Christ Our Advocate (1 John 2:1-2)
These two verses constitute the second part of the message we were studying in Chapter One. Remember in verse 5 of 1 John 1 we read, “This then is the message,” and then in the rest of that chapter, including the first two verses of the second chapter, we have the message in its entirety. This is the message that John and the other apostles were commissioned by Christ to carry throughout the world. It is the message of man’s utterly lost condition in darkness, and of the atoning value of the precious blood of Christ. This message tells us the importance of facing our sins in the presence of God, and finding forgiveness. Now John goes on to address the failures of believers, those who have been cleansed judicially from all sin. What about our failures?—for you know we do fail, all of us, much as we may regret the sad fact.
I remember one summer I was rather amused listening to a sermon in which the speaker was telling about a little girl who had been left by her parents with another family while they were away. When at last the mother and father returned for her and she was on her way home, she said to her father, “Daddy, there were four little boys at that house where I have been staying.”
“Yes, I knew that,” he said.
“Daddy, they have family worship there every night.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“Daddy, every night their father prays for those four little boys.”
“That is very nice.”
“He prays, Daddy, that God will make them good boys, and that they won’t do anything naughty,” said the little girl.
“That is very nice.”
She was silent a moment and then said, “But Daddy, He hasn’t done it yet.”
There are a great many folk like that. We are praying that God will make us good, and holy, and that our lives may be lives of victory. But I’m afraid many of us have to confess that God hasn’t done it yet. We recognize the fact that we do sin, and we do fail. Our hearts are nearly broken by our failures. What about the sins of believers?
First of all, believers should not sin. John tells us, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1). The word translated “little children” could better be translated “children” or “dear children” because the original word does not refer to age or size. It is a word that takes in everyone who is born of God. It literally means “born ones,” those who are born into God’s family. “My children, these things write I unto you, that ye should not be sinning.” It is the desire, the will of God for His children that we should not sin. God has redeemed us to Himself not only to take us to Heaven, but that we should live to the praise of His glory in this world.
Farther on we read, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (3:9). In other words, they do not live in the practice of sin. When an individual is saved, a change takes place. If there is no change in a person’s life, they have never been born of God. From the time of their new birth they hate sin and love holiness. If they do not hate sin and love holiness, they are not born of God. On the other hand, I recognize the fact that “there is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). There is no one who does not fail. It is not that God is powerless to deliver us, but we fail to steadfastly keep our eyes fixed on Christ—to reckon ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11).
The moment a believer becomes self-occupied, undisciplined, and negligent in prayer, he sins. Remember that sin consists not only in doing overt evil acts, but also in not doing the good that you know you should. ‘To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
I frequently meet people who say they never sin. I ask them, “Just what do you mean by that? Do you mean that you never break any of the ten commandments?” “Yes,” they say. “Do you mean that you never commit any actual overt acts of iniquity?” “Yes.” “Do you also mean that you do everything that you know you could do for God, that you take advantage of every opportunity of doing good, of every opportunity of speaking for Christ, of every opportunity of glorifying your Lord and Savior?” If there is the least bit of honesty, they bow their head and say, “No, I am afraid that I do not.” Then you sin. Sin is not merely the violation of certain moral principles, it is also failure to do the good that you know you should do.
“If any man sin”—here the word sin is in the Greek aorist—it means, “If any man commit a sin at a given point of time.” It is not a question of the practice of sin, but of a definite failure. “If any man sin,” what then? Some believe that sin immediately severs the link that binds the believer to Christ. If that were true, no one would ever have the assurance of being a Christian. But there are two links that bind us to Christ. First there is the link of union. That link is so strong that the weight of the world could not break it. Our blessed Lord Himself said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28, italics added). Nothing can ever break our link with Christ once it has been formed by the Spirit of God.
But there is another link that binds the believer to the Lord, and that is the link of communion. This link is so delicate, it is easily broken. One unholy thought will snap it. One unchristlike action will destroy it. One minute given to foolishness will break it, and that link could never be formed again if it depended entirely on us. We often speak of the finished work of Christ, and rightly so. Our blessed Lord as He hung on the cross cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). He bowed His head and dismissed His spirit, and there the work that saves our guilty souls was completed. “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). The finished work of Christ stands alone in absolute perfection. Our souls can rest on that finished work.
As a believer was dying, someone leaned over him and asked, “Is everything all right?” The man replied,” ‘It is finished’; on that I can rest my eternity.”
Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, Another’s death,
I stake my whole eternity.
It is finished, yes, indeed;
Finished, every jot!
Sinner, this is all you need!
Tell me, is it not?
Nothing can be added to a finished work. While it is perfectly Scriptural to speak of the finished work of Christ, it is just as Scriptural to speak of the unfinished work of Christ. Our blessed Lord who completed one work when He died for our sins, began another when He ascended to the Father’s right hand in Heaven. There in the glory “he ever liveth to make intercession for [us]” (Hebrews 7:25). That intercessory work has two aspects. We read in Hebrews that He is there as our High Priest with God. As High Priest He is able to give us a perfect representation before God. We are seen in Him, and He is there to minister grace in our time of need. As a High Priest He can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities”, and sympathizes with us in all our weakness. His sympathy has nothing to do with our sins, but with our infirmities—our weaknesses. If we avail ourselves of His high priestly work, we will not fall into sin. We can go to Him—our great High Priest—to “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15, 16).
Scripture not only presents Christ as our High Priest, but also as our Advocate. It is as our Advocate that He confronts the believer’s sins. He is said to be a High Priest with God, but He is our Advocate with the Father. The more I read the Bible the more I realize the exactness of Scripture. The more I hear people talk about the Bible, the more I am impressed with how inexact we are when talking about divine things. It is quite natural for us to talk about Christ as the High Priest with the Father, or the Advocate with God, but that would dilute the truth of Scripture. My sins are put away by the blood of Christ, and I have a perfect representation before the throne of God in my great High Priest. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
When I was converted, God became my Father. There is no such thing in the Bible as the universal Fatherhood of God. He is Father only to those who are born again. As a believer if I fail or fall into sin, I read, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1). Not an Advocate with God, but with the Father. Why with the Father? Because the Spirit of God teaches me that our relationship has not been disturbed! When you sin, the devil says, “Now you’ve done it; you were a Christian before, but not any more. God is no longer your Father.” This is just a lie of the devil, for it is written, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father” Our relationship is undisturbed.
