Well let's turn again, for the last time, to the first epistle of John - chapter 5. First John chapter 5, and we're beginning to read from verse 18 to the end of the chapter, verse 21. Our title this evening is 'A Trinity of Certainty and Security'.
Verse 18: "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen".
Now we have learnt, as we have gone through these 16 weeks - now 17 this evening - that this epistle of 1 John is an epistle about Christian profession. It tests our profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as such, therefore it is also an epistle concerning assurance. You would imagine that an epistle to do with assurance would reiterate some of the certainties of the Christian faith, and we have found that this epistle does exactly that. Of course, we saw last week - at least we began to look at it from verse 13 on - that John begins to use one of his most favourite words again, this word 'know', an expression of certainty. He uses it to speak of five certainties in conclusion of his epistle.
The first we looked at last week in verse 13 was the assurance of eternal life, indeed the reason why he wrote this epistle: 'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God'. The assurance, you can know that you have eternal life. Then in verses 14 to 17 he takes a bit more time on this second certainty, the certainty of answered prayer. We laboured the point, as he does, to show that there is this promise in the Christian faith. Of course, there are a few qualifications hung onto it, and we looked at those also - but yet we must not miss the point that we are promised in this remarkable verse, especially verse 14: 'This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us' - the promise that He will hear and answer our prayers.
Now we didn't look at the further three of those five certainties, we'll look at them tonight. Verse 18, first the certainty that we can know victory over sin and over Satan. The fourth, verse 19: we can know that we belong to God. And the fifth certainty in verse 20: we can know that Jesus Christ is the true God. Let me just reiterate what I said last week, that the first epistle of John is a breath of fresh air, I think, to 21st-century culture - especially in the West: because, unlike many, even in fashionable religious circles today, John is not tentatively suggesting a few hypotheses for our consideration. Of course, a hypothesis does not bring assurance, but rather right throughout, and especially of the end of this little letter, he makes clear affirmations for us: we can know.
I don't know whether you agree with me, but there's nothing worse - as far as I'm concerned - than to read, perhaps, the final sentence and the final chapter of a book, or see the final scene in a film, and find yourself left hanging, not knowing how it all ended and what the goal of the plot was. The author has a purpose in doing that - but that's certainly not a problem in John's first epistle. John has left none of us wondering what it's all about, he is the apostle of assurance. The atheist might say: 'I believe there is no God', John retorts 'I know there is a God'! The agnostic might say: 'Well, I'm not sure whether there is a God or not', John says 'I am absolutely sure that there is a God, and not only is there a God, but I know who that God is, I know how that God has revealed Himself, and - wonder of wonders - I know that that same God loves me'.
It is the language of biblical Christianity, the language of assurance, the language of certainty, the language of affirmation. Whilst we are always to remain humble about ourselves, we ought also always to remain confident about our Christian affirmations - what God has revealed concerning our faith. Can I say that I believe that that is why biblical Christianity is so unpopular today: because of her affirmations. You see, we live in a world that despises absolute truth. We seem to live in an age with more and more knowledge, yet fewer and fewer certainties. In fact, someone has said: 'A specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less, until finally he knows all there is to know about nothing'. That seems to be the world in which we live!
Even Albert Einstein said: 'You imagine that I look back on my work with calm and satisfaction, but there is not a single concept of which I am convinced that it will stand firm. I feel uncertain whether I am in general on the right track'. Listen to this: 'I don't want to be right, I only want to know whether I am right'. That's profound, isn't it? A British novelist, J. B. Priestley, once declined an invitation to write an article on his own religious beliefs, explaining that he was perhaps better able to deny than affirm - that's the age in which we live. It denies rather than affirms, but he added with a touch of sadness to those remarks: 'I regret this, because now is the time for gigantic affirmations'. He couldn't have said truer words, and that's why Christians - if ever there was a reason - why Christians need to affirm the definite certainties of the Christian faith and its truths, it's because we live in an age of uncertainty, and age that despises absolutes.
Now if we live in a world that despises absolute truth, we also live in a church that has come to despise dogmatism. I heard a story about a youth leader who was dodging some searching questions from his young people, and he gave the general answer to cover them all: 'Well, we'll never know the answer to those things until, perhaps, we get to heaven'. One young girl was heard to say in the audience: 'I guess you get the facts in school, but here at church you just get opinions'. That's frightening, but that's the way things seem to be today to a large extent - because, in the classroom and through the media, young people are told that evolution is not a theory, it is fact; that there is no God; that religion is some kind of substandard, sub-intellectual philosophy and way of life and belief. Then those young people and older people come into the church, and from the pulpit opinions of men are expressed, conjecture - what we need today is the authoritative preaching of the affirmations of God's word! Yet there is despising of dogmatism even in the church.
