|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|We can know that we are believers, and I want us to see that. And I want us to see the confidence which we ought to have in confessing our sin.|
Once I led a Bible study in a school setting. We were kicked out of that school by a member of another religious group who said we were teaching a certain kind of doctrine which was strictly from the Word. He said, “Sir, you cannot teach people they can know that they have eternal life if they are Christians. We don’t know and we will not know until Jesus comes again.” I said, “I beg your pardon. Have you ever read 1 John 5:13?” I read it to him and he said, “Would you read that again? I am not sure I have ever read that before.”
We can know that we are believers, and I want us to see that. I want us to see the confidence which we ought to have in confessing our sin. We have seen the consequence, but what is the confidence? What kind of confidence must I have when I confess my sin to a holy God? Look at 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we [John includes himself] have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
The apostle is very tender in his words, “My little children.” It is almost as if he is saying to them, “I have been around a little longer than you have; and if you sin – and you will – I am not going to kick you out of the family. I am still going to love you and I am still going to encourage you. I am still going to be there to put my arms around you.” He tells them something very encouraging. He says, “Listen, when you confess your sins you must know you have an Advocate with the Father who is Jesus Christ, the Righteous.”
The word “Advocate” is the word parakletos. In older Greek it was used in court settings. When someone was accused of something, someone would voluntarily, not by demand, step from the crowd, walk up, take his place beside the accused and speak on his behalf. He would speak in his defense. That is exactly what John is talking about here. You see, in the courtroom of heaven, God the Father is the Judge as he pictures Him here. And every sin is subject to the judgment of God. God the Father is the one who sent His Son into the world to die for sin. Therefore, He is the one who is holding court here. When the devil runs to accuse us before the Father, which is what he does day by day, then Jesus steps alongside of us, takes His place and defends us. He speaks a word on our behalf. He is our Advocate. The idea is of a defense lawyer and He is always speaking on our behalf.
He is certainly qualified to be our Advocate. It says that He is Jesus Christ the righteous. Actually, a better translation is “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” By using the term “Jesus,” His earthly name and “Christ,” His resurrected name, he depicts the fact that He is the only one who could ever stand in our behalf. He is the only human, being born of a virgin, to live sinless on this earth, fulfilling every requirement of the law. He qualified to be our substitute on the cross. There is a man in heaven who is our representative. Every time we sin and then properly confess that sin, He stands there and speaks on our behalf. Now I don’t know about you but that makes me want to confess even that much more, knowing I have someone who is going to speak on my behalf, someone who knows that His blood has covered all my sin, whether it be past, present or future.
This implies something very important. He knows my motive when I confess. We need to understand this. He is the Righteous One. He is the one who stands along beside us. He is the one who speaks on our behalf. But He knows when we half-heartedly confess anything before the Father. So to reap the benefit of confession, we have to make sure we understand who is examining our hearts when we confess that sin before a holy God.
In a trial there is a defense team for the accused. Everything they know is based on what he has told them. He says he is innocent and they come before the public and say on his behalf that he is innocent. They have to go on what he says. For all they know he may be lying to them. They can’t really know his whole motivation because no man knows that except the man himself.
That is different with our defense team. It is wrapped up in a Person. He knows our motive. He knows our hearts. You don’t get away by running that sin by Him and saying, “Oh, yes, by the way, I did that. You are right. I confess it. I am so sorry.” Then you go right on and do it again. He knows half-hearted people when they bring sin before Him. But He is the righteous one qualified to stand in our behalf.
Verse 2 will light your fire: “and He Himself.” I like the way that is translated because that is the way it is in the Greek, “He Himself,” not just “He.” That emphasizes it even stronger. “He Himself is the propitiation [or satisfaction] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” That means Honduras, America, or wherever you go. It is referring to the sins of the whole world.
What does it mean to have the propitiation for our sin? That is a big word. Well, the word in the Greek is hilasmos. It is connected with the blood that Jesus shed for us in verse 7. It says in verse 7, “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Let me show you how it is connected. The word hilasmos comes from the word hilasterion, which is the Greek word in the New Testament for what we call “Mercy Seat.”
