I enjoy asking trick questions. When I know have stumped somebody and they have given the answer I was expecting them to, I ask, “Are you sure about that?” Unfortunately, for some Christians, they view the assurance of salvation this way. They find themselves asking on nearly a daily basis, “Am I sure I am saved? Am I sure am a Christian?” The problem they typically find themselves in is they do not feel they are saved. The basis for assurance of salvation, though, does not rest on feelings. It rest upon the truth of God’s Word.
The Apostle John begins the last section of his letter by giving the purpose statement for the section and for the whole book: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life” (5:13). The reason John has said the things he has is because he wants to give genuine followers of Christ assurance of their salvation. Notice where he goes next to explain where these Christians can place their confidence in for their salvation. He says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked him” (5:14–15). The grounds in a Christian’s assurance of salvation does not rest upon feelings but upon the will of God. As Christians, we know God answers prayers that are in accordance with His will. We know His will by knowing His Word. We see in His Word that for those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior they will be saved. Therefore, if you have honestly dealt with your sins, confessing and repenting of them, and you have surrendered your life to Christ, you can be assured you are in Christ.
If someone professes with their mouth they have confessed and repented of their sin and yet their life looks no different, then there is great cause for concern. The markers of faith in 1 John are meant to bring assurance to true Christians but they also expose those deceived as false converts. Their way of life reveals their true identity. The Apostle John puts it this way: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (5:18). For the person who professes to know God but lives a lifestyle of unrepentant sin, they are revealed as children of the evil. They follow the ways of Satan, giving into their fleshly desires and indulging in a lifestyle of lies and sin. Their result is death. Their total and willful rejection of the gospel and Christ, signified by a lack of repentance and faith, is the sin that leads to death. To deny a need for Christ is to deny one has sinned. For those who admit they have sinned and need a Savior, there is the hope of eternal life. The world lies in the power and lies of the evil one but those who know God find the truth and know God is greater. God in Christ has given us understanding and He entrusts to us the truth. As Christians, we are in Christ who is the truth and we keep ourselves from idols, the false gods which offer life but bring death. Only in knowing Christ do we have eternal life.
- Why is it important to know we are sinners who need a Savior?
- As Christians, what do we often base our assurance of salvation on? How has 1 John equipped you in understanding the assurance of salvation?
Christmas can be a bittersweet season. With family gatherings, the reminder of loved ones who have passed seem to surface. The sting of death flares up in our thoughts and minds. The great truth is it does not have to be this way. Death does not have to override what has been called the season of joy. We may reflect during the Christmas season on the lives of those who have died but our hope is in the One who can give us life, abundantly and eternally. We can rest in this hope and find this joy by looking to and trusting in the Son of God. The Apostle John declares, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (5:12). When we celebrate Christmas, we are celebrating the One who is Life and came to give His life.
In His life, Jesus Christ was revealed as the anointed Son and as the substitutionary sacrifice. At His baptism, we see He came by water. His Father anointed Him when in Matthew 3:17, “This is my beloved Son, I take delight in Him.” Jesus was not a mere man who lived a good life. Jesus was and is God the Son and God the Father sent Him to live a sinless life, the life we could not live. The Father was pleased and delighted in the Son.
At the cross, we see Jesus came by the blood. He died the death we all as sinners deserved for our rebellion against God. Because He took our sins upon Himself we can stand before God in His righteousness. His sacrifice was in our place, what we mean by substitutionary, and it was what gave us life. Because of the sacrifice of Christ, death does not have the final word. Even when we grieve over those who have died, if the person has repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus Christ, then we have a sure hope they have received eternal life and are with the Lord.
How can we know these things are so? John tells us we can know because it is God who testifies: “And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (5:6c–8). What we have to place our hope in is not some mere testimony of what men have conjured up. Instead, we know about the life and death of Jesus Christ because God has testified to us about it. More than that, as those who place their faith in the testimony of God we are born of God. Those who refuse to accept the testimony of God as truth will prove themselves to be liars as they falsely accuse God as a liar (5:10). Their disbelief in the testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ confirms their heart against God and their rebellion leading to death. Because they do not believe or trust in Jesus Christ, they will face eternal death. Only those who place their faith in Jesus Christ will receive eternal life because eternal life is in the Son (5:11).
