We are coming to the end of our study in 1 John. This is the last message in this epistle, and I trust it has been as beneficial to you as it has to me. As I have said from the beginning, the theme of 1John is that of fellowship. Fellowship with God and with His body, the church. Last week, if you were here, we looked at the confidence of fellowship. That message is available online for those of you that are interested. This week we look more completely at the idea of assurance of fellowship, looking specifically at four assurances of fellowship with which John closes out his epistle. He wants us to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are Christ’s, and He is ours. That we abide in Him, and He in us. That we have fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And that this fellowship is characterized by eternal life, not just an endless life, but abundant life, life animated by the very Spirit of God.
John says in vs.13 of this chapter, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Thirty-nine times in the epistle of 1John, he tells us that we might know. He gives us various tests and evidences and proofs that we might know we have this eternal, abundant life of fellowship with God. Now today in the closing statement of this passage, we see the word “know” used three times. And so in keeping with the theme of John’s message, I have entitled this sermon “Four assurances of fellowship.”
Let’s look then at each of them. The first assurance of fellowship we find in vs.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.” John has had much to say about sin in this epistle. He just finished saying in the preceding verses of 16 and 17, that there is a sin that a brother in Christ can commit which is not unto death, and there is also a sin unto death. Furthermore, he says, all unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not unto death.
We talked about those somewhat difficult verses last time a great deal. And I won’t take the time to completely review them again this morning. But suffice it to say, that a Christian cannot sin unto death, because he has been given eternal life. He can sin, and that interrupts his fellowship with God, but he cannot sin unto death, because Christ has died for us in our place. God will not punish us with death when He has already punished Jesus with death on our behalf. All unrighteousness is sin, and John says there is a sin not unto death. That sin is the sin committed by a Christian. But he goes on to say that there is a sin unto death. And that is the sin of the unbeliever. He who has rejected the source of life, the Savior of mankind, such a one is still dead in his trespasses and sins. He is sinning unto death. He will die in his sins unless he is born again by faith in Christ and repentance of his sin.
So with that as our context, let us consider what John is saying here in vs.18, and why this should be a comfort and assurance for us. He says that we know that no one who is born of God sins. Well, remember in the preceding verses we just saw that there is a sin of a Christian. It is not unto death, but it is still a sin. So we need to look closer than just a superficial reading of this verse. And what we find is that in the Greek language, John was writing using the present tense, speaking of a continuous sin, a habitual sin. A pattern of continuing in sin. So he is saying that one who is born of God does not continue in sin. Sin no longer has dominion over the one born of God.
Now the key is that phrase “born of God.” John uses it twice in this one verse; once to speak of our relationship to God, and once to speak of Christ’s relationship to God. Our freedom from the power of sin depends not upon our self discipline or will power, but upon our new birth. When we are born again, we die to the old man, and appeal to God for to become a new creation. Old things are passed away, and all things become new. We are born of the Spirit of God. In this new creation, God gives us a new heart and puts His Spirit within us. In Ezekiel 36:25-27 God says, ”Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
So when you become born again, God gives you the legal standing of righteousness. He gives you the capacity for righteousness. He gives you the desire for righteousness. And He gives you the power of the Spirit that you may work the works of righteousness. Therefore, sin no longer has dominion over you. As the song we sang a few minutes ago said, “In Christ Alone,” “sin’s curse has lost it’s grip on me.” Christ has been victorious over sin and death and as His people who are indwelled by His Spirit, we have been given freedom from sin. So as a Christian we may sin, but we will not continue in sin. We no longer have a pattern of sinfulness as our characteristic. That pattern has been broken. Sin’s hold over us has been broken. And so we know that no one who is born of God continuously sins.
The second part of that verse is especially meaningful to me. We know that one who is born of God does not continuously sin, because He who was born of God keeps him… Folks, that should be a reason to shout “Hallelujah!” Jesus Christ keeps us. Listen, it is incumbent upon the Shepherd to keep His sheep. He defends His sheep from ravening wolves and roaring lions. We are His sheep of His pasture. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. Do you think that God is powerful enough to keep us from hell, but not powerful enough to keep us from falling back into a life of sin?
Jesus said in John 10:27-30 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” I find great comfort in knowing that the Good Shepherd keeps HIs sheep. He watches over them and protects them, from their lying down to their rising up. And if you are born of God, then you can rest in the promise that Christ keeps you.
Listen, this is further evidence that vs16 and 17 are not talking about an unpardonable sin that cannot be forgiven, or a sin by which you can lose your salvation. Christ is entrusted with keeping His sheep. He will not let you go. It’s like the analogy I have said before about when my kids were little. As we would get ready to cross a busy highway, I would tell my kids, “hold onto Daddy’s hand.” And though I expected them to obey, I wanted them to hold my hand, I did not rely on their strength to hold onto me, but I held onto them, and nothing they could do would make me let go. I love my kids, and I can assure you that God loves His children, and nothing can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
So the Only Begotten Son of God keeps them. Then notice a further provision; “and the evil one does not touch him.” I love that phrase. I am reminded of Christ’s assurance to Peter in Matt. 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” If you are born of God then you are the church of God.And as the church of God no power of hell can overpower you. I think of another verse in this epistle, 1John 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.”