Remember, the Mercy Seat was that solid gold piece that sat on top of the ark. What was in the ark? In the ark were the tablets of the Law. The Law condemns all men, but on top of that was the Mercy Seat and God could look at man, not because He had fulfilled the Law, but because of the blood that was sprinkled on that Mercy Seat. When the High Priest would come in on the Day of Atonement, he would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on that Mercy Seat and immediately God said, “I will meet you right there. I will fellowship with you in the blood at the Mercy Seat.”
The Apostle Paul picks up on this in Romans 3:25 and says, “Jesus is our Mercy Seat.” It is through Him and His shed blood that we can enter into fellowship with God. His blood is not just a payment for our sin. It is the bridge that establishes a brand new relationship with God. This, once again, nails the false doctrine of Cerenthus. Cerenthus said He was not a man. He couldn’t have been a man. Well, how did He bleed? He had to have had a body. He had to have been a man. It was His shed blood that became the basis upon which we now can fellowship with God. This is the good news that we need to have, the confidence when we got before Him. His blood has covered all sins. There is no sin you can commit or that I can commit that His blood cannot cleanse.
That is the good news of what it means to have Jesus as an Advocate. He is an Advocate who loves us. He has proven that. He came and died for us. He is a man, the God-man. He is at the throne. He represents all of us. When we confess our sins properly, He is the one who steps in and makes a word for us with the Father to let Him know that what He did on the cross has already covered that sin and will cover every sin that we commit while we are here on this earth. The consequence of confession of sin is the cleansing, but oh, the confidence of confession is that we have someone there who loves us and who has paid the ultimate price for us. He is the righteous one and when the devil comes to accuse us, He steps alongside and speaks a word on our behalf in our defense. He intercedes for us day-by-day. He died for us and He is our Advocate before the Father.
When you find a Christian who won’t confess sin, it becomes a little bit suspect as to whether or not he is a Christian. Maybe he doesn’t seem to understand what he was saved from and what he was saved to. Perhaps he doesn’t understand. 1 John would be a great book for that person to read. 1 John 5:13 says, “These things are written that you might know that you have eternal life.” If you find somebody who is trying to live in sin and not confessing that sin, it is pretty obvious something is amiss, either in their understanding or in what they profess. Maybe they don’t really have what they profess.
We are really ending up in verse 2 what we have been talking about in the believer in sin. I am trying to accomplish two things. He moves out of that. In verse 3 he says, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him.” How do we know that we have come to know Him? How do we know that? Can you know it? Certainly you can know it. But how can we know that we have come to know Him?
Well, first of all, one of the best ways that I can know that I have come to know Christ, that I have experienced Him intimately, that I have had the experience of salvation in my life is by the fact that I am willing to obey His commandments. I am not only willing, but I feel the responsibility in my heart of obedience towards Him. There is something that happens to a believer. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a brand new creature.” What is different about him? If you will study the New Covenant in the Old Testament, we have a brand new heart. God’s Spirit now lives in my spirit and God’s Spirit in me motivates me with a will to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. I have to work at not wanting to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been changed because of the process of salvation.
So one of the ways you know that you are believer is by the fact that not only do you obey, but you have that something inside of you that compels you to obey. It is the Spirit of God. It is the brand new heart that God has given to us.
John says in verse 3, “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” The first verb is in the present tense. By this we can know and always know...constantly, you never doubt it. “That we have come to know Him” is perfect tense. That means there has been a time back in my life when I experienced Him as my own and came into intimacy with the Father through His Son Jesus Christ.
The word for “know” there caught my attention. It is the word ginosko. That is a knowledge that you can have but something else has got to happen first. It is not a given. It is something that I can know every day of my life if something else is there. That is what he says. We have to keep His commandments. Now let me share this with you real quickly. Maybe you are doubting your salvation. I can say without question there is an area of your life that you are disobedient in. There is something that you have not taken before the Lord. There is something that you are harboring in your life. Because when you are keeping His commandments, present tense, if you are living that way, you are not going to have any doubt. You are knowing and you are knowing and you are knowing. It is a day-by-day experience. But the moment I choose not to do that, and I choose to let sin stay in my life of any degree, immediately the doubts begin to come in my life.
