truth and error is not people’s mind or their flesh but spirit. All truth comes from the Holy Spirit.

John 16:13 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (NIV)

John believes that people are inspired to confess of deny Christ by “spirits”, some reality beyond the human level. In the end there are only two spirits – the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error –

In our western society where we are brought up to believe that seeing is believing we are very sceptical of this kind of thinking. But you go to Africa or South America you will find that they are far more conscious of the spirit world.

As Christians we should be more conscious of the spirit world because we are involved in a spiritual battle –

Ephesians 6:12 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 10:4 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (NIV)

Paul is not talking about physical strongholds but spititual; strongholds that keep the spirit of men and women in bondage to Satan. Too often we forget we are in a spiritual battle and if we could understand this battle more we would spend far more time in prayer than we do now.

It is not an intellectual battle [while we must not be anti-intellectual] – it is a spiritual battle – and we need to realise that the spirit of error is not always in direct oppostion to the truth but often just taking us off course enough to lead us into error. Heresy and false teaching are not denials of the truth but distortions of it.

So in a world that is constantly claiming new insights and experiences of the spirit we need to be aware. Within the scope of the church we have the same thing – we must be aware of what contradicts scripture or behaviour that discredits thse gospel. At the same time we must avoid dry, intellectual, doctrinally dead orthodxy. This leads to what Paul calls as those 2 Timothy 3:5 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (NIV)

These false teachings do not come in the shape of disembodied spirits but in the form of people and we must test the validity of their teaching against scripture with the help of the spirit of Truth – the Holy Spirit. We must be careful that simply because something is different to what WE are used to that it is therefore wrong – it need to be rejected because it is wrong and not because of our traditions or prejudices or because our comfort zones are being threatened.



2 This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

The supreme test of all spiritual teaching and belief is this “What do you think of Christ?”  All too often we judge people by outward behaviour – of course behaviour is important – but being a Christian in not conforming to a code of practice. Rather “What do you believe about Jesus Christ?”

If you evaluate all the cults and sects and false religions with all their beliefs there is always one common theme – they deny that Jesus is God and man – God come in the flesh – Emmauel [God with us].

The denial takes two forms – either that Christ was not really human OR that Jesus was not really divine.

There was a teaching at the time of John’s writing that Jesus was not the Christ but that he was “Christed” – ie. the spirit of Christ came upon Jesus at his baptism and left him before his crucifixion. BUT the Bible does not teach that Christ came “into” the flesh of Jesus BUT that Jesus was Christ come in the flesh

Abetter Translation of v2 would be NOT as the NIV

Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,     BUT    Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus as Christ come in the flesh is from God,

Why is this so important?  because it is the centre and foundation of our faith. It is the incarnation of God. We cannot work our way to God but God in the person of Jesus Christ has come  to us. And the way to God is not by good works or intellectual pursuit BUT by God making us alive in Christ. Any person or any teaching that denies this truth is anti-christian.

The test of true loyalty and allegience to God is what we believe about Jesus Christ – not just intellectual ascent but a spiritual,  heart  belief and trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord.


4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

When the son of God came from Heaven he took our human flesh and nature upon himself. When by the power of God’s Spirit we are saved and brought into God’s kingdom we receive spiritual life – we are born from above. [Jn. 3] We are given spiritual life.

2 Peter 1:4 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

In this passage John is talking about the battle between truth and error, between the spirit of Truth and the spirit of anti-christ. This struggle is not taking place in a world far beyond and above our own. The spiritual battle is for the hearts and minds of people.

John commends his readers because not only have they not been taken in by these false teachers but they have tested their teaching and found it wanting. We must not underestimate the power of evil BUT remember that the Holy Spirit is greater and by his illumination we too can overcome the spirit of error.


It is no magic formula – God is greater than anything or anyone and if you are a true believer then God lives in you and you in God.  And Christ has overcome sin and death and deception.  If you are his child then you have overcome that. Not because you are better or more intelligent than other people BUT because Christ has redeemed you and given you spiritual life.

Christians are not perfect – that is fairly obvious – BUT as a child of God he will not allow you to be overcome by the spirit of evil and falsehood.


5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

The word “world” is used in a number of ways in the Bible and here it is primarily referring to the system / or people who are against God or at least not for God.

The world listen to its own and recognizes its own because the world is saying what they wnat to hear and what they agree with. This explains why they are so popular!!

ILLUS.: Who really moulds the thinking of our society – and affirms our society in what it believes. The Soap-operas and the Chat-show Hosts. Why are they so popular?? because they reflect the view of society and affirm the society in the path it is taking.  They affirm that it is alright to practice Homosexuality and lesbianism. That it is acceptable to commit adultery. That everyone is free to exercise their rights – no a lot of emphasis on responsibility. AND let someone in the audience express a Christian view point require absolute standards and the cameras quickly move on OR they are cut down by the host as old fashioned or too fanatical and irrelavant. What is accaptable is only what the majority agrees with.

