In the final four verses of this challenging letter John summarises all his teaching as he really wants to push the points home.
Sin. John points out that sin and the believer do not belong together. 1 John 3:6-9. When we are in God’s family our intention is not to sin. Our whole desire is to be like Christ Himself. If we do sin God has made a way for us to repent and even protects us from the wiles of the devil unlike those who belong to the world. We often struggle with the weaknesses in our flesh, with thoughts, words and behaviours that disappoint God and for which we need forgiveness. Our aim must be to defeat sin in our lives and not to become lazy, accepting sin as ‘just part of life’. If we do become lazy and accepting it only helps to harden our hearts and we find it harder to hear the leadings of the Holy Spirit.
World. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If we believe we are His children, even though we live in the world dominated by evil, then God promises to protect His own. John is so confident of his own position in Christ in these four verses that he uses the word ‘know’ four times to reinforce his confidence. He uses this confidence to point out to his readers that they need to be equally confident in the God they are following and His Son Jesus Christ in order to have victory over the evil one who is ruler in the earth. To discern the spirits in the world so they are protested against the antichrist.
Idolatry. This final comment from John is reminding them of keeping away from anything that might take the place of God in their heart. The last words are ‘keep yourselves from false devotion’. John recognises the danger for all of us. It is so easy to abandon the Truth and be taken in by what is false, such as the antichrist in earlier lessons, 1 John 2:18-19; 1 John 4:1-6. In our daily lives idols can be pleasure, possessions, pornography, work, money, image, position, fame, family and many more such things that we put in a higher place than God. These things are false gods and are of the world. We cannot love the world and love God at the same time, Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15-17.
John seems rather blunt but at the same time it is vital. An idol is anything which occupies the place due to God. Mammon is still a powerful deity as people live for what they have or what they acquire. Materialism becomes a quest for power, social status, success and fame. John’s concern was with the false ideas and heretical understanding of God. Familiarity with God, bringing Him down to our level of thought and action, limiting His actions, depriving Him of His Majesty, and many more wrong concepts of God is a danger for all of us. We can so easily think we know all about Him when really what we are worshipping is a god of our own making; how we think we would like Him to be. Anything that squeezes God out of the central position towards the margins of our life must be ruthlessly toppled. Any thought of God that contradicts His revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ must be rejected.
John knows life as a Christian can be hard and we need to remember that. It is true that our salvation means we have been redeemed from the curse (and there is nothing the devil can do to reverse that) but he is going to work hard to make sure the life we do have is not lived in victory. We must not be surprised when the going gets tough. There will be times when we have to stand only by faith, when we have to speak and act as though what God says is true even though we can’t see or feel anything changing around us. There are times when everything looks awful, but that is when we endure, push through and choose to offer a sacrifice of praise. We hear a new message, or go to a conference, watch a DVD and decide to change but when the hard times come and we give up, saying that ‘it does not work’. That is just the point at which we must ‘speak things that are not as though they were’, Romans 4:17. The Christian life of living by faith is a 24/7 lifestyle, we have to do it when it is hard and when it is easy, as it is our faith that pleases God, Hebrews 11:6. Things may be rough but we will always be victorious when we refuse to faint and fall away. Then we will be the winner. The only defeated Christian is the one who quits.
Salvation. ‘We know (positively) that we are of God’ 1 John 5:19
Romans 5:6-11 (NLT) describes exactly what has happened to all believers in the most amazing way. It also points out how we are not only reconciled to God through the death of His Son but saved through His life. But what is this life of salvation? In order to discover that we look at the Word in its original context and meaning. The Greek word for salvation echoes the meaning of the Hebrew word in the Old Testament. The Greek word is ‘soteria’ which means rescue or safety in either a physical or moral sense and includes the following meanings in English: – deliver, health, salvation, save, saving. Sometimes the form ‘soterion’ (noun) is used. This includes the meaning ‘defender’ or by implication ‘defence’. Both of these words derive from the Greek word ‘soter’ which means a deliverer i.e. God or Christ:- Saviour, and that word in turn is derived from the word ‘sozo’ which comes from the word ‘sos’ meaning safe. ‘Sozo’, therefore means to save i.e. deliver or protect (either literally or figuratively) therefore heal, preserve, save, do well, be (or make) whole.
Salvation is very much more than the promise of a home in heaven at the end of our life – somewhat like a Pension Plan! Salvation is for the here-and-now. Its benefits are really life-changing if only we would take the time to understand them. We need to take off our preconceived ideas and the restrictions that people have placed on our thinking. We recently heard again the story of the flea in the jar! A flea can easily jump out of a bottle! But, place a flea in a bottle with a lid on it, and it jumps and discovers the pain as it hits the lid! Leave the lid on long enough and the flea learns to jump just low enough so that it doesn’t hurt itself. You can then remove the lid, and you will continue to keep your flea! We cannot afford to let anybody or denomination or fear place restrictions over us that prevent us from receiving the Word of God in its fullness because then we will be kept from achieving all that God has planned for us.
