Soteriology 0501 John 3:15 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 5, 2017 • Soteriology
Soteriology 50, 1 John 3:15
March 5, 2016
Thank You to Jim for filling in last week; I hope you guys enjoyed Jim’s ministry. I’m seeing people clapping, and if you didn’t like it don’t say anything because he’s sitting right back there, you’d hurt his feelings. Thank you, seriously, for filling in. I was in Washington State at the Steeling the Mind Conference so yes we did order some tapes for the church. I’m not sure when they’re going to get here, probably about two weeks, something like that.
Let’s take our Bibles and turn to 1 John 3:15. We are actually coming near the end, believe it or not, of this long study that we’ve been doing on the doctrine of eternal security, having defined eternal security, having explained the arguments for eternal security, but then we decided to go deeper and really decided to talk about passages that seem to contradict eternal security. That’s all the ground we’ve covered up to 1 John 3:15 and after 1 John 3:15 we only have three more verses to do. We might be able to get these done this morning, maybe not, we’ll see.
But 1 John, as you probably know, is filled with verses that people will go to, to deny the security of the believer. So notice 1 John 3:15, we’ve already looked at some of the harder ones, 1 John 3:9 is difficult, but notice 1 John 3:15, it says, “If everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,” I have to say that I really like how the Bible just gets to the point, it doesn’t mess around. It’s like John, how do you really feel.
“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” So people look at that and they say okay, here’s what it means; if you have hatred in your heart for your brother then you lost your salvation because it says “no murderer has eternal life … in him.” So that would be the Arminian slant on it. The Reformed or Calvinist slant would be if you have hatred in your heart for your brother then you never had a relationship with Christ.
Now both of those views, losing your salvation or maybe you’ve never had salvation, are troubling because we have examples in the Bible of people that were saved that were murderers. Right? Can you think of any? David. Go back even further, you have Moses.
And when you go over to 1 Peter 4:12, just for a second, Peter seems to open the door, at least to the possibility that you can actually be a murderer and still be a believer. He says something very interesting, he says, “Beloved,” so is he speaking to believers or unbeliever? Believers! “Beloved,” then he talks about trials, “do not be surprised at the fiery” trial that you’re in. Then he goes down to verse 15 and he says, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a” what? “murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;” so what he’s talking about there is if you suffer it shouldn’t be because you brought it on yourself. It should be for a righteous cause.
He mentions some categories of being an evil doer, a troublesome meddler, a murderer, so that kind of opens the door to the fact that it’s possible for a believer to be a murder, an evildoer or a troublesome meddler. So going back to 1 John I don’t think he’s saying if you’ve got murder in your heart maybe you’re not saved, if you’ve got murder in your heart maybe you never were saved. And there’s language in here that kind of shows me that the person he’s dealing with is a Christian because he says right there at the beginning, “if anyone hates his” what? “brother,” so you can’t have a brother in Christ unless you’re a what? A Christian.
So let’s sort of unpack some of this language. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life.” What is eternal life? Most people look at eternal life as salvation but the problem is when you let John speak for himself he defines what eternal life is. So go back to 1 John 1, if you could, and verses 1-2, and this is really a key to unpacking a lot of these complicated verses, is to let the author speak for himself in the same book.
John says, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—“ so who’s he talking about here? Jesus, we touched him, we saw Him, we heard Him. Verse 2, “and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the” what? “eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—.” So John in his own book defines eternal life as Jesus, do you see that? And he doesn’t just do it at the beginning of the book, he does it at the end of the book, so these kind of function like bookends, helping us identify what eternal life is.
If you go to 1 John 5:12, the end of the book, John says, “He who has the Son has” what? “the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” And then if you go over to verse 20 of chapter 5, he says, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and” what? “eternal life.” So John, if we’re just patient with his own book he tells us what eternal life means when he uses the term; eternal life means Jesus.
And then another word that sort of has to be understood to put this together properly is this word “abiding,” the Greek word menō. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” So what is “abiding”? I believe that John is dialing back to his experience with the Lord in the Upper Room, where Jesus gave the Upper Room Discourse and the only people that heard Him say these words were eleven saved disciples. And the only unbelieving disciple in the group, Judas, left the building, remember, in John 13.