This is exactly how the Bible descibes a society who rejects God:

2 Timothy 4:3 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (NIV)

We can’t judge God’s message by how many obey it.

The test of truth is “Does it agree with the Apostles teaching?” That is what John means in v.6. “We are from God…..”

The satandard for what we are to believe, the standard for what is truth is what was from the beginning. 1 John 1:1

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (NIV)

It is characteristic of cults and sects to add to the Bible – the Bible plus…… – OR for modern intellectualism – the Bible minus …… [if they believe any part of the Bible at all. It is very subtle.

ILLUS.:2 Timothy 3:16 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (NIV)

 In the NEB {New English Bible} it reads: All God-breathed Scripture is  useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

The implication – not all scripture in God inspired – who then decides what is God-inspired ??  –people!! See hos subtle it is.

The Spirit whom God has given to His people enables them to discern what is Truth and what is Error. How do we do that? Well NOT ONLY by examining the the message and the messengers BUT also by the character of the audience who listens to them.

1. This testing is not to be done by individuals only – but as a corporate community of God’s people. We are to wrestle with the complex issues of life and belief.

2. John is not calling us to analyse and examine every minute belief and practice of every individual christian. He is arguing that we faithfully believe and guard the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

That is why the leaders of the church must have a high standard of theological understanding and faithfulness to the truth.

3. John has put the emphasis on the central truth of the gospel – Jesus Christ {God -man} through whom alone there is salvation.

I believe there are three levels of believe – ABSOLUTES – CONVICTIONS – PREFERENCES –

ABSOLUTES – those things that are not negotiable – the diety of Christ – salvation by faith alone – the authority of the scriptures …..

CONVICTIONS – modes of baptism – the role of women in the Church –

PREFERENCES – hymns or choruses – style of worship [raise hands or not] – ……

Why is what we believe so important? Because it will affect what we are! What we value! Because it affects our behaviour!

ILLUS.: Why do you treat a diamond ring with such care? You consider it to be valuable because you believe those you say it is. If you were to be convinced that it is not valuable you would cancel the insurance on it tomorrow.!!


If you believe that marriage is a monogamous life relationship – you will value that and will be less likely to have an adultrous relationship than someone who believes marriage should be an open relationship that can be ended when comvenient.

What we believe is very important!!

Two extremes to be avoided –

1. don’t rush to pass judgement on others. Sometimes it is misunderstanding and not error.

2. As a Chruch we cannot neglect the task of teaching and nurturing people in the Christian faith. To often we try to manipulate people to behave according to our rules – we try to cahnge them from the outside in – if they come to belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and seek to obey him then HE will change them from the inside out.

And each of us need to constantly be evaluating what we believe and how it works out in our daily living.

What we believe will determine what we are and how we live.


(Discerning truth from error)


1 John 4:1-6.












(What is real)



(What is true)



(What is good/best)



(What is done)

1 John 2:28 – 3:3 – The Christian life is now and coming

1 JOHN 2v28 – 3v3.



THEME: The children of God have the certainty of eternal life – right living is the evidence of that life – Christlike perfection is the reward!




ILLUS.: Before we came to Binscombe one of the jobs I had was Teaching English to foreigners – for a time we ran our own language school in partnership with a friend – this often involved having to fetch students from the airport. I spent many hours at Heathrow and Gatwick – I enjoy watching people. The bored driver standing with a name card. The business men who catch more planes than most people catch buses – The there are those who are waiting for a loved one – someone who they haven’t seen for a long time – the excitement, esp. for the children, is almost unbearable – and when they finally come through those doors into the Arrivals Hall there is much hugging and carrying on – oblivious to the fact that anyone is watching.


As Christians we are waiting for a loved one to return – unlike the airport there is no arrival time on the display board – BUT the final arrival is not in doubt. Jesus will return – the angel promised he would and He himself promised he would:



Acts1v10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”


John14v3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.


The point is, are we excited about his return? Does the fact of Christ’s return make a difference to the way we live our lives?

Is there an anticipation that his return in always imminent – every generation has to live in the light of the fact the Jesus could return TODAY!!


Waitng for Christ’s return is not a passive waiting – not putting your spiritual feet up! It is an active waiting and the church needs to be saying to herself  “We will work as fervently as possible in preparation for his coming


Spurgeon “The fact that Jesus Christ is to come again is not a reason for star-gazing, but for working in the power of the Holy Spirit.”




And so John writes:-


1John228 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.


In the prevoius section John has been warning his “dear children” about those who would seek to lead them astray and affirms that what they have heard from him and the others apostles is true and trustworthy. He now encourages them to continue in the way that they have been going.


