“Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:17)
We have already looked at the absolute necessity of the New Birth. Jesus Christ told Nicodemus that a man has no part of God’s kingdom without being born again. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Salvation is only wrought by God. Man is not saved in any part by the things that he can do, because salvation is based solely on the finished work of Christ.
Take a moment to reflect on your own understanding of your coming to Christ. Were you born of the Spirit? Did the Holy Spirit convict you of your own utterly sinful state? Your utter helplessness? Did He show you that you were already condemned – deserving of the wage of sin, Hell? Did the Holy Spirit show you the sufficiency of the work of Christ on the cross in your stead? Did He draw you to trust Christ’ sufficency?
Did the Holy Spirit upon your experience, enter your heart, bearing witness with your spirit that you were a child of God? Are you saved by the work of Christ through the Spirit? Are you also born of the Word? Was the Word of God opened to you which lead you to the knowledge of these truths, namely your need of Christ? Was it the Word of God that worked in you the willingness to turn from your sin, and turn to Christ in true repentance? Did the Word of God produce a faith in you that enable you to reach out to the crucified Savior for full salvation in full trust?
These are important things to ponder. There is nothing more important in our life than to make sure of salvation. Paul tells us to “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. . . .” (II Cor. 13:5) And Peter tells us “to make your calling and election sure. . . .” (II Peter 1:10) I pray now that you can see the necessity of being sure of being born again. Without the New Birth you are still in your sins, and condemned to a devil’s Hell. I hope as you read this chapter you will examine your present position.
Now we will switch gears, and speak about the results which the New Birth has upon the believer. As we see in our text, in second Corinthians, if one is saved and in Christ he is a completely new person and all the former things (in Adam) have passed away. To put it bluntly, if one is in Christ there is a change, and if there is no change there is no salvation. Martin Luther said, “I believe in justification by faith alone, but not in justification by faith that is alone.”
If one is saved, there will be evidence in that person’s life that his salvation is true. If a man makes a profession of salvation, and there is no evidence that God has wrought any change in his life, his religion is vain. (James 1:22-27) In fact James tells us that “. . . faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17) There are no contradictions in the Bible – we already know that salvation is in no way, shape, or form dependent on works. (Eph. 2:8,9) But what James is stressing is that if the faith that one has is real then it will be manifested by works. One only has to study the eleventh chapter of Hebrews to see that true saving faith produces works. Look at that the chapter and underline all the action verbs. Saving faith is a working faith. Therefore the fruit of salvation is works.
We have seen the doctrinal truths concerning our change. We have gone from darkness to light, and have passed from death unto life. The doctrinal truth has taught us that the old nature, in Adam, is dead, and buried, and we now have new life, begotten of God, in Christ. The change that we are now discussing is not just one of nature but one of practice. If we are truly born again there will be the fruit of that New Birth. Christ told us, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matt. 7:16)
Now, the objectors of this world will say that this is judgmental, and that we are not to judge – but according to the words of Christ, it is only by the evidence of fruit that we will know. If you see someone who is living in sin, and he tells you that he is born again, beware of that professor. Christ says, “. . . every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. 7:17, 18) Christ is plain in His words – if there is evil fruit, no matter what the profession is, he is still corrupt in nature, and without Christ.
Now, not all that looks like good fruit is good fruit, as Christ also warns, (Matt. 7:21) but if the fruit is good it means the tree is also good. We can talk all we want about the security of the believer (which we should believe in with all our heart) but if we have no fruit we have no assurance that our election is sure. It is by the fruit of our works that we find true evidence. It is no wonder that the only thing that Christ cursed on this earth was a tree that bore no fruit. (Mark 11:21) Let this serve as a warning to all who falsely profess Christ.
If you say that you are saved, examine yourself. Christ one day will enter His garden, and look at those planted therein. When he comes to you will he find the fruit of salvation or will you hear Him say “cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luke 13:6-9) Christ may be saying to the Father now in your stead, “Let it alone this year” saying that He will try to work grace in you. Will the Lord give you another year to bear fruit? If you are truly saved by the work of the Holy Spirit there will be fruit.