So with eleven saved people Jesus starts talking about a branch and a vine, a branch in the vine, a branch out of the vine, a branch in the vine bear fruit, a branch out of the vine does not bear fruit. And people want to bring into that all this maybe you’re saved, maybe you’re not concept but those are the furthest things from Christ’s mind. He’s not talking about saved or unsaved when he talks about the distinction between a branch in the vine and a branch out of the vine. He’s talking about whether a believer is in fellowship with God or not in fellowship with God, because if you bring in all this information about maybe they’re saved, maybe they’re not, it doesn’t make any sense to the audience he’s speaking to, which is eleven saved people.
Now there was a promise that Jesus gave in the Upper Room, He says the Spirit will come and will bring these things to your remembrance. So sixty years have passed, John is now an older man, he’s in his 90’s, he’s getting ready to die, he’s the last living apostle, eyewitness, and so the Holy Spirit started to make good on His promise, and started to bring back to John everything that Jesus had said in the Upper Room. And so John is taking really Christ’s teachings in John 15 that he heard as probably a 30 year old, and he’s amplifying them in 1 John, 2 John and 3 John. And he’s writing these books, particularly 1 John, to help us understand how do I know if I, as a Christian, am in fellowship with Christ or out of fellowship with Christ?
So one of the ways I know that I am abiding in Him, which is that Greek verb menō, which is the identical verb that Jesus uses in the branch/vine motif. Jesus said, “Abide in me” same word, “and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” So you see how Jesus keeps repeating abide, abide, abide?
So John, who was there to hear Jesus talk about his is using this same word, “abide” and he actually gives us a verse here to help us know if we are, as Christians, abiding in Christ or not abiding in Christ at any moment. So your position with Christ is secure, but at any given moment you can be in fellowship with Him or out of fellowship with Him. If you’re in fellowship with Him you qualify for fruit bearing. If you, as a Christian, are out of fellowship with Him you can’t bear fruit. So therefore I have to know at any given time am I in fellowship with Him or not in fellowship with Him. And how do I know. And John says I’m glad you asked that question, I wrote a book on that, called 1 John.
And in that context John tells us, he gives us a clue. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” “Eternal life” is Jesus as John defines it, “abiding” is not salvation but fellowship. So how do I know if I’m in fellowship with Christ. You ask yourself a very specific question—who are you angry at? We can get angry at all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. Are you angry at your parents? Are you angry at your past? Are you angry at your church? Are you angry at this person or that person that did this or that to you? And you know that at that moment of anger and resentment and bitterness that builds up you’re still saved but it’s impossible to be abiding in Christ at that moment.
So you can’t abide in Jesus Christ and have anger in your heart towards somebody else because of a personal issue. That’s what John is getting at; he’s not laying down a test for are you all Christians or not, are you guys going to heaven or not. He’s trying to explain are you abiding in Christ and qualify for fruit-bearing or not, because whether I’m abiding in Christ or not abiding in Christ dictates the quality of fruit I’m going to bear at that given moment. If I have to have some kind or barometer test for figuring out am I abiding or not abiding and John says what’s the attitude of your heart towards your brother? How could you claim to be abiding with God, who is love, doesn’t John say that in 1 John 4:8, I think it is. [1 John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”] “ God is” what? “love.”
So we claim we’re in fellowship with God who is love, but at the same time I’m not loving towards somebody. So that is a dead giveaway that at that moment you’re not in fellowship with Christ and therefore you need to do what? You need to exercise your right under 1 John 1:9, confess your sin to Him so that not salvation can be restored, you already have salvation as a promise from God, but so broken fellowship can be restored. Do you see that?
And it makes sense that John would talk about fellowship in that verse because that’s John’s point in this book, isn’t it. 1 John 1:3-4, which is the purpose statement of 1 John, “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have” what? salvation… no, it doesn’t say that, “fellowship with us;” that’s the Greek word koinōnia, “and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.  These things we write, so that” you can be sure you’re not going to hell… NO, it doesn’t say that, “These things we write to you, so that our” what? “joy may be made complete.” John’s whole book is about are you in fellowship with God? Are you in fellowship with us apostles who gave the teachings of God, because that will control not just your fruit-bearing as a Christian, that will control your level of joy; are you experiencing joy at all?
