I started off the last blog post by saying that the word repentance often results in believers trembling in fear. The Gospel is not works based. This is 100%, absolutely true. But we have pressed this doctrine so hard that we cannot even begin to fathom how the Gospel could incorporate any work at all. A free and eternal gift does not negate the necessity and command of good works on the behalf of the believer. One of these good works is repentance. I would even submit that no good work can come unless the believer repents. Paul writes in Romans that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). So where does the bible teach that we need to repent and continue in good work? Well the short answer is everywhere. We can cherry pick various passages and verses, but today I want to walk through the book of 1 John. Specifically, I want to address 1 John 2:1-6, and 1 John 3:1-10.
1 John 2:1-6
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (ESV)
We read verses 1-2 and find much comfort. When we sin we have an advocate with the most high God. We have a Savior who has taken our sins upon Himself and clothed us in His righteousness. We are guiltless, blameless, and spotless brides of Christ. But, upon reading verse 3 we tend to lose all sense of that truth and hope that resided in us. “I don’t keep his commandments always! Am I saved?!”
Take note that if breaking a commandment were to deprive us of salvation then no human being in all of eternity would be saved. John himself says that all men sin and its blasphemy to say we are without it (1 John 1:8). So if salvation remains even in my sin, what does John mean when he says by keeping his commandments we know him? Repentance!
This is the only logical conclusion one can make in interpreting what John is saying. As I said in the last article, repentance is turning away from sin. The one who turns towards God is one who by necessity keeps his commandments. Why? Because the only way to keep God’s commandments is by turning to him.
Some have made the conclusion that to “know” Christ is not salvation, but rather denotes a type of fellowship and relationship with Jesus. But the word John uses in this verse is the same word he uses in John 10:14 when Jesus says he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. Now does that sound like a surface level knowledge of a relationship, or an intimate knowledge of Jesus as the savior. I would submit to the reader that when John says “by this we know that we have come to know him, “he means we have come to know him as savior and as king.
The hope here is this: we are not in control of our salvation, God is. And since we are saved we know (because of Johns words) that we will in fact keep the commandments of God.
1 John 3:1-10
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (ESV)
Focus here on verse 4: “… sin is lawlessness.” Now focus on verse 9. Note that John says no one who makes a practice of sinning is born of God. If we are truly believers we will not continue in lawlessness. We will not continue in sinning because we have tuned away from sin and turned towards God (repentance). Notice also the author says whoever is born of God does not continue in sin. The word born here means to be fathered by. We cannot conclude that only some believers are fathered by God. We must conclude that all true believers are fathered by God and therefore cannot and will not continue in sin.
In conclusion, repentance is needed in the believer’s life just as air is needed in the one who is living. It is not our breath that defines us or makes us alive, but we can all agree that if indeed we are alive we will, by necessity, breathe. To permanently stop this breath would result in our eventual death. Essentially we can equate what John is saying to this: “No one who has life continues to hold their breath.” Are there times where we do not breathe? Of course! Do we continue in not breathing? Of course not for this would kill us and render us lifeless!
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