We have to be very aware that we can cultivate a culture of uncertainty even in Christianity. Now I'm not suggesting that, like some, we walk about like doctrinal prigs, thinking that we've got all the answers. None of us have all the answers - but let us affirm what we do now! There's a great deal we do know in the Scriptures, and let us stand confidently upon those great truths. I think it is this despising of dogmatism that perhaps goes to explain the rise in popularity of the ecumenical movement, ecumenism. Ecumenism is an attempt, really, to eliminate affirmations in the interest of unity - sacrifice our dogmatism in order that we can come together in harmony and call ourselves 'Christians', or even just call ourselves 'Worshippers of God'. That is why we ought to oppose and despise ecumenism, because it ignores our Christian affirmations, and therein it strikes fatally at the very heart of what Christianity is: Christianity is the certain affirmation of our faith, and if it's not certain it's worth nothing!
This point is graphically illustrated in an incident that took place during the Reformation. It involved Martin Luther and a man called Erasmus of Rotterdam. It was at the beginning of the Reformation, and Erasmus was a partial supporter of Martin Luther who regarded Luther to have some right views. Indeed, Erasmus was the man who put together that first text, Greek text, that the New Testament was taken from in German and English, and what we eventually got our Authorised Version from. He was a humanist, that doesn't mean he was a humanist like people around today, he believed in reason and that we should search for knowledge - hence he wanted to publish the original Scriptures, and that was a good thing. Well, as the Reformation developed, it was obvious that Erasmus did not have the same spiritual affirmations and certainties as Martin Luther. Consequently, as the years rolled on through the Reformation, Erasmus became increasingly distressed by the thought of the rupture that would occur in Christendom because of these doctrinal differences. As far as he was concerned, it horrified him that Luther could be excessively dogmatic, to be willing to allow a schism in the church.
At last he was encouraged, Erasmus that is, by some friends to publish his thoughts, and he wrote a book defending the freedom of the human will in spiritual matters - and effectively attacking Luther's convictions. What did Martin Luther do? Do you think he gave in? Do you think he admitted that he was wrong? Did he modify his dogmatic stance to suit the sensibilities of his opponents? No, he didn't: he replied with another book entitled 'The Bondage of the Will'. It was an able defence of the Christian certainty that we believe that man is fallen, a reaffirmation of the Bible's teaching on the depravity of man's will in spiritual things. Now in that book Luther declared these words, and they're profound, listen: 'Nothing is more familiar or characteristic among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity'. Addressing, in this book, Erasmus, he said: 'Why then do you assert that you find no satisfaction in assertions, and that you prefer an undogmatic temper to any other?'. That reveals a great deal concerning many even in religion today, because many possess an absolute denial of absolutes - have you ever noticed that? They deny absolutes in the one breath, and then in the next they say that Christianity cannot be true - that is an absolute statement! It's a stance that denies itself.
But thank God for John's first epistle, an epistle of certainty for his age and ours, which are ages of uncertainty. John completes his epistle with three affirmations of certainty that we're going to look at tonight, and one warning in the very last verse. So let's look at the first, the first affirmation of certainty is a certain holiness, a certain holiness. It's found in verse 18: 'We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not'. In other words, John is saying: we know that the Christian is not given over to sin. Of course, we've touched on this right throughout the whole epistle, and we've even considered the question: is John contradicting himself from what he has said in chapter 1 and verses 8 and 10?
Look at it please, right at the very beginning, for he said there: 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us', if we say that we don't have a sinful nature that is fallen before God. Then in verse 10: 'If we say that we have not sinned', if we claim that we do not commit sin, 'we make God a liar, and his word is not in us'. Now clearly John is not contradicting himself, and we saw what he means in chapter 3 and verse 9: 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin', and we saw that the tense there has the sense 'go on committing habitual lifestyle sin', 'for God's seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God'. Of course a Christian falls into sin, that is why in chapter 1 and verse 9 he leaves us a provision that if any man sin, we can confess our sins, and God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Chapter 2 and verse 1: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous'.