So if John is writing about this I’ve got to have some kind of test for determining if I’m out of fellowship or in fellowship and the dead giveaway is what’s your attitude towards your brothers and sisters; is it an attitude of anger or is it an attitude of love.
1 John 3:6, which is just a little bit before 1 John 3:15 says, “No one who abides in Him sins;” now when we went through 1 John 3:9 a couple of weeks ago I tried to correct the idea that it’s not saying a Christian never sins. [1 John 3:9, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”] If a Christian never sins then why would John give us 1 John 1:9, to confess our sins? What he is saying is if you are in fellowship with Christ you can’t be in sin at that moment; they’re mutually exclusive categories. You can’t be in fellowship with Christ and be in sin, and you can’t be in sin and be in fellowship with Christ. “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” I think those are more relational, ideas seen or known, we talked about that couple of weeks ago.
And so now in 1 John 3:15 John is just giving the same truth but from an opposite angle. He introduces hatred, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” So why is the subject of murder in your heart a big deal to God? Well because of the Sermon on the Mount, right? Didn’t Jesus say something about that in the Sermon on the Mount? Over in Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus says, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his” what? “brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing, shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’” I think the Greek there is Raca which means empty-head, airhead, “whoever says ‘You fool’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” it says.
So as the book of Proverbs tells us, chapter 4, verse 23, it says, “Guard your heart with all diligence, because from the heart flow the issues of life.” The Bible has a lot to say about our hearts, doesn’t it? On the plane ride back I got into a conversation with a guy who was kind of into Zen Buddhism and these kinds of things, and he was basically trying to tell me he was a good person. And I said well, have you ever been angry with somebody? Well sure. Well, according to the Bible that makes you a murderer. Have you ever lusted sexually after somebody you’re not married to? Well, yeah, I’ve done that. Well, according to the Bible that makes you an adulterer. And then he says to me well, that’s sort of an extreme interpretation, isn’t it? And I said well, it’s not an interpretation, I’m just quoting the verse verbatim, I mean if you had a copy of the Bible we could pull it out right now and I could show you where he said it, I’m not interpreting anything, I’m just reading what the text says.
So, you know, the Bible has a lot to say about what’s going on in our hearts, the attitude of our hearts. And so that begins to have a bearing, the daily condition of our heart begins to have a bearing, not on our eternal salvation but it has a bearing on our fruit bearing and our moment by moment intimacy with Christ.
How do I know if I’m walking in intimacy with Him and therefore qualify for fruit bearing? Number 1, I can’t be in sin at that given moment and number 2, I can’t have hatred building up in my heart towards… certainly not a brother or sister in Christ, and I would say even another human being, so that’s your test. And if you’re failing the test it doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian and that your salvation is insecure. What it means is it’s a test to get you back into fellowship with God to exercise your rights under 1 John 1:9 and to have fellowship restored. [1 John1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”]
Now I have to admit that reading this book has some painful texts in it, doesn’t it? But to be honest with you, when you think about it pain is not always a bad thing. In fact, pain is one of the greatest gifts God has given us because let’s say I’m walking on the beach and all of a sudden I feel pain through my feet, that alerts me to the fact that there’s glass underneath the sand and if I keep walking this same path I’m going to destroy my feet. So the pain that right then and there tells me to adjust my course or to put shoes on or whatever I have to do, and if I didn’t have pain telling me that my feet would be wrecked. Of you have your hand on a hot stove and all of a sudden pain shoots through your hand, it tells you that your hand is on a hot stove; it tells you to do what with your hand? Move your hand, if you didn’t move your hand it would be destroyed.
So I don’t like pain any more than the next person but pain actually, when you think about it, is a great ally. And so these tests that John has given us here are painful but at the same time they’re necessary to help us know, are we walking in fellowship with God or not walking in fellowship with God, because you miss out on the opportunity to bear fruit which lasts every moment you are out of fellowship with God. So you have to know, am I in fellowship or out of fellowship? Anyway, 1 John 3:15 is not an eternal security verse, it’s a fellowship verse, it’s a way to know if you’re abiding in eternal life, Jesus, fellowshipping with Jesus.
