1 John 5
John offers us another test that will help us to recognize the false teacher. The love that marks the life of the true Christian is to be expressed in obedience to the commands of the Lord as well as acts of charity and kindness not only towards one’s Christian brethren but toward the unsaved. Love is not a mere feeling or emotional response; it is an act of the will that chooses to be caring and kind towards another. This is very difficult to consistently mimic. The false teacher will betray himself with an attitude that is consistently intolerant of those he does not like and will also display an attitude of spiritual superiority.
Therefore, believers are marked by lives of love and obedience. While their lives are not perfect or sin free, believers do not live in harmony with the world. The believer may sin but is not comfortable living a sinful lifestyle. He or she feels tormenting guilt that will always lead to repentance. The person who claims to be a Christian but feels no guilt or remorse has probably committed that unpardonable sin that John mentions. Such a one is already in the hands of the devil for he or she has rejected the holiness and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ by claiming that His work was from the world, or the flesh or the devil and not from God. To feel uncomfortable with sin is normal for the Christian.
1 John 4
John again warns his readers of the dangers of false teachers. These may come claiming to speak for Christ but they are from the spirit of the antichrist. Because of this we must reject their teaching and their “authority” because they have no real fellowship with Christ or, consequently, with us.
The question that John addresses is how the believer can recognize these false prophets since they seem to talk like Christians and even to a point act like them. The big test is that the true believer maintains that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. The false teachers maintained that Jesus was not incarnate, that he was a spirit being who only appeared to take on flesh. The humanity of Christ is at the core of our faith because Jesus had to be a real human being so He could serve as our representative and substitute to endure God’s wrath for us. He also had to be fully God so that His death could pay the price of infinite wrath.
The second test that John offers is the love of Christians for their brethren as well as all human beings. This love is the love Christ had for us, unselfish, generous, and sacrificial. He loved us in this way even before we loved Him, and even though we did not deserve it. Since God is love, those who belong to Him will also love as He does. How can we not, seeing how we have been loved?
Some false teachers do not preach the love of God but try to get us to walk in obedience to their rules through guilt and condemnation that are designed to make us afraid of God and His wrath. While we ought to fear God in the sense that we must respect and obey Him, when we love God we are no longer afraid of Him. We know He loves us so we are sure He will always keep His promises, even if we do not. He will always do what is right for His kingdom and for us. We are also sure He will not become angry when we pray to Him the deepest secrets and yearnings of our heart as well as all the complaints and sadness. He understands and loves us.
1 John 3
To our politically correct culture which commands tolerance of all religions and lifestyles not matter how bizarre or immoral, these words of John are extremely offensive. John tells us that those who continue to live and advocate for sinful lifestyles have no fellowship with God, even if they claim to be righteousness and holy, even if they claim to be Christians. Most people in the world boast about their good works and their love for others. The fact that they are boasting and/or seeking recognition or fame for what they do shows that they lack the humility of Christ. They do good deeds to exalt self, to be liked and respected , or so that no one will notice their insignificant faults and minor indiscretions. They even think God won’t mind because their good so outweighs their bad.
What John calls sin is not within their vocabulary because it smacks of Christian intolerance for the rights of all people to choose their own lifestyles and religions. So then, it is no wonder the world hates us. Our lives and our testimonies bear witness to the truth of the gospel and at the same time convict the people in the world of sin. Our faith proclaims that Jesus is the only way to salvation. So others in the world hate us, even many who claim to bear the Name of Christ.
Hatred is a negative emotion that is demonstrated by a desire to exalt self and abuse, use or hurt others. John likens it to murder because it usually is manifested by violence. Love, on the other hand, is a positive regard for other people, not just those who love us, not just our relatives and friends, but our enemies as well. Love is shown by self-sacrifice and taking care of the needs of others. Jesus manifested such love by dying on the cross. He expects us to do the same, but don’t worry: He also equips and enables His children to obey.
1 John 2
One of the aims that John has in this letter is that Christians not sin. To that end he distinguishes between a lifestyle that continually ignores or condones sin versus a life that hates and seeks to overcome it. Sin in one’s life often indicates that a person may not be saved if it is characteristic of that person’s whole lifestyle and if that person does not feel remorse or sorrow and does not see the need to seek God’s help and mercy. On the other side, those who are saved who sin are convicted of sin, feel shame and guilt which leads to confession and repentance.
John asserts that there is no middle ground between darkness and light. The Christian cannot love the world and live according to its dictates and at the same time love God. When John speaks of the world, he does not mean the people of the world. We do not hate them. We are to hate the system of the world which is the kingdom of Satan. He uses the fleshly desires, selfish pride and independence that characterize all human beings to tempt them to sin.