When he writes in v27 “remain in him” and in v28 “continue in him” he is not suggesting that they have lost or can lose their staus as “Children of God”. On the contrary he is encouraging them to continue in the direction they have been going all along.



What we need is not just a good start in the Christian life – we need also to continue. It is easy to become discouraged – because while it is a wonderful privilege and blessing to know Jesus; being a Christian is hard work. Jesus never promised a life of luxury. There will be disappointments – people will let you down – you will not get recognition for what you do ………


But John’s encouragement is this – “Look up – Jesus is coming!”  If you know him and you continue in him then when he does come you will have confidence and be unashamed.


“unashamed” is often interpreted to mean that if Christians let Jesus down; if we don’t give 100% and more then when we see him face to face we will hang our heads in shamed.


“Confidence and unashamed” are linked together. If we know him then we will continue in him and if we continue in him it is because we know him.The shame that is referred to here is the disgrace and rejection of the unbeliever when they face the judgement of God.


A Christian will have confidence before God, in fact, we have it now:-


Heb4v10 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.



Heb. 10          19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,


There are two words that are used to refer to Christ’s return “Appearing” and “Coming” [Parousia]




Appears – can be translated ‘revealed’ indicating and open and public vindication of Jesus. When he came the first time there was a hiddenness about his coming – there will be no such veil when he comes again. Those who now dispute or deny who Jesus is will be silenced and ashamed on the day he appears.


Coming -[ Parousia] is the ancient word used for the coming of a King in open splendour and honour. When the people knew the king or queen was coming they would go out to meet them and line the street in glorious procession [Palm Sunday – Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem].


Thus when he comes those who are his will rush to meet him with excitement and confidence.


What then is our purpose until he comes??




29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.


Note carefully what John is saying in this verse – He is not saying – ‘If you do the right thing you will then be righteous and belong to God.’


Doing righteous deeds is not a process that produces salvation. Rather righteous living provides confirmation that we have a relationship with God already. Righteous conduct does not make us God’s children.  It evidence that we have received a new nature.

1 Peter 13 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

NB -It is not the person who think he is righteous BUT the one you “does what is right”. Righteousness is not a feeling or and intention – it is having actions and attitudes that demonstrate an inner righteousness.


ILLUS.: It is no use telling some you love them or are concerned about them IF you never show that love and concern.


We are not talking about one off acts of goodness BUT a habitual way of life. Privilege -“being born of God” carries with it responsibility – “living in a godly way” This is the kind of living God asks of us as we wait for Christ’s coming.





1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.


We are the children of God because He took the initiative and came to us. Christians have been born of God.


ILLUS.: This week Harry George Withers was born to Dave and Kelly. Little Harry did not cause his own birth – he did not initiate the relationship between himself and his Mum and Dad.


So it is with God’s children – God takes the initiative and we are born again by the will of God.

God calls us to be his children – he doesn’t just give us a name BUT he brings us into a relationship – once we are God’s children  we belongs to him in the same way as a child belongs to his/her parents – it is a permanent relationship.


This love that John speaks of is not something we admire from a distant –

ILLUS.: It is not like watching a tear-jerking movie where love triumps and they ride off into the sunset together and we are left with a nice warm feeling.


This is a love that we experience – that we can know – God doesn’t just hang out his love for us to look at BUT he gives us his love BECAUSE he has given us himself. He is LOVE! By his Spirit he lives in his children and imparts his love to them.


Who are his children? John tells us in his gospel:-

John 1v12-13 …..to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.


We live in a world where status means a lot – in a world where who you know and who you are related to is more important than what you know. But what higher status is there than being a child of God.


The problem is that being a Child of God will bring no recognition from the world. The should come as no surprise because Jesus was no recognise by the world for who he really was – and he is still not by most people.


The people of Jesus day would have been satisfied with his good manners, his good deeds, his good words BUT for one thing He insisted that he was the Son of God and he insisted on righteousness in all men [Laurin].


When as God’s children we show the character of  our Father we are a disturbing element in a world that wants to live for itself. People are either drawn to God through that OR they are hostile to it. In a world that is by nature hostile to God it is relatively easy to be a relgious Christian BUT it is difficult to be a Christ-like Christian.


The world recognises people by the standards of wealth and position BUT God recognises them by their new birth into a living relationship with Him [Laurin].


Just as there will be a time when Jesus will be recognised for who he is when he comes again so too there will be a full revelation of what the children of God will be.


Which brings us to the next verse…..




2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.


We do not know exactly what we will be like when Jesus comes – What we have now as God’s children is just a taste / a small part of what is to come.


1 Cor.2v9       “No eye has seen,

no ear has heard,

no mind has conceived

what God has prepared for those who love him”


When Jesus came the first time he came to be like us so that he could redeem us to God BUT when he comes the second time we shall be glorified so that we might become like him.