But though a Christian sins from time to time, he must never become a prisoner to sin, for if he does it is prime proof that he is not a child of God. So we're not talking here about perfectionism as some would make us believe, but Christian purity - the certainty of holiness. The Christian may sin occasionally, but what John is saying is that the Christian must never sin continually. There is a warning to any who entrench themselves in a constant lifestyle of sin: you're not a believer. I don't care whether you tell me about some experience you had, or some confession you made: God's word stands longer than that. God's word says that if your life denies your testimony and your claim, you're not saved. The new birth necessitates new behaviour. You're not saved by works, but the evidence of your faith are works.
Now here are two reasons why John gives us this certain holiness as one of these Christian affirmations, the affirmation of Christian purity. The first reason he gives us in the verse is the parentage of the Father. We are born of God, that is why we do not sin. Then the second reason is the protection of the Saviour: 'he that is begotten of God keepeth him'. Now let's deal with the first: the parentage of the Father. We are born of God, we are sons and daughters of God, we do not continually sin because we are meant to have the nature of the Father, the very nature of God! John is telling us that when we are born from above, the very life of God comes to reside in our lives, it abides in us. Now, we still retain the old nature, that old nature that will sin - but we now have been given by grace through faith a new nature that detests sin and loves God, and they strive with one another. As we walk in the light as He is in the light, and feed our lives by faith, not by sight or by self or sin, we find that the new nature grows stronger and dominates. That is why we can take the family name: 'Christian', because we have the family nature, that we're like Christ in some way, and we're like our Father.
So if we are continually living in sin, John says, and loving our sin, we ought not to feel comfortable taking the name of 'Christian' - because we clearly evidence a nature that is not of God and is not Christian. There is the question: what nature do you exhibit? I think I've told you before the story of Alexander the Great in the heat of battle, riding to and fro on his horse, and he notices a soldier retreating and deserting the field. He gallops up to him and he says: 'Soldier, where are you retreating to?'. He hung his head, and he said: 'I don't know'. The general said: 'What is your name?'. He replied: 'My name is Alexander'. The general looked him straight in the eye and he said: 'Soldier, either change your name or change your direction'. That's what John is saying to us: either change your direction, or change your name. You cannot call yourself a son of God and live like a child of the devil! That is not biblical Christianity.
The parentage of our Father, and we as sons, is the reason why we do not continue in a lifestyle of habitual constant sin. The second reason is the protection of the Saviour: 'He that is begotten of God keepeth him'. Now, what John's doing here is he is turning his attention from the saved to the Saviour. When he speaks here in verse 18 of 'the begotten of God', I believe he is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, some don't interpret it that way, but I believe that's what the text actually says. The Saviour keeps the saved, it is the begotten of God that keeps him, the Christian. Literally the word 'keep' means 'guards'. It's the word used to refer to a garrison of soldiers that guard a fort, and the picture is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, guards our hearts.
Now I know that there are places in scripture where we are exhorted to keep ourselves, indeed in this very verse 21 of the chapter: 'Keep yourselves from idols'. 'Keep yourselves', in another place we're told, 'from immorality'. 'Keep yourselves', Jude says, 'in the love of God'. But we see here the reason why we need the Saviour guarding us when we find out who the enemy is we're guarded against: 'And that wicked one', at the end of verse 18, 'toucheth him not'. That's why we need the Saviour to guard us, only the Lord could protect us from the devil! Jude tells us that even the archangel Michael could not bring a railing accusation to him over the bones of Moses, how could we resist him? Only steadfast in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, because he wants to take hold of us - that's what that word 'toucheth' actually means. He wants to grasp hold onto us.
The word that's used here is the same word that the Lord Jesus used to Mary after His resurrection when He met her in the garden, in John 20 verse 17 the Lord said: 'Touch me not now, Mary, for I have not ascended to my Father and your Father'. The word 'touch' literally means 'cling' - don't cling to me now, Mary, and this is what the devil wants to do to us! He wants to latch hold like a limpet upon our lives, and gain an influence over us. That's why we need the Lord Jesus guarding our hearts - but praise God, here's the promise: the very One that is begotten of God keeps us, that that wicked one touches us not.
Now let me explain this more by a biblical illustration that I think is very informative regarding this issue. Luke chapter 22, and we read there of Peter's experience just before his temptation to betray the Lord, and his failure in doing just that. Verse 31 of Luke 22: 'The Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren'. Now the fact of the matter is, though Peter failed the Lord and betrayed Him and denied Him, his faith did not finally fall. He was converted, he was restored, and he did become the great herald of the day of Pentecost - the reason being that the Lord prayed for him. Though Satan desired to sift him, the Lord was guarding him, and the Lord was praying for him.
