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The True Christian Discerns Truth and Error

The True Christian Discerns Truth and Error

“We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” I John 4:6 NASB

            John started the fourth chapter of I John with a warning. He said in I John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How are we to test the spirits? John stated “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us.” As established earlier, John was an apostle who taught with authority. We see in Acts 2:42 that the New Testament church among other things was devoted to the apostles teaching. What did they teach? Jesus spent forty days after His resurrection opening their eyes to the Scriptures. The Scriptures He opened their eyes to was the Old Testament, thus the taught the Old Testament. We also know that one of qualifications for a book to be included into the New Test was that it had to be written by an apostle or someone directly associated with an apostle. When John stated, “We are from God,” I believe he was talking about all of the apostles. I also firmly believe the teachings of the apostles that the New Testament church was devoted to was the whole of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.

Here John warned of the false prophets who have gone out into the world. We test those who claim that they are of God with the authority of God’s word. If they fail to line up with God’s word they are false prophets. Let’s be clear though. We can have doctrinal differences with other Christians who are truly Christians. We simply disagree on certain subjects. One can believe in a pre-tribulation rapture while the other believes in a mid or post-tribulation rapture and another doesn’t believe there will even. I am a very solid pre-tribulationist. I personally believe that the pre-tribulation rapture is abundantly clear in scripture. Does this mean that I should view anyone who believes otherwise as a false prophet? Of course not. Christians can and will disagree on a variety of issues. However, a false prophet is one who denies the fundamentals of the faith such as the person and the work of Christ, along with the means and method of salvation. John said in I John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”

In Revelation Jesus told John to write to the seven churches in Asia. The first of those churches was the church of Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-7).  Jesus praised this church for putting to the test those who called themselves apostles and were not. By proving that they were not apostles and indeed false prophets they protected the integrity and true teaching of the church. We also find Paul in II Timothy 6:20 instructing Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to you.”  What was Timothy entrusted to? What did he need to guard? The church. Timothy was the pastor of the church of Ephesus. Guarding and protecting the church from false teachers was planted in Ephesus DNA from its very beginning. For this reason, Jesus praised the church.

The Bible warns that in the last days false prophets will be in abundance. II Timothy 4:3 warns, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” I have no doubt that we are now living in that day.

While the world is easily led astray Jesus assured us that His sheep know His voice. (John 10:4). John has declared that the evidence of the one who know God is that he listens to them, thus listens to the true teachings of the Word of God. The one who doesn’t know God may hear the Word of God and know the Word of God but refuse to listen to the Word of God. For this reason he has not discerned what is good and evil. He thinks he knows best and is therefore in rebellion against God. But the one who knows God will test the spirits through the power of the Holy Spirit, of which we will discuss latter, and the truth of the Word of God. Since he listens to God, he will obey God accepting His truth and rejecting evil.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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The True Christians Identity is in Christ

The True Christians Identity is in Christ

“The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” I John 3:24 NASB

John said in the verse just before this one, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” John said the commandment is to believe in Jesus and love one another. Jesus said the commandment was to love God with our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Is John contradicting Jesus? Of course not. In fact, John is affirming Jesus. Truth be told, we cannot love God or our neighbor apart from faith in Christ. Once we keep the commandment, believing in Jesus, we inter into a relationship with God and abide in Christ and are able to love God and one another.

In the fifteenth chapter of John Jesus described Himself as the grapevine and us as the branches. He said in the fourth verse, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Jesus said the word abide ten times in this section of scripture emphasizing the importance of this truth. By abiding in Christ we can bear fruit but when we don’t abide in Christ we can do nothing. Abiding in Christ is the evidence that you are in Him and He in you. John said, “We know by this that He abides in us.” By what? By the fact that we have kept His commandment and believed in Him.

To abide in Christ means our identity is found in Christ. If our identity is found in Christ the fruit we bear will represent Him and not ourselves. He is after all the vine and we are only the branches. The vine can survive apart from the branches but the branches will die apart from the vine. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul stated that he has died to himself and come alive to Jesus. He said the life He now lives is a life of faith in Jesus Christ thus his identity is no longer found in himself, it is found in the person of Jesus. He found the source of life, the vine, and allowed God, by faith, to graft him into the vine where the true source of life is found. In order to do this he had to lose his identity and receive a new identity in Christ. Now, the life he lives abides in Christ.

Jesus said to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John that unless one is born again he cannot see nor enter the kingdom of God. To be born again means that we must die to ourselves and come alive to Christ. Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” II Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” First of all Jesus said you must. In other words, this is no-optional. He said you must first deny yourself. We must stop living for us. Secondly, He told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. The cross is an instrument of death signifying we must die to self, deny self, and follow Him. This is true faith in Christ.