Listen, be confident, but not arrogant. John is not saying that the devil will not try to discourage you, that he will not attack you, that he will not try to deceive you. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians that we do in fact wrestle against forces of darkness. Eph. 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” But though we wrestle against them, we do not fight in our own strength, we fight in the power of God, through the weapons of righteousness. And through Christ, we are guaranteed the victory as John told us previously in vs 4; “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.”
So the devil cannot lay hold of us again to take us back under his dominion. We have been transferred to the kingdom of God. Col. 1:13 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Satan cannot do anything to us, that he has not first received permission from our heavenly Father. We don’t belong to him anymore. We have been set free through Christ.
Now let’s look at the second assurance. Vs.19, 1John 5:19 “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” This assurance is really just an extrapolation of the first. We are born of God. God knows His children, and keeps His children, and nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand.
And then John shows us the contrast. You are either in the Kingdom of God, or the dominion of darkness. There is no middle ground. You are either born of God or you are born of your father the devil. John told us in chapter 3 vs 8, “the one who practices sin is of the devil.” We do not practice sin. We who are born again do not continuously practice a sinful lifestyle. We have been changed, reborn, remade. We have a new nature, and are a new creation. But those who practice sin are of the devil. John tells us there are only two options; you either are born of God or you are of the devil.
And that is evident by the things that you love. 1John 2:15-16 “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. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
Now this idea of the world which the Bible speaks of, is another means of describing the dominion of darkness, that sphere of influence under the prince of this world, the prince of darkness, even the devil. The world refers to the world system that Satan has orchestrated through a system of lies and deceits and lusts in such a way as to capture the naive and hold them and ultimately condemn them to destruction.
John says that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. This world that seems so enticing, so alluring, so entertaining, is actually engineered by the evil one to entrap and be a snare. As Christians, we should not be seduced by the world’s philosophies, by her entertainments, by her materialism. For all these things will be one day burned up when God pours out His judgment upon this world. In Revelation, we see this world system pictured as a harlot named Babylon who is dressed in fine clothing, sitting upon the beast of Satan. And though she looks alluring, there are all kinds of blasphemies and corruptions within her. Rev 18:2-4 And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.” I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues.”
As Christians, we must not be tempted by the charms of this world system. But recognize as James 4:4 says, that friendship with the world is to become an enemy of God. As Paul says in Gal. 4:9 “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?”
Paul speaks of this world system in Eph. 2:2 saying, “in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” The course of this world he likens to a course of a river, that sweeps along in it’s current the population who seem unaware that they are headed downstream to destruction. And yet because everyone else seems to be in it as well, they are ignorant of the devil’s schemes to destroy them. The fact that they don’t realize it, serves even more the purposes of the evil one. But thanks be to God that we are born of God, have been delivered from this world system and “no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand; till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand. “ (In Christ Alone)
The third assurance John gives us of our fellowship is the knowledge of truth. Vs. 20, “And we know 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, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Three times John speaks of what is true, or the truth. The word translated true is the Greek word alēthinos, which might be better translated as genuine.
Now in light of that, then consider what John is presenting to us; “ we know that the Son of God has come.” In other words, He that was in the beginning with God, who was God, has come down to man, to become flesh and blood, so that He might suffer for us the wages of sin, and that we might be made righteous through Him. That is the gospel; that the Son of God has come. We have come to know it through faith, and then through experience. As our faith becomes effective we have the witness within us that it is true. He says, “and give us understanding so that we might know Him who is true.”
Jesus came to earth to reveal the truth of God. That we might know the character and nature of God. And we know that because we see it in Christ. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” He said to Philip, “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He [that is Christ] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of [God’s] nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
Now we not only have Jesus revealing the truth of God through His nature, but also we have understanding through His Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. John 15:26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” And John 16:13″But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” As vs6 of this chapter says, “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”
So what is the truth which we have come to know? It is the genuine truth concerning God. Jesus said, God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” That is essential, that we worship God in truth. And John says that we can know that we worship God in truth, because we are in Christ, who is the genuine Son of God, reflecting the genuine truth of God.
