LOVETT’S LIGHTS ON FIRST JOHN
With Rephrased Text
By C. S. Lovett
(For new and old believers!)
Do you ever take advice from older Christians? The Apostle John was around 80 years old when he wrote this letter. He was a companion to the Lord Jesus when He was on the earth and a chosen author of the Holy Spirit. This letter deals with Christian assurance. It is one of the most comforting books of the Bible.
Do you have doubts from time to time? Do you ever wonder if you are really saved? John’s letter sets forth absolute proofs of your salvation. Again and again, he mentions things you can locate in your life which settle the matter completely. Watch for them as you read:
1. A new love for God’s will (vs. 2:5).
2. A new love for the brethren (vs. 3:14).
3. The inner witness of the Holy Spirit (vs. 5:10).
4. The desire to be like Him—Holy (vs. 3:3).
This is not a new translation, transposing Greek words from manuscripts, but a rephrasing which brings out the meaning of the original language. The intention of the Apostle is given priority over a strict reproduction of his words. Naturally, you will have questions. You will not be able to ask the Apostle, so I will do it for you. Along with the questions which appear on the pages, you will find some expanded truths which can open the meanings to you. May the Holy Spirit apply wisdom to your mind as you read this rephrased account of John’s first letter to you!
LOVETT’S LIGHTS ON FIRST JOHN
FIRST JOHN, CHAPTER ONE
1. This letter is about Christ, Whom I often call the Word of Life. And it is based on what He was from the beginning, what I have heard Him say, what my eyes beheld as I studied Him and what He was to the touch of my hands. In other words, I am a qualified eye witness who can testify that eternal life is in a Person.
2. First He was with the Father, then He was with us.
3. We are announcing what we have seen and heard so that you can enjoy fellowship with us. It is a great fellowship around the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. 4. What joy is ours at being able to write such things and offer you this glorious invitation.
5. Here is a message from Him we must pass on to you—that God is Light. There is not a speck of darkness in Him. Obviously, darkness and light cannot exist together. 6. So if we claim to be in fellowship with Him, yet all the while living and moving in darkness, we lie. In fact, our whole lives are a lie.
7. On the other hand, if we are at home in the light, we have fellowship with God. God’s character is Light. We can be comfortable in the light since the blood of His Son Jesus Christ continually washes us from all sin. Sin, which is darkness, cannot exist in His presence.
“Will I sin now that I am a child of God?”
8. Now we are sinners. If we deny that, we deceive ourselves. Such a denial shows that His truth is not in us. 9. If we confess our sins, then true to His Word, He is faithful to forgive us and purge away every bit of guilt. This is what makes the fellowship possible.
10. To deny that we sin amounts to calling Him a liar. We can be certain His Word has not quickened anyone who does that.
SIN AND GUILT. They are two separate matters. It is the guilt for sin that sends people to hell. One Man may kill another, but if the jury says, “not guilty,” he is absolved of all guilt even though the killing remains an unchanged fact. God’s forgiveness of our sins is a divine “not guilty.” While our sin remains an unchanged fact, there is no guilt to send the forgiven Christian to hell.
FIRST JOHN, CHAPTER TWO
“What does God do about my sins now that I’m a Christian?”
1. My Children, the intention of this letter is to help you stay clear of sin. However, if anyone does sin, as I stated above, we have an Advocate with the Father to deal with any charges laid against us—Jesus Christ the Righteous. 2. He can do this since He Himself is the sacrificial payment for our sins; in fact, the sins of the whole world.
ADVOCATE. This is a legal term. English lawyers are called advocates. Our Advocate with the Father is like a lawyer who not only has a right to be in court, but also one who pays the fine for his client. The Lord Jesus has a right to be in Heaven’s Court since He is the Son of God. As the Sinless Sacrifice (Righteous One) for our sins, He can see that any charge against us is dismissed.
“How can I be sure I’m in fellowship with God?”