Let’s go to another one here. The last one in 1 John, look at 1 John 5:16-17, another very common verse that people use to argue you can lose your salvation is the so-called sin that leads unto death. Now when I talk about this, that there is a sin leading unto death John never tells us what that sin is. So therefore is you ask me what that sin is I’m going to say I don’t know. But there is apparently a sin out there that can kill you, so John writes this, 1 John 5:16-17, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.” In other words, if you see your brother committing a sin not leading to death pray for him.
And then John says, but “There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.” In other words in God there are certain sins you commit where God has already determined that’s going to terminate your life, so you can pray until the cows come home for somebody that has committed the sin leading to death and it’s not going to help them. And John introduces all this information in a context where he says, “If we ask according to His” what? “His will He hears us.” [1 John 5:14] So he is giving us information about what prayers are in the will of God and what prayers are outside the will of God. And just as a hypothetical example he talks about people committing a sin leading to death where God has already determined that that sin is going to snuff out their life and you can pray and pray and pray and it’s not going to help. That’s why we always like to emphasize that if we ask according to His what? “His will, He hears us. God is not obligated to answer my prayer requests that are beyond His will.
And when you think about that, that’s a good thing. Right. I mean, do you want answers to things that God doesn’t want you to have? You probably don’t want that anyway because whatever it is is probably going to wreck your relationship with Him, so he withholds certain prayer requests and answers others.
And then in verse 17 he says, “All unrighteousness is sin,” and He reaffirms, “and there is a sin not leading to death.” So He talks about a sin leading to death and a sin not leading to death. Now this is sort of 2,000 year old language we’re trying to figure out what He’s talking about here, we wish He’d given more detail. And these are the kind of passages people will gravitate towards to build their doctrine on insecurity.
It reminds me of what Peter said related to Paul’s writings at the end of 2 Peter 3. Peter says some of the things Paul says are hard to understand. [2 Peter3:16b, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”] And I’m glad that’s in there because if John had difficulty figuring out Paul I don’t feel so bad about it myself when I can’t figure out Paul. But then Peter goes on and he says these ambiguous areas are the things that the unprincipled distort, unprincipled men, false teachers distort.
So what Peter is saying is false systems of theology are built on passages like this where there’s not a lot of information given. And so if someone is building a doctrine on some very obscure passage you know that that doctrine is probably inaccurate or incorrect. There are things in the Bible that are a lot more clear on the subject of security than something like this. But nevertheless, the Arminians love this verse because to them it means if you commit the sin leading to death, they define death as loss of salvation. But you’ll notice here that death is never defined, is it? He never says death equals hell, does he?
So to my mind there’s another possibility for interpreting this. In the Bible there is a reality of temporal death; death, the Greek word thanatos, is not a technical word. What is a technical word? It’s a word that means the same thing every time it’s used. Most words in the Bible, most words even in ordinary language are not technical words; they can have multiple meanings. You take, for example, the word apple. How many meanings can you generate from the word “apple.” It can be a computer, it can be a piece of fruit, it could be New York City, the Big Apple, it could be someone’s pupil in their eye, “the apple of their eye,” So when I see the word “apple” what meaning do I supply? What’s the giveaway? Context! So it’s the same with this word “death. People see the word “death” they think it automatically means hell.
Now death can mean hell in other contexts. For example John, two times in the book of Revelation talks about the Lake of Fire which he calls the what? The second death. So people take that meaning and they read it in here and they say well, you can commit a sin as a Christian because this person apparently is a Christian, “if anyone sees his brother,” it looks like they’re a Christian, and then it talks about they commit this sin and it leads to death, and Arminians come along and say well there we have it, they committed a sin, they went into death, I’m going to go way over into the book of Revelation and define death as the second death. So there we have it, you can lose your salvation. And what they’re not telling you is the word “death” is not a technical word. It means, many, many things depending on its context.
And there is a reality in the Bible of temporal death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is” what? “death,” if you commit a sin it’s going to bring death at all kinds of different levels. One of the things it will do is it will bring into your life temporal consequences. David, I believe, experienced temporal death when he committed first adultery, then murder, because Nathan, the prophet, said the sword will never depart from your house. That’s not talk about people going to hell, it’s talking about constant bloodshed and warfare all his days, because of that particular sin that he committed in 2 Samuel 11.
