Keys to Understand John’s First Epistle
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Keys to Understand John’s First Epistle
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John Hepp, Jr.
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Key 1: John uses many expressions in his first epistle that he used in his Gospel—and with the same meanings. 3
Key 2: In the first three verses John does not tell what and why he writes in this epistle but what and why the apostles preached to everyone. 4
Key 3: By koinonia (often translated “fellowship”) in chapter 1, John refers to sharing essentials, the purpose of gospel preaching. 6
Key 4: John first states the purpose of his epistle in 1:4, which purpose is to give assurance of eternal life. 7
Key 5: John assumes that everyone who participates (has koinonia) in eternal life walks in the light. 8
Key 6: In his epistle John gives us reasons to know—not just be hopeful—that we have eternal life. 10
Key 7: By the term translated “live” or “remain” (Greek meno) John refers to what must be true for every child of God. 11
Key 8: John sometimes uses absolute (unlimited) statements where most writers would use relative statements or modify them. 12
Key 9: Although John speaks of the readers as believers, he knows that some are not—or that their faith is defective. 14
Key 10: The difficulty of outlining 1 John adds to its richness. 15
Appendix A: Meno & The Doctrine of Abiding 17
Appendix B: Belief in John’s Gospel 21
Appendix C: Outline of 1 John 23
Keys to Understand John’s First Epistle
John Hepp, Jr.
Except as noted, Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) with this change: Jesus’ title Messiah is substituted for its equivalent Christ. Any bolding is added. “Gospel” means one of the four books (Matthew to John) written to tell the gospel (good news). John’s “epistle” refers only to 1 John.
God has shown amazing love to some of us unworthy humans. He has granted us eternal life, the most valuable possession there is. But real and important though it is, eternal life is invisible and doesn’t change our face now. It is quite possible to have that life without being sure of it (see below). It is also possible to cherish a false assurance, as the Lord warned us:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23)
How can we know if we have that life—and “will enter the kingdom of heaven”? God designed one book with the stated purpose “that you may know that you have eternal life.” That book is 1 John. The keys below point out features of 1 John that help to understand its purpose and the basis it gives us to be sure of our salvation. We must find what 1 John really says, not what we wish it said. Its words and grammar seem simple. But like Paul’s epistles, it includes “some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).
Reading our keys by no means takes the place of reading 1 John, which can be done in fifteen to twenty minutes. Read it many times, writing down your observations and checking ours (and others). Read it with prayer for the Spirit’s illumination. The more times you read it that way, the more you will be amazed at its concepts and the connec¬tions between them.
Key 1: John uses many expressions in his first epistle that he used in his Gospel—and with the same meanings.
This key is extremely important, since there are many expressions common to John’s epistle and his Gospel. As we read the epistle, these are some of the first such examples: ‘the beginning,” “eternal life,” “walk in the darkness,” “do the truth,” “have no sin,” “the truth is not in [us or him],” “his word is not in [us or them],” “know [him or God or the Father],” “keep [his or my] commandments.” One such expression to which we will devote a key and an appendix, is “remain/continue/abide in.” We should expect any such expression to mean the same thing(s) in the epistle that it means in the Gospel. We should question any interpretation that changes its meaning.
As an example, consider “pass from death to life.” This expression is used only twice in the Bible, once in John’s Gospel and once in his epistle. The only change in Greek is in the person of the verb, from “he” to “we.” In John 5:24 Jesus declares that “whoever hears my word and believes…has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” As you can see, the expression describes everyone who “hears…and believes [and] has eternal life,” in other words, every true believer. Now consider the use of the same expression in the epistle: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life [abiding] in him” (1 John 3:14-15). We should assume that the bolded expression still describes all converted persons—true believers. If it does, that passage teaches that our love is evidence that we have eternal life.
Some interpreters, however, disagree. Perhaps because of the way they understand other doc-trines, they want to avoid the conclusion that love is evidence of life. Therefore, they propose that the expression we are discussing means something different in 1 John than in John’s Gospel. They teach that in the epistle it has no reference to conversion. We can paraphrase one such argument as follows:
Not every believer has passed from death to life. Some believers in experience still live “in the same sphere [death] in which the world lives.” This was true of King David, who, though anointed with the Spirit was guilty of murder. Likewise, a genuine believer today may hate another believer and thus be guilty of murder. In that case he possesses eternal life without it abiding in him.
Such an interpretation tries to fit the Scripture to doctrine and experience. But it is faulty, partly because it twists the mean¬ings of “abiding” and “passing from death to life.”
Key 2: In the first three verses John does not tell what and why he writes in this epistle but what and why the apostles preached to everyone.
It is commonly assumed that 1 John 1:1-3 gives John’s purpose in writing. John does not say so. Instead, in those verses he gives the content and purpose of apostolic preaching.
Suppose you lived near the middle of the first century and met the apostle John. What would he tell you, and why?
a) John would gladly tell you some of his eyewitness experiences with Jesus: things he heard, saw, and felt. These are the same things he reported in the Gospel he wrote.
b) John would also tell you some grand conclusions he and the other apostles reached about Jesus. For example, Jesus came from God and embodies eternal life. These are also things John wrote about in his Gospel, especially in its prologue (John 1:1-18).
c) Why would John tell you these experiences and conclusions, and write about them in his Gospel? No need to guess; in that Gospel he explains his purpose for it: “these are writ-ten that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). In other words, the apostles who found eternal life in Jesus want others to take part as well.
