Soteriology 48, 1 John 2:3
February 12, 2017
Father, we’re grateful for today, a day that’s unique, we’ve never seen one like it before and we’ll never see one like it since, so we just rejoice in today, Father, that You woke us up and brought us here and You have a blessing in store for us as we get into Your Word and be around Your people. We thank the Lord for the visitors that are here and I pray that what is spoken in Sunday School and in the main service would be something that they need and all of needs for our lives as we seek to be fed this morning from Your Scripture. And we’ll be careful to give you all of the praise and the glory. We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.
If we could open our Bibles to the book of 1 John, chapter 2 and verse 3. What we’ve been doing in this Sunday School class, we’ve been talking about the doctrine of eternal security. Eternal security means those that are saved by God’s grace are kept by the same grace that saved them. So good works didn’t get me in the door and praise the Lord good works don’t keep me in the door because my salvation is a work of grace from beginning to end. And that’s a nice belief but is it biblical and we’ve gone through, I can’t remember how many arguments it was, 12 or 13 arguments, something like that, defending the doctrine of the security of the believer. And most studies that you get on this in the modern church stop right there but we’re trying to go a step further and actually interact with the passages that people use quite regularly to deny the security of the believer. So that’s why this series is going on longer than most series do on the doctrine of eternal security.
We’re in a section where we’re looking at the passages in the general letters, that would be going to the book of Hebrews and hanging a right basically, and in Revelation having interacted with all of the problem passages elsewhere in the Bible but now we’re in general epistles through Revelation and just picking out some selected passages that people use to deny the security of the believer.
And we come to the book of 1 John, which I believe is one of the most misinterpreted and misunderstood books today and the reason it’s misunderstood or misinterpreted is because people really don’t lay a background for you. If you understand the background then the verses start to fall into place but if you just kind of leap into a verse without a background you’ll end up probably misinterpreting it. There are probably at least four verses in 1 John which deny the security of the believer: 1 John 2:3, which we’re going to look at today, a big one, 1 John 3:9, I don’t know how deep we’ll get into that, I may introduce it; 1 John 3:15 and then 1 John 5:16.
So notice if you will 1 John 2:3, it says this: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Now you look at that at first glance and it says well, what if I am not keeping His commandments, or what if I failed this week in keeping one of His commandments. People come back and say well, that means you don’t know Him. The Reformed tradition says you never knew Him, so whatever salvation experience you think you’ve had is really a fake salvation experience, so you need to really get serious this time and yield and submit and throw in a few crocodile tears and really come to saving faith in Christ.
Another tradition, the Arminian tradition says “if we keep His commandments” means that you once knew Him but guess what? You broke one of His commandments or more than one so what happened to your salvation? You lost it. So both views, the Reformed view and the Arminian view are basically denying the assurance of salvation and we’ve seen from the promises of God that one of the rights of the child of God is to know with no ambiguity whatsoever that should you die you’re going to heaven.
How then if once saved always saved and all these things are true that we’ve been arguing how in the world would we explain 1 John 2:3. Now this kind of dials back into what we started talking about last time, and the first question you need to ask yourself when you get into a book like 1 John and this pattern should sound familiar to you because I showed you this same pattern in the book of Hebrews which has, as we’ve talked about, five troubling passages in it. The way to navigate your way through those passages is to figure out who is the audience, don’t waste your time on who wrote the book of Hebrews, I don’t have any idea who it was, and I don’t think I need to know and the author, whoever he was leaves his work anonymous so I respect his anonymity. So pouring a bunch of energy into who wrote the book of Hebrews is almost… is a waste of time. The energy should be spent on figuring out who the audience is; is the audience saved or unsaved or some combination thereof because once you come to a satisfactory conviction and conclusion on that then the warning passages start to fall into place.
And it’s the same with 1 John; the first thing you need to figure out is who is this book written to. And I took you through a lot of passages last time that clearly show, and it isn’t a matter of my personal taste or opinion, that the Bible indicates that these people are regenerated. So we believe he wrote the Gospel of John primarily for the purpose of evangelizing, getting folks saved. We know that from John 20:30-31, which indicates that these things are written that you may have life by believing. [John 20:30, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”] Which seems to indicate that his audience didn’t have life yet because they hadn’t believed yet.