“If we keep His commandments” is in the present subjunctive. Subjunctive means it is conditional. Not every believer is going be to keeping it all the time. When you are not keeping His commandments that opens up the windows and the doors of doubt to get into your life. Most of the people who are doubting their salvation, if they are truly believers, are people who are not willing to obey Christ in some area of their life.
I remember one night my daughter called me from college. She said, “Daddy, I need to talk to you.” I said, “What, Stephanie?” She said, “Daddy, I don’t think I am saved.” Now I am her father and I know Stephanie. If Stephanie is not saved I am the Pope of Rome. I said, “Stephanie, what do you mean you don’t think you are saved?” “Dad, I confessed a sin in my life yesterday and I want to do that same sin today. I must not be saved.” I said, “Stephanie, I don’t think you quite understood this thing about confession yet. Tell me some other things that are going on in your life.” She said, “Oh, Dad,” and she began to give me about a three week long history of some things that were happening. One of her friends said something about her, something happened in a classroom one day, she didn’t make the grade she thought she was going to make. I think at that time she was dating, and her boyfriend hadn’t called her at a certain time, or whatever. But when I added up everything that was going on in her life, it became obvious why she was doubting.
Sometimes we get overwhelmed by circumstances in our life. Sometimes we get our focus off of Jesus. We get our focus out of His Word. Why is it we are not consistently, constantly, knowing that we have come to know Him? It is because we are not consistently, moment-by-moment living and walking in His Word. The very moment we stop looking at the Lord and start looking at the lions, we are overwhelmed. Some of the “being overwhelmed” is the doubts that come according to our salvation. If you are doubting something about your salvation, ask yourself the question, “Where is it in your life that you have not yet learned to surrender to God and learned to choose to obey Him in a consistent manner?”
John says, “We know that we have come to know Him, present tense.” We are knowing all the time. We are learning. We understand. There is no doubting coming in.
The word “keep” is the word tereo. It comes from the word that means a warden, one who guards, one who keeps an eye on, one who therefore obeys. So it is not just a mere mechanical obedience that he is talking about here. The Pharisees did that. He is talking about a person who senses the responsibility. There is a compulsion within him to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. If he is not doing that, he understands that something is amiss because there is something new about him. The moment you get saved, God’s Spirit enters into your spirit and He begins to will and to work in your life as a believer. Obeying Christ with a sense of responsibility, awe and respect is the first identifying mark that John gives of a true believer.
The word “know” is to know experientially. There is another truth involved in this. When we received Christ into our hearts through repentance and faith, we know Him experientially. You just don’t know about Him, you know Him. You are intimately acquainted with Him. His Spirit and your spirit have meshed together. You know Him. You have been birthed again into the kingdom of God. A person who is birthed into His Kingdom as we said, senses a responsibility, senses a need to obey Him because it is God’s Spirit within him, leading him to think that way. Those who are habitually unrighteous can never say they have known Him. They cannot do that. You cannot live habitually in sin and never sense the obligation and responsibility to obey Christ and claim to be a Christian.
But here is the double truth. Those of us who have known Him, who know Him, and are walking in obedience to Him, not only do we know Him experientially, but we are knowing Him day-by-day, more and more, deeper and deeper than ever before. There is a beautiful truth here. Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Him.” Now, wait a minute Paul, you are the greatest preacher in the New Testament. You want to know Him? He said, “I want to know Him. I want to experience Him. I want to know the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering.” You see, there is more and more and more of experiencing Him and it is to always to the degree and to the measure that we are willing to obey. Consistent obedience is the mark of those who have known Him and are knowing Him daily through that obedience.
