3 John Lesson

3 John – Praise for Faithful Service and a Warning About Prideful Action

The Elder: 

To my dear friend Gaius: I love you in the truth. 

Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually. For I was very glad when some brothers came and testified to your faithfulness to the truth—how you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 

Dear friend, you are showing faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers, especially when they are strangers. They have testified to your love in front of the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God, since they set out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from pagans. Therefore, we ought to support such men so that we can be coworkers with the truth. 

I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have first place among them, does not receive us. 10 This is why, if I come, I will remind him of the works he is doing, slandering us with malicious words. And he is not satisfied with that! He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so and expels them from the church. 

11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. And we also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true. 

13 I have many things to write you, but I don’t want to write to you with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. 

Peace be with you. The friends send you greetings. Greet the friends by name. (HCSB)

I’ll divide this lesson into four parts.

  • John’s greeting – verses 1-4.
  • John’s commendation of Gaius – verses 5-8.
  • John’s condemnation of Diotrephes and commendation of Demetrius – verses 9-12.
  • John’s farewell – verses 13-14.

John’s Greeting

The basic theme of this section is: When believers walk in the truth, they bring joy to Christian friends and mentors.

John begins this letter with the same title he used in 2 John, “elder.” We don’t know much about the recipient of this letter, Gaius, but we can infer several things from the context of the letter.

  • John clearly loved Gaius, as he used the phrase “dear friend” four times in the letter. The English rendering of the original Greek weakens the intent behind the phrase. It conveys a feeling of deep agape love that John has for Gaius.
  • From the context of the letter, it is likely that Gaius is wealthy as he is well-known for his hospitality to traveling believers.
  • Since John mentioned in verse four that he receives great joy when his children walk in the truth, it is likely that Gaius was one of John’s converts.
  • Gaius may have been ill since John was praying for his physical health to be as good as his spiritual health.

John now goes on to praise Gaius for his conduct in the church and toward other believers.

  • Gaius was recognized by others for his faithful conduct.
  • He obeyed God’s Word.
  • He walked in the truth.
  • What made Gaius’ life a good testimony?
    • He walked in truth, God’s Word.
    • He meditated on the Word.
    • He practiced it in his daily life.
  • Gaius’ life was wrapped in the truth.
    • True living comes from living truth.
    • Jesus is the truth. John 14:6 – Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
    • Jesus is revealed in God’s Word, which is God’s truth. John 17:17 – Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.
    • The Holy Spirit is truth. 1 John 5:6 – Jesus Christ—He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies,  because the Spirit is the truth.
    • Jesus teaches us the truth.
    • The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to reveal the Son of God. This, in turn, enables us to obey the will of God and walk in truth.
  • Gaius was faithful in what he believed, and he was faithful in how he lived.
  • Loyalty to Christ and the Gospel marked his life.
  • John then says he has no greater joy than hearing that one of his children is a faithful follower of Christ.
    • This was similar to how Paul talked about his converts. 
    • Anyone who has led a person to Christ is joyful when they hear the person is continuing to walk in faith and not drift away.

John’s Commendation of Gaius

The basic theme for this section is: Extending hospitality toward traveling missionaries brings God’s commendation. Believers should help missionaries work together for the truth.

John’s commendation of Gaius, which actually began in the introduction to this letter, now continues. Let’s take a closer look at why John was praising the actions of Gaius.

  • First, there is nothing to indicate that Gaius was a preacher.
  • It appears that Gaius was an enabler to those who were traveling evangelists.
    • We need to remember that during the first century, lodging was not plentiful, and what did exist was often associated with the darker habits of society.
    • John praises Gaius for his support to brothers who were “strangers.” The Greek term for a stranger would mean someone unknown or from another area; they weren’t native to the place they were visiting.
    • In 2 John, we learned of the importance of Christian hospitality.
      • In that letter, John warned against helping false teachers.
      • In this letter, John commends Gaius for showing hospitality to faithful ministers.
      • Gaius’ actions were an encouragement to both believers in general, as well as to the traveling evangelists.
    • The idea of hospitality is a challenge in today’s world because of violence and false teachers.
      • In the early church, traveling evangelists often carried letters of recommendation from their home church. An example is in Romans 16:1 – I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae.
      • It is important that we know the background of those to which we may extend hospitality.
    • Not only did Gaius open his home to the evangelists, but he also provided financial assistance to them.
      • The term “send” doesn’t just mean wishing them well as they continue their journey.
      • The Greek term implies aid of some sort, most likely financial aid or food.
      • Gaius proved his faith through his works. James 2:14-16 – What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 
    • Gaius’ actions also served as a witness to others.
      • Jesus taught that God’s servants deserve support. Luke 10:7 – Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t be moving from house to house.
      • However, John points out in verse seven that believers are to provide support, not pagans.
      • Consider Abraham’s response when the king of Sodom made an offering to him. Genesis 14:21-24 – Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people, but take the possessions for yourself.” 22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand in an oath to Yahweh, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or sandal strap or anything that belongs to you, so you can never say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except what the servants have eaten. But as for the share of the men who came with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre—they can take their share.”
      • Many churches make it clear at offering time that gifts from unbelievers are not expected. 
    • Gaius’ actions displayed obedience to God.
      • Those who receive spiritual blessings from those who preach should share their material blessings with the preacher. 1 Corinthians 9:11 – If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you?
      • Believers can support ministry endeavors outside their local church, but they should contribute a portion of their offerings to their local congregation.
    • Gaius was a coworker with the traveling evangelists.
      • Gaius received the truth.
      • Gaius walked in the truth.
      • Giaus was a coworker and helper to those spreading the truth.
      • Walking in the truth is the same as walking in love.
  • Unfortunately, not everyone in the church is a Gaius.

John’s Condemnation of Diotrephes and Commendation of Demetrius

There are two themes for this section is: 

  • Prideful people who slander and spread gossip oppose Christian hospitality.
  • We can recommend a person to other churches for hospitality and ministry when that person’s life supports God’s truth.

John now turns his attention to another church member, Diotrephes, who is the opposite of Gaius.As we take a deeper look at Diotrephes, I want us to think about how that looks in the church we attend, or maybe you’ve seen this same behavior in a previous church. Regardless of when or where you saw it, the behavior is an example of someone who operates on pride and wants to be the “boss,” often leaving a wake of bodies behind them as they go. Sometimes it can be the pastor, but often it is someone in a lower level of leadership within the church or a lay member who is trying to “empire build.”

  • It’s apparent from the context of John’s letter that Diotrephes was prideful.
  • We don’t know the position Diotrephes held, but it’s likely he was an elder because of the level of influence and control he had over the congregation.
  • What is clear is that Diotrephes shunned fellowship with one of the apostles, John.
  • Why would Diotrephes do this?
    • As previously mentioned, Diotrephes was a prideful and selfish individual.
      • These are two of Satan’s favorite tools to disrupt the church.
      • If John challenged or removed Diotrephes, then Satan would be the loser.
    • He placed himself before the preeminence of Christ.
    • John challenged his dictator-like actions.
    • John was a threat to the “authority” of Diotrephes in that local congregation.
    • John knew the truth about Diotrephes and was willing to expose his ungodly actions.
  • Diotrephes also lied about John.
    • He slandered John to the other church members.
    • It’s obvious from the context of the letter that Diotrephes had a circle of followers; otherwise, the congregation would have removed him from his position.
    • There are some people who will believe anything they hear about others without verifying whether it’s true or not.
    • This example reminds us of why we need to carefully weigh what others say and act on truth and not lies.
  • Not only did Diotrephes shun John, but he also rejected those associated with John.
    • Diotrephes treated John’s associates as “guilty by association.” 
    • It’s true that, as believers, we shouldn’t associate with certain groups of individuals.
      • Apostates – found in 2 Peter.
      • Alliances with unbelievers – 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.
      • Those who hold doctrinal positions that don’t agree with Scripture – Romans 16:17-19.
    • At the same time, there are doctrinal matters which don’t undermine the Gospel. We shouldn’t let those differences create discord in the body of Christ. Two examples:
      • The method of baptism.
      • Church government. 
    • We need to agree on the “majors,” the basic tenets of Christianity, and extend grace on the “minors.”
  • Diotrephes even went a step further than just rejecting John and his associates.
    • He disciplined those who disagreed with him.
    • Even though Diotrephes didn’t have the authority or the biblical basis for expelling those who disagreed with him, he still did it.
    • Scripture does contain instructions and examples of church discipline, which should be followed.
    • But church discipline is not a tool for a dictator to use to protect themself.
    • Church discipline is a tool for a congregation to use to promote purity and glorify God.
  • Diotrephes wanted to be served and not serve others.
  • It’s not difficult to identify church dictators.
    • They like to talk about themselves and what they’ve done for the Lord.
    • They have a habit of judging and condemning those who disagree with them.
    • They put labels on others and put them in categories.

John then switches the focus of his attention from Diotrephes to Demetrius. What a contrast between these two church members. Let’s take a closer look at Demetrius.

  • John warns his readers to imitate what is good, not to imitate what is evil.
    • Diotrephes represented evil. Those who practice evil don’t know God.
    • Demetrius represented good. Those who practice good belong to God.
  • We might ask if it’s ok to imitate a human leader. The answer is yes, as long as they are imitating Christ.
    • We can’t see God.
    • We can see God at work in the lives of His children.
  • Those who live a godly life dedicated to serving the Lord are an encouragement to fellow believers. Hebrews 10:24 – And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.
  • Demetrius was a man worthy of imitating.
    • He had a good testimony from everyone.
    • He was well known.
    • He was well respected.
    • He was loved by the believers around him.
  • Not only did Demetrius have a good testimony from the believers in the church, but he also had a good witness from the truth, the Word.
    • Just like Gaius, Demetrius walked in truth.
    • He obeyed God’s Word.
    • Neither was perfect, but they were consistent in their lives by seeking to honor God.
  • Demetrius also had a good testimony from John.
    • John knew Demetrius had a good testimony from the church.
    • This aligned Demetrius with John, which would make Demetrius an enemy of Diotrephes.
  • Once John traveled to this church, there would be quite an alignment against Diotrephes.
    • There would be authority figures both from outside and inside this church to confront the actions of Diotrephes.
    • We don’t know the outcome, but the best solution is that Diotrephes would receive the rebuke, repent, and become a productive member of the congregation.

John’s Farewell

The theme for this section is: Personal friendship can be expressed through written means, but it is better expressed face to face.

John now concludes this letter in a manner similar to 2 John. It’s possible the format John used was the standard way to end letters in John’s time.

  • John planned to visit the church soon.
    • There is no indication of what “soon” might mean.
    • But it was likely an encouragement to both Gaius and Demetrius, as well as a veiled warning to Diotrephes.
  • John preferred to discuss things in person rather than through a letter.
  • Considering the turmoil that Diotrephes was causing in the church, John’s use of the phrase “peace be with you” must have been encouraging.
  • Those associated with John also sent their greetings.
  • John encouraged them to greet each other by name.