Then he moves into 1 John, 2 John, 3 John where he’s no longer trying to get folks saved or justified, he’s trying to help them grow. So John is an evangelist and he’s also a pastor. So in the Gospel of John he’s functioning in his role as an evangelist; you get into 1, 2 and 3 John he’s functioning as a role of pastor. We might even call John a bishop in the sense that he had influence over multiple churches and being the last living eyewitness to the things of Jesus Christ, which transpired 60 years earlier John has a lot of authority to address these issues. So John, at this time in his life, towards the end of the first century, is almost like a rock star (if I can use that expression) in Christendom because he’s the last living guy that saw the resurrected Christ. Everybody else has been martyred.
And by the way, they’re going to try to martyr John; they’re going to try to boil him in oil, we know from extra-biblical writings, and the son of a gun would not die. And why didn’t he die like everybody else had died? Because God had a purpose for him and it was God’s purpose for John to be marooned on the island of Patmos to receive his final vision that we call the book of Revelation. So when John writes these three epistles, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, it’s probably after he wrote his gospel but before he was marooned on Patmos. He’s probably in Ephesus at the time and he’s the last living apostle and he’s exercising bishop authority over multiple churches.
And he’s sort of bothered by the fact that something is rolling into Asia Minor where John was at this time, Ephesus is in Asia Minor, something called insipient Gnosticism and once you believe insipient Gnosticism your doctrine of Christ gets distorted, and this was affecting the churches. And John understands that if they move into this false belief system it’s going to affect, not their salvation, because a believer can be deceived… did you all know that? If you don’t believe you as a Christian can be deceived then you already are deceived. That’s why the Bible tells us to put on the belt of truth. The statement makes no sense if I didn’t have an ability to be deceived as a Christian. So if you become deceived as a Christian and you fall under false teaching then what gets damaged is your moment by moment fellowship with God. And that’s what John’s trying to protect here in the book.
So you’ll notice that he has expressed his desire concerning their loss of joy and I have all the verses there where you can look those up and we went through all these last time. He uses the expression “we” quite frequently, meaning he’s identifying with the audience, just as John was saved so were those he is writing to. He calls his audience “children of God.” In verses 12-14 he gives eight descriptions that could only apply to a believer. He says they have the Spirit’s anointing, he’s worried not about hell for these folk, he’s worried about loss of rewards. He says one day we’re going to be like Jesus. He calls them beloved ones in the faith, he keeps referring to his audience as “my brothers.” He indicates that they’ve been born of God. He indicates that they possess the Holy Spirit. It sounds like they’re believers, doesn’t it.
Now this becomes a big deal because what John does in this book is he gives seven tests. We went through these last time but just by way of review, 1 John 1:6 says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him we walk in darkness and we lie,” so that’s a test of false fellowship. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” That’s a test of false sanctity. Then you’ll have in verse 10 a test of false righteousness, “If we say that we have not sinned we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us,” false righteousness. 1 John 2:14, a test of false allegiance, [“He that saith I know Him and keepeth not His commandments is a liar.” That’s a test of false allegiance.] 1 John 2:6, a test of false behavior, [He that saith he abideth in Him ought to walk even as He walked.” 1 John 2:9, a test of false spirituality, [“He that saith he is in the light yet hateth his brother is in the darkness.”] 1 John 4:20, a test of false love; if I say I love God and hate my brother then I’m a liar. [1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”]
So the big issue becomes what if you flunk one of these tests? Could you guys pass all those tests perfectly? I mean, I don’t think anybody does, even as Christians we fall short, don’t we. Does anybody hate his brother? Been on social media lately, all the nasty things being said between supposed Christians, particularly when election cycles roll around. It’s easy to get angry with people and frustrated and even develop hatred. And what happens when I get like that? Well, the test of life view says you were never saved to begin with. So the tests are a test of your justification. And to be honest with you that’s the only view I ever knew for years and years of my Christian life and I was delighted to discover that that view is actually a view which at one time was a majority view. It’s a minority view today but at one time it was a majority view I should say.
