Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TO KNOW THAT YOU KNOW (1 John Chapter 5)

1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

John’s gospel and first epistle both include a purpose statement.  He wrote his gospel account, recounting the signs done by Jesus, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).  He wrote his first epistle to those who have believed that they “may know that (they) have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  His purpose in writing this epistle was that the believer would have assurance with respect to his salvation.

The doctrines of security and assurance are complimentary.  The believer is one who “has passed out of death into life” (1 John 3:14; Cf. 1 John 5:24).  He is secure in that objective reality whether aware of the truth of it or not.  Assurance has to do with one’s confident realization of his security.  Assurance is a crucial doctrine because it touches on other important aspects of the Christian’s life.  The assured Christian is a joyful and serving Christian.

With respect to these objective and subjective matters, it is possible for a person to live in one of four different states: saved and assured; saved and not assured; not saved and falsely assured; not saved and not assured.  Of these four the state that is most desirous is the first.  God wants us to be saved (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:4) and to have assurance of our salvation (Cf. 1 John 5:13).  Of the four, the third situation is least desirous.  It is possible for a person to not be saved, but to think—on the basis of some mistaken assumption—that they are (Cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

The Holy Spirit has a ministry of granting assurance to the believer (Cf. 1 John 5:10, 4:13).  “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).  His presence in one’s life is manifested in various ways.  And while there are varying degrees of spiritual maturity (Cf. 1 John 1:12-14; Philippians 3:12) and it is possible for a believer to behave “in human ways” (1 Corinthians 3:3), the Spirit of God will inevitably work to manifest His presence in the life of the child of God.

The true believer is one who loves the truth.  “God is light” (1 John 1:5).  The believer is one walks “in the light, as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7).  “Whoever knows God listens” to the truth (Cf. 1 John 4:6).  Jesus said it this way: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27, 16).  The true believer is one who has been born again through the truth to a love for truth (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23, 2:2).  By the Spirit the believer both understands and values truth (Cf. 1 John 2:27).

The true believer is one who loves righteousness.  Though aware of his sin (Cf. 1 John 1:8-10; Romans 7:24), he is not one who “makes a practice of sinning” (Cf. 1 John 3:4-10; 5:18).  Instead he “practices righteousness” (Cf. 1 John 2:29, 3:7), and endeavors to keep “his commandments (Cf. 1 John 2:3-4).  As previously stated, it is not that he never sins, but by the Spirit his response to sin is not what it once was and is not according to the world’s way of thinking and living (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17; Romans 1:28-32; Galatians 5:19-21).

The true believer is one who loves the brethren.  This is a main theme in John’s epistle.  “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  “Love is from” Him (Cf. 1 John 4:7).  Those who have “been born of God” are Spirit-led and empowered to love others with His kind of love (Cf. 1 John 4:7).  “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers” (1 John 3:14).  If no desire for fellowship exists, and there is no capacity to love “in deed and in truth” and no resulting correspondence between the walk of Jesus and our own (Cf. 1 John 2:6, 3:16), then there is good reason to be concerned as to one’s spiritual condition.

1 John 3:10 summarizes the matter this way: “By this it is evident (NASB, “obvious”) 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.”  We are not saved by doing these things—salvation is to “those who believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23)—but our identity as children of God is confirmed to us as we are Spirit-led and empowered to do them.  That is how we can know (i.e. have assurance) that we know Him.

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