What about 1 John 1:9? Part five.

Posted: Sun. Jan, 14 2018

1 John 1:9
9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

John’s game plan

We are now examining what John writes about his opponents  in the letter of 1 John.

Remember: John is doing two things in this letter.

He is exposing the opponents as false apostles, unbelievers,  and antichrists.

He is reassuring the believers in his congregations that they indeed have eternal life (are saved).

Recall that about 40% of the verses in this letter deal with the opponents in one way or another.

And there are five major passages that do so, one in each chapter:

1 John 1:5-10
1 John 2:18-26
1 John 3:1-15
1 John 4:1-6
1 John 5:5-12

We learned that you can spot a false prophet by observing the things he says and the things he does.

 Does he practice the truth, or does he lie?
Does he say one thing and do the opposite?
Does he practice righteousness, or practice sin and lawlessness?

 We are looking at what the opponents say (their claims , their teaching), what they do (their behavior), and who they really are (their real identity).

What they say and what they do reveals who they really are.

And we saw that this letter is written in absolute terms.   

You are either a child of God or a child of the devil.  It’s one or the other.

 

Chapter 3 of 1 John

We are now up to chapter 3 in our look at the opponents.

In chapter 3, John focuses on the behavior of the opponents.

1 John 3:1-15

3 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7  Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

11  For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.

13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

 

Absolutes and Equalities

In order to understand the material in chapter 3, it’s essential to keep in mind that John deals in absolutes in this letter, and the absolutes are believer and unbeliever (false teacher).

Otherwise, some of these verses are completely mystifying, and in fact seem to contradict other statements in the letter.

Take verse 6 for example.

1JO 3:6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

On the surface this appears to contradict 1JO 1:8-10; 1JO 2:1-2, and 2:12.

1JO 1:10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

But that’s not the case.  This will hopefully become clear when we examine what sins John is talking about in chapter 3.

John also writes using equalities.  To be a believer equals to be a child of God. To be a child of the devil equals to not be of God . To not be of God equals to not love your brother.

 

Practicing righteousness

The topic sentence for this paragraph (1 John 3:1-15)  is verse 10. We will begin with it.

1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

In this paragraph, John is contrasting the children of God with the children of the devil.  One group is the absolute antithesis of the other. 

Just look to their fathers.  The devil is the opposite of God in every way (unrighteous versus righteous, murderer versus life-giver, lies versus the truth).

The children of the devil do not practice righteousness.  This means they are not of God. They are not God’s children.

The children of the devil also do not love their brothers.

But what does John mean by practicing righteousness ?  Not doing the opposite!

And  what is the opposite of practicing righteousness? Practicing sin and lawlessness. 

 

Practicing sin and lawlessness

So what does John mean by practicing sin and lawlessness?

John spells it out in verse 8.

1 John 3:8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

The  one who practices sin is of the devil (3:8).

Why is he of the devil? Because the devil has sinned from the beginning, and they were now sinning in the same manner that he sinned from the beginning.

 

How the devil sinned

And what was the nature of the devil’s sin from the beginning?

John 8:44-47
44 " You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  45 "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.  46 "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?  47 " He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."

The devil sinned from the beginning because he was a murderer from the beginning.

And the devil also sinned from the beginning because he was a liar from the beginning.

1 John 2:22
22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.

So in the context of 1 John, the opponents practiced sin because they were liars.  They practiced the devil’s sin of lying, and their lies consisted of denying who Jesus is: the Son of God and the Christ.

But that’s not all.

1 John 3:15
15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Here in verse 15 we have two more equalities.

To hate your brother  =  to be a murderer.
To be a murderer =  to not have eternal life abiding in you.

And no eternal life abiding =  unbeliever. (1Jo  5:10-13)

Again, in the context of 1 John  -
- and this is so critical because if we go outside the context of the letter  we end up in confusion and contradiction -
in the context of 1 John, the opponents also practiced sin by committing the devil’s sin of murder, in the form of hating their brother.

