Day 347 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue First John.
1 John 3 – In these verses John sets forth, for the third time, the “moral” test of genuine gospel-belief. John speaks of true Believers as “practicing righteousness” as opposed to “practicing sin.” While we still sin as Believers, a genuine Believer does not “practice sinning” (i.e., have a life pattern of sinful pursuits without correction or remorse) because he has been “born of God” and therefore has a completely new identity Galatians ; Corinthians ). Anyone who does “practice sinning” not only has no grounds for assurance of being in a right relationship with God but also is shown to be still in darkness and at enmity with God, being “of the devil.”
The gospel holds out the only hope for those in such a condition. The Good News is that Jesus “appeared in order to take away sins.” He also “appeared . . . to destroy the works of the devil.” As the gospel continues its transforming work in the lives of Believers, they will increasingly bear resemblance to their heavenly Father (Genesis 1:26). This is God’s very purpose, that we should be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). And the ultimate blessing of being conformed to the image of God’s Child is that we are also regarded as “children of God,” loved by Him as much as Jesus is loved by Him (3:1).
What a prospect the genuine gospel-believer and child of God has to look forward to—that one day God’s redemptive purpose will be brought to full completion and, seeing Him, we shall completely and perfectly bear His likeness.
John once again transitions directly from the “moral” test to the “love” test, showing that our love for one another is an integral part of the total transformation of life brought about by God through the gospel.
John states explicitly that genuine love for other Believers is a right ground for assurance of genuine belief, just as hate is a sure sign that one is “of the evil one” and is without the “eternal life” possessed by those who believe. A believer’s love flows out of and resembles the love he has received from God through Jesus. This will make our love exceedingly practical. The presence of this love will provide right grounds for assurance in the face of uncertainty and feelings of condemnation.
In verses 23–24 John begins to intertwine the three tests he has already laid out, speaking now of the connection between right belief, genuine love, and ongoing obedience, all of which enable us to know that we “abide in Him.” While reference to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer does not emerge with the same emphasis as these other grounds of assurance do in John’s letter, here and again later (4:13; 5:6) John speaks of the presence of the Spirit as another ground of assurance that God “abides in us” and that we abide in Him.
Similarly, the New Testament elsewhere speaks of the Spirit as a “guarantee” or down payments (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14) of our eternal salvation. The new belief, new behaviors, and new affections generated by the Spirit evidence His presence in us and grant assurance of our relationship with God (see also Romans 8:5–7, 13–16).
In all this we remember the great consolation of 1 John 3:20: when we feel accused and condemned, we can look to Christ and know that all sin is forgiven. God’s sentence of acquittal overrules our heart’s sentence of condemnation. And that is not because God does not see all the facts or has overlooked some of our failures; quite the contrary, “He knows everything” but forgives us anyway! How? Through the finished work of Jesus who took upon Himself the consequences we deserved. Amazing!
By a preeminent love for God, we are also liberated from selfishness so that “whatever we ask we receive from Him.” Such prayers are not for worldly priorities and selfish gain but for what brings glory to God. God grants that which enables us to “keep His commandments” and “abide in God”—the eternal priorities of heaven, not of earth.
How do you see the Gospel transforming you each day?
1 John 4 – Here, for the second time, John lays out the “doctrinal” test for genuine belief. He calls us to “test the spirits”, referring to the spiritual presence behind teaching, whether true or false; we are to discern “whether they are from God.”
The specific point of doctrine in question (as was the case in 2:18–27) is that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” or, in other words, that “Jesus [the man] is the Christ” (2:22). Those who deny this are not “from God.” Those who do believe this are “from God” and “know God.” The added way of knowing what is from God is testing whether what is being taught is consistent with apostolic witness—that is, Scripture. John says, “whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Thus, we test whether others’ teachings are correct based on their consistency with apostolic witness to (1) Jesus’ redemption and (2) Scripture’s truth.
For the third time, John lays out the “love” test. The sheer volume of space dedicated to this in John’s letter speaks of the importance of love for fellow Believers in the gospel-transformed life (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Jesus said that this is how others would know that we are true Believers (John 13:35). John’s point, here once again, is that this is how we can know with confidence we are true believers (1 John 4:7, 12, 16–17). Amid the encouragement to love one another that bookends this section (verses 7, 21), John presents a moving summary of the gospel in verses 9–10 as both model and motivation for our love for one another.
John also refers to love being “perfected in/with us.” By this John speaks of love being brought progressively to its full godlike character in us as the gospel continues its ongoing transformative work through God’s abiding presence with us. This will both “cast fear” out of us and produce “confidence” in us as we anticipate “the day of judgment.” For genuine gospel-believers there need be no fear of judgment day; there will be no punishment for God’s children, because God “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The ground for all of this love-based behavior and rejoicing is grace: “We love because He first loved us.” Our obedience is not a fearful striving to please God but a thankful and joyous response to the love with which He has already embraced us and provided for us by the sacrifice of His Son. The gospel is indeed news of great comfort and joy!
How do you experience God’s love working in you and through you to those around you?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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