One of the central themes in 1 John has been based on the person of Jesus Christ. The life of Jesus Christ is not a matter to be celebrated only when the Christmas season comes around. Rather, everyday should be a celebration of His life and the life He has given us. When we deal with the loss of loved ones, we can turn to Christ and remember He died for our sins so that we could be made alive with God. For those who are in the Son, there is life.
- Why is the baptism of Christ and the cross of Christ important in understanding the person and work of Christ?
- How does knowing Jesus Christ came to give His life to give us life encourage you in the season you are in?
I had no problem reading textbooks and writing papers. As a student, the matter that concerned me was always the quizzes and tests. You had to know what to prepare for and even then there was no guarantee the studying of the material would result in acing the exam. Looking back, I do understand the benefits of taking a test. A test can be an indicator of one’s comprehension of the material. Similarly, Christians can take a test to evaluate if they are truly saved. Just as a test reveals whether someone has studied the material or not, taking a spiritual test is examining the evidence to evaluate whether someone who professes faith is a genuine Christian. What is the content on this test? The content is believing the essentials of our faith and living a particular way of life.
A genuine Christian is one who believes Jesus is the Christ and who loves the children of God as an overflow of their love for God. The order of this test is a minor issue either. On a test, sometimes I would start with the last question and work backward. On this test of faith, we cannot work backward. We must begin with discussing our belief. On this exam, we see “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (5:1). The test does not merely state the evidence of our faith as belief in general. The test of our faith is centered on our belief of Jesus Christ. Our belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of our sins is the means by which we are born again by the grace of God. We cannot earn our salvation. To be born of God means God opens our eyes and hearts to what Christ has done in His sinless life, His substitutionary death, and His life-giving resurrection so that we respond in repentance of our sins and trust in Jesus as the Christ who has saved us and who is Lord over us. How do we know we have responded this way and have been born of God? Another section of the test informs us, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (5:4–5). An indicator we have been born of God is that we are not defeated by the hostility of the world and we do not follow the course and ways of the world. Evidence we are Christians is we turn from following the world and we follow Christ. Our faith in Christ is what equips us to persevere and to overcome the world.
As those who have put their faith in Jesus as the Son of God and who have been saved, their way of life is embedded with a life of love. Christians are those who love God, evidenced by their desire to keep His commandments (5:2–3). A Christian’s love for God is extended into love for one another. When we love God, we desire to keep His commandments by loving others in the family of God. In all of this, we ought not see the commandments of God as burdensome but as something that will bring joy to their relationship with God.
As we know the content of this test, our belief in Jesus Christ and our love for God and for one another, we will be able to examine our beliefs and lives to see if we are those saved by the grace of God in Christ. If we do, we can be assured we are the children of God who have been born of God.
- The first section of the exam on the test of faith is our belief in Jesus as the Christ. What do you believe about Jesus Christ?
- The second section of the exam on the test of faith deals with our love and obedience for God leading to our love for another. How have you shown your love to those who are the children of God?
