by Mike Ratliff
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NASB)
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.
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:4-10 (NASB)
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 (NASB)
4 Πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν καὶ τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖ, καὶ ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία. 1 John 3:4 (NA28)
4 Everyone practicing sin also does lawlessness and sin is lawlessness. 11 John 3:4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The verb “practicing” above is ποιῶν, 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 ποιεῖ, which is translated as “practices” in the NASB referring to the sinner also practicing lawlessness. Ποιεῖ 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?
11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 24 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. 1 John 3:11-24 (NASB)
The truly Born Again will have love growing at the center of their character. It will be the central part of their new nature. Yes, God will make each of them an exhibit of 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 like our church, but there are some things going on there that bother my discernment. No matter where you “attend church” I assure you that it 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!