In the original the word paraclete (translated “advocate” in 1 John 2:1) means “one who comes to your side to help.” This same word is translated “Comforter” in John 14:16,26; 15:26 and 16:7. In the Gospel Jesus spoke of the “Comforter” that the Father will send in His name. The Comforter—the Spirit of God—comes from the Father and is sent both by the Father and the Son. The Lord said in effect, “I am going away, but I will send the Paraclete—One who will come to your side to help in every time of need.” On the other hand, in 1 John 2:1 we read that we have a Paraclete or “advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” In other words, God sent the Holy Spirit down to earth to dwell in me, to be my Advocate here on earth—to look after God’s interests in me. Then He took the blessed Lord up to Heaven to be my Advocate with the Father—to look after my interests with the Father.
Why do I need an Advocate in Heaven? Because I have a great adversary. An advocate is someone who goes into court to represent you and to plead your case. You cannot defend yourself, but, when you go to your advocate, he defends you and pleads your case against your adversary. Satan is called in Revelation 12:10, the “accuser of [the] brethren…which accused them before our God day and night.” When you sin, the devil appoints himself the prosecuting attorney in the high court of Heaven. The devil goes right into the presence of God and says, “Is this one of your Christians? Listen to what he is saying now; see what he is doing!” He is there to accuse, but the blessed Lord is there. He shows His wounds and spreads His hands, and says to the Father, “I took all that into account when I died on Calvary’s tree.”
I hear the accuser roar
Of ills that I have done;
I know them well, and thousands more,
Jehovah findeth none.
Though the restless foe accuses—
Sins recounting like a flood,
Every charge our God refuses;
Christ has answered with His blood.
I realize my unrighteousness when I fall into sin, and could easily give up in despair. But I have an Advocate in the presence of the Father who gives me a perfect representation. God sees me in Him. I do not plead my case on the basis of my own righteousness but on the absolute righteousness of Christ Jesus. And so I can plead with power; I can plead effectively, because Christ died for the very sin that is now troubling me. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2).
This word, propitiation, as used in John’s Epistle is a different word from the one used in Romans. Propitiation in Romans means the mercy seat. Romans 3:25 reads, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” The reference is to the mercy seat—the meeting place between God and man. But in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10, propitiation means an “atonement” or an “expiation.” My failures cannot undo the work of the cross. Christ has died, been raised, and gone up to God’s right hand, and is there as my Advocate interceding for me. There He undertakes my case. He Himself is the propitiation.
First John 2:1 does not say, “If any man repent, we have an advocate; if any man confess his sins, we have an advocate; if any man weep over his sins, we have an advocate.” Instead it says, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” It is not just when I am repentant that I have an Advocate, but the very moment I fail, Christ takes up my case, even before I am sorry about it. The moment that unkind word left my lips, the moment I did that spiteful thing, the moment I was thoughtless in some business matter, that very moment before my conscience was exercised and I was troubled, the devil was in the presence of God to accuse me. But the same instant the Son of God was there to represent me. As a result of His advocacy, the Spirit takes the Word of God and applies it to my conscience, and I confess my sin. It is possible that my conscience was not troubled until some time after my failure. Perhaps I did not realize the true condition of my heart until the night I could not pray, and I said to myself, “What is the matter?” Then I cried, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). In answer to the advocacy of my blessed Lord, the Spirit of God says, “Don’t you remember that unkind word, that unholy thought, that spiteful thing you did, that unforgiving spirit, that selfishness, that worldliness?” The guilt overwhelms me, and I break before God and say, “O God, I cannot go to sleep tonight until I have told You all about it.” Then I tell my story, confess my failures, my weakness and my sins, and as I do so, I know the blessing of the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). You see the wonderful truth is that all the experiences I have gone through have not touched my relationship in the family of God.
My wife and I have raised two boys. Like other boys they are usually very good, but sometimes they give us a great deal of trouble. There are times they have given us a great deal of comfort, and then there are times when they have not been everything they should be, and it has concerned us. Often we have had to discipline them and say, “Go up to your room and stay there until you can face this thing, until you are ready to acknowledge your wrong and ask for forgiveness.” Sometimes the child’s will sets itself against the will of the parents. Hour after hour goes by without acknowledgment of wrong. Then suppertime comes and as the child hears the rattling of dishes, he calls out, “Father!” I go upstairs and he asks, “Can I go down to supper?” “That depends on you. Confess your wrong and you may come down.” “Well,” he says, “if you think I have done anything wrong, I am sorry.” “No, that won’t do,” and so I leave him and go back downstairs. Soon the meal is served and the odor wafts upstairs. He is getting hungry, and so he calls again. I go upstairs, and he tries to avoid the issue by saying, “Since you and Mother both think what I did is wrong, I guess it is, and I am sorry.” “No, guessing will not do,” and I turn to go downstairs. Maybe halfway down the stairs I hear him cry, “Father, Father, Please forgive me. I have been very naughty and stubborn.” Oh, how glad I am to throw my arms around him and put the kiss of forgiveness on his forehead, and say, “Come on down; we will all enjoy dinner better with you there.”
So it is with our God and Father. Sin does not touch our relationship, but it does hurt our fellowship. But our blessed Lord is in the presence of God the Father to plead for His people, and as a result of His advocacy, we are brought to repentance and confession, and He graciously restores our fellowship.
Obedience, the Proof of the New Life (1 John 2:3-11)
The apostle now presents to us some tests of our Christian profession. It is one thing to say, “I am a Christian,” but it is another to possess eternal life. It is one thing to say, “I am a child of God,” and quite another to know the marvelous blessing of regeneration. Do we say we are Christians? Do we claim to be children of God? Then we must prove it by our lives.
