“The Marks of a Christian:  Book of 1 John”

                                                                        By

                                                            Jim Bomkamp                      

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1.                 Reason for this selection:

 

This message has come about because I was asked to not go into the Olivette Discourse of Mark chapter 13 this Sunday morning because so many of our folks would be away on this Memorial Day weekend.  So, I began to think about what topical message I could expound upon today.  I decided that I wanted to teach a topical message which is one of the main themes of the book of 1 John:  “The Marks of a Christian.”

 

 

2.                 Background of 1 John:

 

This book is recognized as being very different in its structure and message.  It is very much aligned grammatically and stylistically with the gospel of John, the epistle of 2 John, and also the book of Revelation (which is also attributed to John’s authorship).  Likewise, it appears that the book was written close the same time as those other books, and this date is either late in the first century or very close to 70 A.D.  This dating places it at the very end of the New Testament writings.

 

As an epistle, the book is very unique as it includes no salutation, greeting, introduction, spoken blessing, statement of thanksgiving, or final greetings. 

 

3.                 Occasion for writing 1 John:

 

It is evident that the author is combating a major doctrinal error by a group who had been at the church(es) to whom he is writing but had since departed, as evidenced in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us

 

The doctrinal departure is the Gnostic heresy that is addressed by several books in the New Testament, but most specifically by John in his epistles, and even in his gospel (check out chapter 1 of that gospel).  Gnosticism was a religious persuasion which came out of a combination of Judaism, Greek philosophy, and Christianity.  Gnostics following Greek thought believed that matter was evil and spirit was good, and this thinking led them to deny the incarnation and deity of Christ as they taught that deity came upon Jesus at a point in time and left him before his crucifixion.  Believing that matter was evil and spirit good led them to two different positions, one was that of asceticism (staying out of the world so that you would not be corrupted by its influence) or believing that since there was no escape from corruption that it didn’t matter what you did in life so its best to eat, drink, and be merry (or sin to the fullest desires of your flesh).

 

4.                 Themes in the book (though they overlap considerably):

 

4.1.         The tests of theology concerning the divinity and pre-existence of Christ.

 

4.2.         The litmus test of what differentiated a Christian, or the “marks of a true Christian”.

 

5.                 The Marks: 

 

5.1.         Walks in the light - 1:6:  “6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

 

5.1.1.  Jesus, the “light of the world” was rejected by those who loved the darkness and would not come to the light, and to such as them one day is reserved “outer darkness”.  “Darkness” in the scriptures refers to ignorance of the truth and the doing of evil deeds.

 

5.1.2.  Walking in “fellowship” with Christ is impossible for anyone who is walking in the darkness.

 

5.2.         Has fellowship with other Christians who walk in the light - 1:7:  “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.”

5.2.1.  Walking in the light is to be a believer in Christ, and to know Christ who is “the light”, just as is revealed in Paul’s writings to the Corinthians:  2 Corinthians 6:14, “14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness

 

5.2.2.  Those who walk in the light have fellowship with each other, for it is an essential characteristic of walking in the light.

 

5.3.         Believes he has a sin nature - 1:8:  “8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

5.3.1.  The one who “denies that there is such a thing as sin and sinning” is deceived.

 

5.3.2.  The Christian still has a sin nature even though he is born again and no longer has to sin but can have victory over sin and the sin nature through Christ.

 

5.4.         Occasionally sins - 1:10:  “10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

5.4.1.  Even the best men who know Christ best sometimes sin, as this verse reveals.

 

5.4.2.  The one who claims “sinless perfection” makes Christ out to be ‘a liar’ because God’s word tells us that we as Christians are still sinners and will sometimes sin.

 

5.4.3.  The one who claims to never sin is “deceiving himself” and calling the sinful deeds that he does something other than what they are, or somehow trying to justify his sin by passing the blame somewhere else.

 

5.4.4.  The one who claims he never sins any longer, ‘His word is not in” him. 

 

5.5.         Continually keeps His commandments - 2:3, 3:24:  “3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments…24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”


5.5.1.  The Greek present tense is used here on the phrase “keep His commandments” which refers to continually keeping them.  This doesn’t refer to being perfect, because no one can be perfect, but rather to perseverance in being committed to keeping the commandments of God, even though at times we fail and must yet again repent and ask forgiveness for our sins.

 

5.5.2.  The person who is committed to continually keeping His commandments “abides in Him” and Christ abides in him. 

 

5.6.         Continually keeps His word - 2:5:  “5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him

5.6.1.  The Greek present tense is used here on the phrase “keeps His word” which implies continually doing so.  Again, this doesn’t infer perfection, but rather a perseverance in attempting to keep His word in spite of sometimes failing and needing to repent and confess our sins.

 

5.6.2.  Note though that a commitment to continually keep His word results in having the love of God being perfected in us, and when we continually are committed to keeping His word we know that we are in Him.

 

5.7.         Walks in the same way Jesus walked - 2:6:  “6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

5.7.1.  Abiding in Jesus results in walking the same manner He walked, or living your life in the same holy and righteous way in which Jesus lived.

 

5.7.2.  One who claims to know Christ and yet does not live like Jesus lived ought to question whether or not he really is a genuine Christian.

 

5.8.         Does not hate his brother - 2:9:  “9 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.”

5.8.1.  One of the characteristics of a genuine believer in Christ is that he loves the brethren.  Loving one another in the body of Christ locally and universally is not an option.

 

5.8.2.  In our world today, there is not a lot of the love of God amongst different persuasions of the Christian church.  Churches split when they disagree, people leave a church when they don’t like someone, and gossip is constant threat to the church.

 

5.9.         Loves his brother - 2:10, 3:10:  “10 The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him…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.”