So the second view is these tests are there to determine fellowship. They’re not there to figure out am I a Christian or not a Christian. Why would I say that? Because of the way the audience is described. The audience analysis drives my conclusion concerning are we talking about tests of life or test of fellowship. You can’t be testing whether these people are saved because he assumes their salvation and describes them as saved people all the way through. So therefore what John is doing is he’s using these tests as a test of fellowship—am I really walking in fellowship with God because as a Christian I can fall out of fellowship with God. Anybody see a parallel here with marriage… So you can do something, you can commit sin against your spouse, say something unkind, or not sensitive or whatever and what happens? We don’t stop being married, right? I mean I hope you won’t divorce me for that. But what’s happened is there’s tension in our marriage until I apologize for what I’ve done. So what’s happened is my position as a married man hasn’t been altered but my moment by moment enjoyment of my wife, fellowship with her, has been altered until I confess that sin. See that.
So I think the right way to understand this is he’s not testing life, he’s testing fellowship. And so many people want to make these tests a test to determine your justification. And this is why I find a lot of the teachings of Dr. John MacArthur problematic because what happens is people come to a Bible church like this and they really have heard a favorite Bible expositor on the radio and they come to a church like this and they think we’re going to have the exact same views as Dr. John MacArthur and that’s about as deep as their thinking goes. So he teaches the Bible, you teach the Bible, therefore John MacArthur equals Sugar Land Bible Church. And when people come in with that mindset I’m always a little bit nervous because it’s just a matter of time before they hear something that doesn’t fit with what John MacArthur is saying.
I like a lot of the things John MacArthur has to say but I think he’s brought in a lot of confusion into the body of Christ related to his handling of 1 John and other passages. So he dogmatically takes these seven tests as tests of life. John MacArthur claims that John wrote his epistle to provide eleven tests, now he’s got eleven tests, I only have seven, of genuine saving faith. These include such subjective questions as do you obey God’s Word? Do you reject this evil world? Do you eagerly await Christs return? Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? How do you objectively quantify whether all that is true or not? The bottom line is you can’t objectively quantify it and so if you fall under the test of life view then you start to have question marks in your mind about whether you’re saved at all and in the process you’re being deprived of one of the greatest rights you have as a child of God, which is the assurance of salvation.
And of course this thinking really starts at the scholarly level. Christopher Bass says we must remember that the first letter of John is taken with various sets of criteria or tests by which its readers are to evaluate their religious claims in the light of the way they conduct their lives. The believer’s lifestyle therefore serves as either a vital support to his assurance or as evidence that he has never really passed from death to life. So what view is he taking there? Not test of fellowship but test of life? A better understanding of this is to not interpret these tests as tests to determine whether you’re justified before God but these are tests to determine whether you’re being progressively what? Sanctified. So how are you doing in the middle tense of your salvation is what the tests are there for, because we as Christians can make great strides through God’s power, in the middle tense of our salvation and we could also suffer tremendous setbacks. So while your salvation is never in doubt the tests are there to determine are you really walking in fellowship with God or not.
So you might remember last time that I had the test of life view on the left column and the test of fellowship view on the right hand column and what we discover is both views are taking the same terminology in 1 John but giving a different meaning to it. So we walked through that, fellowship or abiding, test of life view says that’s being in union with God; test of fellowship view says no, that’s being in communion with God. Same with the expressions knowing God, eternal life, light or darkness, all of those expressions, particularly light or darkness, test of life view says you’re saved or not; test of fellowship view says you can be saved but you can actually walk in darkness because you’re out of fellowship with God.
I mean, was David saved? I hope so, he was the second king of Israel, but he stepped out of fellowship with God, did he not, by just committing some minor sins, adultery and murder, I mean, those are pretty big sins and then he kind of swept everything under the carpet and pretend like he’d never done it. And in the Psalms he talks about how during that time he tried to pray and the heavens became like brass and that’s why in the Psalms it talks about how blessed is the man whose sin is forgiven. So when he tried to hide it from God he didn’t lose his salvation; what he was walking in was darkness there as a man who was anointed ultimately to be the second king of Israel.