In Deuteronomy 28:1-14, God spells out the blessings to which we are entitled if we choose to follow Him. They are worth investigating. These promises were made to God’s people many years ago, but they are timeless in that if we are a child of God – a Believer, a Christian in the true sense today then they are just as valid for us now! The curses equally apply to those who are not Believers, Deuteronomy 28:15-68. ‘Jesus redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.’ Galatians 3:14. That primarily is the Holy Spirit but also includes all the blessings of Abraham’s life. What an amazing life we are promised! We need to be firm in our faith not wavering back and forth between our circumstances and God’s promises believing one and then the other. Abraham had natural facts to deal with just like we do as there was no natural way for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 4:19-20 says he did not look at his body or Sarah’s, well past childbearing years, but he focused on the promise of God. He gave glory to God for the outcome before it happened. He made an irreversible decision to go with the Word of God as the final authority. If we want to see God do the impossible in our lives we have the same decision to make. In our previous study we made a petition to present to God agreeing with His Word about a problem situation. Go back to those promises and what God said and decide that your faith will stay on His Word and you will speak only the Word as if the miracle had happened. Turn your back on the problem, on any doubts and lies the enemy is telling you, and focus instead on Jesus. God will do the impossible in our lives for His Glory.
In Isaiah 53 we read that Jesus was scourged – a vile form of flogging where the Roman soldier who inflicted this method of torture used a whip with fragments of bone, twisted metal and broken pottery braided into it. As each lash of this multi-tailed whip wrapped itself around Jesus’ body, the soldier pulled back literally ripping chunks of flesh off His body probably laying bare the ribs and backbone. Yet Isaiah said this; ‘Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed’. Isaiah 53:4-5
This passage clearly states that what was done to His body during this torture was so that we might be healed. Remember that this prophecy was given some 700 years before Jesus’ crucifixion. Writing after the crucifixion and with the benefit of hindsight as it were, Peter wrote these words: ‘Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed’. 1 Peter 2:24
So we can see that both writers in the Old and the New Testament agree that it was by the stripes of Jesus that we can have healing. But of course we have to believe that in order for it to be effective for us! Healing is an integral part of salvation just as the meaning of the word declares. Again like Abraham we choose to believe the Word more than the symptoms in our body. Just reading about the blessings in the Bible does not mean that we will believe them. Jeremiah 29:12-13 AMP says this ‘Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart’.
So, do you want to take something for granted just because someone says it, or do you really want to find what God says about it? The choice is yours!!
‘Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. So do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently…… Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’ Romans 13:10-14
The time is over for Christians to be divided over petty issues, the way God is moving forward in His revival is as we love one another. In the past we’ve said ‘If you don’t agree with me on the issue of tongues, or on the timing of the rapture…or on the proper depth for baptismal waters, I won’t accept you as a brother or sister in the Lord. I’ll break fellowship with you’. But that’s not God’s way of doing things. He doesn’t have a long list of doctrinal demands for us to meet. His requirements are simple. 1 John 3:23 tells us what they are: to believe on the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another.
Once you and I come to a place where we keep those requirements and quit worrying about the rest, we’ll be able to forget our denominational squabbles and come together in the unity of faith. We’ll grow so strong together that the winds of doctrine won’t be able to drive us apart. When that happens, the devil’s going to panic because the unity of the faith of God’s people is a staggering thing. It’s the most unlimited, powerful thing on earth.
Right now all over the world, the Spirit is calling the Church of the living God to unite. Hear Him and obey, and you too can be a part of one of the most magnificent moves of God this world has ever seen.
John finishes his letter with his point about idolatry. That is why we have been studying the Word with the help of the revelation of the Holy Spirit which enables us to distinguish Truth from error. If all believers were to deal with idolatry in their lives then the passion of love for God and each other would usher in the revival for which we long so much. The Bride would be made fit for the King of Kings. Come Lord Jesus.
Remember our Prayer ‘In Jesus’ name, I make a fresh and strong commitment today to live the life of love, to let the tenderness of God flow through me and heal the wounded hearts of those I meet. Father teach me to love even when things go wrong; to be patient and kind when the children are underfoot; to overlook the spiteful words of an angry spouse; to rejoice when someone gets something I was wanting. Teach me to talk in love, to lay gossip quietly aside and to take up words of grace instead. Lord, Your Word says that Your love is already inside me… that it has been shed abroad in my heart. So today I resolve to remove every obstacle that would keep that love from flowing freely into the lives of others. I put resentments behind me, and I forgive all those who have done me wrong. In the days ahead, cause me to increase and excel and overflow with Your love. Cause me to be what this world needs most of all …. A living example of love, Amen.’
24 Conclusion 1 John 5:18-21 Challenge Questions
Read all the notes on ‘Conclusion’ – 1 John 5:18-21
1. If we see a brother or sister in Christ doing something wrong, is our first reaction to pray for them? Why or why not?
2. Can you share of a time when things were so tough you only had God’s Word and faith to hold onto? What helped you hold on to God? What was the outcome?
3. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Put this into modern talk. In what way can you relate to this passage? Give one condition that God puts on giving His Blessings.
4. From the notes what have you learnt about healing? Do you know anyone you can share this information with?
5. If someone has a problem with idolatry what do you feel is the best way to deal with it?
6. Looking back to Introductory Week One Questions the question number 10 asked ‘At the end of this study on ‘Real Love’ in what areas of our lives do we expect to see God has changed us by the power of His Holy Spirit?’ Look up what answer you wrote and think about what changes have taken place.
7. From which study do you feel you got most out of and how has it changed your life?
8. Take time to read the whole letter of 1 John asking the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance what you have learnt.