  • Open your home and assist others in ministry when you are able to do it. This can be challenging and uncomfortable at times, maybe all the time. However, Scripture instructs us to help one another in doing God’s work. When we assist others in ministry, we also receive a blessing in aiding their work.
  • When we do help others, don’t look to people for a reward. Our reward comes from God. Be content that what you are doing is “Kingdom work,” and don’t do it for public recognition.
  • Be careful that pride and temptations don’t cause you to fall away from the truth, especially if you occupy a position of leadership or influence. Our actions affect those around us, both positively and negatively. 

2 John Lesson

2 John – Praise for obedience and warning about false teachers

 The Elder: 

To the elect  lady and her children: I love all of you in the truth—and not only I, but also all who have come to know the truth — because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. 

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. 

I was very glad to find some of your children walking in the truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father. So now I urge you, dear lady—not as if I were writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love. 

Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves so you don’t lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who does not remain in Christ’s teaching but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t say, “Welcome,” to him; 11 for the one who says, “Welcome,” to him shares in his evil works. 

12 Though I have many things to write to you, I don’t want to do so with paper and ink. Instead, I hope to be with you and talk face to face  so that our joy may be complete. 

13 The children of your elect sister send you greetings. (HCSB)

I’ll be dividing this lesson into four parts.

  • Introduction – verses 1-3.
  • Christians must practice the truth – verses 4-6.
  • Christians must protect the truth – verses 7-11.
  • The farewell – verses 12-13.


Before we start a deeper look at this epistle, let’s take a look at some introductory information.

  • The letter was sent to Christians in the general area of Ephesus.
  • It was written around or just after 1 John was written.
  • The theme is very similar to 1 John; encourage and strengthen Christians to walk in love with others and resist false teaching.
  • Emphasizes obeying God’s commands.
  • It is a highly personal letter reflecting John’s affection and concern for these believers.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at these three verses.

  • The overarching idea in the first three verses is “May God’s blessings be upon the people I love, people who let the truth live in them.”
  • John starts with the term “elder.”
    • The Greek word for elder is presbyteros.
    • The title of elder was used for someone in a position of authority and responsibility.
    • In the context of the letter, it indicated that John had authority and responsibility for the recipients of the letter.
    • The use of elder instead of John’s name is a further reflection of the relationship between the author and the recipients.
  • One word that John hammers home is the word “truth.”
    • It occurs four times in these three verses, highlighting its significance to John’s message.
    • The Greek word for truth is aletheia, which means “in truth,” “upon truth,” and “according to truth,” pertaining to being a real or an actual event or state.
    • It means reality as opposed to mere appearance.
    • Jesus is “the truth.” John 14:6 – Jesus told him, “I am  the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 
    • God’s Word is truth. John 17:17 – Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.
    • The Spirit of Truth teaches us. John 16:13 – When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.
  • John used the theme of “truth” at the beginning of this letter because there were false teachers leading the sheep astray.
    • John never tolerated false teachers.
    • There is a deadly difference between truth and error, and John would not tolerate error.
    • The truth would appeal to the minds of the readers.
  • The other important word in these verses is “love.”
    • It occurs twice in this section.
    • The Greek word used here is agape.
    • It means to have a love for someone or something based upon sincere appreciation and high regard.
    • Love would appeal to the hearts of the readers.
  • The next issue we need to discuss is the identity of “the elect lady and her children.”
    • Among scholars and theologians, there are three main interpretations of this phrase.
      • It is a figurative reference to a local church and its members. If this is true, then verse thirteen would also be a reference to a local church.
      • It is a reference to the universal church of believers.
      • The recipient is an individual lady and her children.
    • The majority believe the first choice is the correct one. It’s a metaphorical or symbolic way of identifying a local church and its members.
      • The term “lady,” or kuria in Greek, is the feminine form of “lord.”
      • This hints at the idea of the church being the bride of Christ.
      • This idea also meshes well with verse thirteen; churches are “sister” of each other.
      • Those who come to faith in a local church are the “children” of the “elect lady.”
  • John concludes this section with words common in ancient Christian greetings; grace, mercy, and peace.

Christians Must Practice the Truth

  • The overarching theme in verses four to six is, “It is a joy that some of you are walking in the truth. We are commanded to love one another and to walk in obedience to God’s commands.”
  • In this section, we find another word that repeats itself. The words “walk/walking” occurs three times in this section.
    • In the original Greek, this would convey an action beyond simply understanding truth. It would require acting on the truth.
    • It’s not enough for believers to know the truth. We must demonstrate the truth through our actions wherever we are.
    • When someone “walks in the truth,” it means they are obeying the truth and allowing it to control their lives.
    • John 14:15 – If you love Me, you will keep My commands.
  • John is “very glad” that some of the believers are walking in the truth.
    • Although not apparent from the English rendering, John had met some of the members of the church during his travels and observed their obedience. John wasn’t saying that only a portion was walking in obedience.
    • It also makes the Father “very glad” when His children walk in obedience to His Word.
    • Shepherd leaders are also “very glad” when members of their flock walk in obedience to God’s Word.
  • Another word that occurs repeatedly is “command.”
    • Command occurs four times in these three verses.
    • The commands are given by the Father.
      • Each commandment is an expression of love.
      • The will of God is the revelation of God’s heart. Psalm 33:11 – The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.
      • Obedience to God’s Word is a revelation of our love, not an expression of fear. 1 John 5:3 – For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden.
      • False teachers try to make God’s commandments appear harsh and difficult, offering their followers “true” freedom, which is really false freedom. 2 Peter 2:19 – They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.
      • The greatest freedom is obedience to God’s perfect will.
      • Those who are true followers of Christ and love God would never think His commandments are harsh or unbearable.
  • John now moves on to the command to love one another.
    • Loving others is not a new command; it goes back to the Old Testament, where Jews were told to love both their neighbors and strangers.
      • Leviticus 19:18 – Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.
      • Deuteronomy 10:19 – You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
    • However, what is new is that with the incarnation of Jesus, there is a new emphasis on brotherly love, agape, as demonstrated in Jesus’ life, and the expectation that we follow His example and love others in the same manner. 
    • A reasonable question to ask is, “is it possible to command love?” The short answer is yes! But we need to understand what defines Christian love.
      • It’s not a feeling or special kind of “religious emotion.”
      • It’s an act of will that enables us to interact with and accept others.
      • Christian love is treating others in the same way God treats you.
      • It’s possible to extend love to others even when we really don’t like them.
        • People can be rude to us, but we can be kind in return.
        • People may persecute us, but we can pray for them, and when the opportunity presents itself, we can be kind to them.
        • If we followed our feelings, we would retaliate.
        • But if we allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives, we can act like Jesus would have acted in Christian love.
    • Love and obedience go together.
      • We can’t separate our relationship with God from our relationship with others.
      • If we say we love God, but we hate our brothers or sisters, how can we say we love God?
      • If we walk in obedience to God, His love is made perfect in us toward others.
  • When we look at these three verses together, we see the themes of truth, love, and obedience blended.
    • Believing in the truth, Christ, and the Word leads to our salvation.
    • The evidence of salvation is love and obedience.
    • Love and obedience are strengthened as we grow in the knowledge of the truth.
      • Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.
      • John 7:17 – If anyone wants to do His will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or if I am speaking on My own.
    • Obedience allows us to learn more truth, and the more truth we learn, the more we love Jesus, who is the truth.
    • Instead of living in a vicious circle of defeat, we live in a victorious circle of love, truth, and obedience.

Christians Must Protect the Truth

  • The theme for this section is that believers must not be led astray by the world’s deceivers, those who don’t acknowledge Jesus. We shouldn’t help them in any way, which would be assistance to those practicing evil.
  • In this section, John warns about the deceivers in the world.
  • In the context of this letter, it addresses the false teaching of docetism or proto-Gnostics who denied the incarnation of God the Son.
  • The Greek word for deceiver is planos, and it means more than just teaching false doctrine.
    • It does mean teaching false doctrine.
    • It also means to lead people astray or to lead them into wrong living.
    • John had already taught that what we believe determines how we act. Wrong or false doctrine will lead to wrong living.
  • Where did the deceivers come from?
    • They came from inside the church.
    • They professed faith in Jesus but were false believers.
      • Jude 3-4 – Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly,  turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord
      • 1 John 2:19 – They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us
      • Acts 20:30 – And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them.
  • John also warns there are many deceivers.
    • 2 Peter 2:1-2 – But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them
    • These deceivers are also the “antichrists” John warned about in 1 John 2:18-23.
  • To protect the truth requires a faithfulness to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.
    • The deceivers had departed from the truth and church fellowship.
    • The deceivers were dangerous.
  • John points out three dangers the church and its members face from the deceivers.
    • The danger of losing what we have worked for.
      • John warns the readers to “watch yourselves.”
        • The deceivers will try and falsely offer something you don’t have.
        • In reality, they will take away what you do have.
      • Satan is a thief, and so are his minions.
      • The full reward John is talking about is an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom.
        • Believers will receive rewards in heaven. Both John and Paul talk about that in Scripture.
          • Revelation 4:10 – The 24 elders fall down before the One seated on the throne,  worship the One who lives forever and ever, cast their crowns before the throne, and say.
          • 1 Corinthians 9:25 – Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away
          • 2 Timothy 4:8 – There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing
    • The danger of going beyond what Scripture says.
      • The Greek term for “goes beyond it,” proago, means to go beyond the established boundaries of teaching or instruction, failing to obey properly.
      • The false teachers will try and come off as “progressive” in their thinking.
      • However, the progress they push actually abandons the doctrine that Jesus is God the Son, who came in the flesh.
      • We all know of examples today where pastors, churches, or denominations have “gone beyond” what is contained in Scripture to promote a “kindler, gentler, all inclusive” Gospel.
        • Same-sex marriages and non-binary genders are two of the more recent examples.
        • However, both go “beyond Scripture,” which is clear that God created male and female and that marriage is between a man and a woman.
      • Learning is good, but anytime it leads us away from the fundamental doctrines of the person and work of Jesus Christ, then we are on dangerous ground.
  • The danger of welcoming or receiving false teachers.
    • As we consider verse ten, we need to view it in the context of first-century practices of hospitality.
      • As opposed to today, there weren’t many inns for travelers to stay. This was especially true for traveling Christians who tried to stay away from the evil influences in the world.
      • Christians were encouraged to open their homes to visitors.
        • Romans 12:13 – Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
        • Hebrews 13:2 – Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.
      • Believers who showed hospitality to servants of God were helping those who were spreading the truth, the Gospel.
    • Those who were showing hospitality to false teachers were sharing in their evil works.
    • The true doctrine of Christ is a test of truth, a foundation for fellowship, and a bond for mutual cooperation.
    • The same principle applies today.
      • We may have Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses come to our door, spreading their false doctrine.
        • We should never be rude to them; see the section above about love.
        • But, we should point out their false teaching and show them the truth contained in Scripture.
        • One additional method of trying to limit their damage is to take as many of their resources as possible and then burn them so they won’t do any harm.
      • There are also false teachers on television, radio, youtube, etc., who spread false teaching. We need to be alert so that we don’t inadvertently aid them in any way.
    • Why was John so focused on not accidentally helping the wrong people?
      • It would give the false teacher the impression their heretical teaching was acceptable.
      • It would be possible to become influenced by them.
      • It would provide the false teacher with ammunition on their next stop that you supported them. Our disobedience could lead to someone else’s destruction.
    • John was not saying that only believers could/should enter your house.
      • Engaging the lost is required to lead them to Christ.
      • Often, a comfortable setting such as our home is a good place to do that.
    • John is saying we shouldn’t receive, enable, or encourage false teachers who represent antichristian groups.

