Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Do You Know You're Saved IV

Beginning in I John chapter 3 verse 1, John tells us that we are the sons of God. And this, he explains, is why the world just doesn't understand us. Note in verse 2 that we are the sons of God, explicitly now, in the present tense. In other words, we aren't someday going to become His children, but we are His children right now.

Of course, John goes on to explain that we aren't yet fully manifested as we will someday be, but that when He finally returns we will be just like Him. Then in verse 3 John tells us that, "... every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."

And here is the first place where we must take care not to misinterpret the scripture. This verse does not say that it is our responsibility to cleanse ourselves of all unrighteousness. God does that. What this verse tells us is that as we get to know God we will naturally want to be more like Him. It's a statement of the adage that emulation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Perhaps you are old enough to remember a public service announcement from television back in the 1970's, or maybe the 1980's. It showed a man walking with his young son of about five years old. As they walked along the father would kick a clod of dirt, and the boy would do likewise. The father tossed a stone into the lake and the boy did too. All the while the announcer is explaining that the boy wants to be just like his father, so he will naturally try to behave the same way the father behaved. That's when the father lights up a cigarette and the video freeze-frames on an image of the little boy trying to take a cigarette out of the father's pack.

Verse 3 is telling us the same thing. Remember, John is writing this epistle to explain to people how they can know that they're saved, that they truly do know God, and that they haven't been taken in by a false prophet or deceiver. Here he's telling us that as we get to know God, we are naturally going to want to be more like Him. Do you try not to sin? Do you try to avoid temptation? Why? Is it because you want to convince other people that you're a Christian, or because you love God?

Now in verses 4 through 12 we again must again take care not to misinterpret scripture. And toward that end let's consider the Greek from which these passages are translated. In fact, this is one of those passages where it can be beneficial to read a parallel translation, e.g. King James and the NIV. The word that is translated "committeth" in 4 (and in verses 8 and 9) is of the root B@4. It is the same root used to say that someone cherishes or values something. In other words, this passage does not describe single incidents, or discreet acts. Instead it describes someone who continues in or clings to a state of existence or a mode of behavior.

In other words, what John is saying here is that anyone who continues to live in sin is of the devil. Conversely, those who turn their back on sinful living, those who cherish and value righteousness, they are of God. This is not to say that a Christian can not commit a sinful act. We need only refer back to chapter 2 verse 1 to be reminded that when we do sin, Jesus is our advocate with the Father. Similarly an unrepentant sinner can feign a single act of righteousness, but they can't keep up the ruse. And it is this that manifests, or makes plain, who is and who is not God's children.

Now consider verses 10 through 12 in this light. Once again we are reminded, quite explicitly, that keeping the law, that doing righteousness, is completely summed up in the commandment to love our brothers.

Note what John tells us about Cain, that he killed Abel not just because Abel's works were righteous but also because his own were evil. So we should not be surprised when the world hates us (verses 13 - 15; see also John 15: 18, 19). He then goes on to reiterate that we can know we have been saved by the fact that we do love each other. Anyone who doesn't love the brethren isn't one of us. 

And what does this mean, to love the brethren? In verse 16 John tells us that we see how Christ loved us, by laying down His life for us. This is how we are to love the brethren, not by profession of words but by action and deed. This, John says in verse 19, is how we will know that we are of God, by the fact that we help our brethren in need.

Here in verses 19 and 20, King James' translators treated this passage as two sentences. They in fact are one, and should be read something like this. And hereby (that we love our brethren in deed and not just in words) shall we know that we are of the Truth (i.e. Jesus; John 14: 6) and shall assure our consciences before Him, that even if our conscience blames us God is greater than our conscience and knows all things.

Apparently it is not uncommon for people to doubt that they are truly saved. After all, John did find it necessary to write this epistle. But, if we do love our brethren, even if we at times doubt our own selves, our doubts will be assuaged before God, because He knows all things. And if our own consciences, our own doubts can not condemn us before God, then we have cause to be confident in His presence.

Finally, John reiterates his points, that God's commandment is that we believe on the name of His son, Jesus the Christ, and that we love one another. And that this is how we know that we abide in Him and He in us, that if it were not so we simply could not keep those commandments. We know He abides in us because of His Spirit in us.

I John 3
1    Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 
2    Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 
3    And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

I John 3
4    Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 
5    And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 
6    Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 
7    Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 
8    He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 
9    Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 
10    In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 
11    For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 
12    Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

I John 2: 1    My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

I John 3
13    Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 
14    We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 
15    Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

John 15: 18, 19    If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

I John 3
16    Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 
17    But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 
18    My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 
19    And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 
20    For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 
21    Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 
22    And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. 
23    And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 
24    And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

John 14: 6    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.