In this chapter we will be looking at the book of first John. There are various themes within this powerful book, but we will look at what it saysconcerning the fruit of the New Birth. We do not want to make anyone doubt his salvation, rather to examine ones profession to see if what happened in his life is real. Do you have a working faith that is bearing fruit or a dead and lifeless faith that cannot save? Give diligence to look at these passages, and see if your faith is real, and your election sure.
I. A True Professor Sinneth Not:
Charles Spurgeon once said, “What separates the wicked from the righteous is their relationship to sin. A wicked man will run into sin and love it. A righteous man will fall into sin and loathe it.” There is so much truth in this statement. We have already established the doctrine of repentance unto salvation, the willingness to turn from all sin, and to turn to Christ for salvation.
Worldly repentance is just sorrow for the consequence of sin, while true repentance is the complete changing of mind concerning sin. Worldly repentance eventually leads back into the practice of sin – there is never any genuine sorrow over the state, only the consequence of it. This repentance only works death. True repentance issues a change. (II Cor. 7:9-11)
Now, we are not putting forth the idea of “sinless perfection” – We have already agreed to the fact that Christians can and do sin. As long as we are in these corruptible bodies, and connected to this cursed earth, we are susceptible to temptation and sin. John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8) Those that teach a “second blessing theology” (see appendix 1) tell us that one may have a second work of grace that will completely eradicate sin in the flesh. They display a fundamental misunderstanding not only of the Scriptures but also of sin itself. These either do not know what the Bible teaches sin is, (see I John 3:4, James 4:17, etc.) or they delude or excuse themselves into thinking they do not commit any such acts.
The action of the blood of Christ itself, in reference to the Christian’s sin is spoken of as a continuously cleansing from sin. (I John 1:7, ‘eth’ denotes a continual action, also see I John 2:1, 2, the work of Christ as the Advocate) The great thing about the atonement of Christ is the fact that it covers not only our past sins, but also our present and future sins. John says that “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. . . .” (I John 2:1) While it is not God’s will for His children to sin, He tells them through John that “if” they sin, Christ is still their advocate. The word “if” tells us that while sin no longer has dominion over us (so we do not have to sin), we are susceptible to falling into it. Many fall into error because they do not know how to deal with sin in a believer’s life. They will either say that a Christian does not sin or that if he does, he loses his salvation. Both of these views are not found in Scripture, as we shall deal with when we study about the security of sons. The issue here is not concerning the question of whether a Christian can sin or not, but rather a question of what the true believer’s relationship to sin is.
Now, let us look at a couple of texts here, in first John. “He that committeth sin is of the devil . . . Whosever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot commit sin, because he is born of God.” (I John 3:8,9) “We know that whosever is born of God sinneth not. . . .” (I John 5:18) These verses are among the hard sayings of the Bible.
I cannot discuss here all the theological debates concerning these verses but I will make a comment concerning the “seed.” Christ is the seed that is remaining in the Christian. (See Gen. 3:15, Gal. 3:16, 4:4, Col. 1:27), and it is Christ’ continual presence that is a deterrent to sin. But in understanding these verses we must look at the verb tenses. The verb tenses are in the present continuous tense, as seen in the words ending in “th” or “eth.” This tells us that these verses are not talking about committing a single act of sin, but rather living in habitual sin. This goes back to the relationship which a professor has with sin. Basically, the only way to see these passages is to say that a true believer, will not live in, and continuously practice or pursue sin.
Now, I know there are those who wound call this ‘legalistic.’ But labels won’t change the truth of the facts. Some like to believe that a person can be saved, and still live in sin. This is a tragedy to the truth of the doctrine of eternal security which some have turned into an excuse for sin. They live like the devil, and then go to church and sing “O how I love Jesus.” These do nothing more than heap up damnation to themselves (A loss of reward). They do not have a true understanding of what God’s grace is but they are “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God.” (Jude: 4) Those that believe or practice this may not be saved and in need true repentance.
The Bible says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6:9-11) Christ told us, in John chapter three, that if a man is born again he will enter the kingdom but these, mentioned here, have no part in it. Once again, this is not a question of the ability of a Christian to commit these single acts, such as David did, when he committed adultery and murder.
