Sunday Leftovers: First John and sanctification

Reading 1 John has often created questions for believers about the security of their eternal life, because of what John seems to be saying about sin — e.g., “No one who abides in Him [Christ] sins…” (3:6).  Yet every believer still knows the reality of sin in his life, so too often people think something like, “I still sin, so I must not be saved.”

Yet John’s point is slightly different.  He is merely saying that the present, ongoing practice of the believer is not sin.  Rather, the regular pattern of the believer’s life is obedience and righteousness.  Or said another way, the life that has been saved will be sanctified.  There will be evidence in every believer’s life that Christ is working in him and changing him.

And John provides many areas in which the believer’s life will be changed:

  • Perhaps he will be changed from one who loved the world to one who hates the world (2:15).
  • Perhaps he is known as one who uncompromisingly does the will of God — even at cost to him (2:17).
  • Perhaps he is known as someone who habitually does what is right (2:29).
  • Perhaps he is known as someone who, when he sins confesses his sin (1:9).  Though he sins, he does not cultivate ongoing habits of sin, but fights against the flesh and sin (3:6-8).
  • Perhaps he is known as one who particularly loves other believers (3:11, 14).  Remember that this is what Jesus said would be our unique testimony to the world (Jn. 13:34-35).
  • Perhaps he is known as one who no longer hates those who hate him (3:15-16).
  • Perhaps he no longer is fearful of death and the judgment of God (2:28).
  • Perhaps he longs for the return of Christ (3:2-3).
  • Perhaps he is extraordinarily generous with his possessions (3:17).

All these combine to mean the believer will be changed and transformed.

The best way to say this might be that there is no belief in Christ without obedience to Christ.  The believer in Christ is not rebellious against Christ (2:17).  This is what Jesus affirmed in John’s gospel (14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10).  The NT knows nothing about an unchanged believer.  God sent Christ to remove and cancel the debt of sin and unchain the power of sin and the Holy Spirit is given by Christ so that we can live in His power and do righteousness.  The Spirit of God will produce the fruit of Christ in the man saved by God.

Read the rest of the sermon here.

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