You have just read three facts about apostolic preaching to the world: (a) the eyewitness exper-iences they told, (b) their grand conclusions, and (c) their purpose. The same facts are all true of the Gospels but not of John’s first epistle. Yet, the epistle refers to each of them in 1:1-3.
a) The eyewitness experiences apostles tell about: “That which…we have heard…seen with our eyes…looked at…our hands have touched—this we proclaim…” (v. 1). “We have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you…” (v. 2). “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (v. 3). When these verses repeatedly say “we proclaim,” it simply means that the apostles told others the events they had seen and heard. The people they told included the readers of this epistle (“to you”). John also recorded his own testimony of such things in his Gospel but not in this epistle.
b) The apostles’ grand conclusions about Jesus: He “was from the beginning…the Word of life… the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us” (vv. 1-2). These are conclusions warranted from the testimonies in John’s Gospel and stated in words that come directly from its prologue (see John 1:1, 2, 4, 14). The epistle assumes and builds upon these conclusions; however, it does not prove them as the Gospel does.
c) The purpose of this apostolic witness to eternal life made flesh. What is their goal? For the hearers to “have fellowship with us [the apostles],” a “fellowship…with the Father and with his Son” (v. 3). As I will emphasize in the next key, this means for the hearers to participate, to share, in the divine life the apostles have discovered. It is the same goal as in John 20:31. John writes the epistle to people who have already heard the apostles and
—as John later states—have apparently believed and participated. In other words, their participation is the basis of 1 John but not its purpose.
Key 3: By koinonia (often translated “fellowship”) in chapter 1, John refers to sharing essentials, the purpose of gospel preaching.
This key in effect emphasizes and extends the second key to the epistle. It looks more closely at the Greek noun koinonia, which in 1 John 1 means participation in divine life. John uses this word twice in 1:3, referring not to the purpose of the epistle but to the purpose of apostolic preaching. He uses it again in verses 6 and 7, as the basis of the first section (from 1:5 to at least 2:2).
Koinonia appears nineteen times in the New Testament. It has cognates (words from the same root) that are also used frequently. From the root for “common,” koinonia means “sharing some-thing in common, participation, alliance.” Its range of meaning can go from a “contribution” given to someone (Rom. 15:26) to a “partnership” with someone (Phil. 1:5). The relationship it denotes is serious, not frivolous. In fact, in Greek writings the word is often used for the marri-age relation¬ship. It can even summarize the entire Christian life: “God…has called you into fellowship [participation or alliance] with his Son Jesus Messiah our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).
Though often used to translate koinonia, the English word fellowship now seems inadequate. In current use fellowship has been watered down and often means little more than eating and drink-ing together. Therefore, it seems more exact when NIV translates koinonia as “participation” (twice in 1 Cor. 10:16), as “sharing” (2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13; Philem. 6), and as “to share” (Heb. 13:16). Similarly, the eight occurrences of the verb form (koinoneo) it translates seven times as “share” and once as “participate.” Ten times we find the designation of a person who so shares (a koinonos). He is called a “partner” (Luke 5:10; 2 Cor. 8:23; Philem.17) or “participant” (1 Cor. 10:20), or is described with a verb such as “partici¬pate” (1 Cor. 10:18; 2 Peter 1:4) or “share” (2 Cor. 1:7; 1 Peter 5:1).
When the apostles witnessed, what did they want the hearers to participate in? In “eternal life,” which was the subject of their witness (1:2). Let us return to 1:3, which summarizes that purpose, and para¬phrase it.
We apostles tell you what we have seen and heard about eternal life made flesh, so that you also may participate in eternal life with us. And this participation is with the Father and with His Son Jesus (who has brought us His revelation).
John never says that koinonia is the purpose of his epistle. Instead, he says (in 1:3) that it was the purpose of apostolic preaching. By koinonia John meant participation in eternal life, which many of John’s readers already had. A few verses later (vv. 6 and 7), John considers (a) persons who falsely claim such participation and (b) persons who give evidence of such partici¬pation.
Key 4: John first states the purpose of his epistle in 1:4, which purpose is to give assurance of eternal life.
John repeatedly tells why he writes his epistle (his purpose). The first such statement is in 1:4, where John first uses the verb “write” (after using “proclaim” in verses 1-3). His most compre-hensive purpose statement is in 5:13: for his readers to know that they have eternal life. (Key 6 will emphasize reasons why they could know this.)
We will look at four purpose statements: 1:4; 2:1; 2:26; and 5:13. In three of these (all but 2:26) he uses a purpose clause, beginning with Greek hina (“in order to”), to make his purpose explicit. Only in these four verses John uses the Greek word tauta (literally “these things”), by which he refers to what he writes. In each case I will bold the translation of tauta and add comments.
1:4 “We write this [tauta] to make our [or, your] joy complete.”
If the reading “our” is correct, John’s purpose includes at least himself with the readers. What does tauta refer to? It is unlikely that it refers to John’s description of apostolic testimony just finished (vv. 1-3). The readers had previously heard and accepted that testimony, but John gives none of it here. Though their joy was still incomplete, John’s brief description in three verses would hardly complete their joy. Thus, tauta here refers to what he writes in the epistle as a whole.
2:1 “I write this to you so that you will not sin.”
This second purpose statement again refers to the whole epistle. The believer’s relation to sin is a common theme there, not limited to this section.
2:26 “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.”
This does not state a purpose but clearly implies one. Warning about false teachers permeates the whole epistle.
5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
This is the final and most comprehensive purpose statement for the entire epistle. It repeats a goal aimed at previously in many ways: to know that we have eternal life.
In each purpose statement just quoted, I conclude that tauta refers to the entire epistle rather than just a section. John has several goals in writing. But they are closely related goals; John does not shoot in every direction. Let’s combine the four: John writes (1) to produce joy by (2) guarding his readers from sin, (3) guarding them from the perversions of false teachers, and (4) helping them know that they have eternal life. His purpose is not negative but positive—not to show them that they lack eternal life but to give proofs that they have it. What blessed assurance (what joy) that should produce!
Key 5: John assumes that everyone who participates (has koinonia) in eternal life walks in the light.
Light suggests purity, reality (darkness is nothing), and—above all—revelation (truth) about God who enlightens and the person who is enlightened. John is not writing to get people to walk in the light but to people who are assumed—like all true believers—to do so.