Our vision of God is now veiled – even though we have new life in Christ, sin still effects our vision.





1 Cor.13v12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.


We can’t appreciate what it will be like to see Jesus – even after the resurrection when the disciples saw him his glory was still veiled. What will it be like when we see him the fullness of his splendour.  “… when we see him as he is.”  The most amazing thing of all is that we will be like him –


ILLUS.: Imagine if you had never seen a fully grown oak tree and someone showed you and acorn – could you really have an appreciation or understanding of what an oak tree was relly like.


In a way what we now have is the acorn  – the oak tree is still to come. The acorn is wonderful enough how much more when we receive the fulness of our salvation.

When we see God we shall become like God.




3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.


How do we live up to a verse like this??  Is it by absataining from certain attutudes and actions??  Is it by being busy serving God and the Church? – doing good deeds? – giving vast amounts of money to missions?  – spending hours in prayer and study??


All these things are good and necessary BUT no amount of bustness will make us pure.


Jesus came to take away our sin. From the beginning to the end our HOPE is in the coming of Christ for us. The change that is needed in our lives to make us acceptable to God is wholly dependent on Christ’s nature and work.


Matt.5 8 Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.



He is pure and he takes away impurity. If we have any hope of seeing God we must be free from sin and that is only possible by placing our hope/trust in him who is pure – and who is able to remove our impurity.



My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness


We have a promise and a responsibility – a promise that we can be confident before him on the day of his coming. A responsibility to have Christ-like attitudes and actions in daily living.


Life can be and is sometimes difficult – we get discouraged; sometimes we may wonder if following Christ is worth it. We get cross with ourselves because we sometimes fail. If our confidence were dependent on us we could not be confident at all.


Therefore we must look up!!  We are God’s children – Christ is coming back – we will be like him.


So in spite of our weaknesses 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up ………… but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. [Heb.10]

1 John 2:3-11 – How do you know that you know God?

1 JOHN 2v3-11.



THEME. Assurance is not through feelings but through knowing God (obeying and loving him) and loving fellow believers – (extending to all the world)




How do you KNOW that you KNOW God? How can you be sure that you are actually a Christian in the first place? Sometimes I don’t feel like a Christian! Sometimes I feel decidedly unchristian.


ILLUS.:When I was a Teenager I used to really struggle with this? How can I be sure that I am really a Christian. I would hear testimonies of people who had come out of a life of crime or drugs or alcoholism and how God had wonferfully saved them. I didn’t have such a dramatic testimony so was I really a Christian?


Over the years I have discovered that I am not alone – many Christians struggle with assurance – maybe you are one of them!

How can I really know that I know God?


Confidence before God is not essentially feeling good about ourselves. Nor is it necessarily having a particular kind of experience – was the experience a religious one or can it be explained in natural terms.

John here assures his readers that they can have confidence before God BUT this confidence is not subjective feeling or emotion.


So then “How can we KNOW that we KNOW God?

Throughout John’s letter he is laying down some tests for the believers so that they can know whether or not they belong to God. Throughout the letter there are essentially three broad tests – RIGHTEOUSNESS, BELIEF, LOVE.

These three occur in different ways throughout the epistle.


In the passage before us two of the three tests are prominent viz. (Righteousness) or as here obedience and love.



1. OBEYING: [v3-6]


READ v.3.


Knowing God was a favourite theme of the ancient religions – and as we saw in the introductory section it was particularly true of the gnostics – [gnosis – knowledge] – while the gnostics only became prominent in the 2nd century the roots of it were there in John’s day. Their emphasis on knowledge was a kind of esoteric knowledge with little or no emphasis on moral behaviour – and tended not to think of sin as a barrier to fellowship with God.


There are three things that John emhasises in these first 4 verses with reference to obeying God.

– 1) Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s commands.

– 2) Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s word.

– 3) Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s example.


1.1 Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s commands.


READ v.4.


“The man who says ….”  This phrase occurs 3 times in this passage  [v4, v6, v9]

Similar in style to the 3 “If we claim .. ” verses in ch.1.

It seems that John is quoting from the group who have left the church claiming to “know God” with the insinuation that those left behind did not know God. Those who left considered themselves to be superior and to have a higher spiritual knowledge.

Now it is understandable that those left behind may have been questioning whether they actually knew God. Are we right or are they right? So John’s letter is not simply an criticism of heresy but an affirmation and an encouragement to the believers that they do know God,


I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,

so that you may know that you have eternal life [5v13]

John is quite clear that Christian don’t have to live in doubt as to whetether or not they are really saved. We can know!!


One of the ways we know is by obeying his commands. Now it would be wrong to interpret these commands as a set of legalistic rules and regulations. As if these rules and regulations  were a condition or prerequisite to knowing God. Obedience is not a precondition to knowing God but rather evidence that we do know God.