“We do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (2:3). He is not speaking from a legal standpoint. In the Old Testament the commandments of God were presented to us with a view of obtaining life. The law said of the man who kept His commandments, “Which, if a man do, he shall live in them” (Leviticus 18:5). But here, under grace, it is the opposite. The man who lives by faith will do His commandments. The one who says he lives for God and yet is completely indifferent to the will of God, has never been born of God. He is still in “the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:23). The child of God delights in obedience to the will of God. Not that his obedience is perfect, for it is never that. There is only One who could say, “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). But love for the will of God springs up in the soul of the man who is truly regenerated. He delights to walk in obedience to God’s Word, and thus he proves that he is a child of God. He not only rests on the Word that says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life,” but he finds within himself that which corroborates his faith—that which proves he has been born of God. This new desire to do the will of God is not of the natural man. By nature we prefer to do our own will, we prefer to take our own way. But in trusting Christ, we learn to delight in His divine will.
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). How outspoken the apostle John was! Some people do not appreciate this kind of strong language. But we need to realize that the apostle was dealing with great abstract truths. Men either love God or do not. They either walk in darkness or they walk in light. There is no in between. The principle here is that we can test ourselves to see where we are. We should ask, “Do I delight in the will of God; do I love His commandments?” If I do not, there is no use professing to be a Christian, for I am professing a lie. It is hypocrisy to claim to be a Christian while my works deny my profession.
“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (2:4-5). There is a difference between keeping God’s word and keeping His commandments. Of course, a little farther down we are told that the “commandment is the word” (2:7), but we could hardly say the word is the commandment. The commandment is included in the word, but the word is more than the commandment. The word is the expression of the will of God, either given in direct commandment or otherwise, and we who are saved delight to keep His word. This is the commendation that the Lord gave the church in Philadelphia, thou “hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8). The Lord Himself makes this distinction between keeping His commandment and keeping His word. In John 14:15 He says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” but farther on He adds, “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23).
The following story illustrates the difference between “commandment” and “word”. There is a little girl who after school enjoys playing with her friends. One day her mother said, “My dear, when you come home from school today, there are some chores I want you to do. Dust the living room and set the table for supper. I will be out for a while, but when you are finished you can go out and play.” Because she is an obedient child, when she returned from school she did the things her mother had commanded her to do. She showed her love in this way.
On another occasion she was under no such command, but coming home heard her mother speaking to the next door neighbor. Her mother said, “You know, I really don’t know how I am going to get through this afternoon. I have invited company for dinner, and I am in a panic because I don’t have anything ready. I am so exhausted and yet there are potatoes to peel, vegetables to prepare, and I don’t know how I will get it all done.” Now in the morning the mother had told her daughter, “When you come home from school today you can go out and play until I call you for dinner.” But the little girl, after hearing this conversation between her mother and the neighbor said, “Mother, you go and lie down for an hour. I will peel the potatoes, prepare the vegetables, set the table, and help you get dinner ready.” “But I told you you could play today,” the mother answered. “Oh, but I wouldn’t be happy out playing knowing you were here at home feeling so badly,” the child replied. Yesterday the little girl kept her mother’s commands; today she is keeping her word. How it must have delighted the mother’s heart to have her daughter doing these things even when she was not commanded to do them!
The believer, in studying the Word of God, finds direct commands—certain things the Lord has told him to do, and because he loves his Lord, it is his delight to keep those commandments. But as he continues to read, he comes across passages containing no command whatever, but that express God’s desires—the longings of His heart for His own people. The true believer says, “Because You have won my heart, dear Savior, I will keep Your words.” “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (1 John 2:5). The word is the revelation of what God is and of His dwelling in the believer. Therefore keeping His word is the demonstration of the life of Christ in the one whom He has redeemed.
So the apostle added, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (2:6). I cannot be all that Jesus is; that is impossible. Jesus is the Holy One of God, and I, although regenerated, am still a poor, failing, sinful man. But I am called to walk as He walked, for Christ has left us “an example that [we] should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). I am to glorify Him by following in His footsteps.
“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning” (1 John 2:7). Earlier we examined the expression, “From the beginning,” and saw that it differs from the words in Genesis 1:1, which speak of the beginning of creation. When John said, “I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning” (2:7), he was not referring to something strange and new, but was referring back to the word spoken by the Lord when He was here on earth. He was referring to the beginning of the Christian dispensation.
False teachers had come into the church and were deceiving the people of God with their teachings. The apostle said to test these teachings by asking, were these things taught from the beginning? As we have already seen, in Christianity, “What is new is not true, and what is true is not new.” We are not in the process of discovering Christianity. Christianity was a revelation committed to godly men by the Holy Spirit in the very beginning of the church age. In other words John said, “Go back to the records of our Lord’s life, see what He Himself taught, and walk in obedience to His Word.” Our Lord was not merely summing up the commandments when He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another” (John 13:34), but it was His instruction concerning obedience to the will of God.
But now the commandment takes on a new character. Since Christ has died, risen from the dead, ascended to Heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of believers, there are millions of regenerated men and women. To them the apostle declared, “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth” (1 John 2:8). The commandment is the word of God, and the word was expressed in the life of Christ. If we are born again, the life of Christ has been given to us, so what is true in Him is true in us. The only thing Jesus could do when He was here on earth was the will of God. He had no other thought or desire. Now He dwells in us, and if we are Christians, we have His life in us. When John speaks of His commandment, he says it is new because divine life is ours, and so the word is both in Him and in us. By calling on the believer to do the will of God, our Lord is asking him to do the very thing he longs to do.
Suppose a mother calls the doctor to see her young child. The little one seems to be very ill. After a careful examination, the doctor says, “I’m afraid the baby is very sick. I’m going to leave you some medicine. Don’t neglect the child, or be indifferent to its needs. Watch it carefully, see that it gets the medicine regularly, and is protected from anything that might make it worse instead of better. Please take good care of this child!” Is he asking the mother to do something that is difficult? No. She would probably reply, “That is exactly what I want and intend to do. I love that little child and nothing would cause me to be careless with it. I want to do the very best that I can for it.” The mother is told to do the very thing her heart yearns to do. And so it is with the believer, “You, that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works” (Colossians 1:21), now love to do the things He asks. We delight in the will of God.