God’s definition of sin does not change because of man’s changing values and mores. The Christian should have a different attitude, to seek to live according to the example of Jesus, to be humble, loving and unselfish. Thus those who preach self-help, self-glorification, self-sufficiency and the pursuit of wealth preach another gospel. These are antichrists to be shunned and refuted. Only those who admit they are sinners and hate their sins come under the blood of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. That sacrifice was so great that it was sufficient to cover the sins of the every human being who has or will ever live, but of course, not all will accept the offer of God’s grace.
1 John 1
As we read the opening words of John’s letter we note that he is writing to correct some false teachings about Jesus. John asserts that he knows the truth because he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. He does so to counteract those who claim that Jesus had not come in the flesh but was only a spiritual entity. He also writes to counteract those who claim to be Christian but who do not maintain a pure and holy life. These deny the serious nature of sin claiming that it affects only the flesh not the spirit and therefore is not an act that is evil or a sign of corruption. They allege that they can make such claims because they are enlightened beings. John states with great emphasis and confidence that such men walk in darkness and, therefore, have no fellowship with God who is light.
We can see that John’s words are relevant to the 21st century. Many today claim to be Christians who walk in darkness thinking they are walking in the light. Yet faith without righteousness is worthless and unreal. Sin is a real barrier between man and God even if we redefine it or deny its existence. Only when we admit the reality and heinous nature of sin as well as our inability to overcome it without God’s help can we enter into fellowship with God. Neither can a person who refuses to admit sin or repent have true fellowship with believers. Thus, we in the church of Jesus Christ today are right to be wary of all those who claim to be one with the Lord but whose lives do not reflect an awareness of their sinful nature. So we must consider the people we know who claim to be Christian. Many of them have denied their sinfulness yet continue to live in darkness. The church must exercise discipline through the use of the Word of God to instruct and convict such so that they will come to repentance.
2 Peter 3
One of the claims of false teachers often concerns the return of Christ. Either they deny it altogether in order to foster immorality, greed and ungodliness or claim they know how and when it will happen, thereby exalting their own status and pride. The latter is a concern of our own day while Peter is concerned with the former. Those who scoff at the idea of Christ’s return cast doubt upon God’s promises and call Him a liar. At the same time they deprive the faithful of hope, eternal rewards and justice. They scoff at the idea of obedience and righteousness while placing great value on material possessions and satisfying the appetites of the flesh. Since Christ is not returning they can live as they please.
Peter reminds us that God is true to His word. In the days of Noah, He promised He would judge the wicked by a worldwide destructive flood and He did it. Therefore we have no reason to doubt that He is coming again to judge the wicked, establish justice and set things right. This time He will destroy the wicked in a worldwide cataclysmic upheaval from which only the righteous will be saved. Therefore we ought to live in godliness and love knowing that His return is certain and imminent. Of course many in our day scoff at the idea of Christ’s return. They label it as well as the story of Noah as a myth or fairy tale not based on scientific fact. In fact science is the new religion. It tells us that there is no such thing as a personal God and that all human desires for spiritual life, the quest for the divine, result from evolution and brain chemistry. No wonder that people live in such blatant immorality. They have no hope of anything but this world and no absolute standard of right and wrong other than what they feel or think relative to a particular situation. We must bring them the hope of salvation in Christ Jesus alone.
2 Peter 2
Peter warns that false teachers have arisen and will continue to arise from within the people of God. In Old Testament times they sought to lead God’s people away from the revelations of God’s chosen leaders and true prophets. In the early church and today they distort or replace the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. They claim to be brethren but teach myths, immorality, legalism, rituals and asceticism as the means to attain deeper spirituality. They teach a salvation by works that denies the grace given to us by Jesus in His atoning sacrifice on the cross. What is so insidious about them is that that introduce their ideas covertly. They use Christian terms and concepts, and claim the Lord’s authority. Yet they seek to exalt themselves at the expense of others and do not even fear the Lord.
Peter reminds his audience that the Lord has no love for any of these men who can help no one not even themselves. They are empty of any value and truth. As we read Peter’s words, drawn primarily from the Old Testament, we are swept up in the powerful emotional concern he demonstrates. He does not speak kindly of false teachers. He uses words, images and expressions that our contemporary society would label as religious intolerance.
Christ Jesus has no equal. Yet in the enlightened 21st Century, our culture proclaims that everyone is entitled to believe what they want, to do pretty much whatever they want. All faiths lead to God or to the “divine”. Yet Peter is quite concerned about these false teachers and we should be as well: they are teaching the devil’s lies as truth and are causing many to be swept away into damnation along with themselves. We cannot tolerate such lies and liars because we care and love those who are dying without Jesus. If we study the Word and trust in God He will surely deliver us from these lying teachers.