First Expressions in First John (part 5)

Robert E. Surgenor

1 John 5:1-4 - MY PASSION (vs. 1); MY PATTERN (vs. 3); MY POWER (vs. 4). "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him. (2) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep (do) His commandments. (3) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. (4) For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."

This unique epistle is now drawing to a close. John has set before us an example, in himself, of what our perception of the Lord Himself should be. Also, what the Lord is for us that we might have an incentive to take preventative measures not to sin. As chapter three commences, John brings to our view our position, perfection and purity as the children of God. Since our position is so elevated, he then warns us to probe and to prove teachings that were, at that time, infiltrating the church to destroy it.

Love is a tremendous thing and John, the very blunt man when it comes to what is false and what is truth, (what is darkness and what is light), is the very man that speaks the most of love. In his opening statement in ch. 5, John is not expounding to us the cause of the new birth, but rather the consequence of that new birth. True, we do experience the new birth upon confessing that Jesus is the Christ, but that is not what John is emphasizing here. He is simply stating the fact that all who do confess that Jesus is the Christ, do so, simply because they have been born of God. They cannot help this confession. It is programmed right into their very being. It permeates their mind and soul to the deepest degree. He cannot think otherwise! Let a person say that he has been born of God and then that same person wonder if Jesus really is the Christ, and immediately that person betrays himself to be a false professor. No, we that are His own are fully persuaded that the meek and lowly Jesus Who trod Judea’s plains - is the Christ. He is the Messiah, He is the Anointed. No shadow of doubt is cast in our minds about this grand and glorious truth!

Men anointed into particular offices were prophets, priests and kings. As the Christ (the Anointed) He was the anointed prophet while sojourning here, telling out the word of God to the nation. Having completed His earthly ministry, He has now ascended into heaven, having been anointed as our Great High Priest, in His present ministry for His sojourning people. As Israel presently sits in blindness, the day is coming when the vail shall be lifted from their heart and the Anointed King shall appear on their behalf, with healing in His wings, as the Sun of righteousness. Yes, out of the myriads of earthly human beings, out of the myriads of the heavenly host, only ONE is the Christ - Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!

John plainly gives us the distinct marks of a true believer. Firstly: HIS BELIEF as we have already noticed. With no thought of wavering, he fully believes that Jesus is the Christ. Young’s Literal Translation puts it this way. "Everyone who is believing that Jesus is the Christ, of God he hath been begotten."

Secondly: HIS LOVE. If one cannot help loving the Saviour for what He has accomplished for them, in like manner, he cannot help loving all that have been begotten of Him. This is not necessarily something to strive after my brethren. I like to think of it as something that has been programmed into us upon being born again. A saint may hurt me and do things that I despise. Consequently, I may not like him. That is, I may not like his ways. But one thing is true, I will love him. I cannot help it. This mysterious love that cannot be quenched or destroyed, burns within every believer. He cannot help it for it is an integral part of his new creation. I may become fully disgusted with some Christians, but I still love them. I may become very upset over the actions of some, but I still love them. You may say, "How can you do it?" I reply, "I don’t do it, I simply have been programmed that way by the operation of the Holy Spirit in establishing my new birth." With John there are no gray areas. It is either hate or love.

Notice what he says, "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now" (1 Jn. 2:9). It’s as simple as that. There is no hate in the soul of a Christian towards another saint - only love. I remember from years ago, two older brethren. One was an elder and the other an evangelist. They had some kind of a falling out and rarely spoke to one another, even though they were in the same assembly. I considered both men of a godly nature. One sad day, the elder’s unsaved, teenaged grandson was cut down in his sins. The man was broken hearted. The evangelist’s heart went out to him and sitting down he wrote that elder a very touching and sympathetic letter. Reconciliation between the two men was the result and what a reconciliation that was. From that time on, those two men worked hand in hand, visiting the sick saints together and seeking to encourage the downcast. What produced such dramatic results? It was the love that God had programed into their hearts towards each other. They just couldn’t help but love one another!