After the prologue (1:1-3) and first purpose statement (1:4), John continues the thought of parti-cipation in eternal life. Now he ties it to a powerful metaphor from his Gospel: that God is light with no darkness. This, he says, is the meaning of the message the apostles passed on (1:5)—and the readers accepted. It is evident, then, that everyone who has koinonia (partici¬pates) with the apostles will walk (live his life) in that light. Jesus had said the same thing:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12; see also 9:5.)
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)
Thus spoke the One who came from heaven to reveal God. He assured us that no follower of His will walk in darkness; all believers will stay in the light He is and has brought.
John shows the relevance of this point in 1 John 1:6 to 2:2, as seen in the table that follows. I have numbered from 1 to 9 the cells that quote Scripture and the corresponding comments that follow the table. Comments are mostly on the bolded expressions.
As you read the table and comments, notice that John here makes three contrasts of false profes-sors to true believers. Each contrast has three parts. (1) It begins with “if we claim” and a false claim (cells 2, 6, 10). (2) It then passes judgment on people making that claim (cells 3, 7, 11). (3) It closes with a counter-claim or its equivalent. The counter-claim for each of the first two contrasts (cells 4, 8) begins with “if we.” The counter-claim for the third contrast (assuming that it is a contrast) begins differently and is much longer.
Three Claims & Counter-Claims Regarding God’s Light
1 John 1:6–2:2
Refer-ence False Claim
by False Professors Judgment Counter-Claim
About True Believers
1:6-7 1 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, 2 we lie and do not live by the truth. 3 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his son, purifies us from all sin.
1:8-9 4 If we claim to be without sin, 5 we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 6 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1:10–2:2 7 If we claim we have not sinned, 8we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 9? …But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Messiah, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins….
Cell 1. to have fellowship—This means to participate in eternal life (Key 3). It is true of every genuine Christian (cell 3, Key 3). But it is not true of those who walk in the darkness (cell 2).
walk in the darkness—As you saw in John 8:12 and 12:46 (cf. John 3:20), no one who follows Jesus or believes in Him can walk in the darkness. See also 1 John 2:11, which uses the same expression to describe one who hates his brother.
Cell 2. lie, do not live by the truth—Both expressions clearly relate a person to the devil, as seen in John 8:44:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Cell 3. walk in the light, have fellowship—These activities are true of every genuine Christian (see comments for cell 1).
purifies us from all sin—This is a process in all believers, also called sancti¬fication. It is the sure working of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:3, 18; Heb. 8:10).
Cell 4. to be without sin—This expression probably means to deny the state and guilt of sin. See its use in the Gospel: John 9:41; 15:22, 24; 19:11. For example, “the Jews” in John 9 implied that they had no such guilt. They “hurled insults” at the man whose sight Jesus had restored. “You were steeped in sin at birth,” they argued; “‘how dare you lecture us!’ And they threw him out” (John 9:28, 34). Later Jesus warned them, “Now that you claim you can see, your guilt [Greek, sin] remains” (9:41). In fact, one of the big results of Jesus’ words (15:22) and Jesus’ works (15:24) is to make such sin/guilt evident.
Cell 5. the truth is not in us (repeated in 1 John 2:4)—Previously, this was said only of the devil, in John 8:44 (quoted for cell 2).
Cell 6. confess our sins—This is a counter-claim to verse 8 (quoted in cell 4)—and thus is true of every genuine Christian. As we walk in the light, it will continue to reveal our sins to us, which implies that we acknowledge them. John does not present this acknowl-edgment of sins as the key to a deeper life but as evidence of our participation in eternal life.
purify us from all unrighteousness—Here “purify” probably refers to the totality of the sanctification seen as an ongoing process in verse 7 (cell 3).
Cell 7. have not sinned—If different from the claim in verse 8 (cell 4), this claim may simply point to the activity, rather than the guilt, of sin. No true Christian will make either claim. Each of them has accepted the testimony of the Holy Spirit foreseen in John 16:8. The Spirit was sent by the Son (and the Father) to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (New American Standard Bible).
Cell 8. make him out to be a liar—This is what an unbeliever does who rejects God’s light.
his word has no place in our lives—This is what Jesus said about those who rejected the Father’s testimony (John 5:38; cf. 8:37).
Cell 9. This shows what happens in heaven when a Christian sins on earth.
In conclusion, a person who participates (has koinonia) in eternal life is one who walks in God’s revelation (the light). Walking in the light is evidence of participation in life (koinonia). (Some who mis¬understand koinonia wrongly think the reverse, that “fellowship” is evidence of walk¬ing in the light.) One who walks in the light does not deny his sin. Since the light reveals his sin, he sees it, acknowledges it, and is progressively cleansed from it.
Key 6: In his epistle John gives us reasons to know—not just be hopeful—that we have eternal life.
This key is an extension of Key 4. In this epistle John puts a great deal of emphasis on know-ing. There are things a believer can know—not just guess—and with good reasons. Why did John emphasize knowing? Possibly because the false teachers were either denying such knowl-edge or claiming it only for their followers. These teachers may have been forerunners of the Gnostics, who taught that salvation is obtained by secret knowl¬edge. Gnostic heretics flooded the church in the second century.
High among things to know is the one stated in John’s main purpose (see Key 4):
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
John gives three main reasons why we can know that we have eternal life. Here they are, with sample verses for each reason.
1. Right belief about Jesus. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God” (4:15). “This is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (3:24). The next verses (4:1-6) show that we “recognize the Spirit of God” if that spirit “acknowledges that Jesus Messiah has come in the flesh” (4:2). The spirit of Antichrist does not acknowledge this (4:3; cf. 2:22).
2. Righteousness/obedience. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his com-mands” (2:3). “You know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (2:29). “Do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he [Messiah] is righteous” (3:7).