“A new commandment I write unto you…because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth” (1 John 2:8). The word past does not exactly suggest the tense of the original. What he was really saying is, “The darkness is passing, and the true light is now shining.” We can see as we look on the world around us and in us that the darkness is not past. Even though the gospel of the grace of God has been preached for almost two thousand years, the darkness is not gone. There are still millions in darkness and in the shadow of death. And no matter how well I know my Lord and His Word, I cannot say that the darkness is past even in me. But the darkness is passing, and the true light is shining. Every day I am getting to know my Lord better, and every day I understand His will more perfectly. But until the time comes when I leave this body and see my blessed Savior face to face, there will still be a measure of darkness in me, even though all is light in Him.
Schiller, the German poet, said as he was dying, “I see everything clearer and clearer.” It won’t be long until all the darkness will be gone, and we will see everything in all its clearness in His own blessed presence.
In verses 9 and 10 the apostle speaks very seriously and very solemnly concerning something that may well convict some of us. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now” (2:9). If you hate your brother, no matter what you profess, you are still in darkness. Notice he did not say you may be a real Christian who has fallen into darkness; but he said, if you hate your brother you are “in darkness even until now.” You have never been anywhere else. You have never been in the light at all. You cannot have divine light or the Holy Spirit or the love of God dwelling in you, and still hate your brother. And yet we often see people professing the name of Christ while showing hatred toward others.
“He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (2:10). With new life comes light and love. God is light and love, and as we walk in fellowship with Him, nothing will cause us to stumble. Instead, we will constantly demonstrate the love of Christ. There is no room for hatred in the heart that is filled with the love of God.
“He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (2:11). This is the natural darkness in which all men are born. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). That is the condition of man by nature. But remember, we are not condemned because of what we are by nature. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). You are not responsible because you are a sinner by nature, but you are responsible if you reject the Savior. You are not responsible because you were born in darkness and your understanding is darkened, but you are responsible if you reject the light that comes to you through the Word of God. This light will chase away all the darkness if you walk in it. Don’t turn from its searching rays.
But if men persist in rejecting the light, there may come a day when God will withdraw that light. In Jeremiah 13:16 we read, “Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.” This is the “strong delusion” we read about in 2 Thessalonians 2:11. Then there is only one more step—eternal darkness—“Wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13). “He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11). But Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Have you honestly trusted Him? Is He your light? Is He your life today?
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy days be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun,
And in that light of life, I’ll walk
Till trav’ling days are done.
The Children of God (1 John 2:12-13)
These verses introduce a distinct section of John’s Epistle in which he has a word of exhortation for all God’s children. Whatever their years of Christian life or their experience, all are addressed in verse 12 when he said, “I write unto you, [dear] children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” I purposely omitted the word little, which is in the King James version and substituted the word dear. I did this because the word translated “little children” in verse 12 is a very different Greek word from the one translated “little children” in verse 13. The first word takes in all those who are bom into the family of God. It is a term of endearment. But the second word refers just to those who are young. In verse 12, John is addressing all who have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ—those who have been bom into the great family of God. They are all God’s beloved children. If you have made Christ your only ground of confidence, and are now able to say, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, / All other ground is sinking sand,” then you are numbered among the children of verse 12. “I write unto you, children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” He has given us in 1 John 1:7 the basis of that forgiveness: “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” There is no other way that sin can be blotted out. No other way that guilty men can be given a standing in the presence of a holy God. No other way is needed, for on Calvary’s tree our Lord shed His precious atoning blood. Thank God that “Sinners plunged beneath that flood, / Lose all their guilty stains.” These are the children of God.
All men are by nature the children of Adam. They are “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” (Ephesians 4:18), and, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Those who have trusted the Lord Jesus and believed the gospel are already born into His family. Peter said, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever…And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23, 25). But now, although all believers are equal as the redeemed of the Lord, and all who have trusted Christ are in one family as the children of God, yet there are obviously differing degrees of spirituality—degrees of progress in the Christian life. So in verse 13, the apostle divides the children of God into three classes according to the measure of their growth “in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:18).
“I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father” (1 John 2:13). John was not referring here to age or sex. He was not writing just to the men in Christ and excluding the women. These three terms, fathers, young men, and children, are used to distinguish believers according to the measure of their growth in grace. Who are fathers? They are those who for years have known the Lord, walked with God, and grown old in the things of Christ. To them John said, “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning.” It is quite possible to have been a Christian for many years, and yet not be a father. There are many who have been saved a great many years but are spiritually dwarfed because they give so little attention to spiritual things. They give so little time to the Word of God, are so seldom exercised in holy things, and know so little of the blessedness of prayer and communion with the Lord, that they do not grow. But when the apostle spoke to the fathers, he was speaking to those who through long years have availed themselves of their Christian privileges, learned to love the Word of God, sought to walk with Christ, labored for the blessing of others, and learned experientially to know the blessed Lord in all His fullness. When John said, “Ye have known him [that is] from the beginning,” he did not mean, “Ye have known concerning him,” or “known about him,” but “ye have known him.” Spiritual fathers have lived in fellowship with Him, walked with Him, and talked with Him. He has become dearer and nearer and more real to them than any earthly friend. He draws very near to His own, and, if I may coin an expression, He presences Himself with them. He shows them His hands and feet, and says, “It is I myself: handle me, and see” (Luke 24:39). He asks us to remember that it was for us He bore the wounds and endured the agony of the cross, in order that we might become His own. So the fathers are those who have learned to know Him throughout the years. They have learned to appreciate His love. The world has lost its power over their souls because Christ has filled the eyes of their hearts.
Next John wrote to the “young men.” These are the strong Christians who, although they may not have walked with God for as many years as the fathers, have yet gone on with Him into spiritual maturity. They have learned the secret of overcoming. In the book of Revelation we read, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). When John said, “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one,” we can be sure that it is through their faith in the atoning blood of Christ that they have been able to turn away from the world that crucified Him. They have said farewell to anything that has no place for their Lord.
