John strongly contested the third Gnostic claim that there was no such thing as sin, therefore it was impossible to sin, for it did not exist; that there was no point in seeking not to sin, because there was no such thing in the first place.
Instead, John was saying the goal is to not sin, -not- to pretend that you do not sin, -or- to insist that what you do is not sin. But rather, the goal is simply to not sin.
But if you -do-, or others do sin against you, then go to Jesus because He is our -advocate-, eager to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Jesus came not to judge but to restore.
We tend to discount sin’s seriousness, and action invariably follows belief. It is belief which produces action, and, therefore, belief is supremely important. This is why the practical application sections of the letters in the Christian Testament always come after the teaching part. There is invariably the teaching of doctrine first. Each practical application section begins with the word therefore, for action must follow belief.
The transformation of God’s forgiveness and cleansing, and the Lord’s life within you and me, happening on the inside, will be seen on the outside as well, in our character, our habits, what we say, and what we do.
This is not the -reason- God loves and accepts you and me, this is a -result- of God loving us and restoring us.
Reliable Evidence of Salvation
One big problem coming out of the false teaching was that believers began to wonder if they were really saved.
How can you be sure?
So John outlined nine reliable pieces of evidence—which can be found from verses 2:3 through 5:12—that could be counted on as both proof of salvation, and confidence that salvation was permanent.
Evidence of Salvation: Exhibit 1
Living by faith in willing cooperation with the Spirit of Christ.
And, in these things we know that we have [come to know] Him, if we observe His commands.1 John 2:3 (my translation)
John then gave three examples.
- If you say you are a believer, then your life will be like Jesus’ life.
The one who says, “I have known Him,” and is not keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in this one, and whoever keeps His word, truly in this one the love of God has been made complete.
In this we know that we are in Him, the one who says that they abide in Him is obligated even as He lived to live.1 John 2:4-6 (my translation)
- Jesus, Who lives within you, loves every other believer, and therefore so will you.
Beloved ones, I am not writing a new command to you, but rather an old command you have held from [the] beginning—the old command is the word that you heard.
On the other hand, I am writing to you a new command, it is true in Him and in you, seeing that the darkness is receding and the true light is already shining.
The one who says they are in the light and detests their brother or sister is still in darkness.
The one who loves their brother or sister remains in the light and no stumbling block is in [that person]— and the one who detests their brother or sister is in darkness and lives in darkness, and has not perceived where they are going [astray], inasmuch as the darkness blinded their eyes.
—I am writing to you, little children, seeing that all your sins have been forgiven for the sake of His name
—I am writing to you, fathers, seeing that you have known Him [Who was] from the beginning
—I am writing to you, youths, seeing that you have overcome the evil one.
—I wrote to you, little children, seeing that you have known the Father
—I wrote to you, fathers, seeing that you have known Him [Who was] from the beginning
— I wrote to you, youths, seeing that you are powerful and the word of God remains in you and you have overcome the evil one.1 John 2:7-14 (my translation)
- You are no longer of the world, you are no longer thinking and living in a system that has cut God out.
Do not love the world nor that [which is] in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in [that person], inasmuch as all that [is] in the world
—the lust of the flesh, and
—the lust of the eyes, and
—the false pretension of livelihood
is not from the Father, but rather is from the world, and the world and its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains [forever].1 John 2:7-14 (my translation)
Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eyes, False Pretension of Livelihood
Many corollaries have been drawn between these three categories and human nature, or human activity, or human frailties, faults, and fragilities. I am certain you have in mind how you see these three areas!
I have something in mind, too.
Lust of the Flesh: Sin has affected our moral capability. We end up with self-centered motives, not God-centered motives—or, at least, a mixture of the two. Even motives that are self-sacrificing for the good of another come with a mixture, as we have settled our own love, or sense of obligation, or perhaps a sense of family honor, or a desire for certain aims to be served, or so on, on this other person, or group, or principle, or philosophy of life.
The self, more than God—God’s guidance, word, wisdom, and aims—becomes the primary measurement by which something is deemed good or bad, desirable or undesirable. Perhaps we want to feel in control, or we want to feel good, feel happy, or we want to feel approved of. Maybe we hope for a certain outcome. Our worldview, or point of view, our values become settled upon something else besides God’s.
Lust of the Eyes: Sin has also affected our intellectual ability. Our eyes become blinded to what is good and right, removing our ability to understand the truth. Instead of establishing right and wrong on God’s principles, we end up talking about what works or does not work for us. What works or does not work for the system we live in. We say to ourselves (for example) it is not that stealing is wrong, it is simply that stealing does not work for the economy, or perhaps for amicable relationships. Truth itself becomes bendable, subject to interpretation, downgraded from absolute to subjective.
Situational ethics suggest that truth is not the same in varying situations. In point of fact, principles of truth remain absolute—according to God—but it is the application of those principles of truth which must be handled with wisdom and discernment in each set of circumstances.
When we lost sight of God’s guiding truth, it is a sign our eyes have been blinded.
False Pretension of Livelihood: Sin has affected our wills. Our false pretension convinces us we can seek independence from God. We begin to trust ourselves more, our own judgment, wisdom, interpretation of events, judgment of character, our own aims and desires, and trust God less. We find ourselves disagreeing with God—God’s ways are anachronistic, God’s desires are too narrow (or perhaps too broad), God’s wisdom is not wise . . . and we choose not to observe God’s word and ways.
The old-fashioned scriptural summation of such choices is rebellion and disobedience. But if those words shut you and me down, we can call it something else. We can call it false pretensions, a God complex, in which we value our own judgment and course of action over God’s.
Walking in the Light
John made it clear that walking in the light meant
- Loving God and
- Loving the brethren, which in turn would mean
- Obedience to God by aligning our wills with the Lord’s, and serving and taking care of our brothers and sisters in the Lord by humbling our own wills for the sake of others.
You and I cannot love the world system and love God’s system at the same time, they are mutually exclusive.
[Painting of a feast / Early Christian catacombs / Paleochristian art. Fresco of female figure holding chalice in the Agape Feast. Catacomb of Saints Pietro e Marcellino (Saints Marcellinus and Peter), Via Labicana, Rome, Italy. | By Unknown author – http://liceokant.gioventudigitale.net/english/ss-marcellino/ssmarcellino.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=566560%5D