How do you know if you are a Christian? Look at your life. Do you ever feel like you need to obey God? Do you feel He has a hammer over your head ready to wipe you out if you don’t, or is there something inside that says, “Hey, I owe this. It is an obligation. I have a sense of awe as to who He is. There is something in me that pulls me and compels me to obey what His Word says”? Well, you didn’t put that there. God put that there. That is the beautiful nature of God that is now within us that motivates us and compels us. That is the heart of God beating inside of a believer.
Verses 4-6 show us that it is our walk that determines our talk. A lot of people say a lot of things. It is not how loud you shout. It is not how high you jump; it is how straight you walk when you come down.
The Apostle John wants you to know something if you think it is just all the external things that are going on in your life. He says it is your walk that determines your talk. Well, in verse 4 he says, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him’ [I have come to experientially know Christ Jesus. They probably said it very devotionally, just moved to tears] and does not keep His commandments,” does not love His Word. That is part of keeping His commandments, loving His Word. If you are a guard, if you are a warden, you want to make sure you are guarding what God says. If you don’t have time for the Word of God in your life, there is something amiss. “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar.”
Excuse me, John, you are a little tough. Can’t you say that a little bit nicer? Okay – “and the truth is not in him.” The word “not” there means not in any way, shape or form is any truth in that man at all. “Good night, do you mean to tell me that there are people who have been members of the church for years, but they have never been born again?” Absolutely. Absolutely. Joining a church won’t do a thing for you in heaven. As a matter of fact, we look at church membership as accountability. I had better not speak for everybody else. But I look at it as accountability. I am already in the body of Christ, but I need to be accountable, and accountability is membership. I can’t find membership anywhere in the New Testament, but I think it is important in our culture. Somebody needs to be accountable to something and it is the Word of God. It is not the elders who hold us accountable. The elders are held accountable by that same Word.
There are a lot of people who just go around and say, “Oh, I am saved. I am a Christian.” When did you get saved? “Thirty years ago.” You did? What is God doing in your life today? “I got saved thirty years ago.” Well, what is He doing in your life today? “I got saved thirty years ago. Don’t you know I am saved?” Well, not really, let me go home and watch how you live to find out whether you are saved or not.
That is exactly what John says. You have to remember what John is doing here. The whole system of Gnosticism made people not responsible for the way they lived because they were spirits living inside of a carton that was evil. You have heard that preached even today. It is just Gnosticism with a different shade on it. Watch how a person walks. Don’t listen to what he says. Watch how he walks. He will tell you whether or not he truly is a believer. Our walk speaks a whole lot louder than our talk.
John shows those who talk the talk, but then, secondly, those who walk the walk. He says in verse 5, “but whoever keeps His word [on a continual basis], in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” What does it mean for the love of God to be perfected? The word “perfected” has the idea of fulfilled. It is God accomplishing what he wants to do with His love. There are two things Jesus came to do, one was to die for our sins, the other was to now indwell believers. His love is not fulfilled until that can take place. If a man rejects His love and rejects His Word, then His love is unfulfilled. God’s love in us is what changes us day by day. For it to be fulfilled a person has to respond to the gospel. Then a person walks in light of that in obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit. That is when His love is fulfilled in you and me.
Verse 6 continues, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” That little word “ought,” opheilo, is in the present tense and it refers to an obligation. There is never a place and there is never a time when I don’t sense the duty and obligation and responsibility to walk according to what God’s Word has to say. When that has disappeared in your life you had better check it out to see if you know Christ or not. We are not talking about a system of religion where you pump yourself up in your own self-determination to do something. We are talking about a total change, a birth, where the Holy Spirit of God has given you a brand new heart. He lives in you now and He is there to will and to work. He is the one causing us to want to obey, causing us to sense the responsibility of obedience.
“To walk as He walked.” That is a powerful phrase. There are two words for “walked” here. The first word for “walk” is the word peripateo, which means to walk about, wherever you go, whatever you do. The second word is a different word. It is the word that means to walk according to a pattern. What John is saying here is on a daily basis, on a consistent basis, there is something in me as a believer that makes me sense the duty of walking as He wants me to walk as He walked.