My old companions, fare you well,
I cannot go with you to hell;
I mean with Jesus Christ to dwell
I will go.
Do you remember an experience like that? Have you turned from the world that rejected your Savior, and clinging to Him, taken His place of rejection? If so, then even when Satan seeks to terrify you by bringing before you your past sins, you are able to plead the infinite value of Christ’s atoning blood. That is the way to overcome.
Finally, there is a third class into which the apostle divides the family of God. These are the little ones, new believers in Christ, and to them he says, “I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.” A little while ago they were walking with the world in darkness, but they heard the gracious invitation of the loving Savior, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Responding to His invitation, they came with all their sins and grief, and found how true a friend Jesus is to those who trust Him. Now, though they do not know much else, they know the Father and have been given the Holy Spirit.
God does not wait until we become mature Christians before the Holy Spirit is given to us. “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3) We began in the Spirit. We received the Spirit of God as soon as we believed in Jesus, and He teaches us to cry, “Abba Father.” We look up into His blessed face and are able to say, “My Father.” There is a great deal for the “little children” to learn. Many varied experiences are still ahead of them, and there are wonderful truths yet to be opened. But they are just as accepted in the Beloved as the fathers. They are just as cleansed from every sin as the young men who “have overcome the wicked one.”
How to Overcome (1 John 2:14-17)
Beginning with verse 14 John goes on to give a word of encouragement, warning, and exhortation, to each group of believers, so he mentions them all again in order. To the fathers he says, “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (2:14). John does not add anything to what he said in verse 13. It is exactly the same. Why doesn’t he add anything? Because you cannot add to the climax of Christian experience—“Ye have known him that is from the beginning.” “From the beginning,” refers to Jesus’ incarnation here on earth. It must have been wonderful to trace His footsteps as He walked the sands of earth, and see Him in His perfection—God revealed in the flesh. It is even more wonderful to know Him now as the One who passed through death, was raised by the glory of the Father, has ascended to Heaven, and sits exalted at God’s right hand as our great High Priest and Advocate.
There are not many fathers in the faith. People may be very old in Christ and yet not be fathers in a spiritual sense. Sadly, many who have been Christians for years are still very worldly minded and know little of true fellowship with Christ. Paul earnestly prayed, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10). It is this personal knowledge of God that constitutes one a father in Christ. This is the height of Christian maturity, and comes through a life of intimate fellowship with Christ.
Does your soul long to know Him? Do you seek to know Him better through the years? There is only one way that you will ever become a father in Christ—it is to know Him. Many people are quite clear regarding certain great doctrines, or convinced as to where they stand on the fundamental and liberal controversy. They have rigid ideas as to how the people of God should meet together, and yet there is one thing very evident—they do not know Christ in this intimate relationship that is indicated here.
How do you get to know a person? By living with them day after day. How do you get to know Christ? By living in intimate fellowship with Him day after day throughout the years. You know Him when He ministers to you in your sorrow. You know Him when you put Christ first and find your chief joy and gladness in Him. To know Him! This is to be a father in Christ. John does not add a word of exhortation. Why? Because when Christ becomes the sole object of the heart, nothing more can be added to that. The heart completely devoted to Christ is delivered from the power of sin, saved from worldliness, and kept from jealousy, envy, and everything that is of the flesh. These things will not be present in the heart where Christ is all in all.
Next the apostle turned his attention to those who have not reached the depths of experience that the fathers have, and yet are strong, vigorous Christians. He said, “I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14). When he spoke to them previously, he simply said, “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one” (2:13). But now he reveals the secret of that overcoming. They are not strong in their own power, but “in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). In other words, you are strong because “the word of God abideth in you.” Many of us spend the greater part of the week occupied solely with the things of earth—things that in themselves are very right and legitimate. Once a week we come together for Bible study or worship, and say, “How encouraging and helpful!” It is like someone eating one good meal a week. That is not the way to be strong. We are strengthened by reading the Word of God first thing in the morning, meditating on the Word of God all day long, and studying the Word of God the last thing at night. If you go to bed with the Word of God in your mind, you will wake up with the Word of God in your mind. It is the Word of God that keeps us from the power of the enemy throughout the day. Some say, “I do not think this is possible.” But it is possible, and many have proven it can be done. Someone said to me once concerning a fellow Christian, “I like your friend. He is like a walking Bible.” That was because my friend was constantly feeding on the Word.
I knew a blacksmith who was so eager to become a man of God that he used to cut his Bible into sections, and tie one section up with a piece of string beside his forge. He would pull a page of it off and tack it up before him so that as he worked away at the blacksmith shop, he would be reading the Word. Was it any wonder that three years later God called that man away from the blacksmith shop into active Christian service? For forty years he has been an evangelist, leading many to the Lord Jesus Christ. Another man I knew was a printer. He had his Bible on a little stand in front of him, and as he worked away on those great circular presses, he had his heart set on the things of God. He would read a verse and meditate on it as he worked, and then read another, and another. It was not long until God took that man away from the printing press and sent him out preaching. He always said he got his theological seminary training standing at his printing press.
“Because the word of God abideth in you.” You know there are many Christians who think of the Word of God as something to take up an extra hour or so when they have nothing else to do. But you will never grow that way. What little strength you get from that hour is all used up when you become occupied with other things. You do not get anywhere on small doses. When the Word of God is the supreme thing in your life, and everything else is made to fit into that, then you will grow and become a strong Christian.
The world is bidding for strong young Christians, and its allurements are all around them. The devil would do anything to trip up an earnest Christian. There are some believers the devil could care less about. But the ones who are out and out for God, Satan pursues with his snares and attractions, trying to trip them up. If they flee from one thing, he has another temptation waiting for them. And so the exhortation comes, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
What is this world that we are not to love? It is not the earth, for that in itself has nothing that can hurt our souls. We can love nature. We do not need to be afraid of a beautiful view or a lovely flower. Some Christians have the idea that we are not to enjoy the world of nature. I said to one, “Isn’t that a beautiful rose bush?” He replied, “I am not interested in roses; I am not of this world.” That is not the world that is spoken of in Scripture. The universe is the expression of the Father’s wisdom and goodness.