3. Here is how a person can tell if he really knows God. There is a test—the keeping of His commandments. 4. The man who claims to know God, yet has no passion for His commandments, is a liar. It is impossible for the truth to be at work in such a man. 5. The heart-burning desire to do God’s will is a sure sign that we do know Him and have His life in us. The man in fellowship with God thinks and feels about things as He does. That is what fellowship requires, isn’t it?
6. Therefore, the person in fellowship with God walks as He walked and desires the same things.
COMMANDMENT KEEPING. This refers to the change in the Christian’s attitude toward God’s Laws. Before salvation, they are like traffic rules waiting to punish every violation. After salvation, they help a man live for Jesus. Salvation brings a new passion to please God. His commandments, instead of enslaving us, show us how. True, they are perfect laws given to imperfect people, but that makes them a stairway to holiness. As a man matures in Christ, the more the commandments are fulfilled in his life. One who completely fulfills the commandments would be just like Jesus.
7. Brethren does this sound like new teaching? It cannot be since we are talking about God. His commandments are as old as He is. What was it you heard when you started this new life? The same old commandments, right? 8. Yet they always seem new when you begin to obey them. That is because no one is instantly mature. We grow as the old things gradually pass away from our lives and the True Light (God’s character) begins to shine in us as it does in Him. The changes in you are new, but the commandments are not.
“Why do you use the terms light and dark?”
9. To help you understand what light and darkness mean, consider the man who claims to be in the light, yet hates his brother. Is he not still in darkness in spite of his claim? Indeed he is because God is no man-hater. 10. Take the man who loves his brother. He is in the light because he is like God. A godly man hesitates to offend people, let alone hate them. 11. Besides, you know what hate does to men; it blinds them. Blindness is total darkness. Since darkness and light cannot exist together, you can see how no hater could possibly be in fellowship with God. That is why light and darkness are used to express love and hatred.
“Is this letter addressed to new Christians only?”
12. I am writing to all Christians, those whose sins are forgiven for His Name’s sake.
13. Since there are different levels of maturity, I call fathers those of you who have come to think of Jesus as the One Who has existed from the beginning. Those who have tasted victory over the devil, I call young men. And those who have newly come to know the Father, I speak of as children.
MATURITY. In Christ maturity is not a matter of status in the full-time professional ministry, but how far any individual is ready to go in living for Christ. Fathers are people who have learned from experience that Jesus is changeless and fully dependable. Therefore, they readily pass up everything this world offers in order to follow His plan for their lives. Young men are those discovering what a fight it is to live for Jesus. New Christians have their hands full just learning what it means to be a child of God.
14. What I am saying applies to you fathers, even though you do know Him Who has existed from the beginning. But more particularly, to you young men with your spiritual muscles flexed, God’s Word treasured in your hearts and enjoying victories over the Evil One.
“If we’re that strong, what else do we need to know?”
15. Do not bestow any of your love on this world or anything in it. If one loves the world, it is impossible to love the Father. You cannot love both. 16. Besides, what really has the world to offer? Only gratification of the old nature—things which your eyes greedily long to devour and the empty display which men create for pride’s sake. These things originate in the world and do not come from the Father. 17. Hence, they must pass out of your lives, even as the world itself will one day pass away. It is foolish to set your affections on temporary things. Consider instead that the one who does the will of God will live forever. Should anyone get deeply involved with transitory things when a glorious eternity beckons?
THE WORLD. John does not mean that the wonders of God’s creation are not for us to enjoy. But he does ask us to shed every form of lust and pride which Satan spawns by using the attractions of this world to do it. This is not easy even for Christians tasting victory over the devil since the worldly attractions include family, fortune, and fame, and a good time. Those things are not evil in themselves, but the lust they can generate is.
“How can a brand-new Christian really know what the truth is?”
18. My little children, you have been told that one day the Antichrist would come. Well, we are in the final age of time now and a significant number of antichrists have already appeared. This heralds the fact that we are moving into the last days. 19. Some of these people have gone out from our own company. Of course, they never really belonged to us, for had they, they would have remained with us. At any rate, they did leave us, so it is plain now that they never were true companions in the faith.
