Knowing the True Rejecting the False

by Mike Ratliff

18 Οἴδαμεν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ γεγεννημένος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, ἀλλʼ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ ἑαυτὸν καὶ ὁ πονηρὸς οὐχ ἅπτεται αὐτοῦ.1 John 5:18 (NA28)

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 translated from the NA28 Greek text to English) 

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

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

18 οιδαμεν οτι πας ο γεγεννημενος εκ του θεου ουχ αμαρτανει αλλ ο γεννηθεις εκ του θεου τηρει εαυτον και ο πονηρος ουχ απτεται αυτου 1 John 5:18 (Greek NT: Scrivener 1894 TR)

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, ἀλλʼ ὁ γεννηθεὶς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ τηρεῖ ἑαυτὸν 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 (NA28)

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 translated from the NA28 Greek text to English)

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(tērei) is the Present, Indicative, Active case of τηρέω(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 71-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!


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