You can go out today and shack up with prostitutes or whatever, maybe you’re still going to heaven but look at all of the diseases you have brought into your body, look at the guilt you’ve brought into your life, look at the destruction that that sin would bring. See, that’s the reality of temporal death. Of you go out after the church service and you just max out all your credit cards. Well, you just brought death to your financial security; you’re still going to heaven but your finances, there’s a certain level of death that has come in and injured your financial prosperity, your security for the future financially, and those kind of things.
You get in the car on the way home and you scream at your spouse, because you’re mad about something, you’re still married and you’re still going to heaven but you’re going to have a pretty rough afternoon as a married couple because you’ve just brought death, temporally, have you not, to your fellowship with God. And I think that’s what John is talking about here; he’s not talking about loss of salvation, he’s talking about the prospect of temporal death because sin is of such a nature that it just kills thing after thing after thing in your life. It’s ultimate price is the second death if you’re not “in Christ” but there’s all kinds of death you experience even before you get to that point.
So if you look at the book of James for a minute, chapter 1, verses 14-16, James is talking about the reality of temporal death because he says, first of all in verse 2, “Consider it all joy, my” what? “brethren,” does that mean James’ audience is saved or unsaved? Saved, they’ve got to be saved because in verses 3-4 he says, “knowing that the testing of your” what? “faith produces endurance.” That means people have faith. [4”And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”] So in the midst of that James says in verses 14-16, he talks about sin in the life of the Christian, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own” what? “lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Well, that’s talking about hell? NO IT”S NOT, look at the next verse, verse 16, “Do not be deceived, my beloved” what? “brethren.” This is talking about people who are on their way to heaven but if you cater to the sin nature and allow sin into your life it’s going to bring death. It’s not talking about the second death, it’s talking about the reality of temporal death. See that? It’s going to kill your finances, it’s going to kill your body, it’s going to cause guilt and on and on we could go tabulating these consequences.
So in 1 John 5:16-17 when he talks about sin leading to death it’s very legitimate to interpret death, not as the second death, but it’s temporal death. Another option is to look at the prospect or possibility of maximum divine discipline, “Whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens.” [Hebrews 12:6, ‘“FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.’”] And sometimes the chastening process of God is so severe that he could kill somebody and take them home early. That’s what we call maximum divine discipline.
Now do we have examples of that in the New Testament? We sure do, we’ve got four. We’ve got Ananias and Sapphira, who were slain in the Holy Spirit, meaning they were killed because they lied to the Holy Spirit. And we know that they were Christians because in Acts 5:11 what does the say? The whole church was filled with fear when this happened. [Acts 5:11, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”]
So I’m not sure the Christian church would be gripped with fear if an unbeliever was killed. So the sin was of such severity, lying to the Spirit and it was going to contaminate the infant church that the Lord took these two and killed them right there on the spot. That would be an example of “sin leading unto death.” [1 John 5:16b, “There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.”] It’s not saying Ananias and Sapphira went to hell; it says they went through the chastening process of such severity that God exercised maximum divine discipline on them.
1 Corinthians 11:30, and this is good to know because we’re taking communion this morning, we don’t want the Lord to kill anybody in our congregation, do we? 1 Corinthians 11:30 says, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number have fallen asleep.” Now when Paul says
“asleep” it’s a euphemism for death; it’s a polite way of saying death. And he’s talking about Christians in Corinth who were basically what, if you can imagine this, drunk and disorderly at the Lord’s Table. So they were coming to the communion table inebriated, they had actually taken the communion table and turned it into a common meal. That’s why Paul says don’t you have homes to eat your food normally. [1 Corinthians 11:22, “What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?”] And beyond that it was a…. of pay type of situation that they set up where if you had resources you could partake of the Lord’s Table, if you were poor and didn’t have resources you were excluded. And Paul says is not the body of Christ divided when you do this. Because of the way they were partaking of the Lord’s Table the Lord came in with divine discipline, into Corinth, to such a degree that some of these Corinthian Christians were disciplined to the point of death.