It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the Christian life is following a set of rules. We have a check list –

I go to church

I pray

I don’t watch movies except Walt Disney and nature programmes.

I don’t swear [at least not so anyone can hears me]

I do …. I don’t


We use this same list to judge other people too. And if people don’t fit neatly into our box of what we think a Christian should be then they can’t possibly be Christian. Legalism is a curse that has plagued the church from its early days – and it is something we must constantly fight against.


But when our Christian faith is not vital and living it easily degenerates into leagalism.

ILLUS.: Like the student who can to his teacher one day and asked, “Do you want us to just memorise this or do we need to understand it?”


Jesus doesn’t want us to follow him in a mechanical way by sterile compliance to a list of commands. We need to respond to God as Jesus did when he said. “I always do those things that please him” [John 8v29] Jesus certainly did not do this to gain salvation. Keeping God’s commands is a spiritual response to the new life we have received.

It was part of Christ’s nature to be obedient to God – We too are to reflect the nature of God because we have become partakers of the divine nature.


Knowing God in not just ommitting to do what is evil  – I don’t lie, steal, cheat…..- BUT it is positively doing what is good. This negative test doesn’t prove that you are alive towards God – Dead people don’t lie, steal or cheat either!!


You can be negative without being positive BUT you can never be positive without reflecting the negative When you are keeping God’s commands you will not lie, steal or cheat.


ILLUS.: In order for and electric motor to rum you need both positive and negative it is only because of the attraction and repulsion of positive and negetive currents that motion occurs.


Positive obedience to God means negative abstinance from evil. As we turn to God we turn away from evil and sin.

So to claim “knowledge of God” yet at the same time to be disobedient to his commands renders such a person a liar.


1.2. Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s word.


READ v5.


Verses 4 & 5 are saying a very similar thing but with a slightly different emphasis. It would be easy, as we have already seen, to fall into the trap of legalistic adherence to a list of commands.


Jesus does not want us to be like computers that simply respond to to a series of commands so that if a certain button is pressed we will mechanically respond.


ILLUS.: When we raise our children we are constantly giving commands. “Pick your socks up,  brush your teeth, don’t waste food … etc ”  We want them to obey but we also want them to eventually do these things because they recognise the value of them. It is wasteful and messy to drop your jelly on the floor. BUT we hope that when they are 20 they will have internalised these things and they will have become a way of life.


Knowledge of God is not a vague, abstract, esoteric experience RATHER knowledge of God expresses itself in concrete ways.

For example, love and service for others, worship, prayer, hospitality etc… {ASK!}


Knowledge of God and obedience to God are very closely related to each other.

NOT knowing God does not imply intellectual inadequacy but rather it points to a moral failure and a lack of faithfulness and obedience to God.

The emphasis in knowing God is on a relationship with him not on intellect. There are many brilliant intellectuals in the world who know nothing of God YET a simple illiterate peasant can know God intimately.


We can’t claim to know God and then not walk in obedience to him.

What does it mean when John says “…. God’s love is made complete/ perfected in him [the believer]…”

Is it possible for a Christian to be perfect – to exhibit perfect love – The idea of sinless perfection would contradict what John has already said. [John has already criticised those who claimed this  – see 1v8 & 10] It is because we do sin that we need an “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” [2v1].

It is not that we become morally perfect BUT rather that as we obey his word and his commands we are living out our lives as an expression of God’s love.


God’s love is of the giving kind – it is a love that seeks the benefit of others – it is the kind of love that God showed in giving his son to be the saviour of the world.


When we are living in this way we know that we are IN HIM. We have a relationship with him – this kind of relationship is not possible unless you are obeying his word – and if you are obeying his word then you can be confident that you know God.


So to have assurance that we do know God we don’t analyse our feelings but we obey his word.


Now to make the point clear John gives the third part of the test.


1.3.  Obedience is characterised by following Christ’s example.


READ v6.


The perfect expression of love for God is found in Jesus Christ. The danger is that we look at Jesus and say “We can’t do that so we won’t even try!” BUT I don’t think that John is asking us to do exactly what Jesus did. We can’t be sinless nor can our death save anyone.


Our lives are to reflect the life of Jesus. “…. He went around doing good ..”[Acts 10v38]. When Jesus washed the disciples feet he said “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” [John 13v15]


We need to reflect on what we say and do – how we think, pray, spend time and money, how we treat our spouses, co-workers, children , neighbours …..


To walk as Jesus walked — his primary allegiance was to God — Is ours???

2. LOVING: [v7-11]


The thing about being a christian is that it is very practical – or at least it should be! Our response to God is personal  Jesus loves me, he died for me, he saved me BUT the Christian life is not just Jesus and me!! The Christian life is Jesus and me and the community of the saints.