So it’s the same words but they’re given different meanings depending on whether you believe in the test of life view or the test of fellowship view. There’s a broader chart that goes into more detail explaining these different words. So with that background in mind which we covered last time we run into 1 John 2:3, which says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” The test of life view comes in and says well, if you’re not keeping one of the commandments of God then you’re not saved, or you lost your salvation. The test of fellowship view says if you’re failing in your daily life to keep God’s commandments, in other words, you’re not walking moment by moment under His guidance, direction, and empowerment, and you go back to the sin nature then you’re still saved, you’re just walking out of fellowship with God.
So one of the great battles in this whole debate between test of life and test of fellowship is where do we find the purpose statement in John’s epistle? John is pretty good in his Gospel at giving us the purpose statement of the book. It’s in John 20:30-31. And that’s how we know John is writing in his Gospel an evangelistic book. [John 20:30, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”]
So if John is so good at giving us a purpose statement surely somewhere in 1 John he would give us a purpose statement. The test of life view says the purpose statement is found in 1 John 5:13 which says, “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.” And people look at that and say aha, that’s the purpose statement and that purpose statement they say governs the whole book. The problem with that thinking is when John, in 1 John gives like a summary purpose, as you study it consistently and contextually what you’ll discover is his statement of a purpose doesn’t govern the whole book. The only thing it governs is what preceded that purpose statement immediately.
For example, look if you will at 1 John 2:1, this is a purpose statement, it says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you” see he’s giving a purpose statement, “so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” So he gives a purpose statement there. And what you’ll discover is the purpose for which he is writing that verse, 1 John 2:1, doesn’t cover the whole book; it covers the subject matter that he just rehearsed there but the subject matter is covered in the prior verses, verses 5-10.
And then notice if you will 1 John 2:26, “These things I have written to you” so again he’s giving a purpose statement, “concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” Now is that his purpose statement for the whole book? No, he’s dealing there with antichrists and 1 John 2:16 gives us one of his sub purposes I would argue and the subject of antichrists doesn’t govern the whole book. The subject of antichrists governs the preceding paragraph. So verses 18-25 you’ll see him dealing with antichrists.
So both times when John says I am writing these things because, he’s not making a statement about the entire book, he’s making a statement about what immediately precedes. Do you see that? And that’s the error of looking at 1 John 5:13, which says, “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.” 1 John 5:13 I don’t think in the same way governs the entire book; I think it governs verses 1-12.
Therefore, 1 John 5:13, 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:26 are not designed to be a purpose statement for the entire five chapter book. Well if all of that is true 1 John 5:13 is really not the purpose statement of the book where do you think we ought to find the purpose statement of the book? Maybe we should look not at the end of the book but at the beginning. Amen!
And when you go to 1 John 1:3-4 right out of the gate, with no information immediately preceding it other than a common greeting I think he tells us what his purpose is. And what does 1 John 1:3-4 say? “what we have seen and heard” now he’s speaking there as an eyewitness to the things of Christ that happened sixty years earlier, and remember the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, is going to come to you, He said this in the Upper Room sixty years earlier, and He’s going to bring to you remembrance of all the things that I have said and taught. And this is what’s happening with John as he’s ready to die, as he’s writing these 1 John, 2 John and 3 John to protect the church and guard their fellowship.
“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have” what? what does it say, “fellowship” it’s the Greek word koinonia, fellowship with who, “with us;” who’s the “us”? It’s us apostles, don’t fall for this gnostic teaching because once you do that you’re out of fellowship with what we apostles have taught. “… and indeed our fellowship is with” who, “the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” So we apostles have given you truth because we are walking with God the Son and God the Father. So if you go into a distorted doctrine of Christ because of Gnosticism not only will you fall out of fellowship with us apostles, you’re actually going to fall out fellowship with God the Father and God the Son. He doesn’t say I’m writing these things to you to get you people out of hell, does he? His whole tone as he begins the book is a fellowship tone.