Heav’n above is softer blue,
Earth beneath is sweeter green!
Something lives in ev’ry hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder song o’erflow,
Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine!
George W. Robinson
The Lord loved the lilies of the field. He drew attention to the beauties of nature. They stirred His own soul, and He wants His people to see in them the evidences of the wisdom and goodness of the Father. But what, then, is the world we are to hate? It is the system that man has built up on earth, in which he is trying to make himself happy without God. The world’s system really began back in Genesis when Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and built a city. It was a wonderful world. They were skilled in all kinds of arts, sciences, business, and pleasure—anything and everything to make them happy without God. But it ended in corruption and violence, and God had to sweep the whole thing away with a flood. The principles of the world that caused the corruption and violence before the flood were carried into the ark in the hearts of some of Noah’s children. They brought the world into the ark, and when they emerged from the flood, they brought the world out of the ark with them and set it up again.
What is then the world, which John described as the “lust of the flesh” (the gratification of the flesh), and “the lust of the eyes” (the desires of the unregenerate soul)? When some think of the world, they think of things that are abominable, vile and corrupt—saloons, gambling halls, and every kind of violence. These things offer little to attract the Christian heart. The world the Christian needs to beware of is the world of culture—the world that appeals to their esthetic nature. That world should hold as little attraction for the Christian as the corrupt, abominable world in the slums of our great cities. Don’t imagine yourself safe and free from worldliness because your world is in the arts and sciences. Even the business world may become a great snare. But you ask, “Don’t we have to work?” Yes. Jesus said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). In all these things we have to watch against the evils of the world.
I remember when I was a young Christian, the world I had to guard against most was the world of literature. I used to love its poetry, essays, and wonderful books. I still appreciate them to a certain degree. But I have to remember that if ever these things come between my soul and my love for God’s Word, I have to turn away from them and give my time and attention to Scripture. And so it is with anything that comes between you and your Lord.
There was a young lady with great musical ability preparing to go on the concert stage when the Lord saved her. She said one day, “You know I have made an amazing discovery. My love for music is coming between my soul and Christ.” That young woman, for eight years, would not touch a musical instrument for fear she would become so absorbed that she would not enjoy the things of God. But the time came when she said, “Although I can’t enjoy music for its own sake, I can use it as a vehicle to bless the souls of people.” She gave her talent to Christ, and He used it in attracting people to hear the gospel. No matter what your world is, if you lay it down at Jesus’ feet and use it for Him, you do not need to be afraid of it. But do not put your world before Jesus Christ.
For some a fine house is “the world.” Suppose there is a Christian who has little worldly wealth. He lives in a quiet little home and is happy and content. But then the Lord trusts him with a good deal of money, and he immediately says, “I must have a better house now. I must live in style. I must have magnificent furniture and fine draperies.” What for? Is he any more comfortable? He can only eat three meals a day; he can only sleep in one bed and sit in one chair at a time. But he feels he must impress people. He is in love with “the things that are in the world.”
Physical beauty can also get between you and Christ, and will prove to be “the world” if one is not careful. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
What is “the pride of life?” It is the pretentiousness of living, of trying to make an impression on others. It is the excessive exalting of oneself in the eyes of the world. I sometimes think if Christians took two-thirds of the money they invested in a mansion in this world, and invested it in sending the gospel to a lost world, they would have a much finer mansion in the eternal world. I was walking down the street one day with a friend. As he pointed out a particular home he said, “There is an awful lot of tragedy connected with that house. A man built this great home for his beautiful wife, and suddenly she died. Here is a house that had a lot of money put into it, but there was a suicide in the family, and now no one wants to live in it.” There is no real joy in things. As Christians, our joy in Christ is the only joy that will last forever. Our joy is in the things that will never pass away, and yet it is sad to think that we can be so foolish and invest so much in what is fleeting and will leave us dissatisfied and unhappy in the end.
“But he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” In obedience to God’s will there is lasting joy and endless gladness. In the light of that, who would not say,
Take the world, but give me Jesus,
All it’s joys are but a name,
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years the same.
Fanny J. Crosby
Have you made your choice? As a believer you made your first choice when you turned from sin to Christ. Have you made your next choice? Have you turned from the world to Christ? There are many who have trusted Jesus as their Savior from judgment, who have never learned to know Him. They have never learned to walk with Him in blessed fellowship
No one can ever put this world beneath his feet until he has found a better world above. When your heart is taken up with Christ in that eternal world, it is an easy thing to heed the exhortation, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.”
God’s Little Children—Their Privileges and Dangers (1 John 2:18-27)
We have noticed that the Holy Spirit in addressing the family of God has divided it into three classes, according to the measure of their growth in grace. We have already considered what the Lord has to say to the fathers in Christ and to the young men. Now we come to consider His message to God’s little children.
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (2:18). The word translated “little children” here, as pointed out on a previous occasion, is very different from the word translated “little children” in the first part of verse twelve. There it is a term of affection, and implies all who are born into God’s family, all His dear children, who are at varying degrees in their spiritual experience. But here the term includes not only those who have been recently saved, but also those who although saved for years, have not been well nourished or built up in Christ. While they should be in one of the more spiritually mature classes they are still God’s little children. These immature believers are passing through a world in which there are a great many adverse influences seeking to turn them away from the simplicity that is in Christ. So the apostle immediately warned them, and interestingly enough, he warned them against the spirit of antichrist. “Ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” John is the only writer who used the term antichrist. Other terms used in Scripture are the “idol shepherd” (Zechariah 11:17), the one who “shall come in his own name” (John 5:43), the “son of perdition” and the “man of sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3), the “lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), and the “false prophet” (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). These different terms describe the same person, the one who will arise during the great tribulation and lead apostate Christendom and Judaism farther away from God than they are at the present time.
