Title: What We Know
Text: I John 5:18-21
FCF: We often struggle desiring to get to God by means that are unavailable.
Prop: God is the only source for life, righteousness, and freedom from Satan and this world, so we must serve God alone.
Scripture Intro: NET
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I John chapter 5. Today we will conclude our examination of every single thought of John’s in his first epistle. Certainly, each thought is woven and laced together in a tapestry of truth. So although we complete the actual text of I John today, next week we will take flight and observe the whole of the book from start to finish and understand in summery what John is teaching his readers and therefore us.
Last week, and even the week prior, we saw that John has written everything he has written so that everyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God might know that they have eternal life. Springing from that knowledge John finishes his letter with 4 things that those who know they have eternal life, also know.
Last week we saw that those who know they have eternal life – know that whatever they ask in the will of God, He will not only hear but give unto His children. Including the intercessory prayer of one child for another.
Today John will give 3 more items that we who know we have eternal life, do also know. But knowledge is not the end all for John. Rather than finishing with simply “here are 4 things you ought to know” John issues a command as the final word in his letter. Now in this letter – commands are actually quite infrequent. And really, this is the case throughout the New Testament. The apostles wrote doctrine – what is true –it is only after digging the hole of doctrine and shoving our roots deep, do they then command us to grow in that place. So John, after issuing four assured things we ought to know springing from our assurance of our own eternal life – he then commands his readers.
I am in I John 5 starting in verse 18. I’ll be reading from the NET but follow along in whatever version you have.
Well I am anxious. Let’s get to the final thought of John.
I.) God protects His children, so we must serve God alone. (18)
a. [Slide 2] 18 – We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin
i. John again inserts himself with his readers. WE know. Not you, not I, but we know.
ii. Knowledge here is faith, it is deep, personal conviction. It is truth that we are intimately acquainted to and bonded with.
iii. So springing from our knowledge that we have eternal life – what else can we know?
iv. That everyone fathered by God does not sin.
v. To be fathered of God is set in a tense of the Greek language that this has happened at some point in the past with ongoing effects to the very moment that John pens the words.
vi. In other words, everyone who has been and is fathered of God… does not sin.
vii. This verb is in the present tense in Greek, and can describe an activity that someone does or is doing. The subtlety there should not be lost.
viii. There is of course a difference between someone who pitches a baseball and someone who is pitching a baseball. One describes a person who commonly pitches a baseball. The other describes a person who is in that process of pitching a baseball.
ix. But regardless of whether someone pitches or is pitching we can describe the person as a pitcher.
x. John is essentially saying that a person Fathered by God ought not be classified as someone who is a sinner. That doesn’t mean they don’t EVER sin once, nor does it mean they can’t carry on a sin for a short time, but it does mean that if someone were to call that person a sinner we’d all say – well that doesn’t sound like them.
xi. Those fathered of God are those who can no longer be described as someone who carries on a lifestyle of sin.
xii. I think there is also a level of purpose or intentionality here too. It may be that you find someone fathered of God in sin, but you would be hard pressed to find someone fathered of God pursuing sin.
xiii. Those fathered of God are no longer under the yoke of slavery to sin, so therefore they can no longer act as slaves to it.
b. [Slide 3] But God protects the one he has fathered
i. This is quite a difficult phrase and produces one of the most perplexing textual issues in all of the book of I John.
ii. Literally this verse would read up to this point “We know that whoever has been and continues to be born from God does not sin but the one who was born from God he keeps him”
iii. This poses two questions to us: 1 -Who is the one who was born of God and 2 - Who keeps who?
1. [Slide 4] Who is the one who was born of God?
a. The one who was born of God could be referring to all who would be believers.
i. However, before in this very verse, John says everyone who has been and is born of God… it is strange that now he says the one who was born of God. Simple past tense.
ii. Therefore, John seems to set up a difference between everyone who has been and is born of God and one who was born of God.
b. It is possible that John is using this entire phrase as a pendant nominative.
i. Which means that it is a phrase set outside of a sentence to define something within the sentence.
ii. The NET translators have taken this position. They have replaced the “him” with this phrase to indicate that it is a phrase to specify who the “him” is in the sentence. The only difficulty with this is that it is primarily an interpretational judgment. Difficult to prove in raw grammar.
c. The one who was born of God could mean Jesus
i. This would fit quite well with the change that John makes between everyone and the one. Although God does continue to communicate His divine essence to His Son and has always and will always – it is not improper to point to a time in the past in which God birthed or fathered Christ.
ii. In fact, John may have in mind the very human nature of Jesus here.
d. A Final interpretation relies on a textual variant which would turn this from “the one fathered of God” to “the fathering of God” by turning this from a passive participle into a noun. However, there are only a few manuscripts that have this change – leaving us with doubt that it is original.