3. Love. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (3:14). “This then [by the practical love just described] is how we know that we belong to the truth” (3:19). “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (4:7). In 4:12-16 this third reason is combined with the first one. Mutual indwelling of God and us (He in us and we in Him) is known by both reasons: by love for one another (which is this reason 3) and by the Spirit who leads us to acknowl¬edge Jesus the Son (which is reason 1).
Key 7: By the term translated “live” or “remain” (Greek meno) John refers to what must be true for every child of God.
This key deals with the Greek verb meno, used twenty-four times in 1 John and three times in 2 John. It is important for you to determine what John means by it. Appendix A (page 17) discusses in some detail the reasons for our conclusion, and gives many examples. Here we will only summarize the argu¬ments.
Meno means “to stay, remain, continue” in a place, condition, or existence. It does not describe a new activity or state but continues/extends one already in existence. This continuing can be classified as sense A or sense B. Sense A is literal, that is, physical or mental. Sense B is non-literal, that is, moral or spiritual. Only John uses meno in sense B.
All uses of meno outside of John’s writings, also a few in John’s Gospel, are in sense A. For examples, see John 1:32, 33, 39-40; 2:12; 3:36. John’s uses of meno in sense B give the basis of “The Doctrine of Abiding.” The first such uses in his Gospel (5:38; 6:27, 56; 8:31, 32) establish the fact that sense B (abiding) describes every converted person. The climactic passage in the Gospel regarding abiding is 15:1-17. That passage shows us that an initial act of “believing” may be insufficient for salvation; saving faith must (and will) continue and result in spiritual fruit. When Jesus exhorts His disciples to abide (remain) in Him (John 15:4), that means to keep on believing. The same exhortation in 1 John (2:28) means the same thing.
Key 8: John sometimes uses absolute (unlimited) statements where most writers would use relative statements or modify them.
John sometimes makes statements that he expects readers to modify. For example: “You do not need anyone to teach you…his anointing teaches you about all things” (2:27). John’s statement is absolute (without limitations). But he cannot mean that under no conditions or in no sense do his readers need a religious teacher. He himself is writing as one, expecting them to pay attention and learn. Messiah’s gifts to the church include both “apostles…and teachers” (Eph. 4:11); a wise person will listen to both. So John’s absolute statement is subject to modifi¬cation, telling under what condi¬tions or to what extent a believer does not need a teacher, or a particular kind of teacher.
Consider another absolute statement, here another denial, reiterated in 1 John 2:29–3:10:
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (3:6).
No one who is born of God will continue to sin;…he cannot go on sinning. (3:9)
In this passage John seems to deny that there will be sin in a believer’s life. But he cannot mean that. As we saw in 1:7, 9; and 2:1 (Key 5), everyone who walks in the light will acknowledge his sin. Thus, John’s absolute denial of sin forces us to stop and seek some answers, as we will do below. (1) Who is it that cannot sin? (2) What does the denial mean?
1. Who cannot sin? Some argue that only the person’s new nature cannot sin—not the person himself (cf. Rom. 7:17, 20). In fact, they say, a child of God might be quite unrighteous; because he may let his old nature control him rather than his new nature. Though potentially righteous, he can actually be wicked. But if that were what John affirms, we could not count on personal righteous¬ness to mark out God’s children. Yet, John says we can. In this passage (2:29–3:10) he says so three times: in the introduction and in two conclusions.
If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (2:29)
Do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous. (3:7)
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God. (3:10)
John’s conclusion leads to our own: In this passage John describes two recognizable kinds of people, not some feature about them that may remain hidden. Of those two kinds of people, one kind are God’s children: those who cannot sin but who do what is right.
2. What does the denial (cannot sin) mean? John states it several ways, each time using the Greek “present” rather than “aorist.” If he had used an “aorist” verb for sin in 3:6, the denial would mean “No one who lives [remains] in him ever sins.” That would contradict verses 7 and 9 of chapter 1 (those in the light acknowledge sin). Instead, he uses a “present” verb, which the NIV indicates by adding “keeps on” (v. 6). Similarly, it adds “will continue to” and “go on” in verse 9 because the Greek verbs are “present” there, too. And so they are in “practices sin” (3:4, 8) and “practices righteousness” (3:7; cf. 3:10). Thus, NIV points to the explanation that most interpreters adopt: God’s children cannot practice sin as their charac-teristic way of life.
Sometimes John puts absolute statements side by side, so that they modify each other. To take either one as the whole truth could lead us into heresy.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (4:15)
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (4:16)
These verses give two evidences for mutual indwelling of God and a person. Neither statement is true absolutely. They are true together.
Key 9: Although John speaks of the readers as believers, he knows that some are not—or that their faith is defective.
“He who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). The doctrine of Eternal Security teaches that God’s elect will certainly persevere to the end. Key 9 seems to contradict that doctrine. It does not contradict it—but should modify our understanding of it.
John writes his epistle to those “who believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13). He calls them his “dear children” in the faith (2:1) and his “dear friends” (2:7). Their “sins have been forgiven” (2:12); they “have known him who is from the beginning” (2:3); “the word of God lives in” them (2:14). They “have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of [them] know the truth” (2:20). The Father has “lavished” His love on them and made them “children of God” (3:1-2). As members of the same spiritual family, they call each other “brother” (2:9-11; 3:14-16; 4:20; 5:16).
Yet this holy family is in danger. John sounds the alarm: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray” (2:26). In many ways his epistle warns them about the “antichrists” (2:18, 22), who deny Jesus as Son/Messiah and thus deny the Father (2:22-23; 4:1-3). These antichrists teach wrong and live wrong; their ungodly lives match their ungodly words. Yet, they make untruthful claims that they know God, such as John warns about in 1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 6, 9; 3:17; and 4:20. Those who accept their teaching become like them. Because that danger is real, the readers are exhorted to “remain in him” (2:28).
