Knowing the True Rejecting the False

by Mike Ratliff

18 Οἴδαμεν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ. (1 John 5:18 NA27)

18 We know that everyone having been born of God does not continually sin, but the one having been born of God, he keeps him and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1) 

In the 1 John 5:18 (above), in the best manuscripts, the word I translated as “him”  after the word “keep” is the Greek noun αὐτὸν or auton, a personal pronoun, which is the Accusative, Singular, Masculine case of αὐτός or autos, “he, she, it, self, same.”

However, in the Textus Receptus, 1 John 5:18 reads as follows:

Οἴδαμεν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει ἀλλ᾽ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ τηρεῖ ἐαυτὸν, καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ

The King James Bible translates this as. “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”

The best Greek manuscripts do not render v18 as the TR does. Did you see the difference between the two texts? The TR has the Greek reflexive pronoun ἐαυτὸν, “himself, herself, itself,” in place of αὐτὸν. This confuses the reading of the text. Is God protecting or keeping the Christian or is the Christian doing it ”himself?” No, God is keeping or protecting those born of Christ, to keep them from the evil one, that he may not touch them, what can we do? 

When we read God’s Word, we should always ask beforehand that God would speak to us through it, that he would bless us through it and teach us. 1 John 5 was part of my daily reading today and 1 John 5:18-21 really stood out in light of what we have been studying. Let us look at the entire passage.

18 Οἴδαμεν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ αὐτὸν καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ. 19 οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐσμεν καὶ ὁ κόσμος ὅλος ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται. 20 οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἥκει καὶ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν διάνοιαν ἵνα γινώσκωμεν τὸν ἀληθινόν, καὶ ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ, ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ. οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς καὶ ζωὴ αἰώνιος. 21 Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων. (1 John 5:18-21 NA27)

18 We know that everyone having been born of God does not continually sin, but the one having been born of God, he keeps him and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God and the whole world lies under the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding that we may know the true one, and we are in the true one, even in his son Jesus Christ. This one is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little Children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:18-21 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

I did not italicize my translation because I wanted you to see the word “he” italicized so that you would understand that it is not in the Greek text, but I added it to make my translation more readable or understandable. This is based on the Greek grammar not being carried over in a direct word for word translation into English.

Okay, right off the bat, John says, “we know that everyone having been born of God does not continually sin…” This is a point he has been making all through the Epistle of 1 John, here he explains why. Notice, he does not say we do not sin, but that we do not sin as the unregenerate do, that is, continuously, or as a way of life. We are convicted of our sins and God draws into repentance, et cetera. In any case, what is going on there is that God is keeping or guarding each of us. This Greek word, τηρεῖ or tērei is the Present, Indicative, Active case of τηρέω or tēreō, “to keep watch upon, guard.” The Present, Indicative, Active tells us that this is action that is taking place right now and the subject of the sentence is doing the action. This in itself should tell us who is guarding believers, God or themselves. The “evil one” is the devil and all in Christ are guarded that he not “touch” them. What is this?

John MacArthur says in reference to John’s use of this word here, “The word suggests “to lay hold of ” or “to grasp” in order to harm. Because the believer belongs to God, Satan must operate within God’s sovereignty and cannot function beyond what God allows, as in the example of Job (Job 2:5; Rom. 16:20). While Satan may persecute, tempt, test, and accuse the believer, God protects his children and places definite limits on Satan’s influence or power (1 John 2:13; John 10:28; 17:12–15).”

In v19 John makes a statement that is most certainly not politically correct. Christians belong to God. There are only two types of people in the world, children of God and children of Satan. Either a person belongs to God through Christ or to the evil world system that is Satan’s domain. Since the whole world belongs to Satan, Christians should avoid its contamination.

It was right here that God struck my heart this morning as I sat at our breakfast bar drinking my coffee and reading my Bible. Since I have gone deeper into the Word who knows how many weeks ago in my posts God has also been working on this heart. I took a good long look at all that is in my life, in my family’s life that is of this world, and if it was taken away, would we be really in a world of hurt or like Job with Satan standing over us with him ready to hear those agonizing words of anger towards God? I had to ask myself if I was loving God because of what he had given me and for all the blessings or for him and that unconditional love and grace that I in no way deserve. How much idolatry exists in this 60-year-old heart? I have spent the entire day “turning from evil” and “fearing God” as Job is described. It has made a huge difference in what I have done and not done this day. There are many things that look harmless on the outside, but when I get into them, like watching football games of teams I really like, I get way too “involved” and can become angry and sin if things don’t go the way I think they should. Hence, I have denied myself many things this day that I know would open up certain doorways of possibilities to serve some idol. There is a lot of work still to do in this area.