The antichrist has not yet appeared, but the spirit of antichrist is in the world, for “even now are there many antichrists.” The “spirit of antichrist” is the putting of man in the place of God and His Christ. It is self-worship or humanism. The little children need to be warned against this. Sadly many of the advocates of these unholy systems once claimed to be Christians. They took their places at the communion table, had fellowship outwardly with God’s people, were baptized, but now have turned away from Christianity and Scripture. They deny the precious blood they once confessed. Scripture says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). So how are we to account for people who for years seemed to be just as real as any other professed believers, but now count “the blood of the covenant, wherewith [they were] sanctified, an unholy thing, and have done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29) and spurned the love of Jesus? The answer is, “They were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us” (1 John 2:19).
I remember how my heart was stirred after the war as I read of one of our great American preachers who was great from the standpoint of ability, culture, and rhetoric, but knew nothing of the saving grace of God. He said that after he had been to Europe and after his experience in the trenches, he threw overboard the doctrine of blood-atonement through the precious sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, gave up the doctrine of the deity of Christ, and scoffed at His virgin birth and resurrection. How could so great a preacher repudiate these truths? We don’t need to guess about this, for the answer is given by the Holy Spirit Himself in verse 19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” Their going out made it evident that they were not genuine believers. They carried the Christian name, they joined a Christian church, they were baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and they took the bread and the wine at the table of the Lord. But He who sees not as man sees said, “The hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table” (Luke 22:21). He knew what Judas really was, and so said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70) He was never anything else.
God knows who are the unreal among His people today. He knows all who mingle with the people of God, who profess the name of Christ, but have never known the blessing of regenerating grace, never bowed in repentance at the cross of Christ, never been washed from their sins in the Savior’s precious blood. The hardest thing in the world to do is to attempt to live like a Christian when you have no Christian life. It would be easier for one of the beasts of the field to set himself up in a mansion and try to live the life of a millionaire human being, than for an unregenerate sinner to try to live the life of a Christian. “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). And so John wrote of men mingling with Christians and outwardly looking like them, but he said, “They were not of us.” They were not genuine.
Oh, may each one of us search our hearts in the presence of God and ask ourselves, have I really faced my sins in the light of the cross of Christ? Have I truly turned to God in repentance, admitting my guilt, acknowledging my iniquity, and fled for refuge to the hope given me in the gospel? Do I show evidence of a regenerate soul? Do I love the brethren? Do I love the commandments of God? Is the Word of God sweet to me, and do I delight to feed on it? Is it my joy to serve the Lord, or are these things wearisome to me? I am persuaded, and I say this with love, that there are tens of thousands of people today whose names are on a church roll who have never had their names enrolled in the Lamb’s Book of Life. There are tens of thousands of people struggling to live a Christian life, and making a complete failure of it because they have never yet been born again.
If a great revival were to come to this land, one of the first evidences of it will be that people who have used the Christian name and passed for Christian workers will begin to find out that they themselves have never been saved. They will break down before God, and confess their sins and judge their iniquities and selfishness. How dreadful to never find out the truth until the day of judgment when it is too late to rectify the error!
John wrote of these pretenders, “They went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19). Once outside they became the worst opponents of those who stood for the truth of God. There is no one who hates the gospel like the man who once professed to be saved but afterward turned to a life of sin because there was no reality in his profession. These were the antichrists John warned the little children about in his day.
How are the little children to guard against these false teachers? Look at verses 20 and 21. “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” He said, “Ye know all things”—not actually every detail, but potentially. You have dwelling in you the One who does know, and therefore you don’t need to be carried away by any form of error. What do young believers have as their resource? They have the Spirit of God and the Word of God. They have the Word of God in their hearts and the Spirit of God dwelling in them to open the truth to them. When people come with their false teachings that deny the atoning blood, or the deity of Christ, or emphasize human attainment, the young ones in Christ can turn back to the Word of God, and the Spirit of God dwelling in them opens the Word to them and thus preserves them from error.
The story is told by a well-known English minister, how one night, when he was just ready to retire, there came a knock at his door. When he went downstairs, he found at the door a poor, wretched little girl, dripping wet. She had come through the storm, and she said, “Are you the minister?”
“Yes,” he said, “I am.” He was at that time one who had turned away from the simplicity of the gospel.
“Will you please come and get my mother in?” she asked.
The minister replied, “I was just about to retire, and besides it is hardly proper for me to go out in this weather and bring your mother in. If she is drunk, you can get a policeman to fetch her. He has his oilskins on and is prepared for the storm.”
“Oh no,” said the little girl, “you don’t understand! My mother is not out in the storm, and she is not drunk. She is at home dying, and she is afraid to die. She is afraid she is going to be lost forever. She wants to go to Heaven and doesn’t know how, so I told her I would get a minister to get her in.”
He asked where she lived, and she told him of a district so corrupt that even in the daytime respectable people did not go there without a police escort. “Why,” he said, “I can’t go down there tonight.” To himself he reasoned, It would ruin my reputation to be seen with a girl like this in that district in the middle of the night. No, I cannot go. I am the preacher of a large and important church. What would my congregation think if it should get into the papers?
To the girl he said, “I will tell you what to do. You go down and get the man who is running the Rescue Mission. He will be glad to help you.” He felt ashamed as he said it, but decided his reputation had to be maintained.
“He may be a good man,” replied the girl, “but I don’t know him. I told my mother I would get a real minister, and I want you to come and get her in. Please come quickly; she’s dying.”
“I couldn’t stand the challenge in those eyes,” the preacher confessed. He felt ashamed, and so he said to her, “Very well, I will come.” He went upstairs, got dressed, and put on his overcoat.
Then the girl led him down through the city, into the slum district, into an old house, up a rickety stairway, and along a long dark hall into a little room where lay the poor woman. “I have gotten the preacher of the biggest church in the city,” said the girl. “He will get you in. He didn’t want to come, but he’s here. You tell him what you want, and do just what he tells you to do.”
The woman looked up and said, “Oh, sir, can you do anything for a poor sinner? All my life I have been a wicked woman, and I am going to Hell. But I don’t want to go there. I want to be saved and go to Heaven. Tell me what I can do.”
