John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” 1st John 3:24, “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”
I am now flying 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, headed for Los Angeles. I have a few more hours of flight time, so I decided to get my laptop out and write an article. Why not? I want to write about a topic that has stirred quite a bit of controversy on the internet lately about the Epistle of 1st John. I have heard countless preachers misinterpret the Epistle of 1st John, using it to teach the deadly heresy of Calvinism.
It is very important to notice that God used the same writer for both the Gospel of John as well as the Epistle of 1st John. The apostle whom Jesus loved, John, penned both of these works. So this is a critical point to bring out. In the Gospel of John we are presented with God's very simple plan of salvation. We find the word “believe” mentioned 85 times in the Gospel of John, but there is no mention of anything else. Carefully note our text verse from John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” The inspired Word of God is abundantly clear that the way of salvation is to simply BELIEVE the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen (John 19-20; 1st Corinthians 15:1-4).
It is important to keep this in mind when interpreting the Epistle of 1st John. Why would John completely contradict everything that he taught in the Gospel of John, by requiring works for salvation in 1st John? That wouldn't make any sense. One of the key Scriptures of the Epistle of 1st John is 1st John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Please notice that this epistle is not written to the unsaved man, but to the born-again believer. John here is NOT giving a plan of salvation, he did that back in the Gospel of John. What John is doing here in 1st John is helping believers to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in them.
Our part in salvation is simply to get out of the way, to cease from our own works, and REST completely in Christ alone (Hebrews 4:2, 10-11). What saith the Scripture? John 6:28-29, “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” I love that! They asked Jesus what “works” they needed to do to go to Heaven. The Lord simply said to “BELIEVE ON HIM.” The true Gospel always points you to Christ; a false gospel always points to you.
I fully agree with Pastor Ralph Yankee Arnold, who said: “If you have to look at your life to prove that you are saved, it proves that you're not!” The only sure way that we can determine if someone else is saved, is by the direct testimony from their own mouth concerning Jesus Christ. But John writes to the INDIVIDUAL believer here in 1st John, helping us to recognize the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us. 1st John 3:24, “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” Carefully notice that the test is not to look for works in our life. The test is not to see if we love the brethren to prove that we are saved. The test is only to determine whether or not we have the blessed presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every born-again believer has the Holy Spirit living inside them (1st Corinthians 3:16-17; Romans 8:9).
I like to give my own salvation testimony as an illustration, because I can explain that first hand. I was saved at 13 years of age, in an old-fashioned Baptist church on Chicago's Northside in 1980. I don't remember the name of the sermon that Sunday morning, but I do remember that the preacher said if you can sin, without any conviction from God's Holy Spirit, something is very wrong. I knew that morning that I was a big sinner. I knew that I had no conviction from God up until that point in my life.
For the first time in my life I felt conviction over my sins. That morning from my pew, I humbly received Jesus as my personal Savior. I simply received Christ's sacrifice on the cross as payment for my sins. No one told me that I had to try to stop sinning. The very idea is ridiculous. Eternal life is a free gift (Romans 5:15-18; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9), that you simply take by faith in the Good News of Jesus Christ (1st Corinthians 15:1-4).
“Salvation is not our doing, but it is something that the Lord does. We put our trust in Christ, He is the One that saves us. And again I repeat: He rescues us, He ransoms us, He redeems us, He regenerates us. All of that we find out, simply by reading the Bible.” —Pastor Sheldon Smith, Making A Difference radio broadcast; May 14, 2021; 'The Distinguishing Difference in the Christian Life - Part 10'So it is a mistake to approach the Epistle of 1st John from any other standpoint that from a saved person's perspective. The apostle is speaking to BELIEVER'S, and is not providing a plan of salvation. John teaches us the simple plan of salvation back in the wonderful Gospel of John. John 6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”