We all have an obligation of love which we owe to each other in obedience to the command of Jesus. I can’t live in isolation and do my own thing! nor can you!! Whether we like it or not we belong to each other and to the wider community of God’s people.


John reminds the people to whom he is writing that this command to walk as Jesus walked is not new – They would have been familiar with John’s teaching.


2.1. The ever-new old command.


READ v7-8.


Before Jesus came the religious people judged spirituality by the keeping of the Law but Jesus introduced a new test – LOVE.


In John 15v12 Jesus said ” .. love each other as I have love you …”

In Jn 13v34 “.. by this shall all men know that you are my discipes if you show love for one another.”

Jn. 15v13 “..  greater love has no one than this than that a man lay down his life for his friends”


This command was new when Jesus gave it but now it is no longer new they had heard in when they first heard the message of the gospel.


YET this message is always new – its newness is shown in the fact that it is being fulfilled in a way which had not happened previously.

The picture is of a dark world where the light is beginning to shine and to drive back the darkness.

The light comes by the love of God being spread abroad in the world – This is seen in Christ to the extent that it is seen in the Christian and the Christian community – the church.


Jesus said “I am the light of the world”  John said in ch.1 “God is light” There is no other light – and where there is no light there is darkness – and there is no other way to get rid of the darkness than to bring light into it.


And wherever the gospel is preached and God saves people the light dawns and is ever new. If the Church of Jesus Christ really believes that he is the only true light then she should be seeking by all means to spread that light throughout the world. Failing to do that is failing to obey ALL his commands.


Continuing the theme of love while at the same time contrasting it with hate John now makes a very practical point.


2.2 Claim and conduct must be consistent. [v.9-11]


READ vv9-11.


Again we must put these verses in the context of John’s readers  The were those who claimed to be enlightened – these were the same ones who claimed to live in God [v6] and who claimed to know him [v4]. These were the one who had disrupted the fellowship by leaving and their very actions showed that the did not love the body of Christ – therefore they hated it.


Jesus commanded unity and love for one another and by breaking fellowship those who left had acted hatefully toward the body.


By rejecting the light people choose to walk in darkness – and choosing to walk in darkness is a terrible thing:


Listen to Jesus speaking in John 12 v35 ff:

Then Jesus told them “you are going to have the light just a little bit longer

Walk while you have the light. The man who walks in the dark does not know

where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you

may become sons of light.


BUT after they had seen Jesus work and heard him speak they still refused to believe so he warns ::

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence they still would not believe in him. This was to fufill the word of the prophey Isaiah :

“Lord, who has believed our message and

 to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

“He has blinded their eyes and deadened

their hearts, so they can neither see with

their eyes, nor understand with their hearts,

nor turn – and I would heal them.


A person who lives in the dark can’t see where they are going nor do they know where they are going – they are directionless and purposeless.


And when a person claims to be a Christian and yet causes division in the body and hates their fellow believers they are in fact in the darkness – and the tragedy is that often the don’t know it.


We must remember that when we do something to hurt a fellow chiristian we are hurt Christ – the church is his bride and he loved her enough to die for her and we dare not willfully harm that body nor any member of it.


ILLUS.: Is there any thing in your relationships with other Christians that is not right and you know it — What are you doing about it?? are you angry, jealous, resentful, holding a grudge, gossiping about some-one.


RATHER look for ways to show love — It is only as we walk in the light as he is in the light that we have fellowship with one another and if there is anything in our lives hindering that fellowship we can confess it to God and if necessacry put it right with our brother or sister in the confidence that if we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


It is out of fellowship with each other that we take the light to the world.




How can I know that I know God??

If your assurance about knowing God depends on your feelings then you will never be sure because those feelings come and go. In times of discouragement and crisis you will be plagued by doubt and uncertainity BUT there will be no anchor / foundation because your feelings have moved.


If our  *focus is on God and

*the direction and tenor of our lives is to follow him

*sure in the knowledge of what he has done for us

*and that our obedience is not the means of salvation but a response to it

*when our goal is to love others and to do for others

then we can know that we know God.


Assurance does not come by us sitting around hoping for it but rather as one writer put it “Assurance does not grow like a hot-house plant, pampered in an even temperature and sheltered from every puff of wind! It is an outdoor species, meant to flourish in the ever-changing weather conditions of the world!” [J C P Cockerton]


Thomas Brooks wrote “Though no man merits assuance by his obedience, yet God usually crowns obedience with assurance


Obey his commands

Obey his word

Let your life reflect Christ’s

Love your fellow believers

Then you can KNOW that you KNOW God!!


I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able

to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day


Blessed assurance Jesus is Mine ….

1 John 1:1-4 – The Word of Life

1 JOHN 1:1-4.




For every passage of scripture we need to know the background and setting – this is one of the most important principles of interpretation.


