by Mike Ratliff
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. 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. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
It is imperative that Christians have a correct and viable theology of suffering. These health, wealth, and prosperity preachers in our time will disagree of course, but let them. We have God’s Truth, His Word, held in objective context held up against their subjective, ear-tickling smoke and mirrors false religion. Oh, there may indeed be some “spirituality” going on in there, but to proclaim, “God is here!” or “God is in this!” or “We are having a Revival, come and join us!” is the very act of man elevating himself above God, telling Him what to do and when. However, I digress, God has always used suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them, to draw them to prayer, to purify them, to grow them spiritually, and to direct their paths. Paul called some of his suffering a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan (2 Corinthians 12), but allowed by God to keep him from exalting himself because of his great knowledge. When we learn to view the seriousness of our sin as Paul did and God’s glory as imperative then we will begin to understand that sin in the life of a Christian is an anathema in a realistic, daily sense rather than in some sort of abstract give and take.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 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. 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. 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. (1 John 3:4-10 ESV)
Here is v4 alone from the ESV: Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
Here is v4 in Greek: πας ο ποιων την αμαρτιαν και την ανομιαν ποιει και η αμαρτια εστιν η ανομια.
Here is v4 translated to English word for word from Greek: All the one doing the sin and the lawlessness does, and the sin is the lawlessness.
The verb “makes a practice” in the ESV or “doing” in the word for word translation is ποιων, which, in this context, speaks of performing an act, however, the key is that it is a present active participle. That means it expresses continuous or repeated action, but, since it is a participle, it is contemporaneous with the leading verb in the passage. That verb is ποιει, which is translated as “practices” in the ESV referring to the sinner also practicing lawlessness. Ποιει is the same Greek word, but is present indicative active and is in verb form instead of participle form. Present Indicative verbs assert action that that is occurring right now. All of that to say this, those professing Christians who commit high-handed sin are also guilty of practicing sin as a way of life because they are not regenerate. They are not Christians. What is high-handed sin? It is the act of open rebellion against God and His Law. Think of the 10 Commandments. Our Lord kept them completely in His life. When a believer is saved by Grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9), God also imputes the righteousness of Christ to their account, which is His sinlessness. He also imputes Christ’s perfect active obedience to His Law to them. This is vital for us to understand. We must have both. The first part makes us holy and righteous in God’s eyes. The second part enables us to see the truth about our sinfulness and the importance of walking in repentance from now on. Yes, we have Christ’s obedience imputed to our account, but that is positional. Right now, in terms of out sanctification, we must learn what it means to walk in this life practicing righteousness by walking in repentance. John is very clear in vv4-10 above. The regenerate may sin, but it will not be high-handed sin. It will not be by living in sin as a way of life. What will this look like practically?
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:11-24 ESV)
The truly Born Again will have love growing at the center of the character. It will be the central part of their new nature. Yes, God will make each of them an exhibit His own holiness through them, them, but He will also bring each to places where this love for one another will be expressed in ways unimagined in the unregenerate (John 13:35; Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:9). The practicing of this type of love for one another is a marker of the New Birth. From this the believer receives greater assurance of salvation (vv17-21), experiences answered prayer (v22), and the abiding presence and empowerment of the Holy Spirit (v23, 24).
I do not get to attend our church as often as I would like. When we travel we often attend a large church in a another state. I like the pastor. However, there are some things going in the that church that are troubling to my discernment, but the love John wrote of above is all over it. I had an interesting visit yesterday. The sermon was fantastic. However, during the flock class we attended with my daughter and son-in-law as their guests I felt a bit out of place right away. I prayed before that God would give me wisdom in how to respond to things that were said. In any case, the lesson was on the last several verses in James. The lesson was about prayer, faith, healing, et cetera. We had just come from a sermon on suffering well and it was fantastic. In any case, toward the end, the flock leader quoted Erwin McManus as an example in praying expectantly. I sat there, but said nothing. I had absolutely no urge to say anything and neither did anyone else. It went nowhere so the leader went to his next point. In any case, the class ended with many prayer needs and people praying for each other. It was a very good example of how we should be with each other as believers exhibiting God’s love.
Later that evening, I asked my daughter about that. She just grinned. She knew that I knew who McManus was and that I had written some things about Mosaic and his ministry before. It was then that I realized that that church is like a microcosm is what is going on in the visible Church right now. Yes, there is the Orthodox. There are those who seek God’s truth and no other, but then there are still the unwise intermixed there who seem to be focused more on men and what they say and do. We must pray for wisdom and discernment in these strange times my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!