You know, as a pastor of this church, I am constantly aware of what we lack in comparison to other churches. I was complaining of our lack of growth the other day, and the person I was speaking to told me that if I became more like other churches, and had a high powered worship band, if I had a high octane children’s program, if I had more of the bells and whistles that we see in the popular churches, then we would be more successful. And I suppose that he is right. But let me tell you something. Jesus said you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. A high octane children’s church is not going to set your child free from sin. A youth group will not necessarily set your teenager free from the entrapment of this world. Only the truth will make you free. And the truth is found in the preaching of God’s word. You can be religious and not be set free. You can rock out to a great worship band and not be set free. The whole world can sing “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily” while floating down the stream to their destruction, but only the truth will set you free. I want to know the truth of God, that I might have the life of Christ in me. And that is the purpose of the church.
Now back to our text, John says He, that is Christ, is the true God and eternal life.Now that’s a tremendous statement. John says Christ is the true God. We believe that God is three persons in One. Father, Son and Spirit are equally God, but with different roles in unique personhoods. Jesus is fully God, and furthermore, as Hebrews says, He is the exact representation of the Father God. He is God who was made flesh and dwelt among us.
Doctrinally this is essential to our salvation. But also this verse is essential to our fellowship. We are in Him, that is Christ. He is the basis for our relationship to God as sons. He is how we are born again, that is born of God. You have to have this relationship with Christ in order to have fellowship with God. And when you believe in Christ and His work by faith, then God reckons that faith to you as righteousness, and He gives you eternal life. Remember what we have said repeatedly about the concept of eternal life? It does not just indicate endless life, but spiritual life, the life of Christ in us. This is the abundant life that Jesus spoke of. It is the life of fellowship with the Father and the Son and with HIs bride, the church.
Now there is one final assurance that John gives us as he closes this epistle. And at first it may seem to not follow the pattern of the first three. Note that vs.21 does not have the word “know” in it. John simply closes with “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” And I’m sure you wonder, like I did, what relation this could have with the preceding verses. But if you think about it for a moment, I’m sure you will agree with me as well as with John, that obeying this principle is yet another assurance that you will have fellowship with God.
The fourth assurance of fellowship is that we guard ourselves from idols. The point that I think John is making here, is that it he has given us three assurances that are the provence of God that we might have fellowship. But now he is giving us one assurance of ourselves that we might have fellowship with God. In other words, God is sovereign and He has made sure we have fellowship with Him and will continue to have fellowship, based on His divine will and sovereignty. But there is also a responsibility that we have in our fellowship with God. I confess, I do not know where God’s sovereignty ends and my responsibility begins. God’s sovereignty began before the creation of the earth. He chose us before the foundation of the earth, the scripture says. But yet He tells us of our responsibility to believe, to repent, to confess, to obey, to love one another, to keep His commandments. So though God’s sovereignty is a great comfort and assurance of my fellowship throughout eternity with God, yet there is also a responsibility on my part to do what He wants me to do.
And so as John considers fellowship to be a product of our love for God, and our love for God producing ever more intimacy with God, then it makes sense that as the bride of Christ we should guard against committing adultery against God. Loving the world is a form of idolatry. And furthermore, idolatry is a form of adultery. James said it this way in James 4:4 “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Paul speaking of the Old Testament church said in 1Cor. 10:7 “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” This really goes back to what we said at the beginning. That the world system has been strategically engineered by Satan to seduce people to become ensnared by the world, and having become trapped, to be destroyed. Satan may not be able to destroy a Christian’s eternal destiny, but he can destroy a Christian’s fellowship with God, and as such destroy a Christian’s testimony.
It’s unlikely that many of us today would bow down to an idol of wood or stone. But many of us can be found bowing down to the idols of entertainment, or bowing to the idols of sports, or bowing down to the idol of money, or career. There is no end to the idols that this world offers up in opposition to the truth of life in Christ. We are so easily led astray to worship false idols who offer us false hope of finding happiness or fulfillment outside of life in Christ. But just as hope in statues of wood or stone would be futile, so is our hope in idols of this world that sell us the lie that happiness can be found in things of this world.
Folks, there is only one source of joy and contentment and peace and love. The things of this world that are worth having when all is said and done, can only be found in the life of fellowship with God through Christ. Nothing else will satisfy. John said in chapter 1 vs. 3, “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.” Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the only way to the Father. And there is no greater joy, no greater peace than that which is found in fellowship with Him. Little children, guard yourselves from idols. Come out from the world and be separate from her. These idols of the world will destroy your fellowship with God. They will never bring you the joy that God can give. He is the only way to life. I pray that you will guard yourself against the seductions of this world which can never satisfy. But Jesus said, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
If you have been born of God, then I trust that the conclusion of this epistle has assured your heart of eternal fellowship with God. That you would guard yourselves from the allure and enticement of the false gods of this world. That you would cling only to the truth of Christ, and to Christ alone.
And if you are here today and you don’t know that life of fellowship which Jesus gives, I urge you to receive Him today as your Lord and Savior. He gives the water of life without cost and gives it freely to all who come to Him. If you are thirsty for that living water, come to Jesus today, He will satisfy you with the water of eternal life. Jesus said in John 4:14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”