2. [Slide 5] Who keeps who?
a. If this is referring to Jesus, than the him in this sentence would be the one fathered from God who does not sin. Allowing us to see the reason for the one fathered from God not sinning, is because Jesus protects Him from sin. This is something John already said in chapter 2 that Jesus Christ the righteous one is our advocate before the Father interceding on our behalf and providing His righteousness to us.
b. If you take it as God protecting him – it would be the same meaning
c. However, the one that gets confusing is if we interpret this as believers keep him… him who?
d. There is another textual variant here that could provide an answer and several manuscripts actually have this in it. Instead of he keeps him, it would actually read he keeps himself. But this presents some fairly difficult problems for us.
i. How do Christians keep themselves? Is this even theologically accurate?
ii. Indeed, if we are talking about keeping themselves particularly from sin- which is what he is saying is in the context – how does that harmonize with the reality that John just instructed people to pray for Christians committing sins?
iii. How can John so matter of factly assume that Christians do not continue in sin, when they are responsible to keep themselves from it?
iv. Indeed we have solved a grammar problem to unhinge the entire book.
v. So what do we do with the problem of several manuscripts using this reflexive pronoun here?
vi. While there are several manuscripts that have this as a reflexive pronoun, there are just as old of manuscripts that have this simply as “him”
vii. In my estimation him seems to be the most likely. Why? Because it is the harder reading. We’ve already seen John use 3 pronouns in one sentence to refer to 3 different people not 2 verses ago. Perhaps in an effort to clarify John’s thoughts, a scribe inserted the 1 letter it would take to change this word form him to himself?
iv. So, coming up for air – after all that – what does this mean? What is the bottom line?
v. Personally, I side with most commentators that John can be so sure that those fathered of God will not continue in sin because Jesus Christ Himself is actively at work to protect His people from a life of sin. He intercedes on our behalf.
vi. And because Jesus keeps them…
c. [Slide 6] And the evil one cannot touch him.
i. They are unable to be touched
ii. They are off limits from the evil one.
iii. This point he will expand on in the next verse.
d. [Slide 7] Passage Truth: So, John to his readers is laying down 3 major concepts that they know because they have been assured that they have eternal life. The first is that they are fathered of God and will not continue to live a lifestyle of sin because Jesus Himself will protect them from the evil one. He will keep them safe.
e. Passage Application: The application has yet to be revealed for his readers. Obviously, there is the implied application to take comfort in this truth – but John has something else on his mind. Some other explicit command that he will give to them in due time.
f. [Slide 8] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out from I John we understand that Jesus is the protector of His people. He prayed for His disciples. He told them that Satan wanted to destroy them but that He had prayed for them and kept them safe. And He continues to do this, for all His disciples. His protection though is not simply from attack but from sin and power. The world has been charmed by Satan’s lies and they sit comfortably in his influence without thought and without care. But we, we who have been fathered by God, we are free of his charms. We are now slaves of Christ. And Christ has crushed the serpent, and is continuing to crush him under our feet.
g. Broader Biblical Application: Since John has not applied this to his readers yet – it is difficult for us to apply it as well. But we can say that God’s true children are free from the power of Satan because of the power of Christ.
[Slide 9(blank)] What a marvelous savior we serve. Not only does He save us from sin and death – but He CONTINUES to save us from sin and death. He is our protection from the evil one. What else do we know having been assured that we have eternal life?
II.) Satan holds power over the world not us, so we must serve God alone. (19)
a. [Slide 10] 19 – We know that we are from God
i. So because we know that we have eternal life – springing from that we can also know something else.
ii. We know that we are from God.
iii. This is speaking less to our origin and more to our authority and who we report to
iv. This speaks of belonging and parentage.
v. We are His children, His possession, His creation.
vi. We belong completely to Him.
vii. This is holiness.
viii. God has set us apart, he has set us aside, reserved us for a holy purpose. We are His possession designed to be and actually being wholly devoted to Him.
ix. We are His. We are special. We are a masterpiece with which He plans to bring glory and honor to Himself by our lives being conformed to His Son.
x. But what of those who are not God’s own possession?
