We begin this article in 1 John 4:1. John writes: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” A very important facet of Christian living calls for the ability to detect false doctrines that are being promulgated by false ministers of one kind or another. In John’s day, “Christian Gnostics” were preaching that Jesus did not come in the flesh but was a phantom and that He did not die on the cross (vv. 2-3). This was one of many aberrations gnostic preachers circulated. John warned about this in the above verses.
Similar doctrines are given credibility today, teaching that Jesus did not die on the cross, but escaped to Egypt and hence to France, and that he married Mary Magdalene. He supposedly had a daughter by her who became the ancestor to the Merovingian line of Frankish kings. Thus, Jesus has physical descendants today who are of “divine blood.” This doctrine is, of course, blatantly false, and as John said about the gnostic heresy of his day, this one in our day is also false. John writes: “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them” (1 John 4:5). Christians should be able to quickly see through this nonsense. This gnostic view has affected many today who are of the world and has made its creators rich. But it should have no affect on true Christians.
True Christians are able to know truth from error. So says John: “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). Then John emphasizes the importance of love. We should recognize that truth and love go hand in hand. The major apostasy of the last days resulted from not loving the truth (2 Thess. 2:10). John tells us that Jesus did indeed die as the propitiation for the sins of the world—the ultimate act of love. Jesus was not a phantom that only appeared to die as the gnostics taught in John’s day, nor did He escape to Egypt, as is being circulated today.
John describes the supreme act of love made by Christ. This is the example of God’s love manifested for us, the example we should deeply appreciate.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)
The proof that God dwells in us by the Holy Spirit is seen in our love for one another. “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). Christian living enables us to grow in Christian love for one another. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us” (vv. 17-19).
Notice this candid statement, one all Christians must take seriously. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). This is why love is so important for all Christians. It is a necessity of Christian living.
In 1 John 5:1-3, John again emphasizes the importance of love and what it is:
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. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
Keep in mind, in the above passage the word “born” should more accurately be understood to mean “begotten.” Commandment keeping is defined as the love of God, and those Christians who profess Christ but reject the Commandments of God, are not Christians regardless of what they think. We are told that the very reason we can have confidence that our prayers will be answered is if we ask according to God’s will. “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Praying for others is another important principle of Christian living. Consider this example: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16-17). The fact is: Some sins have a much more deleterious effect upon the sinner. A sin unto death would be unpardonable. The Apostle Paul explained: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27). This sin unto death implies a deliberate rejection of the Law of God without being under the cords of temptation. It is willful sin, and it would do little good to pray for such a person.
In Second John we find two Christian-living principles. Love is again emphasized in verse 6: “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” Why is this principle so overlooked by the vast majority of professing Christians today? The answer: They have been deceived into believing it is not necessary to keep the Commandments of God. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world . . . ” (Rev. 12:9). But this does not apply to true Christians. They know the truth! (2 John 1). John again mentions the gnostic heresy. He wrote: “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (v. 7). We are told to hold fast to what we have gained so far, and not to drift into error. “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (v. 8). This includes rejecting those who bring false doctrine. “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John vv.10-11).
In Third John, we are given another Christian-living principle. We are told what our responsibility should be in giving support to workers in Christ.
Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. (3 John vv.5-8)
But a prominent leader rejected this instruction.
I wrote unto the church but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (3 John vv. 9-10)
Christians should be ever aware that the truth prevails above any man. The deeds of this Diotrephes contradicted every living principle of love for the brethren. He did not live up to what was required of him and had to be rejected. Because God’s Truth is everliving, this is a lesson for us today. “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3 John v. 11).
The book of Jude continues with the theme of false doctrine and the men behind these falsehoods. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). We would do well to rehearse this chapter occasionally. Christ asked the question: When He returned would He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8). The implication is that there will be few who still believe the Truth. We are near the end of this age. There is, therefore, a serious need to earnestly contend, that is, to struggle for the Truth that was once delivered.
Confusion reigns in the Churches of God today. Hundreds of denominations exist. Chaos is everywhere. Jude admonished: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy [Spirit], Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude vv. 20-21).
This is the admonishment for Christians today. Salvation depends upon it. Though millions profess Christianity, there are few who really believe and follow the teachings of Christ. We call ourselves a Christian nation, yet only a small percentage have a true biblical worldview. If God has opened your eyes to the Truth, it is absolutely necessary to hang onto that Truth for dear life. The General Epistles have much to say about the Christian-living principles that are necessary for salvation. Like the words of Jesus, they must be taken seriously. When Jesus’ disciples were shocked at what He said, they asked: “. . . Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26). Jesus answered them, ” . . . With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (v. 27). Those who will be saved take all of God’s inspired word seriously—those of Jesus and those of His Apostles.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27)
Let us never forget the household of God is ” . . . built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).