One of the markers of genuine Christianity is love. As we have seen throughout John’s letter, love is the primary way of life God has called them to live. In 1 John 4:7–11 we saw the love of God was made manifest in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The love of God was seen clearly in the person of Jesus Christ. Since Christ has returned to the right hand of God the Father, His physical presence is no longer on the earth with us. How can we be sure He calls us His children? The simple answer is trusting in Him by what His Word says. More specifically, John tells us, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (4:12). We can know God abides in us by our loving one another. Our loving one another achieves the goal of God’s love because we have extended such love to each other. The way in which God abides in us as we abide in Him is through the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we have received the Holy Spirit who is a guarantee of our eternal inheritance in Christ (see Ephesians 1:13–14). How do we know we have received the Holy Spirit? The Apostle John explains, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (4:14–15). To state it succinctly, those who confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world, evidenced by repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, are Christians. If we know the love God has for us and believe in the God who is love, then we can be assured we abide in God and God abides in us (4:16). There is no reason to fear on the day of judgment (4:18). Because we are saved by the righteousness of Christ, we can have confidence before God as we abide in Christ (4:17). Our standing before God on the day of judgment will not be based on your good works but on whether you trusted in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Did you believe Jesus was truly God in the flesh and that He took your sin upon Himself on the cross to reconcile you with the Father? Did you respond to His holy-love by repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior? If you are one who abides in God, your answer to those two questions should be a resounding “Yes!” Still, the evidence you abide in God centers on love. This abiding love finds its source and foundation in God. “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). We can only know love because God has loved us. We know love when the love God has given to us we extend to others. To not extend love is to prove ourselves as liars and our salvation as false. The last couple of verses of 1 John 4 put it this way, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (4:20–21). One who has been saved by the love of God is one who extends the love of God to others. To live any other way is to live a lie. Christians are commanded to love one another as they are motivated by the love of God in the gospel and are moved along by the power of the Holy Spirit. To love God in heaven whom you cannot see now is evidenced by your love for people around you whom you can see. When you display such love, you will know God abides in you and you abide in Him.
- How is the love of God significant in our love for one another?
- What are practical ways we find in Scripture where we are called to love one another? How can you apply that in your life this week?
In one of her best-known songs, Tina Turner asks the question, “What’s love got to do with it?” While the context she sang of was a passionate romantic relationship, Christians may very well ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” in regards to the affections and actions of the Christian life. The simple answer is love has everything to do with the Christian life. Throughout the letter of 1 John three markers make their appearance time and time again. One of those three markers is love. We have seen John command Christians to love one another (2:7–11; 3:11–18) and remind believers it is because of God’s love any of us can be called children of God (3:1). Case in point, love is a central component to the Christian life. The Apostle Paul says elsewhere, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The problem we face with this is we live in a time where the word love is a catch word. It has different definitions for different people stemming from different sources. To some, love means to accept the person and their way of life no matter what and to say any aspect of their life is wrong is unloving. For Christians, we must look to the Word of God to clarify what we mean by love and what we see as the source of love. The Apostle John could not be any clearer: “for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (4:7–8). The source of our love is God Himself. God is love. Notice, though, the text does not say love is God. It is necessary to bring this up because 1 John 4:8 is a verse used to heighten the aspect of God’s love to the exclusion of other parts of His character. The truth is just as God is love (4:8) He is light (1:5). God’s love is a holy-love. Because God is love, those who are born again by Him and know Him are ones who love too. Along with the source, the display of love is explained: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:9–10). This biblical display reveals love deals with our sins. God is holy and God is loving. Because God is holy, He must punish sin. Because God is loving, He sent Jesus Christ to take on our sin. Another way to say it is the gospel tells us judgment will be brought upon sinners and those who remain in their sin will face the wrath of God. However, for those who repent of their sins and turn to Christ, they find the love of God. In God’s love He sent Jesus Christ to die the death we deserved. To be a propitiation for our sins means Christ, like a sponge absorbs water, absorbed the wrath of God on the cross so that we may be saved (4:10). With the sacrificial death of Christ, the judgment of God was satisfied and for all who trust in Jesus Christ, they will live in Him and through Him (4:9). Those who were spiritual dead in their sins can be made alive in God because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. One of the primary ways we live through Christ is by loving Him and loving one another. Truly, our basis for loving one another is an overflow of our love for God which is empowered by God’s love for us. We don’t love others because they deserved it. We did not deserve the love of God. We love one another to display the gospel before each other. This is love.
- Why is it important to identify the source of and define the word love?
- How does understanding the love of God impact how we love one another?
Have you ever heard someone say, “I am spiritual, not religious”? This seemingly pious statement is usually used for the purpose of someone affirming they believe in some type of spirituality, possibly even Christianity, but without any involvement or commitment to a local group which believes the same. In other words, people want spirituality without accountability. They want spirituality without the local church. While this line of thinking is deceiving, what disheartens me even more is how those in the church may be deceived themselves. If not held up against the light of Scripture, some in the church are bound to figure they are good and their salvation is assured because they attend Sunday worship services week-in and week-out. Yet, when it comes to understanding what the Bible teaches, on their own they are next to clueless. Without knowing what Scripture teaches, how can one apply it to their life? Without knowing what Scripture teaches, how can one be discerning?