How could those whom John calls “dear children” and “children of God” really be in serious danger? Aren’t they eternally secure? Yes, but only if they truly are what John calls them. Belonging to a holy group and enjoying holy names is inadequate evidence of who we are. Even the “antichrists,” John says, had previously belonged to the readers’ (or apostles’) group. No doubt they too had been called “children of God.”
They [the “antichrists”] went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (2:19)
In other words, before they “went out from” the holy family, those counterfeits were known as Christians. Has this situation changed? Isn’t its persistence the reason why Jesus warned that “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.7:21)? He also described hearers who quickly respond to God’s Word but soon wither: “Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away” (Luke 8:13). Believing that saves is believing that continues and grows. And remember that Jesus called even some “who had believed” Him children of “your father, the devil” (John 8:31, 44).
Such warnings add no requirement for salvation—no kind of works—to genuine faith in the genuine Lord. But who of us can see faith? There is clearly such a thing as counterfeit faith, which can delude even those who have it. So not even the blessed doctrine of Eternal Security should make us discount such warnings. Like Jesus and John, other New Testament writers echo the same warning. For example, consider the following samples from Hebrews. Its readers, like those of 1 John, are considered “holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling” (Heb. 3:1). Yet, their participation with Messiah (in His coming kingdom) is not certain for all of them.
We are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (Heb. 3:6)
We have come to share in Messiah if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (3:14)
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure….to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (6:11-12)
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised….My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (10:36-39)
When John warns his “children” in the same way, does he want them to live in doubt? Of course not. He wants them to be joyously assured. Yet, there are wrong reasons and right reasons for assurance. The right reasons, as you saw in Key 6 (page 10), include right belief and evidence of God’s grace in us. Eternal Security is a fact. But it operates in part through exhortations and warnings to which we respond in faith.
Key 10: The difficulty of outlining 1 John adds to its richness.
It is helpful to outline a Bible book. To do so, we must determine which ideas are more impor-tant and which are less important—and how they are related. Some are coordinate (on the same level with each other), and some are subordinate (on a lower level). By working at outlining the book, we dis¬cover what the author emphasizes and how he accomplishes his purpose.
Try outlining 1 John for yourself. But expect unusual difficulties. This epistle often puts ideas side by side without connectives that show their relationship. It keeps on returning to the same ideas from different angles. It sometimes depicts as black and white what surely must be gray. The very effort to outline 1 John will expose you to its outstanding beauty. As in a kaleidoscope, each small change in a prism of thought affects the whole. After you try for yourself, read and test the excellent outline in Appendix C, page 23.
Appendix A: Meno & The Doctrine of Abiding
Now he who keeps His commandments ABIDES in Him and He in him. And by this we know that He ABIDES in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
The verse above is 1 John 3:24, quoted from the New King James Version to show the word abides. (Hereafter, we will quote from the NIV.) This verse gives aspects of what has been called “The Doctrine of Abiding,” based on writings by the apostle John. The key word (here twice translated “abides”) is the Greek verb meno. John uses this word twenty-four times in the five chapters of his first epistle, and three times in 2 John. It is important to see how he uses it.
Meno simply means “to stay, remain, continue” in a place, condition, or existence. Most writers use it only in a literal sense: for physical or mental remaining. We will call this literal sense “sense A.” John, however, also uses meno in a non-literal sense, for moral or spiritual remain¬ing. We will call this—the basis of abiding—“sense B.” In either sense meno extends an activ¬ity or status that already exists; it does not start a new one. For example, to stay in a place only extends being there; it is not a special kind of relationship.
Every New Testament use of meno outside of John’s writings is in sense A. John also sometimes uses it that way, as in the following examples from his Gospel. The words in all-capital letters are the NIV translation of meno. Notice something else about meno. It does not itself suggest that the continued activity or status will—or will not—come to an end. Such a suggestion must come from other words, such as in the third example below (2:12, “for a few days”).
1:32 “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven…and REMAIN on him [Jesus].” (also v. 33)
1:38 “Where ARE you STAYING?” (also v. 39)
2:12 “There they STAYED for a few days.” (also 4:40; 11:6; each telling how long)
3:36 “God’s wrath REMAINS on him.”
Now consider sense B, to continue morally or spiritually. Over half the time in his Gospel, and usually in his epistles, John uses meno this way. Since the KJV often translates meno as “abide,” John’s uses of sense B constitute “The Doctrine of Abiding.” In the Gospel here are his first such uses, with comments for each. In them abiding means to continue relationships necessary for salvation. In other words, John uses sense B to describe every converted person.
5:38 “nor DOES his word DWELL in you”
(This was the defect that kept some from believing the One whom God sent and, as a result, from having life—v. 40—or the love of God—v. 42. We infer, therefore, that God’s word does dwell in all believers who receive eternal life.)
6:27 “food that ENDURES to eternal life”
(This true bread from heaven—v. 33—is Jesus Himself—vv. 35, 41—namely, his flesh
—v. 51. Therefore, the food that must remain in someone for him to have eternal life would seem to be Jesus remaining in him. Compare v. 56.)
6:56 “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood REMAINS in me, and I in him.”
(This eating and drinking produces or is evidence of mutual indwelling. In the two previous verses—vv. 54-55—the same eating and drinking give eternal life. Therefore, it would seem that all who obtain eternal life remain in the Lord Jesus and He in them.)
8:31-32 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you HOLD TO [continue in] my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(These were people “who had believed”—v. 31—but showed that they were not converted. They later tried to kill Jesus—v. 59. He said that they were not really Abraham’s children—v. 39—nor God’s children—v. 42—but the devil’s—v. 44. Therefore, it is not sufficient to initially “believe.” In order to truly be His disciple and become free, one must “hold to [His] teaching.”)
