What is John's Message?
1 John 1:1-4. We have seen the Word, and we bear witness to you that we have seen that ‘Eternal life’ who was with the Father. He was manifested to us and we declare Him unto you, that you also may have fellowship with the Father and His Son. (Texts paraphrased)
John has written a letter of confidence in Christ, as one who has spent time with Him. In using the words “that eternal life which was with the Father”, he is referring back to the first chapter of his gospel. “….the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1.
1:5-10. This is the message we have heard from Him – God is light. If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, but if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Yes, “all have sinned”, but for those who have confessed their sins, they walk in the light of God’s love forgiven.
2:1-6. If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is without sin. He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. We know Him if we keep His commandments, but he who sins does not know Him. He who keeps His Word has the love of God perfected in Him, and by this we know we are in Him. He who abides in Him must walk as He walked.
John is now introducing some heavy material, of which he elaborates as he progresses. As you study it, you will see that we generally take those first words “if any man sin” too lightly.
2:7-11. I don’t write a new commandment to you but an old one, yet it is new. If you hate your brother, you are not walking in the light. You are in darkness, and do not know where you are going; your eyes are blinded.
John now begins to speak specifically. Christians are walking in the light of God’s love and forgiveness; others are not. He is not comparing Christians to total unbelievers, but to two parties in the church. One is in the light; the other in darkness. Black and white. In the light there is love; in the darkness there is hate. Perhaps too strong a word! But like lust, hate begins in the mind, perhaps with envy, non-subdued anger, jealousy. It grows until it becomes full-blown hatred, then murder. This includes our attitude towards all others, including family, in-laws, other Christians, including brethren and sisters who have a different understanding of Scripture to ours.
In our own denominational history, men were holding on to the ‘landmarks’, but the prophet said they had no idea what the landmarks were. “They had decided it was a dangerous error removing the ‘old landmarks’ when it was not moving a peg of the old landmarks, but they had perverted ideas of what constituted the old landmarks.” Counsels to Writers and Editors p30. This is when it becomes absolutely vital we go back to that which was given to the apostle John, as well as that given by the Spirit of God to our pioneers.
2:12-17. I write to you fathers…. and young men…. and little children. Love not the world or the things in the world. If you do, the love of the Father is not in you – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life – these are not of the Father. The world will pass away, but he that does the will of the Father, abides for ever.
This is good counsel, but again it shows that the life of the believer is vastly different from that of the worldling. If our lives are full of worldly activity with little thought of God, the apostle says we do not the will of the Father. We are walking in darkness.
2:18-21. Little children, it is the end, and you know the antichrist will come. Even now there are many antichrists. This shows it is the end. These antichrists went out from us, showing that they were not with us. If they had been, they would not have gone out. We have an Unction from the Holy One and you know all things. I write because you know the truth, not because you don’t.
The apostle is making it clear that those who were once in the church, but who had left, had never actually been Christians. If they had been, they would not have left. It is important at this point to remember that this is not talking about men and women leaving because of apostasy of the church, or apostasy in the church. It is speaking of those who have denied ‘an Unction from the Holy One’. They denied it because they did not receive it. In context with the rest of the book, this unction is the out-pouring of the Spirit of Christ upon the believer. John said in his gospel, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:26. The Spirit poured out at Pentecost, and upon those who are baptised with a sincere heart; this is the fulfilment of that promise. John says that those who deny this truth have the spirit of antichrist.
John is also speaking about THE ANTICHRIST, which we now know became the Papacy. He speaks more directly about this power in the following verses.
2:22-25. Who is a liar? He that denies that Jesus is the Christ. He is antichrist that denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son has not the Father. The reverse is also true – he who acknowledges the Son has the Father. Let this abide in you, which you heard at the beginning – continue in the Son and in the Father. He has promised us eternal life.
Today there are many ways to deny the Father and the Son, but we must listen to what John is saying. How did these men and women deny the Father and the Son at the time the apostle was speaking? We do not look in the secular world, but inside the church. These people left the truth they had been taught ‘by the anointing’, although, as the apostle said earlier, they themselves did not receive the anointing. True believers had received the anointing of the Spirit and these were taught the truth. Others denied it.
The question is asked by the apostle, “Who is a liar?” (2:22) He then answers it by saying that the Antichrist denies the Father and the Son. The Antichrist knows the truth, but refuses to accept it because the system is walking in darkness. It goes both ways – they are walking in darkness because they refuse to accept the anointing of Christ’s Spirit, and by this refusal, they walk in darkness. It always goes both ways – to deny Christ’s Spirit indwells the believer is to deny that Christ is come in the flesh, and to deny this, is to deny the Father. We identify the Antichrist as one who puts himself in the place of Christ and this is true, but to go strictly from Scripture, especially John’s epistle, it is not Vicarius Dei Filli, although that is also true. Instead it is a denial that God sent His Son, both at the incarnation and at Pentecost. Although they use the words ‘God’s Son’, He is not in reality a Son until the incarnation, and then it is only a role-play.