We could point to Job, and we see there that Satan could not touch Job but by permission of Almighty God. Now I know that God gave him permission, but Satan could only go as far as God allowed him - thus far and no further. I know that Satan can be instrumental in all our lives, but isn't it good to know that he can't touch us without God's permission? That ought to give you a certainty, and whenever Satan does attack us we therefore can know that if it is with God's permission, God will also give us the power to overcome in that attack - for He has promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that 'There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it'.
Maybe you're here tonight and you're going through what you perceive to be an attack of the evil one himself, and you're crying out from the depths of your soul: 'How is that possible? What's the secret to overcoming?'. We find it in 1 John chapter 2 and verse 14, and even young men who face all sorts of roaring temptations from the devil in their youth can know this victory: 'I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong', here's the secret, 'and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one'. In John 15 the Lord Jesus said: 'If my word abide in you, if I abide in you, and ye in me' - that's the secret, it is abiding, and God's word abiding in you. Ephesians 6: it is the sword of the Spirit that overcomes the wicked one, and deals the deadly blow to all his devices.
It's amazing to me how many defeated Christians have to admit that they haven't got a time and a place and a method to read God's word. Have you read God's word today? Maybe you're asking the question: 'How can I overcome the evil one in my life?' - and you're not even reading God's word. That's the secret. Perhaps you're here this evening and you don't always feel that you have a hold of the Saviour? I think there are times when all of us feel like this for one reason or another, but do you see this affirmation? What John is actually saying to us is that no matter how often we feel we have no hold of Him, He has hold of us! That is what our faith rests in: Christ, His word, His promise, His oath, His covenant, His blood. 'I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one' - hallelujah! That's what Toplady expressed in the hymn we sang at the beginning, a certainty:
'A Sov’reign Protector I have,
Unseen, yet forever at hand,
Unchangeably faithful to save,
Almighty to rule and command.
He smiles, and my comforts abound;
His grace as the dew shall descend;
And walls of salvation surround
The soul He delights to defend'.
Praise God we have a certain holiness, a Christian purity that we can know is ours because we are the sons and daughters of God, with God's nature - and if we are in Him, and abiding in Him by faith, we have the protection of the Saviour from sin, from self, from Satan himself. The first certainty, a certain holiness.
Then the second is found in verse 19, a certain identity. Let's read it: 'We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness'. A certain holiness was a Christian purity, and this certain identity in verse 19 is the Christian's position. 'Christians know', John says, 'that they belong to God and not this world' - that is a Christian's certainty and affirmation. Assurance of this comes by displaying the tests that John has been outlining for us right throughout this epistle. You remember what they were: the test of righteousness, that we obey God's commandments; the test of love, that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ; the test of sound doctrine, that we believe what the Scriptures reveal about the incarnate Christ and His Gospel of grace.
Now I know that some of you maybe have been thinking: 'But where does the ability to fulfil these tests come from?'. It doesn't come from us, otherwise that would be works. The ability comes from the fact, as we looked at in the previous verse, that Jesus keeps the Christian from sin and from Satan, that abiding in Christ gives us that strength because the life of Christ abides in us. It's not of us, it's of God! It can only be a proof of divine life if the divine life is in us, those tests don't save us - don't be going out and trying to love your brother, trying to keep the commands, trying to believe what's in this word if you've never come to Christ and had that divine new birth experience. It is proof that Jesus lives within, that His protection is ours.