Thirdly: HIS OBEDIENCE. There is an inescapable consequence connected with love to the children of God and that is, love to God and obedience to His commandments (vs. 4). Peter speaks of us as "the children of obedience" (1 Pet. 1:14 R.V.). Paul speaks of the unconverted as "the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2). Obedience therefore characterizes the true child of God. The Lord never imposes upon us more than we can bear. He exhorts us: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me... For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28,29). If you find the Word of God and the commandments of the Lord continually irksome to you; If you have no desire to bow to the Lordship of Christ; If you are continually twisting the Word of God to mean something else in order to escape obedience to its plain commands; If you find no overflowing inward joy in bowing to His commands, let me say rather bluntly - you are not born again. Now in saying such a startling and bold thing, I shall run and hide behind John’s inspired statement, ‘He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:4).

Those who love God certainly have trait-marks. Firstly, He loves not the world. This world, to the child of God, is his passage, not his portion. The world is not the globe, but rather that arrangement of things by fallen man to keep himself occupied and happy without God. The world has many arrangements such as materialism, sports, amusements, politics, etc. We are in the world, but not of the world. James is no less blunt, warning us that "whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world (not its people, but its arrangement) is the enemy of God" (James 4:4).

Secondly, he manifests compassion to the brethren. "But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (3:1718). The godly man who is in need will never broadcast his need. His communication, in that respect, is with His Father and not with his brethren. Now brethren, God has given us two eyes, two ears and a brain and with these faculties we have a responsibility to inquire as to the possible needs of others. God can meet the needs of others, but let us be realistic and consider the fact that in order to meet the needs of others, He uses human instruments to fulfill His purposes. Let us refrain from being nosey, but on the other hand, let us be very conscious of the needs of others. What about that young brother, with a wife at home seeking to raise her children and her husband off to some distant place pioneering with the gospel for God? Please don’t try to convince me that his expenses are no greater than the evangelist that has raised his family and is enjoying his tour of the assemblies from week to week. Let us be realistic. I have heard of men who while preaching in a rented building have not had the means to rent a motel room with a comfortable bed. Consequently, the floor of the rented store front becomes their bed. Sometimes God employs the ravens (an unclean bird), as in the case of Elijah, to minister to His own. I have known of men who have been befriended by sinners donating food, while reaching out with the gospel, while the gathered out saints are sitting down four times a day to enjoy hearty meals.

John’s word "seeth" is interesting. It means, "to view attentively, take a view of, survey, to view mentally, consider." Let’s put our spiritual glasses on brethren and take a survey of our laboring brethren. How faithfully are they laboring? How close are they to an assembly? What is the size of their family? How long have they been on the road for God? Let us not unduly criticize the young evangelist but rather fill his hands with our substance and say, "Here brother, this will help you to rent a building in some distant field and also help you to have a comfortable lodging." Let me confess something right here. Thirty seven years ago I commenced a work that brought me into many lonely hours, seeking to reach the lost in new places. I was out of sight, but the Lord provided the means to carry on the work through human instruments. Dear brother Archie Stewart was one of those valuable instruments in the hand of God. He would visit conference after conference. Of course, at each conference fellowship was passed on to him. My average conference attendance was one a year, maybe two. However, as brother Stewart was given money at these conferences, he would mail that money on to me and to brother Timothy Kember, who were young laborers at the time and much out of sight. Time after time a letter would come from dear "Uncle Archie," as we affectionately called him, and in the letter he would invariably say, "This will keep the wheels rolling." He not only had bowels of compassion, but he had perception - he saw. How is your eyesight my dear child of God?

Not only are there evangelists to consider, there are widows old couples, saints bogged down with medical expenses and the list goes on. Can you shut up the bowels of compassion from them? "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."

Thirdly, He keeps His commandments. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous (burdensome)" (5:3). Isn’t the word "keep" interesting? It means, "to attend to carefully, take care of, to guard." May the Lord help us to treasure up the word of God in our hearts. May we thoroughly enjoy it and make it the man of our council. My love to God is manifested in the fact that the word of God is guarded in my heart and lived out in my life. Thus we have our separation from a system; Our substance given to the saint; And our subjection to the Scriptures; three vital marks of one who loves God.

In closing let me say, as important as faith is, John never mentions it in his gospel nor in his three epistles except once in 5:4. The picture is not of one trying on a daily basis to overcome the world. Oh no, it is not that. It is rather the fact that the believer has overcome the world. This power for victory came when faith first began. We are overcomers! What tremendous power is resident within us! Notice, in verse 1 the continuous result of one born again is that he believes that Jesus is the Christ. In verse 5, the overcomer believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Why the difference? In verse one it is what He has done for us. Redeeming us and promising to return. In verse five it is what He essentially is - the Son of God, invested with power