Carefully read v20. Look what we have, those of us who are in Jesus Christ. Those who are not in Christ cannot conceive of this at all. To know God who is true, to be in him who is true and to be in his son Jesus Christ—this is utterly amazing! As John said, this is the true God and eternal life. This is why we fight so hard to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. All who attack this doctrine–have you noticed–also attack the deity of Christ or, at least, somehow, try to diminish his glory. That Jesus Christ is the true God is the doctrinal foundation out of which comes love and obedience.

Finally, in v21 we have the contrast between what is true and what is false. If you look carefully at the shallow versions of so-called Christianity in our time, no matter what they call themselves, you will find that their error is based in one or more false teachings from their false teachers they follow. Their false beliefs and practices are the idols from which we are to protect ourselves. The world loves these false teachers because they uphold the world’s philosophies as superior to God’s revelation as demonstrated in their perversion of basic Christian teaching (faith, love, and obedience). They look at what we say is truth and call it legalism. Those who are into their legalism say we are into pietism. Those who are man-centered hate the doctrines that say God is Sovereign over all things. No, we simply follow the doctrines taught to us in God’s Word as we obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and keep ourselves from idols.

I am sure you will find that the closer you get to walking before the Lord with fear and trembling, turning from evil, the very last thing you will do is act like the world even when treated shabbily by another professing Christian who hates your doctrine.

Soli Deo Gloria!


23 thoughts on “Knowing the True Rejecting the False

  1. Mike, I’ve not been commenting on your last few posts, but they have all been immensely comforting and encouraging…and you are very much remembered in my prayer… For me, pray , please, that I will ever have a humble heart when opposing those who do not have the truth!


  2. That was a comforting post because like any sinner I continually sin but thankfully as a child of God I can trust that God is keeping me and is going to complete the good work He began in me. And that encourages me to serve Him more!


  3. Stephanie, that was why that passage from 1 John struck me like that. God is so good to his people and gives all we need to serve him as we love him, but we will never love him like he loves us, which is amazing.


  4. I always appreciate the blunt honesty others are willing to share as it relates to these discussions. Far too often we are more than willing to share our doctrinal beliefs and then withdraw from others when it comes to sharing our lives one with another. This is sad and falls far short of what God has intended for His family members does it not?

    Although I do not practice introspection per say, I am often convicted by the Holy Spirit who will prompts me to consider what is left of “my ways.” I can see myself directly or often through the decisions of other people as well.

    Years back I could have easily been labeled a Red Wings fanatic. (Referring to Michigan’s professional hockey team). I would literally watch every game even if I had to skip time off of work (self employed) to do so. I found myself talking about them all the time up until the latest culmination of another championship run. That’s was when God started opening my eyes. I started to ‘see’ to vanity of it all, the ridiculous salaries, the perishable crown, the practice of idolatry. It was plain that I had allowed myself to be taken in by the world through this particular sports venue. It really started to bother me- and this after achieving the heights of success! I found myself saying, now what?

    Instead of making a list of radical changes to implement, I simply owned my faults and asked God to change my heart in relation to these things. I had already learned that to throw one’s belongings away as it relates to an idol falls far short of the changes necessary. The fire becomes rekindled again, if not more so. God Himself has to intervene.

    Today I don’t feel guilty or pretend like I’ll never watch or attend another hockey game- that isn’t the issue. The issue relates to what has a “hold of me,” or better, what I’ve allowed to take hold of me. I don’t want to be mastered by anything or anyone but Jesus Himself. I don’t want to get more excited about what this world and its people value than I do about how precious my Lord and His people are. I certainly do not want to be found setting such a poor example or allowing my heart to be swayed by “wins” and “losses” more than “souls” and a “Shepherd.” God forbid I be found promoting or living out such a compromising position.

    Yesterday I made a decision to visit an older brother and help him split up some firewood. We spent the whole day up until dark finishing this task- all the while his son and a friend sat inside and played video games and soccer on TV. It really made me angry. All I could think about was “if you don’t work you don’t eat! I pondered how, when and if I should say something. The only thing that tempered my anger was the fact that the kids made lunch and another friend their same age stopped over to help.

    I’m sharing this story because we’ve all allowed ourselves these habits that we far too often justify. Instead of encouraging each other daily through the word, we gather for our Sunday rituals- the one’s after our religious commitments. We’ve become so soft one to another we hardly ever confront these so-called “normal” habits and practices. We fear the accusations of men more than the favor of God.

    Today, I’m free from the sports frenzy because God answered my prayer to alter my heart toward them. That hasn’t made me free the other issue though, the practice of either allowing others to retain their idols or a proper attitute in rebuking what has become so clear these days. We too can practice sin without ever opening our eyes or unfolding our hands. Neglect is the failure of those who say they love, yet this only through words. There is truth to be shared, there are also deeds to be done.