b. [Slide 11] And the whole world
i. We saw this phrase before in chapter 2. We saw how scripture uses this phrase in several different ways to speak of several different large groups of people.
ii. Oftentimes when we read a phrase like “the whole world” we assume all mankind, from all time. And even though that is one way scripture uses the phrase, we need to be careful we do not apply that in every case.
iii. For instance in chapter 2, we determined that it meant the whole of humankind that God had predestined for adoption as sons. Not just from this time and region but from all time and all lands.
iv. Here, it is very obvious that by saying the whole world – John means the opposite of what he meant in I John 2:2. Here he means the whole of humanity that are not from God, from all time and from all places.
v. John in this text draws an us and them comparison. Those whom God has set apart for whole devotion to Him are set in contrast to everyone else who…
c. [Slide 12] Lies in the power of the evil one.
i. All the rest of humanity who are not from God are in the power of the evil one.
ii. Literally this would read “the whole world lies in the evil one”
iii. Again this speaks of possession, and belonging.
nbsp; iv. The whole world who are not of God are of their father the devil and they are under his direct power and control.
v. And implied here with the verb lies – is that they do so docilly. It is almost as if they don’t even know where they have made their bed in which to slumber.
vi. But not us. Not those who are of God. We are not under such power or control. We belong to a different master.
d. [Slide 13] Passage Truth: Here John expresses to his readers the truth that God possesses His own. They are His. He has set them aside for His honor and pleasure. They are not able to be touched by the evil one because they are His. But the world in which they live is a slave to the evil one.
e. Passage Application: Again John withholds his true application but we might still jump to comfort in this. Even though the world is in the arms of Satan – They who are God’s are safe from Satan’s power.
f. [Slide 14] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out from I John we see this truth throughout the Scriptures. God’s people are safe from the power of all who would oppose them. If God desires them to go and do, there is nothing that can stop them. They may be opposed. They may be hindered. But ultimately, they will not be stopped.
g. Broader Biblical Application: For we who are God’s, this IS great comfort. However, to those who are not, it is quite troubling. Because they lie in the power of Satan. Docile they relax in his power and embrace. They do not even realize they are there.
[Slide 15 (blank)] God’s holy possession is kept by Christ Himself. But those who are not of the Father – lay docilly under the power of Satan. Never being awoken, because they don’t even know they are asleep in his jaws. But what else do we know having been assured that we have eternal life?
III.) Jesus has given us faith to be united to God through Himself and therefore united to life, so we must serve God alone. (20-21)
a. [Slide 16] 20 – And we know that the Son of God has come
i. The final thing we know that springs from our confidence that we have eternal life is this…
ii. We know that the Son of God has come.
iii. Has come here is actually in the present tense – so is come. But for English speakers this is a difficult concept to convey that the arrival of him is a present reality.
iv. So we are forced to say it – has come to try to help us imagine Jesus’ coming in the flesh as God’s Son as a present reality that happened in the past but is still very much affecting us.
v. So we know that he has come – but what else?
b. [Slide 17] And has given us insight to know Him who is true,
i. We also know that he has given and continues to give us insight to know Him who is true.
ii. Who is true?
iii. God is the true one.
iv. The only way to the Father is through Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life and if you have seen the son you have seen the Father.
v. Jesus gives us the ability to know the true God.
vi. What else?
c. [Slide 18] And we are in Him who is true,
i. Through Jesus we have also been placed in God.
ii. There is unity here.
iii. Not only does Jesus say – I and the Father are one – but to those who are children of God, we also are one with the Father
d. [Slide 19] In His Son Jesus Christ.
i. By being united with His Son Jesus Christ.
ii. This unity with Christ produces unity with the Father. This is exactly what John said at the beginning of the letter. Unity to God, through Christ, and even (as he said then) through the apostles’ witness of Christ in flesh.
iii. So we know the Father through the Son.
iv. It is so woven together that John says this next…
e. [Slide 20] This one is the true God and eternal life.
i. Which one?
ii. It literally doesn’t matter. Pick one. The answer is yes.
iii. Jesus and the Father are one and they is the true God and they is eternal life.
iv. Jesus is the way to understand God, He is the truth of God, and He is the Life God offers and through Him we are united to the True one, the life-giver, the almighty God.
vi. That is some hardcore theology there.
vii. Does it not paint the picture for us – that our only hope to ever know God is to know His Son? The path to God is through Jesus Christ! And Christ Alone!
