1 John 5:18-21 March 12, 2017
Sermon Series on I John Sermon # 22
Today’s Sermon: “Three Affirmations and an Appeal”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Intro: We all like to be affirmed, right? We all desire support and confirmation for what we are doing. But where do you get that affirmation from?
One source that the world looks for it is from within; as if repeating a mantra about yourself will make you feel better.
Another source of affirmation is from other people.
But for the believer, our affirmation should come mainly from God and His Word.
And in 1 John 5:18-21, John gives three affirmations for us… as well as a final appeal.
The First Affirmation: God guards us from sin’s power and from Satan’s power.
18 “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”
If you have been born of God; if you have been regenerated by God the Holy Spirit, then you have been given permanent privileges and responsibilities.
We have an obligation to repent of our sin and deny ourselves a lifestyle of habitual sin. The new birth results in new behavior, as sin and the new birth are incompatible.
The reason for this affirmation about not continuing in sin is because “the one who was born of God (v. 18b) [likely meaning Jesus Christ, as He, not ourselves, is the One who keep us safe] keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”
John uses the same phrase “born of God” to first describe the Christian (18a) and then to describe Christ (18b).
The believer has the assurance that he or she will be kept safe from habitual sin only as the Son of God keeps him or her. (See Jude 24; 1 Peter 1:5)
And the reason we need to be kept safe by Christ is because the evil one, the devil, is very strong and vicious. We ourselves are no match for him.
(A Mighty Fortress…. “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; were not the Right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.”)
The Son of God came to destroy the work of the devil (3:8)
Note the reasoning in v. 18: The devil does not harm the believer because Jesus Christ keeps him safe, and therefore the Christian does not continue in habitual sin. This is the “deliverance from evil” that we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.
This affirmation is what Jesus prayed for us in John 10:28-30 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Are you living in light of this glorious affirmation?
The Second Affirmation: Despite Satan’s world-wide control, we belong to God.
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (v. 19)
Everyone belongs either to the family of God as His children or to the Devil, under His devious and cruel power. There is no neutrality, no third choice. While the Christian is completely safe in Christ’s power, everyone in the world is helplessly in Satan’s grasp.
Either you are serving the King of kings and are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, or you are a slave to the powers of darkness, and helpless in Satan’s grip.
Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11, and Eph. 2:2 and 6:12)
Yet, lest we become unbiblically pessimistic, remember that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, as the propitiation of God’s wrath (2:2)
As Col. 1:13–14 remind us, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Who do you serve? Who do you belong to?
The Third Affirmation: God has given us the true understanding of Jesus Christ
20 “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
This third and final affirmation is the most fundamental of the three, as it undermines the whole structure of the theology of the false teachers. For in the historic person of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who took on our flesh, we have understanding, we have truth, and we have eternal life – all in Him.
Without Christ we could neither know God nor overcome sin. We would have no true understanding of reality, nor would we be able to withstand the Evil One. We would be dead in our sins and far from the life which God gives. We would be bound to our worthless idols and trapped in a downward spiral of death.
But the Son of God has come! He has given us knowledge and truth about eternal realities! Indeed, as Jesus assures us in John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” And here in 1 John 5:20 the apostle adds to that, “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Jesus lives in us and we live in Him! We share His life and in some sense, we share His nature! Our sins are forgiven; God’s wrath is appeased; and we are given eternal life to know, enjoy, and glorify God forever and ever! We have been given a true understanding of this wonderful reality, as God has made the “light bulb” go on in our minds and our hearts!
This is what we joyfully affirm in our creeds and confessions! This is what we gladly declare in our public testimony of faith, at our baptism!
Praise the Lord that by His grace, we are able to affirm these three great truths:
First: God guards us from sin’s power and from Satan’s power.
Second: Despite Satan’s world-wide control, we belong to God.
Third: God has given us the true understanding of Jesus Christ.
But John has one more final thing to tell us, not another affirmation, but an appeal
21 “Dear children, keep (guard) yourselves from (the / your) idols.”
John’s final words of exhortation and appeal are based on the three great affirmations he has just given in vv. 18-20.
Yes, Christ will keep the Christian safe (18), but the believer also has a responsibility to guard himself from sin and the evil one (21). See Jude 21 and 24 for these two keepings.
Which idols is John referring to?
Does he mean the idols at Ephesus? Remember that Ephesus was the site of the great temple of Diana. This temple was a center of immorality. Heraclitus, the great philosopher, was a native of Ephesus, and he that the temple and everything associated with it was only the worst kind of vileness, and that people there acted like beasts. Criminals also were given asylum in the temple, and the temple was a center of sorcery, witchcraft, and the black arts. Indeed, the whole city was infected by the evil and darkness of this temple. John warns the believers: Guard yourselves from these idols!
Or was John referring to anyone or anything that we try to use as a functional replacement for the true and living God? Think of A.W. Tozer’s quote, “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important things about us.” It determines your identity, your passion, your goals, and your sense of worth and value.
John is warning us to “Keep yourself from all objects of false devotion.” Beware of all low views of God. Guard against all false idea about the Trinity. Keep watch for anything that could take the place of God in your heart, a “god-substitute.”
I’ll conclude with a few thoughts from pastor and author John Stott:
“The worship of idols is always inconsistent and incompatible with the knowledge of the True God, just as sin and self-centeredness are incompatible with the knowledge of God who is light and love.”
“It is this incompatibility, this incongruity, of sin, lovelessness, and of error with the true Christian, which is the underlying theme of this letter.”
“Let Christians once recognize who they are, what they have become – “born of God” Belonging to God” “knowing God” “In God” the possessors of eternal life in Christ – and they will surely live a life which is consistent with, and worthy of, their Christian status.”
“Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”