But here's the tragic circumstances that unbelievers often do not realise, and it's this: if you do not have the Lord Jesus Christ protecting you, and you do not exhibit these tests of assurance, you're not protected. You're open! You're fresh game to the devil! You're already prey for him, and for all that is in this world. I'll tell you this: do you see if you give Satan an opening in your life, even as a believer, he'll have you! Even believers need to beware, because John says that this whole world lies in wickedness, or lies in the lap of the wicked one. Not so long ago, going through the book of Judges on Lord's Day mornings, we were looking at the character of Samson. You remember that one day in his experience he fell asleep on the knees of a compromised situation, Delilah. Because of that slumber in his sin and compromise, he lost his power, he lost his testimony. The unbeliever often is completely oblivious to the fact that they are lying in the arms of the devil. That's strong stuff, but that's what God's word tells us.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4 that: 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid from those that do not believe, for they are blinded by the god of this world' - that is not Jehovah, that is the devil! He has blinded them, they're oblivious to it - but praise God this evening that the believer does not lie in the lap of the wicked one, that's why you ought not to love the world. For John says the believer knows their certain identity, that they belong to God, not this world. Do you know your position as a Christian? If you do, it'll be reflected in your life. Do you ever sit down and watch the news, and say to yourself: 'What is wrong with this world?'. Here's the answer - it would pay all the newscasters, wouldn't it, commentators, columnists, to read this verse, verse 19: 'The whole world lieth in wickedness'. That's why there's so much bad news! It's under the power, the control of the evil one! This world system is the devil's playground, that's why believers ought not to be dabbling in it; and that's why it's often a sign, if they're dabbling in their whole lifestyle with sin, that they're not a child of God.
Now I'm not saying that God is not in control, of course He is, and we have His revealed plan within the Scriptures. God is sovereign and the believer knows where he stands: he does not belong to this world, he belongs to Almighty God. What a certainty! Isn't that wonderful tonight? To know that as you look all around you and are distressed in heart with what is going on both in world and church, that you can have the certainty of identity - 'That might go on, but it doesn't touch me for I am God's'. That's not pride, friends, that is your identity.
The first affirmation: a certain holiness, Christian purity. The second: a certain identity, Christian position. The third is a certain revelation. This is the most fundamental of the three, verse 20: 'We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life'. A certain revelation - you remember that these Gnostics, or at least the forerunners to the Gnostics, some feel that they were called Docetists, certainly there were Docetists whether they were formed at this time or not is unknown, but certainly it was the embryo of this heretical doctrine. This belief that they had a special revelation from God that was superior to these believers in the early church - and of course their revelation was that Jesus was not the Son of God, but the Christ-Spirit came upon Him at His baptism, and left Him before His crucifixion. So the Man born in Bethlehem was not God's Son, but the Man Jesus who became the Christ - the Christ-Spirit left Him before He died, so Jesus Christ, 'Christ' did not die for our sins nor did He rise again. But John comes in with an explosive statement that lays flat the whole of this heresy and strikes at the root and heart of Gnosticism: 'We know that the Son of God is come'.
Do you hear it? How it would have come to that church, to those Gnostic heretics, 'and He has given us an understanding' - you claim your charismatic revelations, but Christ has given us an understanding 'that we may know him that is true, His Son'. Just in case it wasn't clear enough that a Man born in Bethlehem was the Christ, the Son of God that died and rose again, he says that 'him that is true is his Son Jesus Christ, the true God and eternal life'. John's clarity is astounding, but here is what we need to affirm: that our faith is rooted in what God has done in history. He has sent His Son. His Son came into the world to give us knowledge both of God as the only revelation of God, but to give us knowledge of salvation - and He, and nothing else, is the heart of Christianity!
Not only has He come, but John says He has given us an understanding that we may know Him. There's a beautiful illustration of this that John gives us in his Gospel if you would turn with me to it, John chapter 9. Christ has given us an understanding, in John chapter 9 we read the account of a blind man. I want you to remember that this man could not see Christ, he did not know God or Christ, neither did he seek God or Christ. We find out in this chapter that the Lord Jesus sought him out, and the Lord Jesus healed him. Then, when the Lord Jesus gave him his sight, the Saviour takes him on a journey of mind and heart, a spiritual growth to reveal Himself to this man who is blind not only in eyes but in heart. Look at verse 11, this blind man: 'answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes' - a man that is called Jesus. Then in verse 17 he progresses a little: 'They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet'. A man Jesus, now He is a prophet. In verse 33 we read: 'If this man were not of God, he could do nothing'. Now He's not just the man Jesus and a prophet, but now He's clearly and distinctly of God. Then verse 36: 'He answered and said', to the Lord Jesus, 'Who is he, Lord', speaking of the Son of God who Christ has talked to him of, 'Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?'. Then in verse 38 Christ reveals Himself: 'Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him'.