viii. Many accuse John of putting a rather weird end on his letter by what he says next… but considering what he has just said – that truth and life are found in God who is found in Christ – the natural warning to his readers would be what?
f. [Slide 21] 21 – Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
i. Do not settle for anything less or more than Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.
ii. All else is idolatry.
iii. There is no path to God that does not include Jesus, the God Man.
iv. There is no way to truth without going through the Son
v. There is no way to life without being joined in life to this Christ.
vi. There is no light, no hope, no peace, no comfort, no assurance, no knowledge of God without Jesus.
vii. My. Little. Children.
viii. Guard yourselves! There are many christs- but only this Christ will show you to the Father.
g. [Slide 22] Passage Truth: John’s truth is powerful. God the Father is only accessible through God the Son. There is no exceptions, no caveats, no substitutions, no wiggle room. Jesus, the Son of God, Messiah, God-Man, who took upon Himself the nature of a man, this one who is come is He who is our True God and Life.
h. Passage Application: The application for his readers is simply – trust nothing else.
i. [Slide 23] Broader Biblical Truth: Zooming out from I John we see this throughout the New Testament. We are one in Christ and one with the Father through Christ. Our only hope to see the Father is through Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to the Father. No other god, no other Christ, no other Savior, no other lord will do.
j. Broader Biblical Application: So for us, we ought to listen to John and keep ourselves from Idols. Guard ourselves from trusting in anything that we think might get us closer to the Father than the Son.
[Slide 24 (end)] So how then shall we live?
Have you passed the test of the book of I John? Do you see deepening faith, enduring selfless love, and progressive obedience well up from within you? Do you see this great God having testified to the truth of His Son, give you life and thus testify through your life that Jesus is His Messiah? Have you passed John’s test?
If so, and you have been assured that you have eternal life in Christ… here are three more things that you ought now to know.
1.) That You have been fathered of God and will not continue to live a life of sin because Christ Himself has broken sin’s power and distanced you from Satan’s clutches.
2.) That you are God’s own possession, set apart for His holy purpose, and immune to the power and possession of Satan.
3.) That Christ is come and continues to give you insight to know God and be in God because you are in Christ who is the true God and Life Giver.
Be convinced of these things brothers and sisters! Be convinced of them to the point that you will guard yourselves against anything less than Jesus Christ the Messiah and God Man. Pursue nothing else. Seek God through nothing else.
As much as John has put a priority on good works as evidence of truly being in fellowship with God – we cannot assume that the way in which we enjoy greater fellowship with God is through good works. To make such an error would be to misunderstand our new relationship to God. Our relationship to God after being fathered by Him, is tethered, dependent, and woven to Jesus, The Messiah, The God-Man, His Son. Our protection from sin, our righteous standing, even our means of grace, is Jesus Christ alone. We cannot draw near to God without Him. So although it is true that good works are a necessary part of our new life… we must understand that it is not by these works that we are closer to God… but through Christ which produces in us good works. Don’t be like the Pharisees and assume that you doing good gets you closer to God. Because it doesn’t. Rather your depending on Christ and His righteousness – that is what draws you near to God and will subsequently produce good works in you. It is important that we don’t goof that up.
But on the other side of the coin, friend, if you have not passed John’s test…the horrors of this book are yours. You are under the power of Satan, and you are even now lulled to sleep in your sin. You may call yourself a believer but if you have not grown in your faith, endured in your love for God and other Christians, or seen obedience well up within you… if you have not grown in your hatred of sin and love of God’s law… if you have not been wholly changed to desire the light and hate the dark… then friend, you have absolutely no reason to walk away from I John with any assurance of your own identity. You ought to consider yourself lost. Because there is no other word that could be appropriate to describe you.
All of humanity falls into one of 3 categories. John gave us two in this passage.
1.) Those who are God’s
2.) Those who are Satan’s
3.) And the third group – perhaps the largest group – are those whose identity is in question. Not even they know which category they fall into.
John’s primary purpose in this book was to move people in that middle group to one of either of those sides. And friend if you can’t go to one then you have to go to the other.
But if you are under the sound of my voice and you genuinely do feel the pang of despair. If you hear me and do genuinely desire mercy and grace from God. That He would forgive your wickedness in His Son. That He would father you into a new life. That he would enable you to believe and to love and to obey.
Then seek it from Him. Ask and keep on asking. Your asking cannot force Him to grant you life… but He does promise that those who continually seek will find.
Afterall – to whom else can you turn?