For the purposes of 1 John 3, then, to practice sin or unrighteousness is (equals)  to deny Jesus is the Son of God and the Jewish Messiah, and to hate  one’s brother.

 

Cain and Abel

John reinforces this by bringing up Cain and Abel in verse 12.

1 John 3:11-12
11  For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.

So Cain was of the evil one (the liar and murderer).  He rejected the Lord and then murdered his brother.  These were his evil deeds. This is how he practiced unrighteousness and lawlessness.

Abel was precisely the opposite. He was the antithesis of his brother Cain.   He practiced righteousness. His deeds were righteous.

But what deeds of Abel were righteous?

The book of Hebrews tells us.

HEB 11:4
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

Abel was a keeper of flocks and he offered a better sacrifice than Cain.   But why was it better?

GEN 4:2-5
And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.

Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. In other words, he offered to the Lord the best that he had, and he prepared it with love and care.  In other words, he worshipped the LORD God with a faith-filled heart;  his worship was genuine.

Cain did not do that. Cain was essentially lying when he brought an offering. He gave it in order to appear that he was worshipping the Lord  - but he really was not.

The unrighteousness of Cain mimicked the unrighteousness that was first found in satan in EZE 28:11-19; namely, profane worship and violence.

Ezek 28:15-16
15 "You were blameless in your ways
From the day you were created
Until unrighteousness was found in you.
16 "By the abundance of your trade
You were internally filled with violence,
And you sinned;
Therefore I have cast you as profane
From the mountain of God.

Ezek 28:18
18 "By the multitude of your iniquities,
In the unrighteousness of your trade

You profaned your sanctuaries.

 

Faith and love

But Abel believed in the Lord. His faith motivated him to offer his first and best to the Lord.

By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice, and God testified that he was righteous

In the Gospel of John, Jesus was asked what men should do or practice in order to work the works of God. Here is the answer He gave:

John 6:27-29
27 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."  28 Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." 

1 John 3:11
11  For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;

So practicing righteousness is (equals) believing in Christ, and loving one another.

And that is exactly what John says in 1 John 3:23:

1 John 3:23
23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.

After all, love sums up all of the commandments in the law (MAT 22:35-40). So to not love - to hate - is to practice lawlessness.

Matt 22:35-40
35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37 And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'  38 "This is the great and foremost commandment.  39 "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.'  40 " On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

 

Summing it all up

John writes in absolutes.  You either practice righteousness or you practice sin and lawlessness.    There is no in-between.   And the difference between the two could not have been made any more clear.

Practice righteousness = of God (believer)

Practice sin and lawlessness = of the devil (unbeliever)

Believes in God’s Son, Jesus Christ

Denies that Jesus is the Son of God

Loves the brethren

Hates the brethren

 

The first column above describes the recipients of John’s letter.  The second column describes the opponents of John.

The behavior of the opponents in chapter 3 contradicts the things they said about themselves in chapter 1.  This exposes them as false prophets  - unbelievers, children of the devil - who have not seen or known God.

The following table summarizes what chapter 3 teaches about the opponents:

 

Verse(s)

Say

Do

ARE

1:6, 3:10

“We have fellowship with God”

Does not practice righteousness.

Does not love his brother.

 

Not of God.

Children of the devil.

1:8, 1:10, 3:4, 3:6, 3:8

“We have no sin”

“We have not sinned”

Practices sin and lawlessness = denying Jesus and hating the brethren.

Has not seen or known God.

Of the devil.

 

3:6-7

Trying to deceive the brethren by saying they have seen God, know God, and abide in God

Practice sin.

Of the devil.

Have not seen or known God.

3:11-12

 

Like Cain, they hate their brother and do evil deeds (false worship).

Of the evil one.

3:13-15

 

They do not love;  they hate their brother.

They are murderers.

They do not have eternal  life abiding in them.

 

Next time, we will complete this exercise by discovering the things that are revealed about the opponents in chapters 4 and 5 of 1 John.

 

Until the next time, we’re all ….

In His grip,

Pastor John

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