2:26-29. I have written these things about those who try to seduce you. The Anointing you have received from Him abides in you, and you don’t need any man to teach you. This anointing teaches you all things and is the truth. It is not a lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in Him. Little children, abide in Him so that when he appears, we can have confidence and not be ashamed at His coming. Everyone who is born of Him is righteous because He is righteous.
Men had come into the church who were trying to lead the believers away from the truth of Christ’s anointing, seducers. Those who had been taught by ‘the anointing’ did not need men to teach them. The apostle is not saying it is wrong to have men teach, but if they were teaching anything other than the truth the believers had been taught by Christ in Spirit, it was error. Paul says the same thing to the Galatians.. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8. He repeats it again for emphasis, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:9.
The church was to remain confident that they had been taught the truth ‘by the anointing’, and to continue to abide in Christ so they would not be ashamed at His coming. Another spirit would leave them naked and unready to meet the Saviour in peace.
3:1-3. Behold, what love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God. The world does not know us because it did not know Him. We are sons now, but when Christ appears, we will be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope purifies himself as He is pure.
3:4-12. Whoever commits sin breaks the law, for sin is the breaking of the law. Christ was manifest to take away our sins, although He had no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin; but whoever does sin, does not know Him. Little children, don’t let any man deceive you – He who does righteousness is righteous, just as His is righteous. He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sinned from the beginning. This is why the Son of God was manifest, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
Whoever is born of God does not commit sin, for His seed remains in him. He cannot sin because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil. Whoever does not do righteousness is not of God; also because he does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning – love one another, not as Cain, who murdered his brother. Why did he kill him? Because Abel’s works were righteous and his were evil.
John has made a clearcut distinction between a Christian and a professing Christian. His words identify the children of God and the children of the devil, aligning with Paul’s statement, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Romans 6:16. He who breaks the law is giving evidence that he does not have the Spirit of Christ. He is not born again. Many today have taken these words very lightly, some denying them outright, saying, ‘I will be sinning until Jesus comes’. What they are announcing is that they are not Christians; they have the spirit of the world. Yes, they will be sinning until Jesus comes, but lost in the end.
3:13-24. Don’t be surprised if the world hates you. We know we have passed from death to life when we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother, abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know the love of God – because He laid down His life for us, therefore we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Whoever sees his brother in need and does not help him, how does the love of God dwell in him? My little children, don’t just love in words and tongue, but in deed and in truth. This is how we know we are of the truth. If your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart, and if your heart does not condemn you, you can have confidence in God. Whatever we ask, we will receive because we obey His commandments. And this is the commandment -- that we should believe on the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ, and love one another. He who keeps His commandments dwells in Him and He in Him. This is how we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He gave us.
The whole chapter is really one thought, but it is the last sentence in the above section that sums it up. "...by the Spirit which He gave us." It is the identity of the Spirit that distinguishes the Christian and the professing Christian. If a person claims to have received the Spirit of Christ, but their lives are not honouring Him, we can know their profession is false. If they claim to have another spirit, their lives will show it. This is said with caution, but it is based on John’s epistle. In our Christian walk we are not to judge our brethren, however, there is a place when we must identify the true from the false -- if we want to follow the counsel of the apostle John. It is not easy to do, but for the salvation of souls it may become necessary.
However, on the other hand, there are brethren and sisters who reveal a Christlike Spirit, yet they claim to have another spirit they call the Holy Spirit. We do not doubt they are blessed of Christ in their ignorance, however, as the subject comes before them and they are convicted of the identity of the true Spirit, but do not accept it, there will be a change in the attitude and behaviour. We must pray for our brethren, especially those who obviously love Jesus. When they see this truth, it will bring them closer to Jesus than they ever imagined.
John makes it clear that those who have ‘been anointed by the Spirit of Christ’ will keep His commandments and love the brethren because they have the power of the living Christ. Obedience and love is evidence that Christ abides within. John has made it clear that Christians are not active sinners. There will be mistakes, but the promise is that “we have an Advocate with the Father.” (2:1) Men and women who have the Spirit of Jesus will do that which Christ did in His life. Yes, we have a choice, but while we remain surrendered “we cannot sin because His seed remains” in us. (3:9)
4:1-6. Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how we know the Spirit of God – every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that does not confess this, is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist. You have heard that he should come; he is now in the world. You are of God little children and have overcome these antichrists, because greater is he that is in you than is in the world. They are of the world, therefore they speak of the world and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
As there is more than one spirit, we are cautioned to test the spirits. Evil spirits dwell in men and women who do not have the Spirit of Christ, and do not portray the victorious life of Christ: false prophets, false evangelists, false pastors, false teachers, false leaders, false administrators, false brethren and sisters. Lovely people with pleasing presentations. Those who have a false spirit believe they have the holy Spirit. Please note, we are speaking of those who are false, according to John’s criteria. Knowing what we know about the devil, this is no surprise because he will work with those who have rejected the true Spirit, inspiring them to claim to have the truth and the true spirit. The danger is that there is “another spirit”, “another gospel”, and “another Jesus”. 2 Corinthians 11:4.