It seems obvious from these examples that all genuine Christians abide in Messiah and His Word. Likewise, He (and God) and His Word abide in them. But this obvious meaning of meno gives us a difficulty in John 15:1-17. In that last and climactic passage about abiding in John’s Gospel, it seems to contradict the marvelous doctrine of Eternal Security (“once saved, always saved”). In John 15 Messiah calls Himself “the true vine” (vv. 1, 5). His purpose as the vine, of course, is to produce fruit (grapes). “The branches” in this vine (v. 5) are His disci¬ples, who are known as such by the grapes they produce (v. 8). Notice how He exhorts and warns them in 15:4-6.
4 REMAIN in me, and I WILL REMAIN in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must REMAIN in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you REMAIN in me. 5 I am the vine. You are the branches. If a man REMAINS in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. 6 If anyone DOES not REMAIN in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away…thrown into the fire and burned.
Thus, Messiah exhorts people to remain in Him (v. 4) who are already branches (v. 5). And He warns them on the assumption that some “branches” will “not remain in” Him and will be “burned” (v. 6). This exhortation and warning seem to conflict with Eternal Security. Doesn’t that doctrine guarantee that all true believers will persevere and cannot be lost? If so, why exhort them to remain in Messiah? Why warn them them about not remain¬ing?
To harmonize John 15:1-17 with Eternal Security, some interpreters redefine meno. In this passage they restrict it to selected believers. All believers, they say, are in the vine, but not all abide. In their interpretation abiding has become a new and optional activity. It is not—as you saw in its earlier uses—a continuation of an existing activity (here being “in” the vine). Some of these interpreters conclude that not all believers bear fruit (v. 4) and that being “burned” (v. 6) is a temporal, not eternal, judgment. However, their explanation is not valid. It changes the mean-ing of meno (whether sense A or sense B) that you consistently saw in the earlier references.
A better solution maintains that in John 15 abiding means to keep on believing. There is—even in John’s Gospel—belief that does not continue and does not save. I give evidence of that in Appendix B (p. 21). For now, see how the normal meaning of meno fits in some of its uses in 1 John and 2 John. As above, the translations of meno are in all-capital letters. For your own study there is a complete list, at the end of this appendix, of the use of meno in those books.
2:6 “Whoever claims to LIVE in him must walk as Jesus did.”
(“Live in him” continues “are in him,” from the previous verse, v. 5.)
3:24 “Those who obey his commands LIVE in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he LIVES in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
(By definition every genuine disciple of Messiah obeys Him—Matthew 5:24; 28:19—and has been given the Spirit—Romans 5:5; 8:9.)
4:12,13 “If we love one another, God LIVES in us….We know that we LIVE in him and he [LIVES] in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”
(Our love is evidence that we are His disciples—John 13:35. Regarding the Spirit, see the comment for 3:24.)
4:15 “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God LIVES in him and he [LIVES] in God.”
(As in the previous example, this sentence begins with a protasis [“if” clause]: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God.” This is followed by an apodosis [conclusion]: “God LIVES in him and he in God.” Since the protasis is true of every believer, so is the apodosis—mutual indwelling.)
4:16 “Whoever LIVES in love LIVES in God, and God [LIVES] in him.”
2 John 9 “Anyone who…DOES not CONTINUE in the teaching of Messiah does not have God; whoever CONTINUES in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
(Could there be any stronger way of equating meno with genuine Christianity?)
Thus, abiding is not a special relationship but a continuance of what already exists—of believing. Will genuine believers unfailingly abide (continue to believe)? The doctrine of Eternal Security says yes. However, the exhortations to abide are essential. God designs to keep us secure in part through our heeding the exhortations. As in all His dealings, He treats us not as inanimate objects (like rocks) but as people who respond.
Those who do not abide (continue, remain) are not genuine believers. The false teachers did not abide, which is John’s proof that they never were believers: “If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us” (2:19). Similarly, when he says that “no murderer has eternal life [remaining] in him” (3:15), he simply means that eternal life was never present (see v. 14). Whatever was not there could not remain.
Meno in 1 John and 2 John: Continue Morally or Spiritually
Refer-ence New King James Version Text
(Translation of Meno Form in All-Capital Letters) NIV Translation of Meno
1 John 2:6 He who says he ABIDES in Him, ought himself also to walk just as He walked. LIVE
2:10 He who loves his brother ABIDES in the light. LIVES
2:14 because…the word of God ABIDES in you LIVES
2:17 He who does the will of God ABIDES forever. LIVES
2:19 for if they had been of us, they WOULD HAVE CONTINUED with us WOULD HAVE REMAINED
2:24 Therefore LET that ABIDE in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning ABIDES in you; you also WILL ABIDE in the Son and in the Father. SEE THAT…REMAINS [If it does]
2:27 But the anointing which you have received from Him ABIDES in you….and just as it has taught you, you WILL ABIDE in Him. REMAINS
2:28 And now, little children, ABIDE in Him. CONTINUE
3:6 Whoever ABIDES in him does not sin. Note: This is contrasted to “whoever commits [practices] sin” in 3:4. LIVES
3:9 for His seed REMAINS in him REMAINS
3:14 He who does not love his brother ABIDES in death. REMAINS
3:15 no murderer has eternal life ABIDING in him. [omit]
3:17 How DOES the love of God ABIDE in him? CAN…BE
3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments ABIDES in Him and He in him. And by this we know that He ABIDES in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. LIVE
4:12 If we love one another, God ABIDES in us. LIVES
4:13 By this we know that we ABIDE in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. LIVE
4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God ABIDES in him, and he in God. LIVES
4:16 God is love, and he who ABIDES in love ABIDES in God, and God [ABIDES] in him. LIVES…[LIVES]
2 John 2 because of the truth which ABIDES in us and will be with us forever LIVES
2 John 9 Whoever transgresses and DOES not ABIDE in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who ABIDES in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. DOES CONTINUE CONTINUES
Appendix B: Belief in John’s Gospel
John’s Gospel never uses the Greek noun for “faith.” However, it uses the verb for “believe” far more (98 times) than any other New Testament book. Consider some facts about believing as seen in this “Gospel of Belief.”