    I pray that our Father will show us the depth of who we really are without Him and those things that block us from knowing Him more. I can’t help you and you can’t help me where our hearts have gone out of bounds. Truth resides in the inward man, and that through His Spirit. Unlike the things of this world, He never grows old or weary, always tells the truth and never fails to perform His will. These are the seedbeds where our trust and confidence must lie if we would strive for an unperishable crown.


  5. Mike, As always, thank you for sharing the Word and allowing God to speak truth through you (of course, being in Him, one cannot help but allow the Holy Spirit to work through us ;). I can totally relate to what you said about the distractions of the world taking us off course. We need to daily preach the Gospel to ourselves as we are constantly immersed in the corruption, deceit and sin of this world. God bless you brother!


  6. You are so right Mike! God knows how weak I am regarding sports teams, so He made me a Cleveland Browns fan as well as a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Thus when I had seen enough, He made Sundays restful for me rather then weekly Malox days.
    One year I even vowed to simply root against the Steelers and for who ever (or is it whom so ever) they polayed…The Steelers nearly went 16-0 that year. Ouch!
    Now I have an extra day each week and have time to read and relax…But then there is that Tebow kid…always are we tested! LOL
    By ythe way, you did a nice piece on who the who so ever are, could you email that to me?
    Thanks, Mike


  7. Another excellent post Mike. The more we abide in Jesus Christ, the less of a hold the things of this world have on us. It is truly a blessed work of the Holy Spirit. Things that used to command our attention seem foreign to us now as we look unto Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and abide in His Word.

    The other day you brought up television which I thought was interesting. Many today would immediately cry legalism because you brought up the sacred cow of entertainment. The reality is television is amoral. It is neither good nor bad. The same goes with other media (ie. print, internet, etc.). The real issue, however, is what is produced within media. There is an individual(s) behind the creation of books, films, TV programs, radio, etc. who has a worldview. Their worldview comes through their creation and it is either in alignment with Jesus Christ or opposed to it. This is what really needs to be evaluated in the light of Holy Scripture especially as it relates to our entertainment choices and how we spend our time.

    To say it does not influence a person would be highly delusional. The world knows better than that and you don’t see them spending millions of dollars on a 15 – 30 second commercial spot in the Superbowl because it will not impact anyone. And yet, there are some who think it is not necessary to guard what comes into our minds which is a dangerous thing and unbiblical.

    It too seems there are some who are a bit hypocritical in this area. They are all too happy to go out and criticize a Rob Bell or Brian McLaren (and rightly so) because their doctrine is opposed to Holy Scripture and yet, in the name of fantasy, go ahead and watch creations that are opposed to Jesus Christ in either film or TV. I have dealt with many an individual whose marriages were falling apart and things going wrong in their lives and it was not due to too much abiding in the Word of God and prayer. On the contrary, there was little of it and and an undue amount of time spent in things opposed to Jesus Christ.

    It has given me much joy to see men and their families restored by the power of God. Truly only God can change the human heart and what a holy, just, mighty, wonderful, merciful, and loving God we serve who does just that. I am grateful for your posts and for the wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who comment here.


  8. The one where you explain who so ever is dealing with those who are called/predestined verses all of mankind.


  9. Dear Mike,

    Several months ago I was reading Isaiah Chapter 7 and verse 15 “He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.” Something to ponder… God in the flesh refused the evil and chose the good….. perfectly…

    The evil is ever present just as it was even to Jesus. Our maturity in Christ is to refuse those things that we inwardly know are to our spiritual detriment and embrace the good things that please the Father.

    All of this being extremely basic ,yet so profound as we abide in the Spirit we are kept safe because the adversary does not have the ammunition to use against us. We are kept free from guilt and condemnation [never to the point where we could even conceive of being sinless because that is impossible] always pressing towards the goal to be more like our Savior.

    Kept only by His mighty hand, charisse


  10. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch my college take OU apart Saturday night. I had two regrets – my (we were married while students at OSU) was visiting our daughter and we “enjoyed the game together” via text messages rather than face-to-face. And my father, an OU grad, was long dead; he was fun to talk to on the rare occasions OSU beat OU.

    But I am not the rabid football fan I once was – hard core for the OSU Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Still enjoy it when they win, but it’s not as important as it once was.

    And then yesterday, on the Lord’s Day, we were instructed on what the Bible says about our attitudes towards His day and the reality that His kingdom is not of this world – so how does all this stuff of this age fit into our lives? Much to discuss afterward – and for the next several weeks, months, years; as the Lord allows.

    So, whether you eat, or drink, or do whatever, do all to the glory of God!


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