The one who abides in Christ has his identity in Christ. He doesn’t live for self, promote self, or glorify self. He has died to self. He lives for, promotes, and glorifies Jesus Christ. By this he has kept the commandment of God to love God with all His heart, soul, and mind through his faith in the person of Jesus Christ. By this we know, if we abide in Christ.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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The True Christian is Anointed in Truth

The True Christian is Anointed in Truth

 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” I John 2:18 NASB

Although the same term “we know” is used in this verse it is used a little differently than the other “by this we know” statements. All of the other “by this we know” statements directly link us to God. This one does not. In the context of this verse, John is linking those who have been faithful to God despite the attack and lies from the antichrist contrasting them with those who have believed the antichrists lies and have fallen away.

Who is this antichrist? Most often we think of the antichrist as the man of lawlessness that will rise up at the end of days just prior to the return of Christ. No doubt, he will be the antichrist. However, John said there are many antichrists. John defined the antichrist in I John 2:22 saying, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” A well known example is Oprah Winfrey, who adamantly denies Jesus is the only way to God while promoting her brand of “spirituality,” which is a doctrine of demons. This is the spirit of the antichrist. The one who denies the true nature of Jesus, is of the antichrist. I John 2:23 says, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”

Oprah’s own testimony is that she was raised in church her whole life. One day, as an adult, she heard a pastor make a statement that God is a jealous God, which He is. She didn’t like this statement, and walked away from the Christian church. Upon hearing this, Satan, the master deceiver, whispered in her ear, “don’t believe that, you don’t need God, you can be your own God.” That’s basically what he told Eve. Just like thousands of others who have walked away from the truth, Oprah liked what she heard from Satan more than what she heard from God, turned her back on God, and followed Satan. I John 2:19 says “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” According to this verse, not only are these unsaved, they never were.

Of the true Christian John writes, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.” (I John 2:20-21). The true Christian will not be deceived by the lies from Satan leading them to fall away from the truth. They know the truth, therefore they know a lie when they hear one. They know the truth because they abide in the in truth, which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. (I John 2:24). Since they abide in Christ, they have an anointing that will keep them in truth, keeping them faithful to God. Just as salvation is by faith and not of works, so is the sustaining of our salvation. It is an act of God’s anointing and grace.

Oprah is just one example of many who have fallen away from the truth. Do these who have fallen away have an opportunity to be saved? Absolutely! Clearly, God desires all to be saved. They must realize the error of their way and turn to the truth-Jesus. Jesus said of Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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The True Christian Keeps God’s Word

“But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.” I John 2:5 NASB

The second by this we know statement from John is about keeping God’s word. John states here that “Whoever keeps God’s word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.” When we keep God’s word it is a sign that the love of God has been perfected in us. It is not God’s love that has been perfected, it is ours. John stated in I John 4:8 that “God is love,” therefore, His love is perfect. Man’s love, however, is in great need of being perfected.

Prior to entering into fellowship with God through the atoning sacrifice of Christ we were enemy’s of God. Our choice of the world and sin above God proved that we had no love towards God. Jesus said in John 3:19, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” The proof of who you love is who you choose to walk with. Jesus also said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” He didn’t say “If you keep My commandments you will prove your love for me.” Rather, He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” If we love Jesus, we will obey Him, if we don’t love Jesus we will care less about His commandments and will not obey Him.

Be reminded that John said in the first chapter that “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” ( I John 1:5). He continued to explain that if we say we are walking in the light yet we are walking in the darkness we are liars. In other words, if we are walking in sin we are not walking with God. I John 2:2 says, “The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Then he explained in I John 1:7 that if we are walking in the Light, as God is in the Light, we have fellowship with Him. Oil and water doesn’t mix; nor does God and sin.

The key word in I John 1 is walk. Walking portrays the pattern and consistency of one’s life. If the walk is consistently in darkness it is not in the light. If the walk is consistently in the Light, his fellowship is with God. Paul said in I Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” The drunkard is not one who has been drunk a time or two in his life, rather, drunkenness is the defining factor of his life; he is a drunkard. The people Paul lists are people whose lives are identified by sin. They walk in darkness therefore they are a drunkard. Paul said they would not inherit the kingdom of God therefore, they clearly are not saved. They are unsaved by their own choice. Their choice was that they loved darkness rather than light. They have chosen the lusts of their own flesh over the love and grace of God.