1. John often shows that believing is the only way to get eternal life:
1:11-13; 3:15-16, 18, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 17:20; 20:31.
The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. (6:29)
To those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (1:12)
2. John implies that effective believing is more than a mental acceptance of facts. Note some equivalents to believing in Messiah.
Receive Him: 1:11; 5:43 (cf. receive the one He sends: 13:20)
Drink the water He gives: 4:14
Come to Him: 5:40; 6:44
Eat and drink Him: 6:50-58
Follow Him: 8:12
Die, not love life but hate it: 12:24-26
Love Him: 14:21-24
In 12:24-26 the Lord applies to His followers the law of His own life. As in Matthew 16:24-26 and Luke 14:26-27, true faith in Him involves a new attitude toward the world and toward ourselves.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.
3. John shows that for Jesus’ close followers believing was not once-for-all but repeated and growing.
Some of their earliest statements of faith are in 1:41 (Andrew, “‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ)” and 1:49 (Nathaniel, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”). But watch their faith grow as the evidence comes in:
2:11 After His first sign at Cana, “his disciples put their faith in him.”
2:22 “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled….Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”
11:15 He told His disciples, “For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”
11:40 He told Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
14:1 He exhorted the eleven disciples, “Trust in God; trust also in me.”
14:10-11 Talking to the eleven: “Don’t you believe?…Believe me…believe….”
14:29 To the eleven, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.”
16:30 The eleven say, “Now we can see that you know all things….This makes us believe that you came from God.”
16:31 Jesus responds to v. 30: “You believe at last!” (or He questions it, KJV).
20:8 “The other disciple…went inside [the empty tomb]. He saw and believed.”
20:25,27,29 Thomas says: Unless I see and touch Him, “I will not believe it.” Jesus appears, tells him to touch Him, then says, “Stop doubting and believe.” After Thomas’s confession, “then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
Chapter 9 illustrates the birth and growth of faith. Note the stages in verses 7, 11-12, 15-17, 24-34, and 35-38.
4. John gives several examples of defective faith.
2:23-25 “In Jerusalem…many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them….”
3:2; 11-12 Nicodemus claimed, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God.” Jesus countered, “You people do not accept our testimony….You do not believe.”
6:14-15, 26-27 Many confessed that Jesus was the Prophet and wanted to make Him King, because they ate the bread He had multiplied.
6:67-71 The Twelve confessed His Messiahship, but one of them was a devil.
8:30-47 “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed in him Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” When they objected to His language, He proceeded to show that they were yet “slaves to sin” (v. 34) and “belong to your father the devil” (v. 44). Twice He said they did not believe Him (vv. 45, 46); they did “not belong to God” (v. 47).
12:42-43 “Many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear….for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”
Appendix C: Outline of 1 John
Donald W. Burdick, The Epistles of John (Moody Press, 1970)
I. Introduction: The Reality of the Incarnation (1:1-4)
A. The Substance of the Apostolic Declaration (1:1-2)
B. The Purpose of the Apostolic Declaration (1:3-4)
II. First Cycle: The Christian Life Viewed as Fellowship with the Father and the Son (1:5–2:28)
A. Fellowship Tested on Ethical Grounds (1:5–2:11)
1. Fellowship demands moral likeness (1:5-7)
2. Fellowship demands confession of sin (1:8–2:2)
3. Fellowship demands obedience (2:3-6)
4. Fellowship demands love of fellow believers (2:7-11)
B. Two digressions (2:12-17)
1. An assumption concerning the readers (2:12-14)
2. A warning concerning loving the world (2:15-17)
C. Fellowship Tested on Christological Grounds (2:18-28)
1. The contrast between heretics and believers (2:18-21
2. The Christological test (2:22-23)
3. The secret of continuing fellowship (2:24-28)
III. Second Cycle: The Christian Life Viewed as Divine Sonship (2:29–4:6)
A. Sonship Tested on Ethical Grounds (2:29–3:24)
1. Sonship demands the practice of righteousness (2:29–3:10a)
2. Sonship demands the love of fellow believers (3: 10b-24)
B. Sonship Tested on Christological Grounds (4:1-6)
1. A warning against false prophets (4:1)
2. The Christological test (4:2-3)
3. The hearing test (4:4-6)
IV. Third Cycle: The Christian Life Viewed as the Interweaving of the Ethical and the Doctrinal (4:7–5:12)
A. The Ethical Aspect (4:7–5:5)
1. The source of love (4:7-16)
2. The fruit of love (4:17-19)
3. The necessity of brother love (4:20–5:5)
B. The Christological Aspect (5:6-12)
1. The coincident witness of historical facts and the Holy Spirit (5:6-9)
2. The experiential witness of eternal life (5:10-12)
V. Conclusion: Great Certainties of the Christian Life (5:13-21)
A. The Certainty of Eternal Life (5:13)
B. The Certainty of Answered Prayer (5:14-17)
C. The Certainty of Victory (5:18)
D. The Certainty of Two Great Relationships (5:19)
E. The Certainty of the Incarnation (5:20)
F. Concluding Exhortation (5:21)
Elsewhere, in a separate chart titled “Expressions and Key Words Used Both in John’s Epistles and Gospel,” I have listed over forty such examples. For each term I give references, usually with summaries, in 1 John and the Gospel. For many I add related expresssions in those or other sources. I recommend that each serious student make his own chart.
