In the previous post, we dug in a bit to the language that the Apostle John used to try and determine what exactly he means in 1 John when he says, “whoever is born of God cannot sin”. In this post, we will highlight two key assurances that John provides right within his own letter to help us believers know that we can be certain of our relationship with God and of our standing before God.
This is an excellent example of the need for context in Bible study. 1 John 3:4-10 is an easy passage of Scripture to misinterpret on its own. That is why we must remember that these 7 verses do not stand alone:
- They are set in the midst of a larger chapter with 29 verses in it.
- And that chapter is just one in the 5-chapter Letter of 1 John.
- Furthermore, that Letter is just one Book in a 66-Book Bible!
Just looking within the context of the Letter of 1 John, though, we can see more facets, depth, and dimension to John’s ideal of sinless perfection. Look at 1 John 2:1-2 (NASB):
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
These verses summarize John’s ideal, and they also explain the graciousness of Christ for when we do not meet that ideal. “I write these things to you that you may not sin,” John says. But, “If anyone [does] sin…” – John hopes no one will ever sin again! But he knows we will, and so he tells us about Christ’s continuing work on our behalf: “If anyone [does] sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Y’all – Jesus’ work on our behalf is so amazing! We think of the miraculous deliverance from sin that occurred at that moment when He bore up our sins and took our sin nature upon Himself so that it would be executed along with Him during the crucifixion. But y’all, his work on our behalf did not end there. He continues to stand beside God in heaven and advocate for us. That even when we – as believers and followers of Him – commit a sin, He stands before God as our continual atoning sacrifice and Advocate.
John writes to all believers, young and old, spiritual infants and spiritual fathers, and John writes that Jesus’ life of sinless perfection is the ideal to which we are to aspire. John describes that our aspirations to this sinless life come through practice: Spirit-guided effort, humble confession of sin, and faithful trust in the advocacy of Jesus on our behalf.
So, let’s return to my earlier question from the previous post: If I – as a believer, as a follower of Jesus – if I commit a sin, does that mean I’ve lost my salvation? Or that maybe I was never really saved in the first place? That’s what the evil one would like for us to believe. He would like for us to live in the constant crippling fear that with every sin committed, maybe we really don’t know God… maybe we haven’t received His gracious gift of salvation…
John helps us in that regard, too, in one of my most favorite assurances in all of Scripture, 1 John 3:19-20 (NASB):
19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
Listen to these two verses again, this time from the AMP, 1 John 3:19-20 (AMP):
19 By this we shall come to know (perceive, recognize, and understand) that we are of the Truth, and can reassure (quiet, conciliate, and pacify) our hearts in His presence, 20 Whenever our hearts in [tormenting] self-accusation make us feel guilty and condemn us. [For we are in God’s hands.] For He is above and greater than our consciences (our hearts), and He knows (perceives and understands) everything [nothing is hidden from Him].
If you have been born of God, if you have entrusted your present and eternal salvation to Jesus, then you “can know his truth”. You can “assure [y]our heart before God”. That when the evil one tries to plant this wicked little thought of “maybe I’m not saved!” into your heart or brain, you can say, “No! Tormenting, self-accusation is NOT of my loving Father. He knows me, and I am in His hands. He’s bigger than this lie you are trying to plant, and I am assured of His love and our relationship together, thanks to the atoning work and advocacy of Jesus Christ on my behalf”.