What we see in these verses is a description of a character type. Can a Christian get drunk? Yes, he can, but the real question is, if he is a true believer in Christ, will he continue in that sin? The answer must be resoundingly, no! A true Christian may fall and get drunk, but a true Christian will never be described as a drunkard. How could one say he belongs to Christ, and then give his life over to sin? The new nature hates sin even though it is susceptible to it. (Romans 7) For one to continuously practice, and find pleasure in sin – is proof that there was no change in that person’s life, and no real encounter with God’s grace. In our passage in first Corinthians, we see that Paul talks to this group of Christians telling them that these descriptions are not what they are presently, but are descriptions of what they were before they were justified by Christ. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein.” (Rom. 6:1, 2)
I remember a time in my own life when I became very discouraged in my Christian walk, and decided that I would just go back to the drugs and alcohol as I had before I was born again. I remember, as I sat there at a friend’s house, in misery, attempting to find relief in sin, how I was unable to find any pleasure in what I once did. How could I enjoy my sin when the Holy Spirit, who resides in me is pricking my heart? To try to shut out the light of the Holy Spirit and of the new creature is impossible. “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.” (Luke 8:16) If Christ is really in you, and you are really in Christ it will show in your relationship to sin. Christ can not be hid, He will show up. If the fruit of your sin is not shame, and guilt but pleasure, and joy you may not be born again.
II. A True Professor Believes in Christ:
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. . . .” (I John 5:1) The man Jesus Christ was indeed the promised Messiah which the men of faith looked for, throughout the Old Testament. This statement goes beyond the Person of Christ, and gives us the profession of true Christianity. Christ is the only way to the Father. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father , but by me.” (John 14:6) There is no other way for a man to obtain eternal life or to be born again than in Jesus Christ.
As we have already seen, our salvation is based completely on the finished work of Jesus Christ, therefore it is only reasonable to conclude that through Him alone is salvation. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) There is only one Savior. Mary can not save. Buddha can not save. Allah can not save. Only in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, can a man find mercy, and grace, at the throne of a holy, and just, God. If a man puts his trust in any other, he will miss the grace of God.
Even still, this verse, here in first John, goes further than a mere profession of the person of Christ. Notice the verb’s tense. Once again we find the present continuous tense. (see also John 3:15,16) What does this tell us? The Bible tells us that if one only believes (a one time act), meaning that he puts all of his trust completely on Christ, he will be saved. (Acts 16:31) So, it is not possible for one to believe, and then stop believing – to lose his salvation. This strikes hard on the teaching of the “perseverance of the saints.” This teaching states that those who are truly saved or born again will never (completely) fall away from their profession. “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”(Heb. 10:39 see also Phil. 1:6) So if one truly believes that he is kept by the power of God, he can not come to a point where he stops believing.
There are some who only intellectually believe but not with all their heart unto salvation. (Acts 8:37, Rom. 10:9,10) There are many who believe not with all their heart, but only to the point that they make a “mouth profession.” We see that they eventually are offended and fall away, when their profession is no longer convenient. (Matt. 13:20, 21) O, how many have we seen come, make a profession of faith in Christ, and even for a time get excited about serving Christ, but not long after they stop coming to church, and go back to the same place they were before they said they were saved. What happened? They were not truly born of God. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not of us.” (I John 2:19)
This then becomes the test of the fruit of the New Birth. If you are truly saved, then what are you presently trusting in? If you are saved why then would you now say that you have to keep yourself instead of trusting solely in Christ? Do you, in time of temptation, turn from your trust in Christ to yourself or hope in your own goodness? Do you trust in man’s authority instead of God’s Word? Is it not the fruit of salvation that you believe in Christ permanently and completely? Our salvation is not dependent upon our doubts or the size of our faith, but is manifest in the fact that our confession is not abandoned. We should examine our faith and see if we are in Christ or not. We should ask ourselves, “to whom do I trust” not so much at the time of our first experience with Christ, but now, in the present. Are you born again? “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15)
III. A True Professor Practices Righteousness:
“If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that everyone that doeth righteousness is born of him.” (I John 2:29) We have already dealt with the change which the New Birth has upon the believer in his relation to sin, and also in his relation to God in his confession. Now, we see the New Birth also affects the believer’s relation to works. We know that the law demands two things, perfection, and punishment for transgressions. In Christ we have these things fulfilled. He took our punishment for our sins on the cross, and in turn gave us His perfect righteousness. (II Cor. 5:21) Therefore it is said “the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us. . .” through the work of Christ. (Romans 8:4)
This is what it means to be justified. When we are justified, we are declared righteous by God through Christ. Christ is our righteousness. But the argument comes, will the Lord declare one righteous, and not intend to work righteousness in him? To say that God has no intentions to do so is ludicrous. That is why Christ told us that if we truly love Him (as all his true children do, John 8:42) we will keep His commandments. (John 14:15) So a true child of God will never make light of any of God’s commands.