We have in 1 John 5:16-17 the sin that leads unto death, which we just talked about. And then over in the book of Revelation 2:22-23 Jesus talks about maximum divine discipline in Thyatira. He says, “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. “And I will kill her children with pestilence,” well why are you doing that Lord, so “all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” So in essence what happened in Thyatira they were committing a sin of some sort and the Lord basically killed certain people of Thyatira so the rest of the churches would get the picture that holiness is a big deal to God. Now in none of these passages did it say these people went to hell or lost their salvation; it’s talking about maximum divine discipline.
So therefore that, I think, is the right way to handle 1 John 5:16-17, rather than reading a “sin unto death” as the second death, the way Arminians do, teaching you can lose your salvation, you have other options on the table, such as the reality of temporal death, which we’ve talked about. And also the reality of maximum divine discipline. So therefore I don’t have to interpret 1 John 5:16-17, the sin that leads unto death, as a loss of salvation, I have other possibilities. So I’m picking options that I think best harmonize with other very clear statements in the Bible which say once saved always saved. See when you pick an option you don’t want to pick one that contradicts the rest of the Bible, do you? Because God can’t contradict Himself. He can’t say one thing on Monday and something different on Tuesday.
So when I’m in a difficult passage like this and I have three options is this temporal death, is this maximum divine discipline, or is this the second death, I’m going to probably gravitate towards the one that doesn’t contradict everything else that has been revealed on the subject of eternal security.
And the Arminian system just doesn’t do that, it picks the option that contradicts everything else. Why would I want to do that when I’ve got other options on the table? Are you with me on that?
So 1 John 5:16-17 is not a loss of salvation verse at all; it’s a divine discipline, maximum divine discipline verse or a temporal death verse.
Leaving 1 John we’re now moving to what? The last book of the Bible, we’re progressing. And we only have two in the book of Revelation to consider. Revelation 3:5, and once again these are all passages people use to argue you can lose your salvation. A very popular one is Revelation 3:5, I had this thrown at me at this church by somebody. You know when I stand out there at the door and do the pastor thing, greet everybody, people like to come by and lob theological hand grenades at you, and it was my second or third Sunday here and someone says do you believe you can lose your salvation? I said no. They go well you need to read… as if I’ve never read it, you need to read Revelation 3:5. And the person who said that was… no, I won’t do that. I don’t want to pick on Earle [can’t understand word] like that. Just kidding, just kidding.
Revelation 3:5, Jesus is speaking to the church at Sardis, “’He who overcomes” this is the Greek word, overcome, the Greek word nikaō, by the way, does anybody have any Nike sneakers; that’s where that comes from, overcome-victor, comes from that Greek word Nike, which the shoe company stole from the Bible. I used to wear Air Jordans but that didn’t help my jumping ability so… “He who overcomes” nikaō “will thus be clothed in white garments and I will not erase his name from The Book of Life.” Oh my gosh, you mean God has white-out where He can look at someone’s name in The Book of Life and just erase them, because The Book of Life is a record of people who have trusted in Christ. So this seems to open the door that the Lord just gets out his white-out or his eraser or his magic marker or whatever he does and if you’re not an overcoming Christian He just erases your name. “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from The Book of Life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
So people look at this verse and they say well that clearly opens the door to the possibility that you can have your name erased from The Book of Life. In other words, you could be in The Book of Life and then be out of The Book of Life. And the Lord will look at you and say you were in The Book of Life and I took you out of The Book of Life because you didn’t overcome. So therefore the Arminian system puts all the pressure on who? On YOU to be an overcoming Christian. And if you are not an overcoming Christian, whatever that means, it’s never defined, is it, then the possibility is there for the Lord to erase you from The Book of Life. This is one of the big problems with Arminianism, is you are your own savior. See that? What keeps you saved is you. I mean, maybe you got in the door by God’s grace but whether you’re going to stay in the door or not is up to you.
And I don’t know how to articulate that other than to call it what it is; that’s works based salvation, isn’t it. I don’t stand here today thinking that my good works got me in the door, and I don’t stand here today thinking that my good works keep me in the door. If I were to teach either the first we call front-loading the gospel, the second we call back-loading the gospel. Front-loading is do X, Y and Z to get saved; most evangelicals reject that, but then they buy into back loading which is just as severe as front loading. You’ve got to do X, Y and Z to stay saved. You front load the gospel, you backload the gospel, there’s no nicer way of saying it, you’re teaching works salvation. Your mind is devoid of the grace of God and the gift of God.
