1st John 1:3-8, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
The Epistle of 1st John is often misunderstood. It is very important to recognize that the Apostle John is the writer of both books. In the Gospel of John we are told by John how to have eternal life. John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Here we plainly see that God gave us the Gospel of John, to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten (biological) Son of God, so that we might believe and be saved.
But regarding the Epistle of John we read this in 1st John 1:4, “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” Here we plainly see that John's purpose is not to show us how to have eternal life, but how to have the fullness of joy as believers. John makes it very clear that he is addressing his epistle to believers. 1st John 5:13, “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.” Here we see clearly that the Epistle of 1st John is written to BELIEVERS, not unbelievers.
This truth is very important to know, in order to understand these books of the Bible. The Gospel of John was written to everyone, to show us the way of salvation by convincing humanity that Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten Son of God (John 20:31); but the book of 1st John was written exclusively to believers, that our joy may be full (1st John 1:4). In 1st John 5:13, the apostle John says that he is writer to believers, that we may “know” we have eternal life. This is so that our joy may be full. John is familiarizing believers with the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit in the life of every child of God. 1st John 3:24, “ And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”
Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001) authored a wonderful book, which is one of my favorites, all about the Holy Spirit. This is one of the greatest and most helpful books I have ever read. The book is titled: “Meet The Holy Spirit.” The great joy of my life as God's child is enjoying the constant abiding comfort of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God in me. John 14:23, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” God the Father and God the Son live inside every born-again believer as God the Holy Spirit (1st Corinthians 3:16-17; Romans 8:9). I love the Holy Spirit!!!
So when John teaches that whosoever committeth sin is of the Devil (1st John 3:8), he is not saying that backslidden Christians aren't saved. Proverbs 14:14a says that “the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” We're all guilty of that! I sure am. You are too you wretched sinner! 1st John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” We're all lousy Christians!
One of the keys to having full joy as a believer is to continually acknowledge that we are sinful, and cannot live the Christian life in our own strength. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Jesus lives the Christian life through us, as we yield to the Holy Spirit in humble submission to the inspired Word of God. 2nd Corinthians 10:5-6, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.” That is not mind control, that is walking in the blessed Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
I love that last verse in Galatians 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Please don't miss that! This whole heretical idea in many churches today, called “Lordship Salvation,” is foreign to the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul also said in Galatians 3:3, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Paul is effectively saying, “You got saved by faith, so why are you trying to validate your salvation by works?” Our faith is justified in the eyes of MEN by works (James 2:18), but with GOD we are justified by faith alone (Romans 4:5).
Kindly said, anyone (e.g., Dr. Steve Pettit and the Bob Jones crowd today) who teaches that works prove the genuineness of the reality of your faith in God's sight, is preaching ANOTHER GOSPEL (2nd Corinthians 11:3-4). Works cannot be used to prove the validity of your faith to God. The very idea is absurd according to Romans 4:3-4, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” The evidence of your faith is faith itself! Faith is the only righteous thing I can do!!! Jesus confirmed this truth in John 6:28-29, “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”
It bothers me a lot when I hear Calvinistic preachers (like Pastor Charles Lawson of the Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee) teach that a believer must turn away from sin (i.e., do works) if they are really saved. That is unscriptural. The Bible teaches the exactly opposite. Romans 5:20 says that when we sin as believers, GRACE DOTH MUCH MORE ABOUND! Acts 13:39 teaches that the believer is JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS!!! I'm not the one perverting the Gospel of free grace, the wrong repentance crowd are!
We read in 1st John 3:9 that one who is born of God cannot sin. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Galatians 5:16, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” When we choose to sin, it is only because we are walking in the flesh, instead of the Holy Spirit that lives within our body and soul. A believer who chooses to walk in the flesh cannot experience full joy. What saith the Scripture? Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” That is what John is saying in his epistle. If we are to have God's fullness of joy, we need to walk in the Spirit.
God gave us the wonderful book of 1st John so that our joy may be full as believers. A child of God who chooses to walk in the flesh won't have God's full joy. A believer who harbors hatred against other brothers and sisters in the Lord won't have God's full joy. Ah, but when our walk aligns with our talk, and we have sweet fellowship with the Lord, then we will have full joy. So please don't make the mistake of using the Epistle of 1st John as a plan of salvation. God gave us the Gospel of John to show us how to get to Heaven. God gave us the Epistle of 1st John that our joy as believers may be full.