One particular area where discernment is needed in the church today is in discussions on the Holy Spirit. Sayings like “the Spirit told me” or “the Spirit is leading me” are often too subjective. To be clear, I am not saying the Spirit does not lead us. He does. Nor am I say the Holy Spirit does not speak to us. He does but the way He speaks is through the Word of God. This is crucial because in our discernment we need a standard and we must understand our standard is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit does not lead in ways that are contrary to the Word of God. Rather, the Holy Spirit leads in ways that are in conjunction with the Word of God. This is most supremely seen in the truth of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John assures us of this when he says, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (4:2–3). The Spirit of God will point people to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Any spirit which does not see affirm Jesus Christ as God in the flesh is not from God but from the devil. Because there are such false spirits out there, we are commanded to not believe every spirit but to test the spirits (4:1). We test the spirits by the standard of God’s Word.
If deception is possible and discernment is needed, then some Christians may likely be concerned how they can be sure they are not the deceived. The simple question to ask them in response is, “What do you think about Jesus?” If they place their faith in what the Bible says about the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, then the Apostle John gives these encouraging words: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (4:4). For those who are in Christ, they can overcome the deception because they are from God. God is greater than the one who is the world, the devil. Those who are not in Christ will listen to the world. They will believe in the lies. For those who are in Christ, they will be the ones who listen to God and listen to those who share His Word (4:6). They believe in the truth. The question to ask yourself is, “Who do I listen to?” For it is in answering this question from the text “we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (4:6).
- Why is discernment for the Spirit of truth or spirit of error centered on the person of Jesus Christ?
- Who do you listen to and take counsel from? Based on this passage, what does it say about who and what you are following?
If we were to sit down for coffee and be honest with one another as Christians, I would dare to say we have all faced a time where we struggled with finding assurance of salvation. I believe this is, in part, to an issue we observed last week. Just as love too often is defined merely as a feeling, we tend to base our assurance of salvation on our feelings. We say or think, “I really don’t feel saved right now.” The problem with such a mindset is it is not biblical. The ruler for assurance of salvation is not a subjective basis of our feelings. The ruler for assurance of salvation is founded on the basis of the objective truth of God’s Word. Our hearts are not reassured as Christians by how we feel. Our hearts are reassured as Christians by knowing we are of the truth because we know the One who is truth (3:19). While we may feel our heart is condemning us, we can be sure God is greater than our hearts because He is the One who knows everything and yet still have saved us by His grace (3:20). Our confidence for assurance of salvation does not come from our feelings but from our faith. We can be confidence of our salvation due to the righteousness of Christ. We stand before God in the righteousness of Christ. The evidence we are in Christ is we desire to obey what we have received from Him, His Word, and we keep His Word for the purpose of pleasing Him (2:22). The pinnacle of obedience to the Lord is seen by believing in the name of the Son of God and extending love to one another. Belief in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the truth by which our hearts can be reassured we are God’s children and belief in His person and work is the only channel through which we can properly obey God. Without faith in Christ, our attempts to obey the Word of God are in vain. To approach and apply Scripture in our own power is to miss the point. We must begin with trusting in who Christ is and what He did for us. Once we see the Son of God rightly, then we will confess our sins against Him and turn to Him in faith. As a result of our faith in Him, we can love others. The love we receive from God enables us to love Him and to overflow into love for one another. This is particularly important for us to understand in the church. Some professing Christians may remark, “I love God but I cannot stand the church.” While the church is made up of those who are saved sinners, the Bible is clear for Christians to be those who love God and love one another. The reassurance we can have to know we are genuinely Christians is based on objectivity, not subjectivity. It is not based on our feelings but based on how we live our life. Are we living a life characterized by love for those in the body of Christ? Of course, none of us obey and love perfectly. There is not one of us who would claim to love is an easy task. But God has given us the means to accomplish it. Better yet, God has given us a person to enable us to display it. The Spirit of God is who enables us to love one another. By loving one another, we are shown to be keeping His commands. When we keep His commandments, we are revealing we are abiding in God. It is in God we find our hearts are reassured.