ANTICHRIST. This term in Bible prophecy refers to a person who will emerge in the days just prior to the Lord’s return. He will be the political and religious ruler of the world. At the zenith of his career, he will be indwelt by Satan. Thus Satan himself will make an appearance in human form and demand that the world accept him as God. This man, Satan incarnate, will counterfeit many works prophesied about the Lord Jesus. Consequently, a host of people will be deceived into thinking he is the True Messiah. Any person, even in our time, who denies that Jesus is God, is a forerunner of the antichrist.
20. But it is different with you. You have an anointing the Holy Spirit’s coaching, so that all the things of God are before you. 21. I am not writing to you as people from whom the truth of God is hidden but appealing to you because you know it. You are satisfied that no lie can ever be the truth. Black can never be white, can it? 22. So how do we identify the liar? It is he who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is of the antichrist, for that is precisely what he will do when he appears. He will deny both the Father and the Son. 23. Denying the Son is the same thing as denying the Father. For it is by receiving the Son that we come to the Father.
THE CHRIST. Today we use first and last names to identify people, so it is natural to think of Jesus Christ similarly. But Jesus is The Christ. To the Apostle, “the Christ” meant God in human form. In His Gospel, he emphasizes the fact that Jesus is God. In this letter, he features the fact that our Lord’s body was no phantom. That His flesh was the same as ours. Thus Jesus Christ is truly God in a truly human body.
“Are new Christians easily deceived?”
24. Be satisfied with the things you learned at the beginning. Stick with those and you will remain in fellowship with the Father and the Son. 25. Remember that He Himself made us that great promise—the promise of eternal life. 26. Therefore, you can understand my desire to write and warn you about those who would mislead you and shift you away from the truth.
27. And treasure the precious anointing (the Holy Spirit’s coaching) which God has given you, for by means of it you are able to know the truth. Without that, you have only words of men. Men lie, but the Holy Spirit cannot. He is the Truth. 28. Carefully maintain your relationship with Him and let Him teach you as He will. Then, when the Lord Jesus appears, you can meet Him with confidence instead of shrinking back in shame.
“I sure don’t want that! Never!”
29. All right then, think about this. He who is born of God the Righteous, does righteousness.
RIGHTEOUSNESS. This is the ability to do things which are pleasing in the sight of God because your heart longs to measure up to His ambitions for you. False teachers say that one must do righteousness in order to be born of God. That is impossible. Righteousness is the RESULT of the new birth, not the cause. It is communicated. It is supernatural. It is something newly found in the Christian which was not there before. It consists of the things a Christian DOES in order to please God. No unsaved person can do this, simply because no act of the unsaved person is of faith.
FIRST JOHN, CHAPTER THREE
“What is my relationship to God this minute?”
1. Here is an indication of the Father’s love for us—we are called the sons of God! And it is true, we are! Of course, the world does not recognize us as such, but it never recognized Him either. 2. Nevertheless beloved, we are the children of God this minute even if it has not yet been disclosed what we look like inside or will be like in heaven. But this we do know; when He comes, we will be like Him! We will see Him as He really is—HOLY! 3. Any man whose future is based on Christ, constantly purifies himself with a desire to be as holy as He is.
“Are you serious? Can sinners be that holy?”
4. Not without a struggle. Anyone who commits sin is acting in a lawless manner, for sin is any breach of God’s Law, even the tiniest infraction. 5. But Jesus appeared in this world to take away the guilt of our sins. When His salvation comes to an individual, He deposits within that person His own righteous nature which cannot sin. Since He was sinless, our new nature is sinless also. 6. The old nature, which remains intact as long as we are in these bodies, has no contact with Christ and is not capable of any righteousness. Thus the Christian has two natures and the struggle between them is further proof that he is born of God.