Then he says in verse 4, “These things we write, so that our” what? “joy may be made complete.” And when I was teaching at the Bible College and I would teach these doctrines people would say well then what does it matter, once saved always saved, what does it matter how I live? Well, if you have trusted in Christ it may not affect your eternal destiny but it will affect temporal issues in your life, such as joy. The most miserable person on the face of the earth, I believe, is an out of fellowship Christian. I would put Lot in that category; remember Lot in Sodom… by the way, are you a lot like Lot? It’s a good sermon title, isn’t it. Lot was a believer; he’s called a righteous man three times, in 2 Peter 2:7-8 and during all those years of disobedience Peter tells us that his soul was vexed. And God loves us too much to see us destroy our lives in sin so He bothers us, does He not, when we step out of line. And “whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens.” And all of things do what to your joy? They destroy it. That’s what John’s worried about.
So therefore 1 John 1:3-4 is what I would argue the purpose statement of the book. And what you have to understand is the way I am talking right now at one time within our Bible teaching Bible believing circles used to be the majority opinion. In fact, if you go back to the Scofield Reference Bible published in what? 1909, something like that, and it’s a traditional Bible, a lot of people look at it as… I think they’re going a little overboard but equal to the Apostle Paul, you know, “my hope is built on nothing less but Scofield’s notes and Moody Press” as the saying goes.
What I’m trying to say is it’s a traditional Bible; it’s got some good stuff in it and how does the Scofield Reference Bible handle 1 John? Did you ever ask yourself that? There’s a heading in the Scofield Reference Bible of 1 John and the heading of the whole book in that study Bible is The tests of what? Fellowship, obedience and love. In other words the way I’m talking here used to be the majority opinion and today the majority opinion, because of the influence of Reformed Theology has become the minority opinion and so we’re living in a generation today where if you hold to grace doctrines you have to stand up and aggressively defend them, whereas in prior generations these doctrines that I’m teaching here were assumed. And how is it that I can go through much of my Christian life and never hear the other view? That shows you the power and the ascendency of Reformed theology. And just because it’s popular doesn’t make it right. Amen.
In fact, in the Bible what you’ll discover is the majority is usually wrong. Broad is the road that leads to destruction, many there are that go that way; narrow is the road that leads to life and few are they that find it. [Matthew 7:13, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”]
When Joshua told everybody there at Kadesh-barnea, let’s get in there and take the land the majority said no. Only two guys assented and said the Lord is with us, let’s take the land. And what we discover in biblical history is the majority had it wrong and those two guys had it right. Now I can give you many, many examples where the majority has it wrong and this was part of one of my struggles when I was going through a doctoral work is everybody is so into contemporary scholarship… well, who holds that view? Well, I would say John holds that view, isn’t that enough? No, not John, what scholars hold that view? And you have to figure out pretty quick in your life what you’re impressed by. I have made a decision that I’m far more impressed by what the biblical text says than what scholar A, scholar B, and scholar C says. I have absolutely no interest in building scholarly consensus and building some kind of bridge.
Now think if Martin Luther and the great church Reformers had tried to find scholarly consensus; we would never have had the Protestant Reformation, would we, because Luther, in his debate with Dr. Eck over the doctrine of grace, Eck would say well Luther, Pope A, disagrees with you, Pope B disagrees with you, Monk A disagrees with you, Monk B disagrees with you and what did Luther say? He says I have an authority that is greater than everybody you’ve mentioned, the Apostle Paul. And this is why he called the Book of Galatians his wife, the German word for wife is frau, so he called Galatians Mein Frau, meaning my wife. That’s how wedded he was to the typical text and that’s why he stood against the Roman Catholic hierarchy when the majority in that time and in church history was all telling him he was wrong. So that’s an example of church history where the minority has it right and the majority has it wrong.
So it really doesn’t matter to me today whether the test of fellowship view is the majority view or not, I’m impressed by it because it’s biblical but at one time, going back a hundred years or so it was the majority view.