This is not to say that a child of God will be perfect, for sin will constantly battle with us during our Christian life. But the Bible is clear that the fruits of righteousness do follow saving faith. (see again Heb.11 and James 2) “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (I John 5:2, 3) You can identify someone who hates God’s law, by his actions, the spiteful works – there is a strong likelihood that he is not saved. Anybody in the world can say that he is a Christian but the test of true faith is the works that follow. God’s commandments are not grievous to His children. Though we may struggle in our keeping of them we will not despise them. For one to have an attitude or to say the words “I don’t care what the Bible says” is an act of rebellion against God. To despise His commands knowingly is the fruit of unbelief and proof that that one is still in his sins. A true child of God, one that has been born again, will be able to say with the psalmist “O how love I thy law.” (Ps. 119:97) It is this attitude that is the fruit of faith. “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8)
IV. A True Professor Will Love Other Believers:
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brethren abideth in death.” (I John 3:14) What bold words these are concerning the fellowship of believers. We have already looked at the church briefly, in the last chapter, so there is here no need to reiterate. We know that one day there will be an assembly or church in heaven made up of all those that have partaken in Christ. We understand that when we see the word church or body (when used as a metaphor for church) it is either speaking of this future entity, or generically (as we would speak of the school or the home, not one big school or home but rather speaking of the institution) for all true churches, or a specific local assembly.
The Lord established the church, and He has a great love for it. The local church was established for the fellowship of believers, to encourage and strengthen one another in the work of spreading the gospel. It is a theme that is woven throughout the New Testament, the theme of church fellowship. We need it, as Christians, if we are to be effective in our work for souls, and our personal walk on this earth. We cannot stand on our own. There is no greater joy and encouragement for us than to go to church, talk with other believers about the things of God, pray with the believers, and sing together the truths of the Word of God. We all would slip into utter despair if it was not for the church which Christ built for us. (Matt. 16:18) Christ commands believers to be in fellowship with the assembly.
This we see in the ordinance of the Lord’s supper. (I Cor. 11:18-26) Baptism is done one time, individually, to show us as individuals being born again. The Lord’s Supper is done often, not to show our salvation, but our continued fellowship with Christ through His broken body and shed blood. The Lord’s Supper is also, done as a group, to show our continued fellowship with Him, and His church. It is for this reason that we should hold to a closed communion. There is a warning connected to communion – concerning those that eat, and drink unworthily – those that are not in continued good fellowship with Christ, and His church. They are in danger of chastening, and death. (I Cor. 11:27-30) If this is true, in the picture, how much more true is it in the reality? If one is not in fellowship with other believers he is either not saved, or he is in danger of God’s chastening, or even the sin unto death. (I John 5:16)
The command is, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25) Too many people leave good churches saying that they do not get anything from church. But it is not about what we can get out of church fellowship, but what we can give to the fellowship. O, how great it would be if people could realize that the purpose God has for them in a church is to exhort other believers so that the love of Christ may be witnessed to all. Christ told us that, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) Our love one for another is evidence, to the world, of our fellowship with Christ. Within many churches there are those that do nothing but tear down the pastor or other members, gossiping and backbiting. The world has good reason to doubt the sincerity of such professions.
That is why John told us that if one is born again he will love others who are born again. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life in him.” (I John 5:15) We ought to question the salvation of anyone who spends his time troubling the assembly. We have all heard people tell us that they do not need church. Why not? O, how many people have we seen get saved, supposedly get on fire for God, and a month or so later we do not see them again. What happened to them? If they are truly saved, they would be in fellowship with other believers. Why do they not want to gather with others who are saved? There is an old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” If they do not feel the need to be around other Christians why should we believe that they are born of God?