Now how did Christ walk? Look in John 5 and he shows us how He walked: as the God-man. He speaks here as the Man. Paul says in Philippians that He submitted Himself and became in the form of a bond-servant and was obedient unto death. That is how Jesus walked. John 5:19 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” In other words, He submitted Himself absolutely in obedience to His Father. Even though He was equal to Him, as the Man He submitted Himself in obedience. We are to walk as He walked. How did He walk? He walked in full submission to His Father. As Jesus was to His Father, we are to be to Jesus.
How do you know when a person is saved? I watched for something in my children when they said, “Daddy, I received Jesus in my heart.” You know, I watched them. It’s like the old pastor who was preaching one day. He gave a beautiful message and his daughter walked down weeping and gave herself to Christ and asked Jesus to come into her heart. He didn’t get excited at all. One of the old deacons walked up to him and said, “Man, I can’t understand it. Your daughter comes to receive Christ and you don’t even get excited.” He said, “Listen, I have been around for a while. When I start seeing the Father treat her as His child, then I will get excited.”
You see, there is something that happens when you get saved. There is something that happens within. Obedience is not some mechanical thing that you do just so you can get the privileges and the perks. Obedience is something that you are divinely motivated to do from within. It is His Spirit in you. His Spirit in you will always let you know, “This is what God wants and this is not what God wants.” You still have a will to choose against that, but the way that you know that you are a believer is that you sense the responsibility, you sense the calling, you sense the awesomeness of God, you sense the fact that you must obey Him. If that is not there, there is something missing somewhere in your life.
Can we know that we are believers? Yes, we can. You can know it every day and never doubt it if you are walking in submission and obedience to what God’s Word and God’s will is in your life. When we live in it, that shows us without any question in our minds that we are His.
Confession of sin is an act of obedience. It doesn’t mean you are always going to do it right. But the moment you do it wrong, you know what you need to do. You need to get to Him. You have an Advocate with the Father. Get to Him and make sure your confession is with repentance. When you do that the Lord in you will stand up for you and you can continue to know that you are in the faith.
Do you know anybody right now who is living as if they don’t even know God and yet they profess to know Christ? Do you have anybody in your family or in your neighborhood? Do you know anybody who says they are a Christian but aren’t living that way? Doesn’t it put a dark cloud in your mind? I tell you what it does for me. Rather than assume they might be a Christian and just not know, I go ahead and assume they are not a Christian and begin to pray for them that God would begin to do a super work of salvation in their heart.
How can I know that I am a believer? Something in me compels me to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. I may not always do it, but I am miserable when I don’t. And I don’t doubt my salvation when that is operating in my life on a consistent basis. I don’t doubt it. Because that conviction of sin and the compulsion to obey Him keeps me understanding that I am obviously His.
I have told my kids one of the things that helps me the most is that when I sin, the conviction I sense is one of the best ways I know that I am one of His. I was in another city not long ago in a meeting and I had an afternoon free so I decided I was going to go see a movie. Well, I don’t know enough about movies anymore to know what is good and what is not good. I picked one that I thought would be okay. I picked out some of the actors in it and I thought it would be alright. I haven’t walked out of a movie in a long time, but when I went in, sat down and that thing started I saw the twist that thing was going to take and something inside of me said, “Get up and get out of here. You are not a part of this. This is not in your life. Move and move now!” Where did that come from? You think you don’t program yourself to be that. That is the Holy Spirit living in your life and He will let you know to obey.
Now, you may not do it. I did. I got up and left. It cost me! I hate that part of it. You may not do it, but if you don’t do it you will sit there and you will sense the conviction of almighty God on your life saying, “This is not what you are. And you don’t need to be here.” If that is not in your life, I would check it out. Do you even know Jesus Christ at all? It is not some religion you give your allegiance to. You are birthed into a body and the Holy Spirit of God lives in you. If you try to fake it, your talk and your walk will not match and everybody else will know. Hopefully we will all know whether or not we are in the kingdom of God.