Having said all that let’s go back to 1 John 2:3, it says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” How would the test of fellowship view handle a verse like that? Knowing can refer to intimacy or fellowship with God rather than being born again. That’s how you decipher this. I’m going to show you examples in the biblical text where “knowing” is not talking about being saved, it’s talking about fellowship. Now can “knowing” in some context refer to being justified? Yes it can. But can the word “knowing”, the Greek verb ginosko, or the Greek noun gnosis, can that word be used to describe fellowship with God also? Yes it can. So if it can be used to describe justification and if it also can be used to describe my growth in progressive sanctification and it’s the same word, which meaning should I apply? What’s the determining factor? Context, that’s why we’ve said the three rules of real estate are location, location, location; the three rules of Bible study are context, context, context. That’s why I tried to give you the broad context of 1 John.
So out of fellowship believers sometimes are described as not knowing God, gnosis, ginosko. Now let me show you some examples where this happens. Take your Bible if you could and go back to John 14, this is Jesus interacting with Philip, now do you all think Philip was saved, one of the hand-picked disciples? I think he was saved. I also think by the time Jesus spoke these words in the Upper Room Judas, John 13, had already left the room. The only unsaved one in the bunch is gone and he’s speaking to eleven saved people.
And notice what he says here in John 14:7-9, “If you had” what? “known Me,” ginosko, same verb, “If you had known Me you would have” what? “known My Father also; from now on you” what? “know Him, and have seen Him.” That’s a perplexing statement and so,  “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’” And look what Jesus says to a saved man, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to” what? “know Me, Philip?” Same verb. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” In other words Philip, you’re one of the disciples, you’re saved, you’re in the Upper Room, Jesus is going to build His church on the foundations of the apostles and yet you don’t even understand that I and the Father are one when I’ve been telling you this the whole time.
So Philip is stumbling, not in the first tense of his salvation but the what? The second tense of his salvation. That’s what 1 John is about. By the way, who was in the Upper Room to hear this exchange sixty years earlier? John, so that’s why John is amplifying these truths at the end of his life as Jesus is making good on His promise to an old man, 60 years later, about the age of 90, that the Spirit is going to come and bring these things to your remembrance.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:34. Now I’ve tried to make the case that I think all the members of the Corinthian church were saved. Why would I say something like that. Well, you don’t have to turn there but in verse 2 of chapter 1 they’re called “saints,” can you be an unsaved saint? I don’t think so, there’s no such thing as an unjustified saint. [1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:”]
As J. Vernon McGee said you’re a saint or you’re an ain’t. And then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:2, who “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” so was Paul saved? When he says “our Lord” he must be referring to the Corinthians that were saved also. In verse 7 he says, “so that you are not lacking in any gift,” sounds like they have the gifts of the Spirit, “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” See, if you just do an audience analysis at the beginning, without getting into how they’re behaving you start to figure out that these people are justified . They’re not stumbling in the first tense of salvation, they’re stumbling in the second tense of salvation.
You say well hold the phone, I mean, weren’t these people sexually immoral? Yes they were. In chapter 6, verse 19, as they’re sneaking out at night to visit the temple prostitutes, which in paganism was a sexual experience, Paul never says you know, if you guys are really Christians you wouldn’t act this way. What he says is, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, [whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”] In other words when you do this you’re bringing the Holy Spirit into it, that’s your incentive for avoiding that sin; you’re grieving the heart of God who by the Spirit is permanently inside of you. Now having said all that, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
Now having said all that look at 1 Corinthians 15:34, he says there, “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no” what? “knowledge of God.” That’s gnosis again.
Now we’re dealing with the same root, it’s not in verbal form as it is in 1 John but it’s in noun form, gnosis “I speak this to your shame.” Now to this group he says, verse 51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,” so that’s what we need to put on our nursery, “we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.” No, he’s speaking of the rapture. Does he say here that some of you all are going to miss the rapture should it happen in our lifetime? No, he says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not” what? “all sleep, but we will” what? “all be changed,” so what is happening in Corinth is you have saved people that are candidates for the rapture because they received that truth by grace, they’re called saints, they have the Holy Spirit inside of them and Paul says you all don’t have any knowledge.