However, for those who realize the error of their way and repent of their sin God offers forgiveness. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” After Paul declared, the unrighteous would not inherit the kingdom of God in I Corinthians 6:9-10, he said in the next verse, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” These chose God over sin. They loved God more than sin. Therefore, they repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus.

God loves us perfectly. For this reason He sent His Son to become an atoning sacrifice for our sin. When we come to the point where we realize our sin is at odds with God and choose God over sin we ask Him by faith to forgive us of our sin knowing that by the authority of His Word and the power of the blood of Jesus He can and will. God then gives us His Holy Spirit that writes His Word on our heart to perfect our love for Him.

Keeping His word, living in obedience, and walking in the Light is not the means to salvation, it is the proof of salvation. It is the evidence that God is at work in our lives perfecting us in Him and for Him. When we turn to Jesus and trust in Him by faith, we are saying to Him that we love Him more than self and sin and are willing to surrender ourselves unto Him. When we take this step of faith, we give God permission to work His perfection into our lives. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” If God is not at work in you, you will have no will to work for His good pleasure.” In fact, working or living for His pleasure would be utter foolishness to you. However, if we love God enough to keep His word, “by this we know that we are in Him” for, His work of perfect love has been enacted.

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Posted by on February 3, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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The True Christian Keeps God’s Commandments

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” I John 2:3 NASB

The first test John gives as to whether or not one has fellowship with God is keeping His commandments. If we have come to know Him John says we will keep His commandments. Now the question is, what are the commandments of God? A few verses down in I John 2:7 John writes, “Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.” John said this is a commandment you have had from the beginning.  In the first verse of I John the apostle writes, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” Jesus is the one from the beginning. Then John writes in I John 1:8, “On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.” In other words, this commandment is new since it can only be kept through fellowship with the one from the beginning-Jesus.

Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:36 what was the greatest commandment. He responded in the next two verses saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then concluded this statement in verse 40 saying, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”  According to Jesus, the whole of the Word of God rests upon loving God with all of who we are and loving your neighbor as yourself. According to John, the true test of whether or not we have come to know God is whether or not we are keeping His commandments; loving God and loving our neighbor.

Remember, keeping God’s commandments isn’t a means to salvation, it is proof or evidence of salvation. Faith in Jesus is the only means. If keeping God’s commandments is then a result of salvation it should be something that comes natural. Yes, we work and strive towards it by disciplining ourselves unto Godliness but we have been given by God the ability to live it. If one doesn’t have fellowship with God he does not have the ability to live it. In the same way I can strive to be the greatest quarterback the world has ever seen and work at it every day of my life. Unfortunately, I was not born with natural athletic abilities, therefore, that will never happen. Those who do have the natural abilities continue to discipline themselves to strengthen their abilities God has given.

Jesus made an interesting statement in John 14:21 when He said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Jesus said, “He who has My commandments.” The one who is in fellowship with God has the commandments of God. How? God has written them on their heart. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied of a new covenant saying, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Paul wrote in II Corinthians 3:3, “being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” If we have true fellowship with God, the Spirit of God has written His commandments on our heart. Jesus also said in John 14:21 that He will disclose, or reveal, Himself, to the one who has His commandments.

If we know God we will keep the commandments that have been written on our heart. Not as a means of religiosity trying to appease God with lists of do’s and don’ts, or rights and wrongs, but because we love Him. Apart from God’s grace we can never appease Him. As Christians we have freely received God’s grace. As Christians, we know that the grace God freely gave us came at a great cost to Him. Since we know our sin was paid for at a great cost to the one who loved us first we willingly and lovingly live in obedience to Him allowing His commandments to be the navigator of our lives empowered by the Spirit of God within us. Those who don’t love God have no problem trampling on His grace while those who truly love the Lord find trampling on His grace shameful and appalling and will therefore keep His commandments.

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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Successful Christian Living Comes Through Fellowship

Clearly, faith is the means to salvation and the seven “by this we know” statements John makes in I John are the result of salvation. The non-Christian is incapable of truly living out God’s high standards. I will elaborate on each one later but we see clearly in I John the results of true faith in Christ.

  • I John 2:3 the true Christian keeps God’s commandments
  • I John 2:5 the true Christian keeps God’s word
  • I John 2:18 the true Christian is faithful to God and not the world
  • I John 3:24 the true Christian’s identity is in Christ
  • I John 4:6 the true Christian discerns truth and error
  • I John 4:13 the true Christian walks in the Spirit
  • I John 5:2 the true Christian loves the brethren

Does this mean that the true Christian will fulfill each one of these characteristics perfectly as a demonstration that he is a true Christian? No. Remember, John said, “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.” I do believe that the demonstration of true Christianity will be a life that consistently fulfills these characteristics. Keep in mind, these characteristics are not the means to salvation, faith is, they are the result of salvation.