But you can see how at first glance people read this and it looks like oh my gosh, I’ve got to stay an overcomer and if I don’t stay an overcomer then God is going to erase me from the book of life. So this is a very popular Arminian text. So how would we handle this? The easiest way of handling it is to understand that if you read prior revelation, what you’ll quickly see is you, as a Christian, are already an overcomer. God has given you the designation overcome already. Why is that? Because you’re overcoming does not depend on you; it depends upon He who what? Lives inside of you. And if you are secure, even if you wander back into sin, you’re still going to die and go to heaven, so automatically you’re an overcomer, whether you like it or not as a Christian.
And the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans, chapter 8, verse 37… see what people are doing? They’re going to the last book of the Bible, they’re building a doctrine from the last book of the Bible and they’re not paying attention to everything the Bible has said up until the last book of the Bible to define a term used in the last book of the Bible. And that’s a very poor method of Bible interpretation. Revelation is pretty much recapitulating information we already have in the Bible. So we go earlier in the Bible we discover what an overcomer actually is.
So notice Romans 8:37, “But in all these things” now what things? Tribulation, distress, spiritual warfare, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through” my own will power, no, it doesn’t say that, “through Him who” what? “loved us.” So automatically, because Jesus lives in me I am already an overcomer and by the way, that’s the same word Nike used, nikaō, same word in Revelation 3:5. Now you’ll notice that Paul adds a little prefix to the word “overcomer,” he uses the word huper, which essentially means a super overcomer. You are automatically an overwhelmingly overcomer or conqueror. You say well, I don’t deserve it. Well, that’s why you are what you are, because it’s not based on what you do; it’s based on what Christ has already done for you that He lives in you and the promises He’s given you. So that’s the same word overcomer, nikaō, where we get the word Nike, but Paul actually adds a prefix, huper I think is how they pronounce that, which means the super overcomer and overwhelming overcomer, that is your designation as a child of God.
And you say well, that’s Paul in Romans, do you have anything in John that teaches this, because John wrote Revelation 3:5, right, Christ said it, John recorded it. And notice what Jesus says towards the end of the Upper Room Discourse. John 16:33, this is just before His departure and the Holy Spirit would come and empower His disciples. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation,” amen! Do you guys like the promises of God? Here’s a promise, “In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have” what? “overcome” that’s the same Greek word, nikaō where we get the word Nike or conqueror. So Jesus says I’m sending you out into the big bad world out there and you’re going to have all kinds of problems but take courage, I’ve already overcome.
Now let me ask you a basic question; this Jesus, who’s already overcome the world, where is He currently living, according to the same Upper Room Discourse that Jesus was unfolding to the eleven. He’s going to live inside of them through the Spirit which is going to come on which day? The day of Pentecost, “not many days from now.” [Acts 1:15, “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”]
So when you look at this same sermon and you go back to John 14:16 he says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another” what? “Helper,” that’s the Greek word paraclete, which refers to the one who comes alongside and assists. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you a Helper, that He may be with you” for most of your life, no, it doesn’t say that, “He will be with you what? “forever.” And then if you go down to verse 18 He says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I am will come to you.”
So the one who has already overcome the world now lives where permanently? In us, in the child of God. So if the one who has already overcome the world is permanently residing within the child of God and He cannot leave us, because He’s in us forever, that automatically makes you a what? An overcomer.
Take a look at 1 John 5:4-5. Now we’re back in 1 John to interpret the word “overcomer” in Revelation 3. John tells you exactly what an overcomer is. “For whatever is born of God overcomes” that’s the same Greek word, nikaō, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world,” there He uses overcomer a second time, “the world, even our faith.” Now look at this: “Who is it that overcomes” are you curious about that? The same Greek word, nikaō, “Who is the one that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the” what? “Son of God.” John just defined for us who the overcomer is, in 1 John 5:4-5.