V. A True Professor is Overcoming the World:
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” (I John 5:4, 5) We see now the re-occurring theme of the “perseverance of the saints”, which is one of the great themes of this particular scripture. Notice again the verb tense, “eth,” being in a present continuous tense. This shows us that this is not a one time occurrence in a believer’s life but a continuing present fact by which a true believer overcomes the world, dealing with the overall character of the Christian, as it relates to this sin-filled world. This world is getting more wicked every day, but we who are saved need not fear. For our Savior Jesus Christ has already overcome the world for us. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
What a glorious thought to know, despite the troubles and trials we have in this wicked world, that in Christ we have already overcome. We need not fear failing or falling completely away from salvation, for in Christ we have overcome. Moreover, in our text here in first John, we see that it is faith in Christ that brings this victory. We are not overcoming by anything that we do, but through faith in the finished work of Christ. Being born again in Christ by faith is the victory that overcomes the world. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. . . .” (Rev. 12:11) It is to the blood-washed saints that these promises are, and the blood of Christ is the basis of all work that follows. By faith we are redeemed to be overcoming. And it is only to such that the promise of Heaven, and all the blessings therein, are given. (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 21:7) The true Christian will overcome.
In regard to the definition of character, there are only two types of people in the world – the wicked and the righteous and there is none other in between. If we have not been born again, and declared righteous by the Father through the work of Jesus Christ, then we are of the number of those that the Bible calls wicked. The Bible describes the character of these two when it says, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked falleth into mischief.” (Prov. 24:16) The just man is one that has been made just by the shed blood of Christ. The just man may fall into sin but he will not stay down. He will pick himself up, by the grace of God, and continue down the strait path. This is the picture of the character of a righteous man. We hear so much today about defeated Christians. Living in defeat is not the character of the righteous but rather it is the character of the wicked. It is the wicked man that falls completely into sin not to rise again. We have probably heard someone in an open gross sin say, “I am a Christian, but I am just backsliding.” Why are they so overcome with sin? Why are they constantly drawn to what Christ hates? The mark of a true Christian is overcoming.
VI. A True Professor Keeps Himself Pure:
“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.” (I John 5:18) Let us briefly touch on this truth. The New Birth changes one’s desires. The relationship to sin is different because of the relationship to God. If the Holy Spirit is in you, to love God with all of heart – soul – mind – strength, what is left but to have a desire to be pure? An old Baptist preacher once said, “I smoke as much as I want to, I drink alcohol as much as I want to, and I dance as much as I want to, but now that I am saved I just don’t want to.” If we are saved we will want what Christ wants. While we may still sin we hate sin, and will hate to be soiled by it. When soiled by sin we will seek cleansing through the shed blood of Christ. John tells us again, “And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he (Christ) is pure.” (I John 3:3)
Only the wicked enjoy the filth of sin. The true attitude of the believer is one of “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude: 23) The reason why the wicked love the filth of sin is because they have a sin nature which has not been “put ti death on the cross”. Take for instance the passage in Second Peter, “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again: and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (II Peter 2:22) Why does the dog eat his own vomit? Because he has a dog’s nature – We could take a sow and wash it up real pretty but the first chance the sow has she will be rolling in the mud. The sow does this because she has a pig’s nature. All of chapter two is written to those who will not give up their wicked ways even though they know the truth; they would rather hang onto their “old nature”.
In Second Peter, chapter two, verse twenty we see the carnal professor, who makes a profession of faith; has the required knowledge but holds back, and onto his on way, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, an overcome, the latter end is worse …” It is thus very dangerous to know how to be saved, to understand the complete situation mentally, and then deliberately turn Christ down. What else can the carnal individual do, but return to the filth of sin? Why? Because he still has a sin nature. There was no real change only a white-wash. The real person does not come out until we see him again in the mire. I f he was truly saved he would be free from sin, and be a new creature. ” Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.” (Matt. 23:25) The concern of the true believer is – purity.
The purpose of this chapter, once again, is not to make anyone doubt their salvation. The prayer is that we will examine these truths and ask if we are truly saved. John wrote not this great letter to condemn those addressed by it but rather that they would find assurance of their faith. “He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye mayknow that ye have eternal life. . . .” (I John 5:12,13) If you have seen yourself as lost as you have read this, then Christ would have you place all your trust in Him and receive full assurance. If you are already born again, then take comfort in the work that Christ has done in you. You are, in Christ, a new creature.