When one accepts the atoning sacrifice of Christ he enters into a relationship with God. They now have fellowship with God. Remember , John said that he wants us to have fellowship with him because he has fellowship with the Father and with Jesus. (I John 1:3). What we see in this is that we not only have fellowship with God through our saving relationship, we have fellowship with all believers.

Apart from fellowship with God we cannot walk in the manner He desires us to walk. Through our fellowship with Him, He gives us that ability. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” If we abide in Christ, have fellowship with Him, we will bear much fruit. If we do not abide in Christ, we can do nothing.

I John 1:5-6 says, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” In other words, if we say we have fellowship with God yet we are walking in a way that is contrary to Him we are not practicing the truth. This is a demonstration that we do not have true fellowship with God. Then John said in I John 1:7,” but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” In other words, if we are walking in a way that is consistent with who He is we are demonstrating that we have fellowship with God. We walk in the Light only because God is Light and we are walking with Him. If we are not walking with Him, we cannot walk in the Light, for He the Light.

As we examine these seven characteristics of a true Christian, we need to keep in mind that we have these characteristics only because of our salvation in Christ. They are a demonstration that we have fellowship with God and are therefore walking in the Light. Apart from our fellowship with God we cannot, and will not have these characteristics. By faith we are saved and by faith we walk in the Light. By faith, we know that God is at work in our lives giving to us the ability to walk in Him. Please share!

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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Salvation Comes Only Through Faith in Christ

             Before we begin looking at the seven “by this we know” statements John made to assure us of our salvation I need to make it abundantly clear that he is not stating these as a means to salvation, rather, these are results of our salvation. We cannot be saved from our sin by living in obedience to God, keeping His commandments, loving our brethren, or even by loving Him. We do these things because of our salvation. By this we know we are saved. In fact, the lost person who needs to be saved is incapable of fully living out these requirements of God. When we are saved, God empowers us to live them out, thus, by this we know.

As already stated, salvation comes only by placing your faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For this reason, John’s heart is to introduce Jesus, the one in whom he has heard, seen, looked at, and touched. John said in verse two of I John,  “And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” Jesus is the eternal life. In the Gospel of John he wrote “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) He then said in John 1:14, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In I John 1:1 he declared Jesus as “The Word of Life.” In I John 1:5 he said, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” In the Gospel of John he declared that Jesus is the true light; the true light that the world has rejected. He stated that “the life was the Light of men” and “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:4-13). Clearly, Jesus is eternal life; He is the Word of Life.

John continued to make bold and profound statements about the person of Jesus. He said in I John 2:1, “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.” He told us that Jesus is our Advocate. An advocate is one who stands up for and speaks on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. John said if we have sinned Jesus will be an advocate for us to the Father. Clearly we have all sinned. John himself stated in I John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Since we have all sinned, we cannot come to the Father on our own. We need an advocate. Apart from Jesus we have no hope. Praise God He has given us an advocate-His only begotten Son. I Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

            What qualifies Jesus as our advocate? John continued in I John 2:2 saying, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” The bible tells us that the wages of sin is death and that we are dead in our transgressions and sins. While in our sins we are totally separated from God. If we die physically in our sins we will be eternally separated from God in Hell. This is not the will of God. God’s will is that we are all saved. For this reason Jesus became the “propitiation” for our sins. Propitiation means “atoning sacrifice.” In other words, one the cross, through the shedding of His blood, Jesus paid the wages of our sins for the purpose of atoning for our sins and redeeming us from our sins. Because of this truth, John boldly stated in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When we confess our sins we receive the propitiation of Christ’s work on the cross which then allows Jesus as well to be our advocate. Jesus then carries our case to the Father once our sins are forgiven.

How do we receive this gift of propitiation and obtain Christ as our Advocate? John is very clear; it is by faith. In I John 5:1-12, John makes it abundantly clear that we are saved by faith in Christ and only faith in Christ. I John 5:1 says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.” Then he says in I John 5:4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

John clearly stated the purpose of I John when he said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” If his intent was to give us assurance of salvation he certainly would have given to us every means of salvation. He never mentioned baptism, church attendance, keeping sacraments, or any other religious means to salvation. Only faith in Christ. If anything else was necessary, surly he would have mentioned it; but, he didn’t, nor does any other scripture. For this reason, we know when John gives us the seven cases of “by this we know” he is not presenting the means to salvation he is declaring the result of salvation. The Bible is abundantly and redundantly clear that the only means to salvation is faith in Christ. Please share this with others.

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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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