So therefore lack of knowledge can refer to a saved person who is stumbling in the middle tense of their salvation. See the point? And how does the Apostle Peter in his little three chapter book called 2 Peter, 2 Peter 3:17, “You therefore,” what’s the next word, “beloved,” now would you call an unsaved person “beloved?” I doubt it, I mean if you study out that term it only refers to a saved person. “You therefore beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,” we’ve dealt with this verse before, it’s not referring to a loss of position but a loss of growth, “but grow in the grace and” what? “knowledge” that’s gnosis again, now does he say “of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Does he say “according to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” No, he says “according to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
So therefore people that have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can walk in a lack of knowledge. So when 1 John 2:13 says “By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments” you don’t have to take that word knowledge and immediately apply it to someone who’s unsaved because I’ve given you three example where it can refer to people that are saved but are stumbling in the middle tense of their salvation. You see that?
I’ll just be honest with you, I got saved as a 16 year old, and I went from about age 16 to about age 22 with a highly limited shallow deficient understanding of the Scripture, believing all kinds of weird things. And it really was not until the age of 22 when the Lord just sidelined me with some different things He brought into my life that I really started to grow exponentially in terms of knowledge. So what was happening there between age 16 and age 22 is I was functioning with limited knowledge, some knowledge but not everything that the Lord had for me. And guess what? The things that I learned in 2017, I’m learning in 2017, are an improvement on the things I knew in the year 2016. And guess what? Should the Lord tarry the things I’m going to learn in 2017 and then 2018 are going to be an improvement on what I know today. So the command of the Scripture is to continue to grow. We wouldn’t have the need to continue to grow in knowledge if you knew everything already. See that?
And to me one of the saddest things is people that you say they’ve been walking with the Lord for years, they’ve even been members of Sugar Land Bible Church for years and say, we’re having a series on soteriology, why don’t you come, Wednesday night we’re having a series on the Kingdom, why don’t you come, and they say oh yes, I know all of that, I’ve heard all that before, I know all that and in my heart when I hear that I say to myself, I usually don’t say it back to them rudely but I say to my heart, I say Lord, please do not let me become like that; please do not let me reach a point where I think I know it all and I don’t need the teaching of the Word of God anymore, because I think that the splinter full of knowledge that I have today and the splinter of knowledge that you have today the Lord is always going to be improving on.
So 1 John 2:13 is really understanding in that sense. In other words, when you break His commandments you don’t stop being a Christian or it’s not saying you never were a Christian. It breaks fellowship which breaks down the teaching process. You can’t learn, it doesn’t matter what your environment is you can’t learn if you’re in sin and haven’t confessed that sin. That’s why one of the things that I appreciated about Bob Thieme’s ministry is he had a time before each teaching session where believers could confess any open sins or private sins they may have committed against God to exercise their rights under 1 John 1:9 because he knew that had people come into the sanctuary or the church in a state of broken fellowship then you can teach until the cows come home but the Holy Spirit is really not doing what He wants to do in people’s lives because unconfessed sin breaks fellowship, breaks joy and shuts down the learning process. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”]
So “knowing God” refers to intimacy or fellowship with God in this context; not in every context but in this context. Out of fellowship believers do not know God in a certain sense. And at the very bottom I have this little bullet point, it says, Keeping God’s commandments to know God, in other words, interpreting this is as gaining or keeping salvation. If you start interpreting the Bible that way what doctrine have you just contradicted? Justification by grace alone. In other words, if 1 John 2:3 is saying, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” If you interpret that as I’ve got to keep commandments of God to enter into a relationship with Him that’s called front loading the gospel. I think evangelicals by and large have rejected front loading the gospel although sometimes in our vocabulary we are sloppy.