The Farewell

  • John now closes this letter much in the same way he will close 3 John.
  • There are several points in these last two verses.
    • John emphasizes the importance of Christian fellowship.
    • John is saying we should experience joy when we gather with other believers.
    • Receiving letters from fellow believers is important but not as important as face-to-face meetings.
    • The letter that John wrote doesn’t contain all the things he wanted to discuss with them.
    • John was planning on visiting this family or church in person.
  • John concludes the letter by saying the children of their elect sister send greetings.
    • As previously discussed in the first section of this lesson, this most likely refers to a church and its members.
    • This demonstrates that Christian churches in the first century were concerned about other churches; there wasn’t any competition or disunity.


  • John commended the recipients of the letter for walking in the truth but also commanded them to walk in the truth. Examine your walk. Do you walk in the truth? Do you walk in love, which means following the commands the Father has given us? If you do, keep doing it. If you don’t, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to walk in God’s power and love others just as God loves us.
  • Be watchful for false teachers around your home, in your workplace, in your community, and your church. If you find some, don’t enable them in any manner. Confront them with the truth of the Gospel. Warn your spiritual brothers and sisters, so they don’t fall victim to their heresy. As believers, we must always confront and correct false teaching.
  • Engage in fellowship with other believers. While written and voice correspondence is important, they will never replace the importance of face-to-face meetings. We should meet often with fellow believers to encourage and support each other.
  • Pray for the other churches around you, regardless of their denomination or demographics. The one caveat is that they are a church that teaches the truth and doesn’t compromise to be socially acceptable in a fallen world.

1 John Lesson Twelve

1 John Lesson Twelve: 1 John 5:14-21 – Prayer and Three Christian Certainties

14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for. 

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not bring death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t bring death. There is sin that brings death. I am not saying he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin that does not bring death. 

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the One who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 

19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. 

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true One. We are in the true One—that is, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 

21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (HCSB)

I’ll be dividing this lesson into four parts.

  • Verses 14-15 – Effective prayer.
  • Verses 16-17 – Confronting sin.
  • Verses 18-19 – How Christians act.
  • Verses 20-21 – We know the truth.

Effective Prayer

As we dig deeper into the first two verses in this passage, talking about prayer, we need to focus on the idea that godly prayer is prayer that aligns with God’s will, not our wants. Let’s look at some points John is talking about regarding prayer.

  • We have confidence when we bring our prayers before God.
    • In the original Greek, confidence means “freedom of speech.”
    • We have the freedom to bring our petitions before God and tell Him our needs and the needs of others.
  • First, there are some conditions that must be met before our prayers are heard by God.
    • We need a heart that doesn’t condemn. 1 John 3:21-22 – Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight.
    • Unconfessed sin is an obstacle to prayer. Psalms 66:18 – If I had been aware of malice in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
    • Husbands must honor their wives. 1 Peter 3:7 – Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives with an understanding of their weaker nature yet showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
    • We must settle our differences with other believers. Matthew 5:23-25 – So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.
    • We must abide in Christ, demonstrating love and obedience. John 15:7 – If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.
  • Second, we must pray in alignment with God’s will.
    • Matthew 6:10b – Your will be done.
    • George Muller, who ran several orphanages in England during the 1800s housing thousands of orphans, said: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of God’s willingness.”
    • There are times we can only pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.” (from Luke 22:42)
    • If we are immersed in God’s Word, we can determine His will by reading Scripture and listening to the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26-27 – In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. 27 And He who searches the hearts  knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God
    • God wants to supply our needs, not our greed. Philippians 4:19 – And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever.
    • If we walk with God, obey His commands, and pray for things that glorify God and build His kingdom, those requests will be answered.
    • James warns about praying with the wrong motive. James 4:3 – You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.
    • We also need to remember that God may answer the request in a way that is different from what we anticipated. Also, God will answer the request in His time, not ours. We may have to wait longer than we’d like to get the answer.
  • As we mature in our prayer life, we must learn to see things from God’s point of view, not from ours.
    • We study Scripture to learn about God’s will in a general sense.
    • As we face circumstances in life, we take these general principles and apply them to specific circumstances.
    • We pray for what God wants, not what we want.
    • When we do that, our prayers will be answered.
    • John Stott wrote – “Prayer is not a convenient device for imposing our will upon God, or for bending His will to ours, but the prescribed way of subordinating our will to His. It is by prayer that we seek God’s will, embrace it and align ourselves with it. Every true prayer is a variation of the theme ‘Your will be done’”.

Confronting Sin

John now talks about sins that don’t lead to death and sins that do lead to death. What could John be talking about when he mentions “sin that brings death?” Scholars and theologians have wrestled with this question and have come up with four possibilities, although none are clear-cut. Here are the four.

  • A terrible sin that God will not pardon. There isn’t anything in the New Testament that fits the definition of this kind of sin. Peter cursed and denied Jesus three times. That’s about as bad a sin as we could imagine. Yet, a short period of time later, Peter was eating a meal with Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
  • It’s talking about some type of apostasy, to deliberately turn from being a follower of Christ. However, 1 John 3:9 appears to teach that a true Christian can’t fall away from the faith. If some do, it’s an indication they were never a follower in the first place.
  • John is talking about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, a sin Matthew says will not be forgiven (Matthew 12:31-32) But how could John call someone like that a “brother?”
  • John is talking about a physical death. Some Christians in Scripture sinned so badly that God took their lives; Ananias and Sapphire (Acts 5:1-11), the man sinning with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians 5, the people who “fell asleep” in 1 Corinthians 11 because they were abusing the Lord’s supper.

Although we don’t know the correct interpretation, we can focus on a positive point from John’s message. We need to be praying for our brothers and sisters who are in sin. This type of request would align with God’s will. Jesus prayed for Peter on the night he was betrayed, and we should do the same for others.

One final point here. John is not being soft on sin. He writes that “all unrighteousness is sin.”

How Christians Act

John is not talking about the occasional or accidental sins that believers commit. John is talking about habitual and deliberate sins. Because a believer has a new nature, their desires should change from the realm of darkness to the kingdom of light. Let’s dig into this deeper.

  • A Christian faces three enemies, all of which want to lead them into sin.
    • Satan.
      • The whole world is under the sway of the evil one – 1 John 5:19.
      • Satan is the god of this age, meaning this world. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 – But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
      • Satan is the ruler of this world. John 14:30 – I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over Me.
      • Satan is the spirit who works in the children of disobedience. Ephesians 2:2 – in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.
      • Satan tells lies. Genesis 3 and 2 Corinthians 11:1-3. When people listen, they turn from and disobey God’s truth.
      • Satan may inflict physical suffering.
        • Job.
        • Paul: 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 – Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
        • David: 1 Chronicles 21.
    • The flesh.
      • The old nature still lies within us even after we are born again.
      • We have a new nature, but we don’t always yield to the new nature.
    • The world.
      • The world is our enemy. 1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world  or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.

A believer faces three very formidable foes. How does a believer keep from sinning? The answer is in verse eighteen. 

  • Jesus keeps us. The word “keep” has two meanings here.
    • One is to “watch over.” Jesus watches over us, so the evil one doesn’t touch us.
    • Because Jesus “watches over” us, we are able to obey His instructions.
  • We see an illustration of this in Luke 22:31-32 – “Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
  • Satan can’t touch a believer without God’s permission.
  • If God gives permission to Satan to attack us, it also means He has given us the ability to resist the attack through His power. God will never allow us to be tested beyond the capability of our strength in Him. 1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it

We Know the Truth

The truth John is talking about here is that the Son of God has come to redeem us, and He’s a reflection of the Father. Let’s take a deeper look at these last two verses,

  • Jesus is God the Son.
    • Jesus, in human form but fully divine, was a reflection of the Father.
    • The characteristics that Jesus displayed are the same that make up the Father.
    • When we study and understand who Jesus was, how He acted toward others, and how He acted in situations, we see the Father on display, and we see how we should act as followers of Christ.
  • Because we know, worship, and serve the true God, we are connected with reality.
    • The “true One” means the original as opposed to a copy or the authentic as opposed to an imitation.
    • Jesus is the true light. John 1:9 – The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
    • Jesus is the true bread. John 6:32 – Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven.
    • Jesus is the true vine. John 15:1 – “I am  the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.”
    • Jesus is truth. John 14:6 – Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
  • Jesus came into the world to give us an understanding of the truth.
    • The truth of Jesus repudiates the false teaching in the world.
    • Some of the false teachers claimed to have a special knowledge of God and salvation apart from Jesus.
    • God can only be known in one way, through Jesus.
    • Truth can only be known in one way, through Jesus.
    • Anything that claims something different from what Jesus taught is false and a work of Satan.
  • Christians live in an atmosphere of reality or truth, while unbelievers live in an atmosphere of lies and falsehood.
    • Followers of Christ have been given spiritual discernment to know the truth from lies.
    • Unbelievers don’t have this understanding.
    • Christians don’t choose between good and bad; they choose between true and false.
  • John doesn’t end Colossians with a typical farewell. Instead, he delivers a stern warning.
    • By using the phrase “little children,” John is indicating a deep love for the recipients of the letter.
    • It may seem out of place for John to be addressing the issue of idols here. But, a theme of the entire epistle was the idea of truth versus lies. John is warning them to reject idols and cling to Christ; reject the false and embrace the real.
    • What idols was John warning against?
      • The best interpretation is that John was warning against anything that would take the place of God.
        • 1 Thessalonians 1:9 – For they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
        • Ephesians 5:5 – For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral  or impure  or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom  of the Messiah and of God.
        • Colossians 3:5 – Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.
      • In the context of this letter, John was most likely referring to the “idols” of the false teachers who were saying Jesus was less than God.
        • The god of the false teachers was not just less than a perfect god; it was an idol.
        • The god of the false teachers was not true but a god of men’s imaginations.
      • For believers today, it is essential that they guard against any God-substitute. What are some of the idols that control people today?
        • Covetousness. A person may “worship” their bankbook or stock portfolio.
        • Adultery. A person may be addicted to pornography.
        • The thing we “serve” is the thing we worship. Whatever controls our lives is our god.