- As a Christian, what do you attempt to place our assurance of salvation on: in how you feel or in faith on what God has said in His Word?
- Why does John focus on belief in the Son of God and love for one another as the commandments we keep for evidence of our salvation in Christ?
One of the most popular and most misunderstood words in our culture is love. In our culture, love means we accept and approve of what the other person is doing. To be loving means we allow the person to follow whatever they feel and we dare not fringe on their lives, especially espousing our morals to them. This type of framework for love, though, is the framework which causes many to look at Christians as unloving people. Yet, the reality is nothing could be further from the truth. True love is not defined by the culture but by the Bible. It was because of God’s love that He sent Jesus Christ to die for sins (John 3:16). Sin confronts and deals with sin. To love someone is to speak biblical truth in their life with conviction and compassion. Based on a faulty definition, the culture may say Christians are those who are unloving. In reality, the mark of true Christians is they are loving. Their love for God overflows into their love for others.
In contrast to children of God, children of the devil do not express biblical love to one another. This message John has referred to previously (2:7–11) is a message those who are not in Christ fail to live out. This divide between the children of God and children of the devil on love has been going on since the beginning (see Genesis 3:15). The division is seen clearly in the example of Cain. For those who are in Christ, “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (3:12). After the Fall in Genesis 3, the Word of God sets forth the first example of children of God versus children of the devil in the narrative of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. The evil heart of Cain revealed hatred and anger leading to murder. His heart was against his brother simply because of his brother’s righteousness. The hatred of his heart ultimately brought to light the result of his life: death. The Apostle John puts it in these words: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (3:15). The warning of Cain’s life should cause to reflect if the way we live is characterized by biblical love or hate. It is important to realize for those who are in Christ, when we do love, we should not be expecting to receive love in return from the world. Instead, we should not be surprised even when we show biblical love that they will hate us (3:13). Those who live in spiritual darkness and are spiritually dead do not want to have the light shined and life shown. Only when God opens their eyes and hearts will they see such love. It is only because of God we know this love. In the gospel, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, laid down His life for us. We can receive salvation in Christ because of the sacrifice of Christ. We turn from our sins and trust in Him as Lord and Savior. Then, as Christians, we follow His example of love by loving one another sacrificially (3:16). This goes beyond this vague sense of love as merely a feeling. Love is an action: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (3:17–18). Knowing love means knowing the God who is love. Knowing love means more than simply talking the talk; knowing love means walking the walk. As ones who have been loved by God, we extend that love to one another sacrificially. The love we show is not faulty but a love rooted in truth. It is a love rooted in God.
- Read Genesis 3:15–4:26. How does this passage help you see the divide between the children of God and the children of the devil?
- What does 1 John 3:16-18 shows us about how the Bible defines love? What effect does this have on how we view the importance of the local church in the Christian life?