Or “we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments,” in other words, I’ve got to keep His commandments to keep myself saved, that’s called what? Back loading the gospel You go into front loading or you go into back loading and you don’t interpret this according to its context as a fellowship verse then you have contradicted the greatest doctrine, probably taught in the whole Bible, salvation by grace alone. What is grace? Grace is unmerited what? favor. And you look at all these things that God has given us and you say wow, I sure don’t deserve these. That’s right, neither do I, nor does any fallen human being. But these things have accrued to our bank account because God has chosen to deal with us on the basis of unmerited favor. And that’s why He’s set up salvation in such a way that the only way you can receive it is by faith because in the mind of God, Romans 4:4-5, anything that is not received by faith becomes a work. See that? [Romans 4:4-5, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.  But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,”]
So it’s a big deal then if I interpret 1 John 2:3 that I’ve got to keep His commandments to know Him, front loading the gospel, or keep His commandments to retain knowing Him, back loading the gospel. If I interpret it that way oh my goodness, I’ve just contradicted Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, “For by grace you have been saved through” what? keeping His commandments? It doesn’t say that, “through faith, and that it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” now we’ve studied how faith in context is not the gift of God, the gift of God is salvation, the gift is access by faith so the Spirit of God, Jesus says, would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment and it goes on in John 16:7-11 and defines what sin is. Sin singular is unbelief.
[John 16:7-11, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;  concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;  and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;  concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”]
So the Spirit of God is at work in the world convicting people of their need to believe in Christ and His finished work. And then once you respond to that conviction through your own volition… God is not overriding your volition. If He were to override your volition He would not be respecting how He made you. We are made in who’s image? God’s, and so the most powerful aspect of how we’re made is the capacity for choice. So God is not going to haul you into salvation against your will. He will bother you and show you your need for salvation but whether you respond in faith or not, which is the only way you can receive a gift from God, is really up to the individual.
“…it is the gift of God,” faith isn’t the gift, salvation is the gift, “it is the gift of God not as a result of works so that no one may” what? “boast.” You know God hates bragging. We’re going to read about today in Daniel, a guy named Nebuchadnezzar woke up one day and said is this not the great Babylonian Empire which I have built with my own hands? Whoops, I shouldn’t have said that, and he lost his kingdom for seven years, becoming an insane man for seven years.
So God hates boasting and if God hates boasting doesn’t it stand to reason that He would design salvation in such a way that it excludes human boasting totally? No one can strut into heaven as proud as a peacock, look at what I’ve done, look at what I’ve accomplished. And if you interpret 1 John 2:3 differently then you just contradicted salvation by faith alone. So frontloading is I’ve got to do X, Y and Z to get saved; back loading is I’ve got to do X, Y and Z to stay saved. Either approach you go denies grace.
My daughter just turned 10, she’s going on 11, coming up in a couple of months here, so on her 16th birthday I buy her a red BMW (now I’m speaking hypothetically) and I put a great big bow around it, put it in the driveway, and I say to my daughter on her 16th birthday, I guess she needs to pass her driver’s license test first, so 16th birthday and passing the driver’s license test, I say Sarah, here’s a gift from mom and dad. And then I say now you can start making your payments next month. I’ve just taken away what by demanding payments? It’s not a gift any more, it doesn’t matter what kind of a costume or what color it is. And see, this is the problem of saying I’ve got to keep doing this, keep doing this, keep doing that to keep myself saved, you’re no longer in the doctrine of grace any more, you’re in the doctrine of working out your salvation through human power. Do you follow that?
And I’m arriving at the conclusion I’m arriving at in 1 John 2:3 because of my audience analysis of 1 John and I’m not wanting to contradict other things in the Bible that are crystal clear, that we’re saved and kept by God’s grace. Do you follow what I’m doing here? So what’s important to me is you understand the method that I’m using because if you can understand the method you can interpret anything in the Bible correctly. But if you just spit back at me my conclusions without understanding the method then the lesson is only as good as the latest conclusion. What I want to do is equip you so you can navigate your way through the whole Bible correctly.
Anyway, that’s my take… it’s just not my take, it’s the Lord’s take on 1 John 2:3. And 1 John 3:9 we’ll start next time. So we’ll close.