  • Be active in prayers that align with God’s will. All believers should have an active prayer life. But being active in prayer is not enough. Our prayers must align with God’s will. As we mature in our spiritual walk, we will grow in our understanding of God’s will for any given situation. One question to ask ourselves as we pray is, “Does this request bring glory to God?” If the prayer is answered, will God be glorified? Or is it a selfish prayer that benefits the person praying or another individual? 
  • When we see a fellow believer involved in sin, we are instructed to pray for them. Are you praying for those around you who are involved in the sinful activity? Everyone sins, and we all need the prayers of others to help us in this life.
  • Guard yourself against false teachers. There are many false teachers who preach an “attractive” message. We should always compare what a preacher/pastor/Bible teacher says against what Scripture says. If the message and Scripture don’t agree, it’s a red flag for false teaching. If you find yourself in that situation, you need to discuss it gracefully with the teacher. It’s possible they made an honest mistake, and they’ll correct it with the group who received the false message. If they don’t accept the charge of false teaching, you need to warn others who heard the message. Everyone in that group is in danger of being led astray.
  • Guard yourself against the idols of this world. In today’s modern world, there are too many potential idols to list. Some examples are jobs, positions, social media, pornography, drugs, or alcohol. The bottom line is that anything that takes a primary place in our lives and pulls us away from God is an idol.

1 John Lesson Eleven

1 John Lesson Eleven: 1 John 5:6-13 – The Full Assurance of Our Relationship to God

Jesus Christ—He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water  and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood —and these three are in agreement. If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given about His Son. 10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within him. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar,  because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son.) 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 

12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (HCSB)

As John nears the completion of this letter, he drives home a point that directly challenges the false teaching from the Gnostics that he was confronting; Jesus is God. 

I’ll be splitting this lesson into two parts.

  • Jesus is God – verses 6-10.
  • Believers have eternal life – verses 11-13.

Jesus is God

In the previous section of the passage, verses one to five, John placed emphasis on trusting in Jesus and overcoming the world. To believe that Jesus is the Son of God is fundamental to the Christian experience. But how do we know that Jesus is God? 

Some of those alive at the time called Jesus a liar and a deceiver – Matthew 27:63. Others said that Jesus was a religious fanatic, a madman, or perhaps a zealous Jew who was sincere but sadly mistaken. We also need to remember the false teaching the recipients of this letter were receiving from the Gnostics. The false teaching of the Gnostics had two main points.

  • The “Christ” came upon the man Jesus when He was baptized.
  • Before Jesus died on the cross, the “Christ” left Jesus, and He died like any other person.

John’s letter refutes this false teaching by presenting three infallible witnesses to prove that Jesus is God.

  • Before we look at the three witnesses, we need to remember Jewish law. In order to confirm testimony, at least two witnesses were required.
    • Deuteronomy 19:15 – One witness cannot establish any wrongdoing or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
    • John 8:17 – Even in your law it is written that the witness of two men is valid.
  • The first witness is the water.
    • The water refers to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River at the beginning of His ministry.
    • Matthew 3:13-17 – Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?” 15 Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him to be baptized. 16 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him.  17 And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!
  • The second witness is the blood.
    • Blood refers to the shedding of Jesus’ blood at His crucifixion and subsequent death.
    • As the time drew near for Jesus to die, God spoke from heaven.
      • John 12:28b – Then a voice  came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!”
      • This was a reference to both what had already occurred and Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
    • There are also Scripture references to the glorification of Jesus during His crucifixion.
      • Matthew 27:45 – From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land.
      • Matthew 27:50-53 – Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.  51 Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many. 
      • Matthew 27:54 – When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!”
  • The third witness is the Holy Spirit.
    • The Holy Spirit was sent to bear witness to Jesus. We can trust the Holy Spirit because it is the Spirit that is truth.
      • John 15:26 – When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me.
      • John 16:14 – He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.
      • Romans 8:15-16 – For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, 17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 
      • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated  spiritually.
  • John is showing that all three testify to the truth of Jesus being the Son of God, the incarnation of the divine, and the pathway to redemption and restoration with God.
  • If human testimony is accepted on the basis of two or more witnesses, how much more should God’s testimony be accepted?
  • John makes two points in verses nine to eleven.
    • Divine testimony should be accepted because it is greater than human testimony, which everyone accepts.
    • Willful unbelief is sin. If we trust human testimony, why shouldn’t we trust God, who is more trustworthy than people?
  • When we consider these two points, we see the following three facts, which lead to one conclusion.
    • The Father witnessed at Jesus’ baptism.
    • The Father witnessed at the cross.
    • The Holy Spirit witnesses today within each believer.
    • Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Those who reject these facts are calling God a liar.
  • There is no middle ground in this discussion.
    • You are either with God and part of His spiritual family, destined to spend eternity in heaven.
    • Or you are against God, excluded from His spiritual family, and destined to spend eternity in hell.

Believers Have Eternal Life

  • John makes this point clear in the final three verses of this passage.
    • Those who accept the truth of the Father’s testimony concerning Jesus have life.
    • The life John is referring to in verse eleven is eternal life in heaven.
      • Life is contained in accepting the testimony about Jesus.
        • Those who accept the testimony about Jesus have the Son.
        • Those who accept the Son have life.
      • Death occurs for those who reject the testimony about Jesus.
        • They will have a physical death.
        • They will have a spiritual death, eternity in hell.
    • John is reminding and encouraging the recipients of his letter that those who believe in the testimony about Jesus have eternal life.

Before we take a summary look at this passage, let’s remember the situation that John was addressing. False teachers had permeated the early church, teaching heresy and leading some astray. Let’s consider the modern-day church. Few would argue that false teachers promoting heresy have permeated the church, leading believers astray.

Now, let’s consider three points essential to John’s writings.

  • The “blood” must remain central to all we are and preach. The “blood” refers to the cross.
    • In 1 Corinthians 1-4, Paul talks about the “foolishness” of the cross. Paul isn’t saying the cross is foolish. He is saying it is foolishness to those who reject the truth. 
    • As believers, we can never demote the significance of the cross.
    • 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 – But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
      • Christ is the power of God.
      • Christ is the wisdom of God.
    • Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the gateway to redemption, forgiveness, and eternal life.
  • The Holy Spirit is the preserver of truth.
    • However, John isn’t clear on how this is done on a practical level.
    • It could be spiritual discernment.
    • However, since John references water and blood, it makes the most sense he is referring to “what was at the beginning.” This understanding would point not to personal creativity and innovation but to the foundations on which the church was built.
      • The confessions and traditions of the original church.
      • The recitation of creeds.
      • An alarming trend has been noted by theologians.
        • The foundations for all of what we believe are no longer recognized by many “believers.” One of the more common is the teaching that the first eleven chapters of Genesis are fictional.
        • The validity of belief for many now appears to be functional.
      • One enlightening example is from a commentary author talking about his last year of seminary. The students were required to read one sermon per day for ten weeks. An observation from that exercise is that older sermons, those from pre-1950, contained a higher level of theological sophistication, which is lacking in many modern sermons. I’m sure many, if not all, who are reading this, can remember examples where the sermon they heard was light on sin, hell, love, and sacrifice. At the same time, those sermons may have been heavy on how to feel better about yourself or that God was still “love” even when we are engaged in willful sin.
    • Theology is losing ground to false teaching because churches have stopped pursuing and teaching truth.
  • Any claim to being a genuine follower of Christ is illegitimate if it denies what God has said about Jesus.
    • Jesus is both fully human and fully divine during the entirety of His life.
    • Any theology that rejects incarnation Christology must be dismissed as false theology.
    • Anyone who teaches false theology, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is part of Satan’s attempt to undermine and destroy the church.


  • Do you understand and believe in the absolute and unconditional truth that Jesus is who God the Father says He is? If not, examine why in light of what John wrote in this passage. Water, blood, and the Holy Spirit all testify about who Jesus is. 
  • If you hear or read about false teaching, confront it. Remember to always correct in a spirit of gentleness while not tolerating compromise.
  • Are you confident in your eternal destination? John is clear that if we believe the truth about Jesus and place our faith in Him, we have eternal life. If you have doubts in this area, determine why you doubt and pray for reassurance.

1 John Lesson Ten

1 John Lesson Ten: 1 John 5:1-5 – Proving Our Love Through Obedient Faith

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (HCSB)

John continues his discourse on the connection between love, faith, and obedience. A good summary statement for this passage is – The true Christian overcomes the world by their faith and demonstrates their salvation by obeying God’s commands, and those commands are not a burden.

When we consider what John is saying in verse one, let’s take a moment to consider how Christianity differs from every other main world religion. All of the other religions involve humanity vainly trying to work their way to God. It may involve legalistic practices or earning merit through various activities. In contrast, Christianity involves God coming to humanity and humanity responding to the invitation. The difference often creates a stumbling block. We try to rationalize why an all-powerful God would pursue His creation. The one overarching reason is that God loves His creation and doesn’t want anyone to spend eternity separated from Him. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at this passage.