A very important question: What is the criteria for identifying the false spirit? The answer: To reject that “Jesus Christ is come in the flesh”. To make clear the words "is come", remember Revelation 14:12 says “judgment is come”, which is present tense, or in Greek perfect tense. It speaks of a continous action. When studying "is come" in 1 John 4:2, most Bible commentators believe it refers to Christ retaining His human body in heaven, however, John’s epistle is not referring to this, but to the indwelling of Christ in the believer. Our prophet makes it clear that Christ in heaven is a glorified divine-human being, but that He also energizes His people with His omnipresent Spirit on earth.
In context of the whole epistle, it is clear that John is not primarily speaking of Jesus coming in human flesh at His incarnation, but His coming in Spirit at Pentecost and beyond. If the apostle was referring to the incarnation at this point, he would have said ‘Jesus has/had come in the flesh’, ‘ He came in the flesh’ or ‘He was manifested in the flesh’. The Antichrist denies both, but it is the latter, of dwelling in our flesh, that identifies the spirit of Antichrist, in fact of any antichrist. (The Papacy’s denial of Christ at His incarnation is due to its dogma of ‘eternal generation’ of the Son. It also refers to its belief in the ‘immaculate conception’. In both ways, God’s Son is denied)
When John says, “greater is he that is in you than is in the world”, he is telling us that God’s people have the power of Christ within. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”, said Jesus. Matthew 28:18.
4:7-21. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God. Every one who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is love. In this was manifest the love of God towards us, in that God sent His only begototen Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us so much that He sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. No man has seen God, but if we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us.
Hereby we know that we dwell in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God. We know and believe in the love God has towards us. God is love; and he who dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we have boldness in the day of judgment, because as He is, so are we in the world. There is no fear in love: perfect loves casts out fear. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him because he first loved us. If a man say he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar because he doesn’t love his brother who he can see; how can he love God who he can’t see? This is God’s commandment – that we love God and love our brother.
This section speaks of the coming of God’s Son into the world “that we might live through Him”, and because God sent His Son, we know that "we dwell in Him and He in us". These words remind us of Jesus’ prayer recorded by John in his gospel. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” John 17:21. Christian love for each other is living evidence that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, and that He has fulfilled His promise to “not leave (us) comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:18.
Our prophet shows that Jesus has fulfilled His promise by indwelling the believer in Spirit. “He ( Christ) spoke of His Omnipresence in a special way… Labor in faith and confidence, for the time will never come when I shall forsake you.” Ms 138-1897. Dec 2. 1897. Par 21. His illustration of the vine and the branches gives a clear picture. “The root sends its nourishment through the branch. Such is the true believer’s relation to Christ. He abides in Christ, and draws his nourishment from him.” 5 Testimonies 229.
5:1-6. Whoever believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and everyone who loves Him that begat loves also him that is begotten of Him. By this we know that we are the children of God when we love and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments; they are not grevious. Whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world? He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is He who came by water and blood not by water only, but by water and blood. It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
There is a section in the above that we only partially quote. Whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and “this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” (5:4) This is where we stop, but the next verse is absolutely vital to finish the thought – on what do we put our faith? “Who is he who overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” (5:5)
5:7-12. There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not, calls God a liar because he does not believe the record that God gave His Son. And this is the record: that God hath given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, and he who does not have the Son does not have life.
I have left verse 7 in the quotation, not that I necessarily believe it is part of the original text, but because it does not alter John’s message. It is not saying that the Father, Son and Spirit are a Trinity, that would be completely out of context. To be in harmony with the following verse, it is saying, “these three are one in agreement,” (5:7) Just as the next verse says “these three agree in one.” (5:8) What are they in agreement about? That Jesus came into this world, was anointed by the Spirit, and it is He who anoints His people with His own Spirit, giving them power to overcome sin. This is the message of the letter.
John says that if we do not believe God sent His Son into this world, we call God a liar. A serious charge. It goes without saying that we also call Christ a liar if we do not believe He has fulfilled His promise to dwell in us by His Spirit. And to make Christ a liar is to forfeit eternal life, because “He who does not have the Son does not have life.” (5:12)
5:13-15. These things I have written to you who believe on the name of the Son of God. This is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And we know that if He hears us, we have the petition that we desire of Him.
How wonderful. Praise God.
5:16-21. If anyone sees his brother sin not unto death, he shall ask and he can receive life, but if it is a sin unto death, do not pray for it. We know that whoever is born of God does not sin. He that is begotten of God keeps himself from sin, and the wicked one cannot touch him. We know that we are of God; the whole world lies in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
Through God’s Son, we can know God, and have eternal life. “And this is life eternal, that (we) might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3.
Paul wrote, in complete harmony with John, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Romans 8:9.10.
We must ask ourselves – Do I have the true Spirit or is it "another"?