The preacher related how he stood there looking down at that poor anxious face, and thought, Whatever will I tell her? I have been preaching in my own church on salvation by character, ethical culture, and reformation. But I can’t tell her about salvation by character, for she hasn’t any. I can’t tell her about salvation by ethical culture, for there’s no time for culture, and besides she most likely wouldn’t know what I meant. I can’t tell her about salvation by reformation, for she has gone too far to reform. Then it came to me, why not tell her what my mother used to tell me? She’s dying, and it can’t hurt her, even though it will do her no good. And so he said, “My poor woman, God is very gracious, and the Bible says, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’”
She replied, “Does it say that in the Bible? My! This should help get me in. But, sir, my sins! What about my sins?”
The minister said that it was amazing the way the verses came to him, verses he had learned years ago and never used. He said to the woman, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
“All sin?” she asked. “Does it really say that the blood will cleanse me from all sin? That ought to get me in.”
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).
“Well,” she said, “If the chief got in, I can come too. Pray for me!”
He knelt down and prayed with that poor woman and got her in, and while he was getting her in, he got himself in. Those two poor sinners, the minister and the dying harlot, were saved together in that little room.
Those messages that have nothing in them to help a poor, guilty, Hell-bound sinner, are an abomination in the sight of God! But, thank God, He has given His little children the blessed Holy Spirit to guide, direct, instruct, and open to them the truth. And through the truth they are kept from the power of the evil one.
Then we read, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22). John continued with strong language: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledged the Son hath the Father also” (2:23). The words placed in italics in our King James version generally represent words not found in the Greek, but since the New Testament was translated in 1611 many other manuscripts have been discovered, and they all contain these words.
“Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (2:24). If the gospel has not gripped your heart, you will some day drift away as others have drifted away. “These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (2:26-27). They were not to be dependent on human wisdom, for they had the Word of God opened to them by the Holy Spirit.
This then is the comfort, stay, and protection of God’s little children. They may not know very much, but they know Christ. They have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, and they have the Word of God to instruct them. May we all learn to value what God has graciously committed to us.
Christ’s Appearing (1 John 2:28-29)
In verse 28 as in verse 12, John used once again the term, dear children, to address all the family of God irrespective of maturity or age. He said, “And now, [dear] children, abide in him.” To abide in Him is to live in fellowship with Him. It is one thing to be in Him—having life in Him—but it is another thing to abide in Him—enjoying communion with Him. There are many who have life in Christ but are not happy in His presence. They permit something to come into their life that hinders fellowship.
You know how it is in a family. When the children are in harmony with the father and mother they give their parents satisfaction and there is peace, joy, and fellowship. But if one of the children is out of touch with the rest and has been willful, disobedient, and ungrateful in one way or another, there is a barrier between that child and the parents. Not that the parents do not love the child as much as ever, but they realize that his behavior has come in the way of fellowship. So it is with the children of God. John says, “And now, [dear] children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (2:28).
It is at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ that our rewards will be given out. “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12). In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we read, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” The apostle was desirous that when the day of reckoning comes, “we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him.” Notice the pronoun we. He was addressing the children, and so you would expect him to say, “That, when he shall appear, you may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” But he was speaking as a servant of Christ, and was addressing those whom he had either led to Christ or sought to help in the ways of God. He spoke for all Christ’s servants as he addressed all God’s people, and said in effect, “We are accountable, and have a tremendous sense of responsibility in regard to you.” Another apostle spoke of Christ’s undershepherds as those who had heavy responsibility, and said, “They watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
I remember some years ago trying to speak on 1 John 2:28 to a crowded house in Detroit. After dismissing the audience at the close of the meeting, I saw a young woman on the left side of the church push her way across to the right side. She threw herself weeping into the arms of a beautiful Christian woman, saying, “Oh, Mrs.M------, will you forgive me? Can you forgive me?” The woman tried to quiet and soothe her, and said, “It is not I who needs to forgive you. If you have sinned, you have done so against the Lord. Go to Him.” “Oh,” the young woman said, “but you led me to Christ. You were my Sunday School teacher, and you tried to encourage me on. I used to be so happy as a young Christian, and then I fell in love with an unsaved man. You warned me that it was not the right thing for a Christian girl to do. You warned me about the unequal yoke, but I reasoned that I would soon bring him around, and he would become a Christian. But it hasn’t worked that way. He has taken me away from the church of God and into the world. This is the first meeting I have attended for months. I have been going with him to the theater and dance hall and have lost out. It never dawned on me how ashamed you would be of me at the judgment seat of Christ. I want to be right with God.” I saw that dear woman take her into a side room for a time of prayer. When they came out their faces were shining.
It is one thing to come to Christ. It is another thing to behave yourself in such a way that those who led you to Christ and watched over your soul can give account with joy in that great day. Sometimes even here on earth I have been a little ashamed. I have gone into certain places and met someone who did not seem to be a devoted Christian. Then someone would ask, “Don’t you know so and so?” “I’m not sure that I do,” I replied. “Well, he is one of your converts.” I know that they mean he has professed to be converted in one of my meetings, but he has not been living for Christ. Nothing gives a true servant of Christ greater joy, after the conversion of sinners, than to see those he has won for the Savior glorifying Him in their lives.
Do you remember when you first came to trust in Christ? What have you been doing since? What has the Lord been getting out of your life? Have you been flirting with the world, trying to straddle the fence? You cannot do this without going astray. If you have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of Christ and regenerated by the grace of His Holy Spirit, let Him have the best of your life. Abide in Him. Then in that coming day when the servants of Christ come up before the judgment seat to be rewarded according to their service, they won’t be ashamed of you. Think of D. L. Moody standing before the Lord, and saying, “Lord, behold, I and the children whom You have given me,” and then think of some of those converts as they stand there saying to themselves, “Oh, how I wish I had lived more in accord with what my dear father in Christ taught me.”
In verse 29 John reminded us of what should characterize those who have been born of God. “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” Don’t be content to say, “I have trusted Christ and have been made the righteousness of God in Him.” When God justifies a man by faith, He proceeds to make that man just by the working of His Holy Spirit. He does not justify people by faith and leave them in an unjust condition. Everyone that is born of God does righteousness, loves righteousness, and seeks to walk in righteousness. Let us test ourselves by some of these things, and see whether or not we are professing to be Christians when we have never known righteousness.