  • A Christian is a person who has been born again.
    • They believe and have placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
    • The new birth transforms them from children of disobedience into children of God.
  • John uses the term “born of God” seven times in this first epistle, using it to describe the characteristics of a believer.
    • They practice righteousness – 1 John 2:29.
    • They don’t practice sin – 1 John 3:9.
    • They love other believers – 1 John 4:7.
    • They overcome the temptations of the world – 1 John 5:4.
    • They guard themselves against Satan – 1 John 5:18.
  • John emphasizes the trilogy of love, obedience, and truth as tests for inclusion in God’s spiritual family.
    • If we love God as our Father, we will also love our fellow believers.
    • Our love for fellow believers will lead to obedience.
    • When we love others, it creates a willingness to serve others.
  • The Christian who believes that obedience to God’s Word is a burden doesn’t understand biblical love.
    • Christians are not to love the world, belong to it, or yield to it.
    • They have overcome the temptations of the world and the devil and false teachers.
    • They overcome it by faith in God, not through individual power or wisdom.
  • When we look at the context and historical setting of this letter, it appears John was addressing a situation in Ephesus, where the antichrists were acting in a hateful manner towards believers.
    • We don’t have to love perfectly to demonstrate a regenerate heart.
    • If we demonstrate hate towards other believers, as the antichrists did, we can’t have confidence we have been born again.
  • John addresses the question of whether or not following God’s commands is a burden or not.
    • How many times have you or someone you know struggled with being obedient to God’s commands?
    • How often do you think that God’s commands are restricting your life?
    • John makes a convicting statement when he says, “His commands are not a burden.”
    • The world would disagree with this statement. How often have we heard, from unbelievers, that Christians don’t have any fun?
    • It’s true that disobeying God is easier than following Him. But then the consequences are easier to experience, too.
    • For one example, let’s consider the sin of sex outside of marriage. Let’s consider some of the consequences.
      • Those who engage in this practice treat one another as objects to fulfill our desires. They don’t treat each other as a valued human being.
      • Those who have multiple partners run a serious risk of catching a sexual disease. Some of the diseases can have lifelong consequences or even result in death.
      • With multiple partners, there is always the risk of jealousy, resulting in violence.
      • If one of the individuals is married, they are violating the marriage covenant, resulting in various consequences.
        • A broken marriage.
        • Children who are torn from their parents or develop negative feelings towards the offending party.
        • The financial burden of a broken marriage.
    • When two people engage in a marriage covenant and don’t violate it, they will not experience any of the consequences listed above.
    • When we consider this example, we see that sin has a consequence. When those consequences are “paid,” we clearly see that God’s commands, in this case, “don’t commit adultery,” is not a burden when we compare the cost in consequences.
    • This sheds understanding when Jesus said in Matthew 11:30 – For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
  • John ends this passage of Scripture with two verses that can challenge and bring doubt to the minds of believers. This centers around the phrase, “has been born of God conquers the world.”
    • First off, until we get to heaven, every believer will struggle with sin and make mistakes, some more than others.
    • Because of the “sin struggle,” some believers may feel that they have not conquered the world and are, therefore, not a true Christian. However, this is a false understanding of what John is trying to say here.
    • First, we need to come to grips with what John means by “the world.”
      • John may be referring to the false teachings that say Jesus is not the Son of God and didn’t come in the flesh.
      • John may be referring to the temptations of the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
      • John may be referring to the threat of open hatred the world brings against followers of Christ.
    • Regardless of which one John was referring to, all are possible, and all are included in the final victory that has already been won.
      • We won it in a past tense understanding when we submitted to Jesus.
      • We win it in the present tense when we refuse to deny Him.
    • All who have been born again have overcome the world and can claim the victory.
    • In John 16:33, Jesus declares, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
    • Jesus’ victory has overcome evil and set us free from the power of Satan.
    • Our victory is based on faith.
      • When we place our faith in Jesus, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
        • Romans 8:37-39 – No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, 39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
        • 1 Corinthians 15:57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
      • The believer is victorious over the world because of their faith in Jesus.
    • When we understand what John is saying in these two verses, we should feel fear or discouragement when we struggle with sin. Instead, we should be encouraged because even though we do struggle with sin, Jesus has already won the victory for us.


  • Do an evaluation on yourself, or have a trusted family member or close friend who is a believer regarding the characteristics of a Christian.
    • Do you practice righteousness?
    • Do you avoid sin?
    • Do you extend love to your spiritual family?
    • Do you overcome the temptations of the world?
    • Do you guard yourself against Satan?
    • We will never be perfect in these areas, but we should be victorious more than we stumble.
  • Do you consider God’s commands a burden or an easy path? If you consider them a burden, reevaluate that area and consider the consequences of not following God’s instructions. On the surface, being obedient may seem like a burden, but when you consider the consequences being obedient is a much easier path.
  • Don’t become discouraged when you do stumble. Every believer will stumble at some point. There are several issues to consider when we sin.
    • Are you like the Gnostics and believe that sinning is ok since you’ve professed faith in Jesus? If you are in this camp, your understanding of saving faith is skewed, and you may not be a genuine follower of Jesus.
    • Does it become a habit where you become numb to your sin? This is dangerous and may lead you into falling away from the faith.
    • The opposite, excessively beating yourself up when you sin, is also dangerous. You may begin to believe that you aren’t really a Christian and fall away from the faith.
    • The healthy response is to confess your sin and move past it in victory immediately.

1 John Lesson Nine

1 John Lesson Nine: 1 John 4:13-21 – Combining a Right Belief and a Right Attitude

This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent His Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother. (HCSB)

In this section, John continues with his theme of love. In this passage, John outlines the duality of our love for God, as well as our love for fellow believers. To make it easier, I’ll break this passage into three sections.

  • Our assurance of Jesus as God’s Son – verses 13-16.
  • Our confidence for eternity – verses 17-19.
  • Love reveals the heart – verses 20-21.

Our Assurance of Jesus as God’s Son

In John’s time, there were many who physically saw Jesus. That is not the case for present-day believers. So what do we base our belief in that Jesus is who we claim Him to be? Let’s dig deeper into that argument.

  • The Apostles and the larger group who followed Jesus all saw Him in the flesh.
  • But it wasn’t just His followers who saw Him.
    • The Jewish religious leaders saw Him but, out of jealousy, plotted and succeeded in killing Jesus.
    • There were those not associated with the religious establishment who saw Jesus but chose to reject His message. One example is the rich young ruler.
    • There were those who cried out for His crucifixion and who saw Jesus.
    • The Roman leaders and soldiers in Judea saw Jesus and were complicit in His crucifixion.
  • It’s much easier to place our faith in something we can see or touch. Those alive in the first century benefitted from being eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry. How do we support our belief in Jesus?
    • Predominately through faith. But what supports our faith?
      • Belief in the testimony of eyewitnesses who lived with Jesus, saw His death, and witnessed His resurrected body.
      • Scripture testifies to the truth of Jesus and His works.
      • We’ve experienced the impact of Jesus on our lives when we submit to His Lordship.
      • We’ve seen the change in those around us as they submit to Jesus. In some cases, we may have witnessed an extraordinary change in the behavior of others.
      • Maybe we’ve witnessed miraculous healing that doctors can’t explain. 
    • One of the definitions of “faith” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” As Christians, we need to be careful and not ascribe to that definition for our belief in Jesus. There is ample “proof” of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and His earthly ministry. 
  • The main basis of our faith is the Holy Spirit.
    • The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the truth of the Gospel to the lost.
    • As believers, one of our roles is to evangelize the lost. However, we can’t “convert” a person. We can only speak of the truth of the Gospel. It’s the role of the Holy Spirit to “open the eyes and ears” of the lost.
    • The indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives us assurance we are part of God’s family.
    • Paul speaks of the assurance given by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:16 – The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.
  • Building from previous lessons in 1 John, we remember that love and truth are mutually inclusive.
    • There is a relationship between God and the person testifying that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
    • Those who hold fast to this belief will do all they can to build this relationship to the fullest extent possible.
    • Those who have a heretical position on the identity of Jesus don’t have a relationship with God. Therefore, they have no relationship to build.
  • To remain or abide in God is a present tense verb.
    • It infers a vital, intimate, continuous, and growing relationship.
    • The believer understands they have an invisible power, through the Holy Spirit, to fulfill their kingdom work on earth.
    • The believer understands that physical life is a temporary one. Their real home is in heaven.
  • This section of the passage ends with a theme presented earlier; God is love, and those who live a life of love, live in God and God in them.
    • In John’s writings, this is the true test of Christianity.
    • The basic character of God is love.
    • We should experience love in our relationship with God.
    • Others should experience this type of love in their relationship with us.
    • It’s the reason God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, to have our love relationship restored with Him.
    • When we don’t live a life of love towards God and others, we need to reexamine our relationship with God.

Our Confidence for Eternity

John returns to the subject of the judgment seat of Christ, which he previously mentioned in 1 John 2:28. 

  • The judgment seat can bring either hope and peace or fear and anxiety.
    • When God’s love is perfected in us, we can live in confidence; we don’t need to worry about our future judgment.
      • Our lives should be filled with peace and hope.
      • We extend God’s love to others as we shine the light of Christ.
      • When a believer lives as an example of Jesus, there is no fear as they approach the judgment seat of Christ.
    • However, when we don’t live in a spirit of love, thinking about future judgment may unsettle us.
      • Our lives will be filled with fear and anxiety about the future.
      • Instead of shining the light of Christ, we will carry an air of gloom.
      • Believers who live without extending the love of Christ to others will approach the judgment seat of Christ with fear as they expect the loss of eternal rewards.
      • A believer who fears the judgment seat of Christ demonstrates that God’s love has not reached maturity in their lives.
  • The reason we love others is because God loves us first.
    • God commands us to love others.
      • 1 John 3:11.
      • John 13:34-35.
      • John 15:17.
      • Colossians 1:4.
    • Christian doesn’t mean we’ll always agree with what others do or their viewpoints.
      • It does mean we still extend that love because He first loved us.
      • Read James 4 to understand what happens when selfishness overshadows love.
  • The perfecting of God’s love in our lives happens in stages. It’s not a sudden change.
    • Before a person comes to saving knowledge of Jesus, they lived in fear and knew nothing of God’s love.
    • After submitting to Jesus, a person discovers a combination of fear and love in their heart.
    • As a believer grows in fellowship with the Father, the fear gradually decreases, and their heart becomes more controlled by His love.
    • An immature Christian bounces between fear and love.
    • A mature Christian rests in God’s love.
    • As a believer’s confidence in the presence of God grows, it’s an indicator that their love for God is maturing.
  • In verse nineteen, John makes a comparison between our love for God and God’s love for us. Let’s consider three reasons why this is significant.
    • Our love for God and others originates in God’s love for us.
    • Love is tainted by fear when there is a doubt it will be returned. A believer has no fear in this area since God’s love occurs before ours.
    • Affection flows from a heart filled with gratitude for God loving us first. The Father sent the Son to die for each of us.
  • God’s love is perfected in us when we extend unbridled love in three directions.
    • A believer’s love toward God.
    • A believer’s love toward others.
    • A believer’s love toward themselves.

Love Reveals the Heart

In the last two verses in this passage, John points out that our words and actions need to match. It also drives home the point that the theology of the false prophets and antichrists is refuted. 

  • If we remember back toward the beginning of this letter, one of the doctrines of the false teachers is that it was ok to sin as our spiritual being was not affected by what our physical body was doing.
    • Their theology was in disagreement with the idea that love for God requires obedience to God.
    • In disagreeing with Scripture, it proved their theology was a lie.
  • John also points out that it’s difficult to prove our love toward God as He is a spirit being, and we can’t “see” how others act towards God.
  • However, we can see how people act toward each other.
    • When we love others, it’s a reflection of our love for God.
    • Scripture gives us the command, “The one who loves God must also love his brother.”
    • Jesus also made this point in Matthew 25:40, “I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
  • An example of spiritual hypocrisy is found in Acts 5, the narrative of Ananias and Sapphira.
    • They sold some of their property and brought a portion of it as an offering.
    • However, to the church, they made it seem as if they were bringing the entire proceeds of the sale.
    • The sin wasn’t keeping back a portion for themselves. Peter was clear in the passage that they could have kept part of the proceeds for themselves.
    • The sin was in lying about it. They were trying to make themselves appear more generous and spiritual than they were.
  • Pretending is an act for children, but it isn’t a characteristic of a mature adult.
  • Adults must know and be themselves, fulfilling the purpose for which Christ saved them. Their lives must be characterized by honesty.
    • Spiritual honesty brings peace and power to a person.
    • They don’t need to keep track of their lies or spend energy covering up those lies.
  • Paul drives home the point about love in Galatians 5:14 – For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.