He’s told us that everyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ is automatically an overcomer. So we have Romans 8:37, everyone that’s a Christian is automatically an overcomer. We have John 16:33 which tells us that Jesus is the overcomer but He lives inside of us. We have 1 John 5:4-5 which tells us that everyone who is a Christian is automatically an overcomer. And that’s why the Bible makes all of these bold statements that it does.
For example, in 1 John 4:4 John says, “…greater is He who is in you than he who is” what? “in the world.” So with that background in mind are we ready now to read Revelation 3:5? And here’s the problem; people are going to Revelation 3:5, they see the word “overcomer” and they define it however they want to define it and they’re not paying attention to the verses that I just went through. When we read Revelation 3:5 John is expecting that we’ve already read all the other verses, that we’ve just went through.
So with that background in mind let’s read Revelation 3:5. “He who overcomes” who’s an overcomer? All believers. “He who overcomes” an interchangeable term for that, a synonym for that would be all the believers, nikaō “will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not” now when he says “will not” it’s an ou mē construction which basically is two negatives back to back. And in the Greek language when you have two negatives together that’s the strongest negation you could possibly give linguistically. It’s like when my daughter, who’s ten years old, going on eleven next month, says Dad, can I have the keys to the car? And I say NO, NO, NO, NO! I’m not giving an eleven year old the keys to the car. And so I say NO in the strongest way I can say it. When you have a double negation in the Greek that is the strongest negation you can have.
“He who overcomes” you can just substitute the world all believers, “will thus be clothed in white garments and I will not,” in other words, never, it’s an impossibility this would ever happen, “I will NEVER erase his name from the book of life.” So if you properly understand who the overcomers are and you define overcomer by how John has defined the same term himself, how Christ has defined the term, the same term itself, and now the apostle, Paul, has defined the same term himself, and you understand overcomer equals all believers, rather than in insecurity passage this becomes one of the greatest passages arguing for what? The security of the believer. This actually, if you understand who the overcomers are, this actually becomes a great proof text, not for Arminianism but for the doctrine of eternal security.
So this is what’s so interesting about how they turn this verse into something that makes it look like you can lose your salvation. In fact, if you define overcomer by prior revelation, as I’ve just done, then this becomes one of the greatest texts that you can never lose your salvation. So a good verse that promises that a believer will never be blotted out of The Book of Life does not make a good proof text for denying eternal security.
Now there’s a couple of troubling ones in the Old Testament. Exodus 32:32, “But now, if You will, forgive their sin– and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” Moses is praying that. Psalm 69:28, David writes, “May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.” Now here’s what you’ve got to get straight; what book is he talking about here? There’s a book of physical life and there’s the book of eternal life. Typically in the Old Testament it’s referring to the book of physical life; typically in the New Testament it’s talking about the book of eternal life.
The book of physical life is a record of everyone that’s been born physically into the world. The book of eternal life is a book of everyone that’s been spiritually born. So when the Old Testament, Exodus 32:32 and Psalm 69:28 talks about blotting people’s name out of the book it’s not talking about the book of eternal life, it’s talking about the book of physical life. So when Moses says this, “But now, if You will, forgive their sin– and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” he’s not saying I want to lose my salvation and go to hell. He’s saying kill me, Moses is saying, blot me out from the physical book.
David, in his prayer, which is what we call an imprecatory prayer, where he’s calling down judgment on God’s enemies, in Psalm 69:28, says, “May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.” He is saying Lord, kill those people. That’s what David is saying. David prays death for Messiah’s persecutors in this psalm. And these occurrences have nothing to do with the book of eternal life that we just studied in Revelation 3:5. You can never be erased if you understand who the overcomer is, from the book of eternal life because of the doctrine of eternal security. However, the Bible does talk about some people, Moses being one, David being another, speaking of Messiah’s persecutors, who potential, who had the potential of being a race, not from the book of life but from the book of physical life.
So when you get into this subject you’ve got to figure out what book you’re talking about. You can’t build your doctrine of eternal security from Exodus and Psalms because those aren’t even talking about the Lamb’s Book of Life; those are talking about the books of physical life. Do you follow that? And if you can’t make this distinction you’re going to be confused on this and you’re going to think you could lose your salvation which can never be done.
Well, I think I’ve confused everybody. I’ll stop talking. Any questions on this?