5.9.1.  This is just the opposite of what was said in the previous item.

 

5.9.2.  Loving the brethren keeps us from stumbling and also makes the children of God obvious.

 

5.10.    Does not love the world   ( cosmos - the world in rebellion against God ) - 2:15:  “15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

5.10.1.Some of the Gnostics thought trying to deny the flesh was hopeless, therefore they sinned freely.  However, John tells us here that a genuine Christian must not be one who loves this world who is in rebellion against God.

 

5.10.2.A person cannot love God and also love the world.

 

5.11.    Does not love the things in the world - 2:15:  “15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

5.11.1.One who is a believer must not love the “things” of the world either.  Not only the philosophy of this world must be rejected by Christians, but also the “stuff” of this world.

 

5.11.2.You can’t love the Father and also love the “stuff” of this world.

 

5.12.    Does the will of God - 2:17:  “17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

5.12.1.The one who has the gift of eternal life and will live forever is the one who “does” the will of God, not just the one who knows what that will is.

 

5.12.2.John refers here to the “lusts” of the world, or the things that the world desires, and he says that the world and its “lusts” is “passing away”, for it is going to be destroyed by God one day.

 

5.13.    Stays in the Body of Christ - 2:19:  “19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

5.13.1.John gives an explanation for why those who went out from their church went out.  It was because “they were not really of us”. 

 

5.14.    Has an anointing and as a result understands the truth of the gospel - 2:20-21:  “20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.”

5.14.1.True believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit as their “anointing” to lead them into all of the truth.

 

5.15.    Believes that Jesus is the Christ (Jewish Messiah of scripture) - 2:22, 5:1:  “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…1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

5.15.1.The Gnostics denied that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the hope of Israel, come in the flesh.  But, a genuine believer in Christ has to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.  This is essential truth necessary to be believed in order for someone to be able to be saved.

 

5.15.2.The one who denies this essential truth is of the “antichrist” spirit, this is the spirit that takes the place of Christ, a usurper of Christ.

 

5.15.3.The person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is “born of God”, and John includes that anyone who loves the Father also loves the son begotten of Him.

 

5.16.    Abides in Christ (as a branch in the vine:  see John 15) - 2:27-28:  “27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. 28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”

5.16.1.The word “abide” means to “remain”.

 

5.17.    Continually practices righteousness - 2:29, 3:10:  “29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him…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.”

5.17.1.Present tense is used again, but doesn’t mean perfection.

 

5.18.    Purifies himself just as He is pure - 3:3:  “3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

5.18.1.The genuine believer in Christ is one who also seeks to be holy as God is holy and thus “purifies” himself as Christ is pure.

 

5.18.2.The one who does not believe that purity is important is not a true believer in Christ.

 

5.19.    Does not continually practice sin - 3:6, 5:18:  “6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him…18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

5.19.1.The genuine believer in Christ cannot be one who is continually committing sin, and who has unrepentant sin in his life all of the time.

 

5.20.    Practices righteousness and is righteous, just as He is righteous - 3:7:   “7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous

 

5.20.1.The present tense is used here for “practices righteousness” as well as for “is righteous”.  This indicates continually action but does not mean that we are perfect, but rather that we are committed to being perfect even though we sometimes fail the Lord.

 

5.21.    His seed abides in him and he cannot sin because he is born of God - 3:9:  “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.”

5.21.1.The genuine believer in Christ is one who cannot continually commit sin because God’s seed abides in him.  The “seed” may refer to the regenerated nature that is within the Christian, or some other remnant of the grace of God experienced by the believer.

 

5.22.    Loves the brethren - 3:14:  “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.”

5.22.1.John tells us here that the one who loves the brethren has “passed out of death into life” but that the one who does not love the brethren “abides in death”.  It is a test of life whether or not one loves the brethren.

 

5.23.    Loves not only with word and tongue, but in deed and in truth - 3:18-19:  “18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him”

5.23.1.Loving the brethren must not be in word only but must also be “in deed and in truth”.  Love that is just in word is hypocritical love, and love must never merely be considered a feeling that someone has.

 

5.24.    The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit gives assurance of salvation - 3:24, 4:13:  “24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us…13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

 

5.25.    Confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (the eternal Son of God/Messiah) - 4:2:  “2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

 

5.25.1.The Gnostics believed that deity was something that came upon Jesus at a point in His life (His baptism?).  However, the genuine Christian is one who confesses that Jesus Christ was pre-existent and has “come in the flesh”.

 

5.26.    Has overcome the false prophets and teachers (and the spirit that animates them) - 4:4:  “4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

 

5.27.    Listens to, receives, and believes in the sound teaching from the apostles (the Bible) - 4:6:  “6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

 

5.28.    Loves (with agape love) - 4:7,8:  “7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

 

5.29.    Confesses that Jesus is the Son of God - 4:15:  “15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

5.29.1.This speaks of what we refer to as the “Trinity”.  Jesus Christ is God the Son from all eternity who came in flesh to dwell among us.  This is essential truth that every genuine believer in Christ must understand and acknowledge.

 

5.30.    Abides in (agape) love - 4:16:  “16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

 

5.31.    Loves (agape) because He first loved him - 4:19:  “19 We love, because He first loved us.”

5.31.1.The motive for loving that the genuine believer in Christ has must be a love because he has first been loved and accepted by God, having been justified through the blood of Christ.

 

5.32.    Loves the child born of the Father (either Jesus, other Christians, or all men) - 5:1:  “1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

 

5.33.    Overcomes the world - 5:4:  “4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

 

5.34.    Believes that Jesus is the Son of God - 5:5:  “5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

6.                 CONCLUSIONS:

 

6.1.         .

 

 

 

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