  • Do you practice love or legalism? While rules and standards are important, they can also create problems. The biggest issue Jesus had with the religious leaders in Israel was legalism. The question we need to consider is whether rules can inspire a life of devotion, service, and worship. Additionally, does a framework of legalism cultivate a lifestyle of reflex activity instead of a lifestyle of love and devotion? There’s a quote from C. S. Lewis where he says, “Love is that which forgives the most and condones the least.” The challenge for us is to love others while keeping to the standards outlined in Scripture.
  • Can we extend a love that is too generous? This idea is a branch of the first point. A love without expectations and consequences is a love that can be exploited. Sometimes it is a fine line we walk between extending love and holding people accountable. It’s always possible that we can go too far in extending love. When we consider this idea in dealing with fellow believers, we need to be careful and look to the example of Paul in Galatians. Paul is quick to point out the hypocrisy of disciples who fail to mature, yet he never threatens them with the idea that God will abandon them.
  • Do we have a proper awe of God? When we think about God’s love for us, it’s not difficult to go too far and think of God as too personal or approachable. God is not our “friend.” God is our all-knowing and all-loving Father, but He’s also infinitely holy and righteous. As our infinitely holy and righteous Father, He also is against sin. Sin can’t exist in the presence of an infinitely holy God. We need to understand who God is and live in reverent fear of Him.
  • Do we claim our Christian victory and life in a spirit of confidence? For many churches, especially in Western society, the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” We often hear or read about the Father and the Son, but the Holy Spirit only makes an occasional appearance from the pulpit. Jesus told His original followers they would receive power in Luke 24:29, “And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” We can’t live in victory and accomplish the work set before us if we aren’t empowered and led by the Holy Spirit.

1 John Lesson Eight

1 John Lesson Eight: 1 John 4:7-12 – An Appeal for Love

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. (HCSB)

In this short section of Scripture, John outlines how to discern a couple of things regarding love.

  • True agape love can only come from God.
  • The demonstration of agape love is an indicator of whether or not a person is a genuine believer, someone who struggles with unconditionally loving others, or a false believer.

Before we dig into this passage, let’s consider the main theme John is conveying to the reader.

Love comes from God, so if we are born of God, we will also love. God loved us first, so we must love one another.

Now, let’s break apart this passage.

  • First, let’s consider that in John’s writings, he uses three expressions to help us understand the nature of God.
    • God is spirit – John 4:24.
      • This addresses the essence of God.
      • God is not flesh and blood.
      • God is not limited in time and space the way His creations are.
    • God is light – 1 John 1:5.
      • This refers to God’s holy nature.
      • In Scripture, light is symbolic of holiness, and darkness is symbolic of sin – John 3:18-21.
      • God can’t sin because He is holy.
      • When we are born again, we receive this holy nature – 1 Peter 1:14-16.
    • God is love.
      • This doesn’t mean that “love is God.” 
      • Just because two people “love” each other doesn’t mean their love is holy. 
      • A well-known expression is “love doesn’t define God, but God defines love.”
      • God is both light and love. Therefore, God’s love is holy love.
      • God’s holiness is expressed in love.
      • All that God does expresses all that God is. His judgments are measured out in love and mercy – Lamentations 3:22-23.
      • Much of what the world defines as “love” bears little resemblance to the holy love that God demonstrates.
  • The letter now returns to a subject John previously talked about, love, which comes from God.
    • Extending love, primarily to fellow believers and also to unbelievers, is another test for a follower of Christ.
      • Only those who have been spiritually born again can understand and extend agape love to others.
      • Since God is the only source of genuine love, only a believer can understand love and extend it to others.
      • At the same time, it’s possible to see occasional acts of sacrificial love demonstrated by unbelievers.
        • We need to remember that each person is made in the image of God and is capable of these sporadic acts of love. It is part of our divine creation.
        • However, these individuals are not able to sustain this lifestyle and aren’t doing it with an understanding of agape love. 
        • Additionally, true love that includes loving God and a full expression of love to others, predominately in the area of evangelism and the Gospel, is only a characteristic of genuine Christians.
      • A proper understanding of the word “know” is required to fully understand what John is talking about.
        • “Know” doesn’t refer to intellectual understanding.
        • The word “know” is used in many translations to refer to the intimate union between a husband and a wife – Genesis 4:1.
        • To “know” God means to be in a deep, personal relationship with God.
        • We share life with Him and enjoy His love.
        • Knowing God is a matter of understanding truth – 1 John 2:3-5.
    • John then flips the discussion, talking about those who don’t extend or demonstrate love to others.
      • Those who don’t extend love are demonstrating they don’t know God.
      • What evidence does John reveal to support this statement?
        • John is referencing the very nature of God.
        • God’s essence is love.
        • When we look at John’s argument, we can see that the test for lack of love is easier to understand. Think of the changes that occur when a person is spiritually reborn.
          • They receive eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
          • They have the Holy Spirit dwelling in their body.
          • They have been saved by love and are indwelled with love.
          • A believer may not love perfectly, but there is a significant difference between not loving perfectly and not loving at all.
  • John now switches the focus of the letter from an understanding of what love is and isn’t to a discussion of how God revealed His love for us.
    • The clear answer appears in John 3:16 – Jesus sacrificed His life for us.
    • It also appears in parallel in 1 John 4:9 – God sent Jesus to us to sacrifice His life for us.
      • God the Father knew how Jesus would be treated and the horrible death He would experience.
      • God sacrifice Jesus so we might live through Him.
    • It was through Jesus’ sacrificial atonement for our sins that our relationship with God can and is restored.
      • The sacrificial gift was not a response to humanity’s love for God.
      • It was the exact opposite. God initiated this sacrifice in spite of our sinful and hateful attitude toward God.
      • The main urge for people is to sin.
        • The natural condition for people is to pursue sin.
        • Man doesn’t naturally love God or Jesus’s sacrifice.
      • God’s nature was to show His love and provide a way to restore our broken fellowship.
        • Love is always demonstrated by action.
          • To take away our sins.
          • To destroy the works of the devil.
        • Our love is a reflection of His love and a response to it.
  • God has set the gold standard for love.
    • Believers are part of God’s spiritual family; we are His children.
    • Believers are to extend love to others, especially fellow believers but also unbelievers.
    • God’s love for us is made visible and complete as we love others.
    • God’s love is completed as we reach out to the lost.
  • John also points out that we can fail in demonstrating love; he uses the phrase “if we love one another.”
    • John is pointing out we have a choice in this matter.
    • Not everyone who says they are a believer actually is one.


  • Do you extend unconditional love to fellow believers? Admittedly, this can be very challenging. As people, we are difficult and messy, and some are easier to love than others. In fact, some believers may be very difficult to love. Still, God calls us to extend love to others. If you have a hard time in this area or there are one or more people, in particular, you find it difficult to love, pray for a softened spirit. Maybe there is an issue between you and that person or persons. If so, go to them and resolve it. 
  • Do you extend unconditional love to unbelievers? We never know when our selfless acts of love for the lost may result in their resistance to God being broken. Think back to the events that led to you becoming a Christian or maybe someone you know. Was there a selfless act leading up to their salvation? Pray for opportunities to extend acts of selfless love to others.
  • If we see fellow believers acting in a way that is contrary to what this passage is telling us, gently interact with that individual in the spirit of Galatians 6:1. Also, remember to remove the log in your eye before mentioning the speck in their eye.

1 John Lesson Seven

1 John Lesson Six: 1 John 4:1-6 – Another Demand For Right Belief

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. 

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception. (HCSB)

John’s focus in this passage is all about spirits, both good and bad. John instructs the recipients of the letter to test whether the “spirit” is from God or if they are a false spirit. Let’s dig into this issue in greater detail.

