Summary: Growing Christians are not sinless but should sin less.
The Tests of True Christianity
Rev. Brian Bill
I’m not the handiest hammer in the toolbox when it comes to doing home projects so I always try to become good friends with guys who have a lot of tools and know how to use them. We made a few improvements to our laundry room this summer and I think John Merrill wishes I didn’t have him on speed dial. One night I thought Beth and I could move our washer and dryer into the garage by ourselves but I quickly realized that I didn’t have the right tools to unhook each of them. John came over and saved the day (night).
After we had some new flooring installed, it came time to move the appliances and other items back into the house. After wrestling the washer and dryer into place, John asked me to make sure the water hoses were positioned correctly so that the hot water and cold water were hooked up where they needed to go. I assured him that I had it right and he reinstalled the hoses.
A couple days later Beth mentioned that when she was using the cold water setting that the water seemed hot. I think I told her that sometimes this just happens. A couple days later she brought it up again and I told her that I had no idea what could have happened. About a week later, John was over for our Connection Group and I told him about our dilemma. He did a quick test with the settings and then started laughing uncontrollably. I had messed up the inputs so that the outputs were backwards.
John assured me that he wouldn’t tell anyone about this but I thought I’d get out in front of it and just admit it here. What was supposed to be hot was cold and the setting for cold was hot. But hot is supposed to be hot and cold is supposed to be cold. The apostle John is dealing with something similar in this brief letter. A lot of people had gotten confused and as a result, some people were cold when they should have been burning hot for the Lord. John uses a lot of extremes in his letter to show the seriousness of surrendering fully to Christ.
• Light or Darkness
• Love or Hate
• Truth or Lies
• Righteousness or Sin
• Christ or Antichrist
• Child of God or Child of the Devil
• Packers or Bears
This section falls into two parallel passages and provides some tests so that we can determine what is true and what is false. Let’s look at how 3:4-7 corresponds to 3:8-10.
3:4 – Sin is lawlessness 3:8a – Sin originates with the devil
3:5 – Christ came to take away sins 3:8b – Christ came to destroy the devil
3:6 – Christians do not live in sin 3:9 – Christians cannot live in sin
3:7 – Christians practice righteousness 3:10 – Christians practice righteousness and love
Let’s keep a few things in mind as we walk through this passage.
• This book is meant to encourage true believers. At the same time, it should cause each of us to do an inventory to see if we are really in the faith.
• Remember that the backdrop to this letter is to give believers confidence in their Christianity and in the process to confront the false teachers. One of their many errors was to believe that sin didn’t really matter. Some claimed to be disciples and yet lived a depraved existence. Keep this in mind when we come to verses 6 and 9 because it will help us understand why these words are so strong.
• John likes to reinforce truth by restating that which is important. His favorite themes keep coming up and are often addressed and emphasized in different ways. Since he uses parallelism in this passage, we’re going to take the related verses and treat them together as one point.
• The word “sin,” “sinful” or “sinning” is used eight times in these seven verses. We can safely say that this is the theme of the passage. Since verse 3 mentions purity, it’s only natural to move to a discussion of sin.
Here’s the outline we’ll follow.
1. Rebellion is sin (3:4, 8a)
2. Release from sin (3:5, 8b)
3. Refrainment from sin (3:6, 9)
4. Righteousness over sin (3:7, 10)
Here’s what I’m hoping that we discover together: Growing Christians are not sinless but should sin less.
1. Rebellion is sin. In verse 4 we’re given a definition of sin: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” The word “sin” literally means “to miss the mark,” as when an archer misses the bulls-eye. The word “lawlessness” means to break or violate a law, especially the law of God. To practice sin is to be in rebellion against God.