This is a unique letter in that it does not fully fit the style of NT letters. There is no greeting and no personal references. The text doesn’t say who wrote it!

2 and 3 John were written  by “The elder”  – the strongest evidence and tradition points to John the Apostle, the brother of James, the son of Zebedee.


When was it written? – about AD 60-90.


To whom was it written? It was not written to one congregation but rather to a group of smaller churches or house churches who shared a common heritage. Within one of these groups [or perhaps more than one] doctrinal conflicts and social rifts had occured.


What he says in ch.4 about testing the spirits indicates different teachings.

What he says in chs. 2&4 about love for your fellow believers indicates social rifts.


But what exactly was the problem?

Basically the problem focussed on the nature and implications of salvation. It was a multi-faceted concerning who Jesus is and how we are saved and continue our spiritual life.


It seems that there was a group who had withdrawn from the fellowship of believers [ the secessionists] The claimed the status of being “born of God” and being “children of God”. This is true – this is what we are! They also claimed to be free from the power and guilt of sin – yes! “Sin no longer has dominion over us and we have been forgiven” BUT they went so far as to claim to be sinless!! [“If we calim to be without sin … v8.       If we claim that we have not sinned … v10]

They calimed to have attained a perfect state of righteousness – sinless perfection.


A consequence of this belief was that they now no longer need Christ’s atonement. Yes, they had once needed God’s forgiveness through Christ but not no longer . they were no longer guilty of or subject to sin. Where there is no sin there is no need for atonement.

Hence 1v9:

“If we confess our sins he is faithful and just

and will KEEP ON cleansing us from all sin.”


3v2  ” … when we see him [Jesus] we will be like him…”


BUT these secessionists believed that they were like Jesus NOW! Perfect NOW! While John agrees that we have been forgiven and are God’s children he does not agree that we are perfect YET!




Traditionally there are three sources identified for these Secessionist views. It could be one source or a conbination of all of them.  I think it is usually a mistake to try and pin it down to one source or to one simplistic answer. Life never fits neatly into little boxes – there always seem to be lots of lose threads.


We will briefly mention these three teachings – bear in mind that it is just a mention – they are complex and involved


1) Cerinthians –


According to tradition Cerinthus was an archenemy of the Apostle John – but really we know very little about him.

His view of Jesus was that Jesus and Christ are different.

Jesus was a human being like every one else, a righteous person but nevertheless just a human being.

Christ (the Messiah) was a heavenly spiritual being who descended on the merely human Jesus at his baptism and departed at the crucifixion.

In other words the human Jesus and NOT the heavenly Christ suffered and died.


If he had inluenced those John is writing to then we can see why John would emphasize in 4v2 [cf. 2Jnv7] “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”



2) The Docetists.


The term “Docetism”  – comes from the Greek word meaning “To seem”. What this view taught was that Jesus only “seemed” to be human; thus in reality denying the incarnation. Again you can see why John insists that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh – Why also he begins his letter “what we have seen, and heard and touched…”

In other words Jesus was not really human – his body was no a real human body but some kind of phantom body.


3) The Gnostics.


This is a broad term labelling various teachings that were around in the early Church. Gnosticism itself was not fully developed in John’s time but its roots were certainly there [and in many way are still with us].

There are elements of gnosticism in the teachings of Cerinthus and the Docetists.


The Gnostics taught a dualism between spirit and matter.The spirit was divine and good and the material was created and evil. The logical out come of such reasoning was that the spiritual could have nothing to do with the material.


It is easy to see how out of such a view they found it impossible to reconcile that fact the Jesus was the God-man.



So it is against this background that John writes.


These problems about the person of Jesus Christ and sin are not remote and historical – we are having to fight the same battles today – it is an issue that the Church has had to deal with constantly in various forms.


The Teachers of John’s day denied that Jesus had come in the flesh – today they deny that he came in deity!  The false teachers of John’s day denied that he was a man – today they deny that he is God.


So this is a glimpse into the background against which John is writing. We will touch on some aspects in more detail as we go through the text in the weeks ahead.





And so to the text itself.


READ 1v1-4.


In the original Greek text the first 3½ verse form one long sentence. It is a very complicated sentence structure but very important.

Normally  subject [I] verb [eat] object [chocolate]. This is also true in English. John begins with the OBJECT and the verb “we proclaim” does not appear until verse 3. The reason is so that the emphasis falls on the object viz – THE WORD OF LIFE  and not on the proclaiming of that Word.


So let’s look at this under 5 headings:-









“That which was from the beginning…”


For anyone who is familiar with their Bible what springs to minds when we read these verses is Gen 1v1 and Jn.1v1  “In the beginning …”


THAT – is referring to The Word of Life and the eternal life which wqas with the Father. This is similar to John 1v1 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…..