  • When John mentions “spirit,” what is he talking about? There are three main interpretations of “spirit” in this passage.
    • Since John says, “many false prophets have gone into the world,” he is referring to the “spirit” behind the prophet who is speaking. In this case, the “spirit” is either the Holy Spirit or a demon, depending on whether or not the prophet was actually speaking on behalf of God.
    • John is referring to the prophet himself, with “spirit” being a figure of speech or a metaphor.
    • John is referring to the message, with “spirit” being a figure of speech or metaphor.
  • All three interpretations are possible.
    • Each option instructs the reader not automatically believe every message or sermon we hear.
    • We need to listen to the content of the message.
      • How does the message talk about Jesus?
      • Is there false teaching in the message?
    • The original hearers of John’s message were fighting against false teachers who rejected that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. 
  • However, the first two options make the most sense.
    • Verse two helps us to discard the third choice.
    • The phrase “every spirit who confesses” seems to be a phrase that refers to a person.
  • We need to be careful even with those who confess the fully human and divine nature of Jesus.
    • Does all of their message agree with Scripture?
    • There are many “attractive” heretical teachings present in the world today. But the “attractiveness” of the message will actually lead the person away from God.
      • The prosperity Gospel sounds good, especially for those who are struggling financially.
        • Jesus never said that His followers would become rich. In contrast, Jesus always spoke against selfish wealth.
        • It’s true that some followers of Jesus will experience financial gain. However, Scripture is clear that we are to share and help others. Those who are wealthy should sacrifice it for the benefit of others.
        • Often, those who preach the prosperity Gospel prey on the generosity of those who are less fortunate. It’s fairly common that the leaders of these movements wear fancy clothes, live in large houses, drive expensive cars, and sometimes have private planes. Their “prosperity” was the result of people donating money to them in response to their false message.
      • False teaching about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
        • Beginning in Genesis, Scripture teaches us there are two sexes, male and female, and that a man and a woman are joined in marriage.
        • These false teachers often use Galatians 3:28 to support their position. However, the reference to there being neither “male or female” needs to be understood in the context of the passage. Paul is talking about every believer being equal in the body of Christ. The issue is equal standing, not sexual orientation.
        • 1 Corinthians 6:9 – Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality.
        • Leviticus 18:22 – You are not to sleep with a man as with a woman; it is detestable
        • It’s clear from Scripture that homosexuality is wrong and marriage can only occur between a man and a woman.
      • These are probably two of the most prevalent false teachings the church and Christians face today.
      • However, there is one more area that has also led to a decline in the correct understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ; the lack of biblical-based discipleship training and expectations.
        • Many churches don’t teach discipleship. They are only concerned with a person making a profession of faith in Jesus. While that may be a noble position, not being involved in the spiritual growth of believers is a serious omission by the church.
        • What has happened is that a generation of shallow or marginally committed Christians has developed. Because their faith is shallow, they often leave the faith when trouble first appears. They also don’t make good teachers because they don’t have a proper theological foundation to disciple others. What we are seeing is a repeat of the downward spiral that occurred in the book of Judges. 
        • The church, made up of individual believers, is called to make disciples. When the church, and those who make up the church, fail to make disciples, we are being disobedient to the Great Commission.
  • In the last three verses of this passage, 4:4-6, John switches gears and reminds the readers that those who are genuine followers of Christ and who stay rooted in Him will be able to discern the false teachers and resist their heretical message.
    • First, John addresses them with the affectionate term “little children.” The use of this term indicates a close relationship between John and the recipients.
    • John reminds them they are victors. They are victors not because they are more intelligent or skilled but because the Holy Spirit lives in them.
    • The one who lives in the believer is greater than the one in the world.
      • The Holy Spirit, one part of the triune God, lives in each believer. Romans 8:9 –  You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him
      • The one of the world is Satan.
        • 1 John 5:19b – And the whole world is under the sway of the evil one
        • John 12:31b – Now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
    • John then contrasts the difference between those who are of God and those who are of the world.
      • Characteristics of those who are from God.
        • Genuine believers will listen, understand, and follow the messages of faithful and theologically sound teachers.
        • The Holy Spirit guides genuine believers in discerning the source and truthfulness of the message.
        • There are three main factors that guide believers in determining whether a message is true or false; prayer, meditation, and spiritual sensitivity.
      • Characteristics of those who are of the world, both false teachers and followers.
        • Those who teach speak messages that are based upon the values of the world and not the values of God.
        • They reject the messages that come from God as they don’t have the Holy Spirit to lead them.
        • 1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.
  • Let’s conclude our study of this passage with a discussion of these six verses that are a challenge to the modern church and the threat that tolerance brings to the holiness and purity of church teaching.
    • Society (the world and its influence) today puts an emphasis on religious tolerance and pluralism.
      • One example is the heretical teaching on homosexuality and same-sex marriage presented earlier in this lesson.
      • Another is the idea that God is love and He would never condemn or exclude anyone. While it is true that God is love, God is also infinitely holy, and His commands in Scripture are clear. Those who teach and follow this line of thinking ignore the passages that speak of judgment to those who live in disobedience to God.
    • The modern church is called on to “test the spirits” in the same way the early church was instructed.
      • Testing the spirits requires leaders who are sensitive and obedient to what is written in Scripture.
      • It also requires leaders to demonstrate faith and trust that when they follow Scripture and go against the “world,” God will walk with them and protect them.
    • John stresses for each believer to grow in their Christian maturity, which will enable them to spot and challenge false teaching in the church.
    • The church is called to be a custodian of the truth.
      • Church bodies, organizations, and denominations must evaluate what is being taught and those who are teaching to ensure they align with Scripture.
    • The church must emphasize the dual nature of Christ, both His humanity and divinity. 
    • The church is called on to identify and warn people of false teachers.
      • False teachers should never be given the ability to speak to believers.
      • Congregants should be protected from hearing false messages and, if they do occur, be told about them.


  • Always listen to sermons or Bible studies (including mine) with discernment. Sometimes honest mistakes are made, especially during a “live” sermon where it’s easy to misspeak. However, there are false teachers who will try and lead believers away from the truth and prevent the lost from hearing the truth. If you find teachings that disagree with Scripture or you don’t fully understand, ask the person who gave the message. Their response may be an indicator of whether or not they’re deliberately trying to lead people astray or it was an honest mistake.
  • Live in victory. John tells us we are conquerors. Are you living as a conqueror? Proclaim the truth of the Gospel whenever and wherever opportunities exist. Don’t live in fear of what others will say. Jesus gave us the Great Commission; live it out.
  • When we present the Gospel to the lost, don’t be surprised if they reject it or respond in a hostile way. It happened to Jesus, and it will happen to us. The important point to remember is being obedient to the task. We never save anyone. Some sow, some water, but God gives the increase.

1 John Lesson Six

1 John Lesson Six: 1 John 3:11-24 – Another Demand for Right Attitude

For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? 

18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.  19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things. 

21 Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight. 23 Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us. (HCSB)

This passage deals with relationships. John talks about four levels of relationships, which is how I’ll be splitting up this lesson.

  • Murder – verses 11-12.
  • Hatred – verses 13-15.
  • Indifference – verses 16-17.
  • Christian love – verses 18-24.


Murder is the lowest level of any relationship. It’s the level on which Satan exists. John 8:44a, “You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer  from the beginning and has not stood in the truth.” John goes on in this letter to talk about Cain. Let’s consider some facts about the passage in Genesis 4:1-16.

  • Cain and Abel were brothers.
  • They had the same parents.
  • They both brought sacrifices to God.
  • Cain is not depicted as an atheist but as a worshiper of Yahweh. 
  • This is the point of the passage.
    • Children of Satan often appear as true believers.
    • They attend church.
    • They may bring offerings.
    • None of these actions are proof of being born of God.
    • The real test is loving each other.
  • Each person has both a physical and spiritual lineage.
    • Our physical lineage comes from our parents.
    • Our spiritual lineage is linked to whether we follow darkness or light.
  • Cain murdered his brother and then lied about it.
  • The reason Cain’s sacrifice was rejected is that, in some way, Cain didn’t follow the proper instructions for worship. He rejected God and wanted to do it “his way.”
  • Cain’s envy of his brother turned to anger and hatred, and eventually murder.
  • Thousands of years later, the Pharisees did the same thing to Jesus, and Jesus called them children of the devil.


While we may have never actually murdered someone, John makes it clear in verse fifteen that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” The only difference between murder and hatred is the outward act of taking someone’s life. The inward intent is the same. Let’s take a closer look at this issue.

  • Maybe we haven’t killed anyone because of the consequences.
    • The fear of arrest and shame.
    • The possibility of spending a long time in jail.
    • The possibility of the death penalty.
  • The issue isn’t “what did you do?” but “what did you want to do?”
    • If you had the liberty to do what you wanted without the fear of consequences, what would you have done?
    • Jesus equates hatred with murder (Matthew 5:21-26) and lust with adultery (Matthew 5:27-30).
  • This doesn’t mean that hatred or lust does the same amount of damage to others as murder and adultery. It won’t carry the same level of guilt. But in God’s eyes, it’s just as bad.
  • There are three options for the interpretation of what John is saying in verse fifteen.
    • The face-value view: If you hate another person to the point of being willing or actually killing them, you are not a Christian.
    • The abiding view: The Christian, as long as they are living in a conscious relationship with Jesus, would never kill anyone. If they do, it’s because they are not abiding in Christ.
    • The continuing-to-hate view: A Christian may hate or murder someone, but if this happened, they would be filled with remorse. If they harbor continual hate or have no remorse for their feelings or actions, they are not a Christian.
  • The passage isn’t saying murderers can’t be saved. Paul was involved in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:57-60) and admitted he had voted to put innocent people to death (Acts 26:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-15). But he was saved by God’s grace.
  • The point isn’t whether or not a murderer can become a Christian. The point is whether someone can continue being a murderer and still be a Christian. Verse fifteen emphatically states the answer to that question is “no.”
  • The continuing-to-hate view is the proper understanding of verse fifteen.


The test of Christian love isn’t simply avoiding doing evil to others. Love involves doing good to others. In a way, Christian love is both positive and negative. Christian love involves stopping activities of evil and doing what is good (Isaiah 1:16-17).

  • Cain is an example of false love.
  • Jesus is the example of true love.
    • Jesus laid down His life for others (John 3:16).
      • Jesus didn’t just talk about sacrifice.
      • He willingly died to remove our sins.
    • We are to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).
      • John isn’t telling us to sacrifice our lives for our brothers and sisters.
      • He is telling us to sacrifice to help those in need.
  • Self-preservation is the first law of physical life, but self-sacrifice is the first law of spiritual life.
  • We can talk about loving other believers, but when we fail to help them in times of need, our actions don’t mirror our words.
  • Christian love is personal and active.
  • As believers, we don’t have to be intentional to hate others. We can do it by ignoring them or having an indifferent heart.
  • To meet the needs of others, three conditions must be met.
    • Have the ability to meet the needs.
    • Know the need exists.
    • Be loving enough to want to meet the need.
  • A believer who doesn’t have the means to help or is unaware of the need is not guilty. But the believer who hardens their heart and chooses not to meet the need is guilty.
  • Meeting the needs of others can be satisfied in various ways.
    • Through monetary gifts.
    • Through material gifts.
    • Through serving gifts.
    • Through time gifts.
  • If we desire to experience and enjoy the love of God, we must love others, even if it requires a sacrifice on our part.
  • When we are indifferent to the needs of others, we rob ourselves of what we need, the love of God in our hearts.

Christian Love

John now goes on to discuss the difference between false and true Christian love. 

  • False love.
    • To love “with word” means to only talk about the need but not take any action to meet the need.
    • A believer may pray about the need but take no action to meet the need, even though they are capable of meeting the need.
  • True love.
    • Not just knowing or talking about a need but taking action to meet the need.
    • It often requires a sacrifice of some sort by the person meeting the need.
    • The greatest love sacrifice was Jesus going to the cross for each of us.
  • The actual test of our Christian love is when we are called on to make a sacrifice for a brother or sister and we willingly take that action.
  • A believer’s relationship with others affects their relationship with God.
    • When our relationship with others is not right, we need to fix that (Matthew 5:23-24).
    • A condemning heart or accusing conscience will rob us of peace.
    • When a believer practices “active love,” they grow in their understanding of God, and their heart is filled with peace.
    • A believer also needs to be careful not to allow the devil to accuse them and rob them of their confidence falsely.
      • Once a sin is recognized and confessed, it is forgiven.
      • They shouldn’t continue to beat themselves up over the sin.
      • Although we shouldn’t treat sin lightly, often, we are harder on ourselves than God is on us.
  • When we love others, and our relationship with them and God is right, it gives us confidence in coming to God with our prayers.
  • This confidence isn’t “earning answered prayers,” but an understanding that when we are living in a right relationship with God, our prayers will align with His will.
    • If believers aren’t obeying God’s Word, their prayer life will be hindered (Psalm 66:18).
    • One of the great secrets of answered prayer is obedience.
    • The secret of obedience is love.
      • John 14:15.
      • John 15:7, 10.
    • We must also remember that the reason why we are obedient is important.
      • Obedience shouldn’t be out of fear or servitude. This was the sin of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:24-32).
      • Obedience should flow from a spirit of love toward God. When we live to please God, we will find that God will find ways to please us (Psalm 37:4).
  • The last two verses of this passage sum up the obligations of a Christian.
    • Faith toward God and love toward man.
    • Christianity is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).
      • It’s easy to focus on faith and neglect loving others.
      • At the same time, some may ignore sound doctrine and focus only on love.
      • Both faith/doctrine and love are vital.
    • Abiding in Christ is a key factor in a believer having confidence in God and enjoying answered prayers.
      • John 15:1-14.
      • Jesus is talking about bearing fruit, not salvation.
      • As long as the branch draws its strength from the vine, it will produce fruit. But if it is separated, it will wither and die.
    • When a believer walks in love, it is easy to obey God and maintain a close relationship with Him.
  • The Holy Spirit is also key.
    • The Holy Spirit empowers us.
    • The Holy Spirit guides and directs us.
    • The Holy Spirit reveals the truth.
    • The Holy Spirit will convict us when we stray.