Zane C. Hodges, “1 John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985), 896. Hodges admits that in John 5:24 the expression “refers to conver-sion.” But he denies that it has “a fixed meaning. The context here must decide its significance. The statements of 1 John 3:14b-15 suggest that the spheres of ‘death’ and ‘life’ are here treated as experiential and determined by one’s actions. If so, the issue of conversion is not in view here.” Hodges has expanded his views in The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999).
NIV translates apangelomen as “proclaim” in verses 2 and 3 and adds “proclaim” for clarity in verse 1. Con-trary to what some may think, this Greek verb is not appropriate for a written message. It is common in the Gospels and Acts for an oral report (e.g., Matt.2:8; 8:33; Acts 4:23; 5:22). Usually the report aims to inform but can be to command, as in Acts 17:30: “God…commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Besides four times in 1 John, koinonia is used once in Acts, once in Hebrews, and thirteen times in Paul’s writings.
Arndt and Gingrich (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 439) give several references of this.
It would not be misleading to translate 2 Corinthians 13:14 thus: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Messiah, and the love of God, and the participation in the Holy Spirit be with you all.” In the New Covenant Christians already enjoy all three: the “grace,” the “love,” and the “participation.” Paul wants all three to abound.
For example: God’s Son “shared in their humanity” (Heb. 2:14); “Anyone who welcomes [a false teacher] shares in his wicked work” (2 John 11; see also Rom. 15:27; 1 Tim. 5:22); we will “participate in the sufferings of Messiah” (1 Peter 4:13).
Besides these four, other times John states his reasons for writing (what prompted him). Some of these also may imply his purpose. For example, reminding them about the old/new commandment in 2:7, 8 may imply that they should obey it. If 2:12-14 gives six reasons for writing, they do not obviously imply a purpose. See also 2:21.
The question mark in cell 9 indicates our uncertainty whether it is designed as a counter-claim. In this key we consider only one set of false claims and counter-claims. There are similar examples in 2:4 with 2:9 (each begin-ning “the one who says”), also 4:20.
The use of “we” does not mean that John himself might be guilty. New Testament writers often spoke as members of a larger group which included unbelievers. Galatians 1:8, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached, let him be eternally condemned.” Acts 4:12, “There is no other name…by which we must be saved.” Hebrews 6:1, “Let us…go on to maturity.”
In verse 9 “purify” is in the Greek aorist tense; in verse 7 “purifies” is in Greek present tense.
Eight times he says, with slight changes, “By this we know”: 2:3, 5; 3:16, 19; 4:2, 6, 13; 5:2. It is sometimes difficult to know whether the evidence he refers to precedes or follows the words “by this.” Many other times John appeals to the readers’ knowledge and to the truth: for example, 2:4, 18, 20, 21, 27, 29; 3:2, 5, 15. In the conclusion of the epistle he lists things we know: 5:13, 15, 18, 19, 20.
This probably means “that Jesus is Messiah come in the flesh.”
Knowing Him is equivalent to having eternal life: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Messiah, whom you have sent” (John 17:3; see also 1 John 2:13, 14; 4:6, 7, 8; 5:20). Thus, those who have eternal life know both the Father and the Son. In contrast, unbelievers do “not know him” (1 John 3:1, 6; cf. John 1:10; 8:55; 14:17; 16:3; 17:25). To whom does “him”—the One we know—refer in 1 John 2:3 and 3:1? As elsewhere in 1 John (for example, 2:8, 12; 3:2), it is difficult to be sure. In 2:3 it could refer—as we think it does—to the nearest antecedent, “Jesus Messiah…the atoning sacrifice” (vv. 1-2). Some, however, think it refers there to God the Father, mentioned in the larger context (“God is light,” 1:5). This ambiguity, though common in 1 John, has little practical effect in meaning.
“Those who obey his commands live in him” (3:24). Cf. John 15:10, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love.”
This fact is further discussed in Key 9 and Appendix B.
Besides the passages mentioned in this key, notice especially 2:15; 3:15, 22; 4:7, 12, 20; and 5:15.
The purifying process (1:7) is never completed in this life. It is the “footwashing” after the “bath” (John 13:8, 10) and the “pruning” of the fruitful branches (John 15:2).
Eternal Security is evident from many Scriptures and many considerations. For example, see John 10:28-30; Romans 5:1-11; and 8:28-39. Salvation is entirely a gift of God’s grace. The elect were—and still are—unworthy recipients of that grace. Since they do nothing to earn God’s approval, they count on God’s completing the good work He has begun in them. Having made them part of His family, He will never forsake them.
Another example of mistaken assurance is the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35. In this parable the Lord said that the “master took pity on [the servant], canceled the debt and let him go” (18:27). Yet, when the ser-vant refused to show mercy himself, “in anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This,” said Jesus, “is how my heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (18:34-35). In other words, we should not be sure of salvation without regard to our atti¬tude toward others. “Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (James 2:13).
Even John’s “Gospel of Belief” shows that belief is a process. See Appendix B on page 21.
Why does Hebrews 6:12 add “patience” as necessary along with “faith”? To indicate that real faith in the real Messiah will continue. Such faith will grow and will result in fruit.
KJV also uses “continue,” “remain,” or “dwell.” NIV most often translates it “live” but also “remain” or “continue.” The NET Bible translates “remain” if possible change seems involved—but usually “reside.”
John’s next uses of meno, in 8:35; 9:41; 12:46; and 14:10, 17; have the same obvious meaning.
Not only is John 15:1-17 the last passage in John’s Gospel that uses meno. It also gives meno great emphasis, using it ten times: in vv. 4 (twice), 5, 6, 7 (twice), 9, 10 (twice), and 16.
Eternal Security is evident from many Scriptures and many considerations. For example, see John 10:28-30; Romans 5:1-11; and 8:28-39. Salvation is entirely a gift of God’s grace. The elect were—and still are—unworthy recipients of that grace. Since they do nothing to earn God’s approval, they count on God’s completing the good work He has begun in them. Having made them part of His family, He will never forsake them.