The identity of Jesus – his eternal fellowship with God the Father is emphasized at the outset. He is NOT just a good man. — prophet … religious leader. He is the eternal Son of God , .. divine .. egual to the Father and the Spirit.




“… which we have HEARD, which we have SEEN with our eyes, which we have LOOKED AT and our hands have TOUCHED..”


Hearing, seeing,  touching  — Here is the meeting of the Eternal and the histroical.


God’s message came so that we could HEAR – A message is irrelavant unless it is reeived.

ILLUS.: There is little point a Radio Station Transmitting unless there is a receiver somewhere.


SEEN – there is no doubt that John is referring to Physical seeing – he is not referring to understanding because he adds “with our eyes”

And it is not just a casual seeing – many had seen Jesus physically but they hadn’t seen him  so Johm adds LOOKED AT to emphasis the point.


ILLUS.: I go to National Gallery I see the paintings and ART enthusiast sees them in a different way – he gazes, he understands


This is John’s meaning here.


TOUCHED / HANDLED – “with our hands” – again emphasizing the physical contact – this Word of Life was no Phantom – he was real.


This Word of Life is from God but it is not just a verbal message but this WORD is a person – Jesus is the message.


The word {preaching} about the Word {Bible} about the WORD {Jesus}.


This is a living Word / Message.


ILLUS.: Herbie Beerens in Malawi – Mr. Lali. Sent a message woulf you know me? If a photo would you know me? If my brother would you know me? BUT you know me WHY?   “Because you came to me!!!


The word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us .. [Jn. 1v14]


Jesus the word of Life was – audible – visible and tangible.

He is eternal and historical


” ……. concerning the Word of Life. The life appear, we have seen it and testify to it and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Fater and has appeared to us” [ v2]


Eternal life is the pursuit of most spiritual experience. It is the dream of all religions to arrived at this state.


ILLUS.: Jalal – Sufi Islam – way, truth and life.


Eternal Life is only possible through the Word of Life – the one whom John and his fellow Apostles proclaimed.


John counters the heresy right at the beginning of his letter.

Jesus and Christ is the same person.

He is historical and eternal.


We still need this emphasis today as there are those so-called theologian who would undermine this truth about the Word of Life.


Bultmann “Whether Jesus actually rose from the dead is immaterial as long as he has risen in the hearts of the believers




‘We testify to it … we proclaim it…”


The apostles passed on the witness  {they saw .. testified … procalimed}

Experience … attestation … evangelism.

This is part od any genuine response to the gospel.


This process is passed from one generation of Christians to another.

“…… The things you have heard entrust to reliable men  .. so they can teach others.” [2 Tim.2v2.]

” … we are Christ’s ambassadors …. Christ is making his appeal through us ” [2 Co.5v20ff]


Like the aposlte you have to know him before you can be his witness. Having seen with the eyes of faith we receive a commision to proclaim the gospel with authority.


The Christian message is NOT philosphical speculation, …. or tentative suggestion, …or a contribution to religious thought   BUT it is the firm affirmation that Jesus Christ is the Word of Life and the is no other.


This is not an impertinent intrusion into the lives of others people – it is there ONLY hope of eternal life.




”  .. so that you also may have fellowship with us and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”


The purpose of proclaiming the WORD of LIFE is so that the hearer may also have fellowship with God.


The chief end of Man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever


Fellowship with God was not just for the Apostolic Band but for all generations  “for you and for your children and for all who are afar off”  {Acts 2}


Fellowship with God and with HIS SON – “Christless” fellowship with God is not possible. You can’t know God without Christ.


Two dangers with regard to fellowship:-

1) It is not possible to have fellowship with those who reject the fundementals of the gospel. Therefore to speak of multi faith worship with Hindus and Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and New Agers …. it is not possible. If you reject Jesus Christ then fellowship with God is not posible – How then can a believer have fellowship with one who rejects Christ


2)BUT we need to ensure that we refuse fellowship for that reason and not for selfish, prejudiced reason that have little of nothing to do with the basics of the gospel BUT with our narrow-minded inflexibility.





“We write this to make our/your joy complete.”


Happiness and joy is the pursuit of most people BUT it eludes most because they seek it everywhere except where it can be found – viz in Christ.


Perfect joy and happiness is not possible in this world of sin – perfect fellowship is not possible.


V4. looks beyond this life to the glory – Then consummated fellowship will bring complete joy.


BUT there is a joy now – a joy that comes through Jesus Christ.

A joy that is given apart from the circumstances of our earthly life. Joy doesn’t come with the removal of things that weigh us down BUT joy comes from deep trust in Christ and fellowship with him and the Father and the Spirit.


When we can say with the Psalmist:

“In your presence is fullness of joy and at your right

hand are pleasure forever more” {Ps.16v11}