If you were to meet my family, it would be clear I am my parent’s son. I have been told by numerous people I look like both my father and my mother. People have even remarked I have the humor of my father. In my looks and actions there is a resemblance to my father and mother. It is clear I am their son. As we continue in our expedition through 1 John we see evidence we are genuine Christians is that we resemble our Lord. What particular ways are we told we resemble Him? We resemble our God in righteousness (2:29, 3:7) and in purity (3:3). Of course, no one resembles and reflects the character of God perfectly. The reality is we all have failed to obey God. Therefore, the confidence we have in Christ’s coming is not our righteousness but in the righteousness of Christ. The object or our confidence is that we are abiding in Him. Because we have been saved by the grace of God through Christ, we have the Holy Spirit to empower us to live a righteous life. If we live a life in accordance with God’s Word, it is because we have been loved by the Father who has caused us to be born again (2:29–3:1). Because of God, we can be called His children. We were once those who lived a lifestyle of sin. Our lives were characterized by living for self, ignoring and rebelling against the law of God (3:4). When God saved us, though, our hearts and lives were changed. Do we still struggle with sin? Yes. The Apostle John reminds us, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (3:2). Our salvation is based on who Christ is and what He has done. As those who have been saved by God, we are growing in Christlikeness but we are still a work in progress. We look forward with our hope in Christ that one day sin will be totally defeated and we will see Christ and be like Him. In the meantime, we are called to resemble Christ by growing in purity by obeying God’s Word in our desires and actions. As we have learned in this letter, however, there are those who have been within the Christian community who are not genuine Christians (see 1 John 2:19). For that reason, John wants to be clear those who abide in a lifestyle of unrepentant and continual sin are not those who know Christ (3:6–9a). Instead, those who practice sinning as a lifestyle are revealed as children of the devil. The father of lies is the one these people resemble. What this means is in terms of spiritual family resemblance, there are only two options: either you are a child or God or you are a child of the devil. The humbling truth is we all either were or are children of the devil. For those who still live a sinful lifestyle, you are children of the evil one. For those who have repented of their sinful lifestyle and have turned to Christ, you can be sure you are saved by the Holy One who took away our sins (3:5a) and who destroyed the works of Satan by His coming (3:8c). God through Christ has adopted us into His family. This presses home the question: Which family do you belong to? As John summarizes it succinctly, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (3:10). Who are you resembling?
- How does the truth of 1 John 3:2 serve as an encouragement and reassurance for Christians?
- Is your life characterized by a desire to walk a life of righteousness and purity or of regularly giving into your fleshly desires? What does this say about who you resemble?
As a pastor, one of the matters which grieves me is to see someone who has professed Christ only to later leave the faith. I remember in particular one young man I had the opportunity in discipling. When he first professed his faith he was excited to learn more about God’s Word. After a time, though, he stopped attending church and he ignored my e-mails and text messages. I am sure I am not the only one who has been through this sad occurrence. The question springs from it, “What happened to them?” Some may say the person lost their salvation. Others would state the person was never saved to begin with. While books have been written on this subject, it is important for us to hear what the testimony of Scripture says. Throughout 1 John, the point is to assure those who are in Christ that they are indeed Christians. We should not be surprised, then, John does bring up this particular issue in the discussion. What is his reply? “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (2:19). As one who is writing between the first and second comings of Christ, John is declaring those who leave the faith ultimately were never a part of the faith. They were false believers, not truly for God but against Him. Backing up to verse 18, that is why John declares, “as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come”. Often times, the term antichrist is rightly limited to one particular person, the man of lawlessness (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3). The Apostle John broadens the definition a few verses later: “This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” (2:22b). In other words, anyone who is against God the Father and Jesus Christ is an antichrist. It is true there is the Antichrist. These antichrists, in a sense, are a forerunner to the one Antichrist. These antichrists are deceivers around the church community. They are masked as if they are in the body of Christ. Scripture reveals the only ones truly in the body of Christ are those anointed by God in a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (2:20). John writes to reassure these Christians of the truth. People who have repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus Christ are those who know truth and the one who is Truth (John 14:6). Those who reject Christ are those buying into a lie. Simply put, the most important question to ask is “Who is Jesus?” If someone tries to say they believe in God the Father but not in Jesus Christ, they are lost and they are against the God of the Bible. Our God is a triune God. Those who are saved by God are those who trust in the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture. He has given us promises that find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. When we place our faith in Christ, we are found to abide in Him. The result is we receive the promise of God, eternal life (2:25). So, as those who are anointed by God, who know the truth, and who abide in Christ, we must be aware of those who are trying to deceive. We need to be on guard against those who claim to be a part of Christianity while they are against the essentials of the faith. Do not be deceived! Be the one who abides in Christ by knowing His Word!
- How does 1 John 2:19 and 22 help you understand the doctrine of salvation? How does it contribute to your assurance of salvation?
- Why is “Who is Jesus” the most important question you can ask of your life?
- How do we evaluate what is true and know when there is deception?