  • Examine how you treat others. Do you exhibit murder, hatred, or indifference to them, especially when there is a need you can meet? Or do you exhibit Christian love? Although none of us will be perfect in this area, an evaluation of how often we fall into each category will reveal the condition of our heart.
  • Do your actions match your words/thoughts/prayers? Scripture is clear that only thinking or praying about a situation is not enough if you have the ability to act and help in a situation. We are called to act when someone has a need. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal these inconsistencies in your life. 
  • When we realize we have fallen short in meeting the needs of someone. Repent, confess, meet the need if it still exists, and take comfort in the fact that when we fall short, God knows our heart. Those who are followers of Christ are not condemned. Don’t let your past shortcomings weigh you down and keep you from moving forward. When that happens, we fall prey to the traps of the devil.

1 John Lesson Five

1 John Lesson Five: 1 John 2:28-3:10 – Another Demand for Right Action

So now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears we may have boldness and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know this as well: Everyone who does what is right  has been born of Him.  3 Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him  because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure. 

Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him.  Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him. 

Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident. (HCSB)

I’ll be dividing this passage into two sections.

  • God’s great love for us – verses 2:28-3:3.
  • God’s children do not live in sin – verses 3:4-10.

God’s Great Love for Us

The end of chapter two, verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine, serve as a bridge from the previous section and chapter three. If we begin our Christian life by believing and trusting in Jesus, what comes next? It’s in this “what’s next” phase that many churches today fail to follow Jesus’ command in Matthew 28, “make disciples.” Although it may appear on the surface that John isn’t addressing the issue of discipleship, when you look at this passage in a “macro sense,” you will see that John is talking about discipleship. Now, let’s take a closer look at this passage.

  • John begins with the phrase “little children.” John is talking about fellow believers.
  • However, there has been much debate in scholarly circles regarding the understanding of the phrases “remain in Him” and “have boldness and not be ashamed.” There are three main interpretations of this verse.
    • John is talking about unsaved individuals being ashamed when Jesus returns. The drawback with this interpretation is that John begins the verse by addressing Christians.
    • If we don’t remain in fellowship with Jesus, we’ll lose our salvation and be ashamed when Jesus returns. This is a main divergent point in the centuries-old debate between the schools of Calvin and Armenius.
      • Armenians teach that a believer can lose their salvation.
      • Calvinists teach that once a person is elected and saved, they can never lose salvation.
    • If we don’t remain in fellowship with Jesus, we’ll retain our salvation but be ashamed of our actions.
      • Each believer will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
      • There, our works will be evaluated, and eternal rewards handed out.
      • 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 – our work will be revealed as either perishable or imperishable.
      • 1 Corinthians 4:5 – the intentions of our heart will be revealed.
      • 2 Corinthians 5:10 – we will be repaid for what we have done, whether good or worthless.
    • The judgment seat of Christ will not be a completely joyful experience for those who have squandered the spiritual gifts they were given or walked in disobedience.
    • However, the shame will be relatively short-lived. Revelation 21:4 – God will wipe away every tear. 
    • It will not be a perpetual experience, but still something to avoid.
  • The end of verse twenty-nine presents a challenge if we read it and ignore the context of the surrounding verses and the totality of Scripture.
    • An example of someone who lived a sacrificial life and met the needs of others would be Gandhi. However, Gandhi rejected Jesus, meaning he couldn’t be born of God. 
    • The context of this letter was to address the false teachings of the Gnostics, who claimed to know God through some special inner knowledge.
      • The Gnostics taught that the spirit was good and untouched by the actions of the physical body. 
      • They believed they could sin without remorse or consequence since the spirit was untouched by sin.
      • They claimed to be Christians, to know God, but they hated real Christians and lived sinful lives.
    • The intent behind the ending of this verse is that if someone claims to be a Christian but doesn’t do what is right, they aren’t a Christian.
  • John now shifts gears and talks about God’s amazing love for us.
    • Those who decide to follow Jesus become God’s children.
      • While every person is “wondrously made,” there is a distinction between believers and unbelievers.
      • Believers become a member of God’s spiritual family.
    • In verse one, the term “know” is better understood as “accept.”
      • Unbelievers don’t accept God.
      • Therefore, they don’t accept believers.
    • Even though believers are children of God, on this side of eternity, we won’t fully grasp what this means.
      • The full extent “has not yet been revealed” to us. 
      • Each believer has a different level of understanding regarding our relationship with God and our transformation through submission to Jesus and empowerment by the Holy Spirit.
      • The transformation, which is incomplete in our physical body, will be instantaneous and complete once we see Jesus.
    • When we begin to grasp the unbelievable wonder of this fact, this will motivate us to live pure and holy lives.
      • We will want to live holy lives because Jesus is holy.
      • Often, our weak commitment to holiness is due to our dim perception of who Jesus is and who we have become through Him. 
      • When we gain a fuller understanding of Romans 8:17 (coheirs with Christ), we’ll understand that we are destined to rule and reign with Jesus in heaven.
    • One of our resources for holy living is to ponder and meditate on who Jesus is, who we have become through Him, and what our eternal existence will be like when we meet Him.

God’s Children Do Not Live in Sin

The next section of John’s letter has generated much debate among scholars and theologians. It’s difficult to find much common ground, even in well-respected commentaries. Therefore, we shouldn’t be alarmed if the average believer struggles with understanding this passage. Now, let’s start to dig into this section.

  • Verse four shouldn’t cause any misunderstanding. When we sin, we break God’s law. Sin is lawlessness. There are several other biblical definitions of sin.
    • Proverbs 24:9 – A foolish scheme is sin.
    • Romans 14:23 – Everything that is not from a conviction is sin.
    • James 4:17 – So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.
    • 1 John 5:17 – All unrighteousness is sin.
  • There isn’t a single overarching biblical definition of sin.
    • Each of the preceding examples is part of the whole sin.
    • Verse four states that sin is lawlessness.
    • Lawlessness is a characteristic of the spirit of the antichrist.
    • 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 – Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship,  so that he sits in God’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is God.
  • The man of lawlessness doesn’t reign; he has no power except what we give to him. 
  • Jesus is the one who reigns and takes away the sins of the world.
    • The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the remedy for sin.
    • Jesus lived a life free from sin.
    • His was a once and for all perfect sacrifice to restore our fellowship with God.
  • Verse six is where it becomes quite challenging, and there is quite a bit of disagreement on the interpretation. This is especially true when the end of verse nine is considered with verse six.
  • Consider the phrases “Everyone who remains in Him does not sin: everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him,” “The one who commits sin is of the Devil,” “Everyone who has been born of God does not sin…he is not able to sin.”
    • These phrases can be quite unsettling to the believer.
    • We know that we sin. We may be wrestling with some type of sin bondage in our lives. 
    • These phrases do anything but comfort us with the assurance of salvation.
    • There are numerous passages of Scripture that tell us that we will sin until we enter heaven.
    • There are several scholarly interpretations of this section.
      • The willful-sin position: The sins are willful and deliberate, not involuntary or unintentional sins. However, even believers can commit major, premeditated sins.
      • The habitual-sin position: A believer can’t live a lifestyle of willful, unrepentant sin. We may sin badly, and we may go through periods of backsliding, but we will never settle into a lifestyle that is characterized by sin. To a certain extent, the Gnostics followed this example.
      • The ideal-character position: A believer should strive for the ideal of living a sinless life, with the understanding that it is unreachable in the flesh. It is better to try and fail than never to try.
      • The new-man position: The “new man” is a perfect creation. The new or inner man is regenerated, and there is no condemnation for him (or her). Until we enter heaven, our inner man will battle our fleshly desires.
      • There are other positions, but they are mostly variations of the ones presented.
    • Although there is much debate on what is said, there is general agreement on what is not being said.
      • John is not saying a Christian will never commit sin.
      • When a Christian commits sin, they will not lose salvation.
  • Verse seven warns the believer not to be deceived. This deception can come from several sources.
    • False teachers who knowingly distort Scripture.
    • Those who don’t understand what Scripture is saying lead others astray without realizing it.
    • The spirits of darkness, often working through others, to lead us astray.
  • The reader also needs to link 3:7 back to 2:29.
    • Doing what is right does not make a person righteous.
    • If a person is righteous, they will do what is right.
    • Righteousness comes from an obedient relationship with Jesus.
  • John makes it clear in verse eight that those who deliberately live in sin, deny the truth in Scripture, and deliberately lead others astray are followers of the antichrist.
    • At the same time, believers need to hear what John is saying.
    • When believers sin, they are temporarily siding with the devil, and they shouldn’t do that.
    • Sin originated with the devil. Sin opposes Jesus.
    • When believers realize they have sinned, they need to confess and repent.
  • Verse nine presents the same challenges as verse six. The same options for understanding verse six equally apply here.
  • What does John mean by the word “seed?”
    • It could refer to the Word of God.
    • It could refer to the Holy Spirit.
    • It could refer to the regenerated spirit when a believer is born again.
  • All three are true statements and are taught in other places in Scripture.
  • John is teaching that sin and salvation are opposites.
    • Wanting to sin is not being led by the Spirit.
    • Wanting to sin is not having a relationship with Christ.
    • If a believer finds themselves in this situation, they need to reexamine their commitment to Christ.
  • Christians make themselves known as God’s children by doing what is right and loving others.
  • Children of the devil make themselves known by refusing to do what is right and refusing to love others.


  • Be careful of false teachings and false teachers. John was addressing a specific problem, Gnostics, the readers were facing. The church today still faces false teachers and teachings; the prosperity gospel, acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and more than male and female genders. These are just a few of the challenges the modern church faces, but they are legitimate threats that must be faced and addressed.
  • If you are a believer and you are deliberately living in sin, you need to reexamine your relationship with Christ. Scripture is clearly warning believers that when believers live in this manner, they are living in opposition to Jesus and aligning themselves with the devil.
  • When believers sin, they need to confess and repent quickly. It’s too easy to slip into a sin cycle. We should also watch out for our brothers and sisters if they are struggling with sin. We need to come alongside of them, pray for them, and support them.