We have an affirmation this evening that Christ not only is come into the world, but He has given us an understanding of who He is and how He has revealed God to us - and we fall at His feet, and we say: 'My Lord and my God!'. Let me say this to you this evening: a true, saving knowledge of Christ means that you will recognise Him as the true God, just as verse 20 says. I believe that the 'true God' there in that verse speaks of the Lord Jesus - some say that it refers to God. But here's three reasons why I believe that it doesn't just refer to the Father, but to the Lord Jesus: first of all, the last one spoken of before that statement 'This is the true God', is His Son Jesus Christ. So that's the grammatic order. Then secondly, the Son of God is spoken of as 'eternal life' in chapter 1 of this epistle and verse 2 - the Father is never ever described as 'eternal life'. Then thirdly, this interpretation to say that this is speaking of God the Father doesn't make sense, to say that the true God is the true God is a truism - it's stating the obvious, and it's unworthy of Scripture. But what it does say, and what it means, comes as an amazing natural conclusion to the whole of this epistle - what is it? That this Christ Jesus is the very Son of God incarnate, who has been sent in human flesh to be our Saviour! God has revealed Himself in human flesh in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ.
Now you remember at the introduction of this epistle I put a slide up on the screen, and I've referred to it as we've passed through, how this epistle is like a spiralling staircase. Do you remember that? How we have revisited again and again the same themes, and how each time we revisit a theme John, the Holy Spirit of course, enlightens us to some new truth regarding it. But imagine this: we've climbed all the way up to the top of the staircase, and what do we find? It's the throne room of divinity! Who is there? It is Jesus Christ as God! John tells us that anything that is short of Jesus Christ revealed as God is idolatry.
Have you ever read this epistle and wondered why this last verse is there? 'Little children, keep yourself from idols'. This is the warning, do you know what he is saying? He's not necessary talking about pieces of wood and stone and precious jewels, and whilst John was writing probably to Ephesus, and we know that it was a city wholly given over to idolatry - there was the temple of Diana of the Ephesians, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Acts 19 tells us that many people had their living making little gods of Diana and of the temple and so on and so forth. These people were surrounded with literal idolatry, but he's been talking about what we think about Christ. By inference he is telling us that if we have a substandard view and understanding of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, it is idolatry!
We don't take it as seriously as God's word does. If you do not believe that He is the only begotten of the Father, if you do not believe that He is coexistent with the Father and with the Son, that He is one substance God, that the Godhead is revealed in three distinct Persons but one essence being God, it is idolatry! Christians are meant to have turned from idols to serve the living and the true God. Anything that is in the place of the historical, biblical Christ is an idol - anything! It doesn't have to be a literal idol, it doesn't have to be the theological idol concerning a substandard view of Christ, it could be an idol in your heart tonight. A house, a car, a job, a loved one, it could be anything. An old anonymous Keswick hymn, one verse went like this:
'Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?'.
If you have had the true Christ who is God revealed to you and you've enjoyed His company, what have we to do with idols who have companied with Him? John's desire throughout this epistle, surely you've realised it by now, is that he should get us to a place of assurance. Paul said in Corinthians: 'We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one', and this God is revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ. Look at what we find out in assurance in this epistle: chapter 2 verse 5, we are in God, we know it; chapter 3:14, we know that we have passed from death unto life; chapter 4 verse 16, we know the love that God has shown for us in that He sent His Son, and He died; chapter 5 verse 13, we know that we have eternal life; chapter 5 verse 15, we know that God will answer our prayers. Go throughout the whole of Scripture, Romans 8:28: 'We know that all things work together for good to them that love God'; 2 Corinthians 5:1, 'We know that if this tent, this earthly house of tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens'. Paul could say in 2 Timothy: 'I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day'.
Christian affirmations! Christian certainties that ought to give us assurance because they're all in the Rock, Christ Jesus! Even concerning things that we don't know and don't understand, Paul says: 'For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face-to-face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known'.
John the beloved disciple wrote this epistle. John the beloved disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast - that's what he wants you to do: to lean on Jesus in complete confidence and certainty that He is everything we need. 'This world lieth in the lap of the wicked one', but we can say 'Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast'. Blessed be His name. I trust that this series and this message has been a blessing, and has bolstered your assurance, or shaken your false assurance.
Oh our Father, we want to thank You tonight that the Son of God is come, and He has given us an understanding of that which is true, for He Himself is the only true God - the way, the truth and the life - and He has brought us to Thee, Father. We worship at His feet and Yours, and we thank You for this affirmation of our faith: that if I have Christ, what need I more? Lord, help every person here tonight, whatever their spiritual condition may be, to rest their head on the pillow this evening with the affirmation of faith that their head rests on Jesus' breast. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventeenth recording in his '1, 2 and 3 John' series, entitled "A Trinity Of Certainty And Security" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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