TWO NATURES. This vital truth, clearly developed by the Apostle Paul in Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians, underlies John’s words here. He does not employ those exact terms, using instead the “seed” and “abide” concepts found in the various translations. The early church had a working knowledge of this doctrine by the time this letter was written. Simply stated: Those born of God receive a new, sinless nature which enters into competition with the old nature which is born of the flesh. The believer is free, moment by moment, to choose between his natures. The life he exhibits is the result of this struggle between one nature which is carnal and the other which is godly. Consequently, he can appear holy one minute and fleshly the next. He manifests whichever nature he chooses to obey.
“Can unsaved people be holy?”
7. Let no one deceive you. Only a person who is born of the Righteous One can do anything righteous. Any righteousness found in us is due to the outliving of the Righteous Savior who lives inside us. 8. Any unrighteousness is due to the outliving of the old nature which has its origin in the devil. He is the author of all sin. This is why the Son of God came into the world to destroy the devil’s hold on us through the old nature.
9. The person who is born of God has a new nature that cannot sin, simply because it originates in God. Satan’s grasp on that man is broken for he is no longer forced to yield to his old nature. Now he can surrender to his new, sinless nature which abides in him because he is born of God. 10. Thus we find two families in this world—the children of God and the children of the devil. The person who is not born of God can do nothing righteous. He can perform good deeds, but no act pleasing to God. Neither can he love his brother, for it requires the new nature to do that, and he does not have it.
LOVE. This is a strange, new love which the world had never seen until Jesus came. Since it is born of God, it transcends family bonds and affections and the consuming passions between men and women. It is the kind that loves enemies. It cannot be expressed in words only. It is found in acts which return good for evil or in self-giving for the sake of others regardless of personal cost or pain. The world is shocked whenever this love is found in action. It is a product of the new nature.
“Is this a new teaching?”
11. No. When I say that we should love one another, I am restating something you heard at the beginning. 12. In fact, do you recall the story of Cain who killed his brother? He is a perfect example of one whose character originates in the Wicked One and is under his control. But see why he murdered him. His deeds, as good as they were, simply revealed that he was unrighteous. The resulting murder clearly demonstrated the hostility existing between the family of God and the family of the devil. 13. Inasmuch as the world is under the control of the devil, don’t be surprised that it hates you.
“But this is a new kind of love, isn’t it?”
14. Indeed. You have only to consider the marvelous change in us that lets us love our fellow man. Why we even have the capacity to love our enemies; clear proof that we have passed from death unto life. Only the new nature can do this. Thus the man who cannot love his brother remains bound in death. Murder, as you know, is simply hatred in action. 15. Therefore, the man who hates his brother is a murderer. You can see why a person who possessed only this murderous spirit could not have eternal life.
“How far are we supposed to carry this love business?”
16. Christ laid down His life for us. By that act, we can see how far this new love in us can go. Consequently, we must be ready to go that far for the sake of our brethren.
17. Then what about the man who has enough of this world’s goods and sees his brother in want? If he should close his heart to that brother, what can we say about God’s love being operative in him? 18. No, my children, the love which is in us is not to be paraded in speeches or limited to words from lips. It must be seen in action. 19. When we take loving action for the sake of the brethren, it confirms to our souls that our new character is been wrought in Him. Our consciences also testify that we are outliving Jesus’ glorious indwelling.
“Is there any connection between this love and prayer?”
20. If our consciences condemn us, it is because God’s Spirit is convicting us. We should expect that since nothing is hidden from His sight. In those times when we are not pleasing in His sight, we can be thankful that He is bigger than our consciences and does convict us. In fact, wouldn’t it be terrible to do wrong and have a clear conscience? When our consciences are clear, we can approach Him without fear. Oh, the happiness of being able to appear before God’s awesome Majesty with a joyful heart! It is a great treasure.
22. The person whose conscience comforts him before God may ask what he will and receive it. Why? Because that man is keeping God’s commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight. This man’s words addressed to God in prayer are heard because God’s Words addressed to the man in commandments are observed. God is never asked in vain by those who let themselves be commanded by Him.
23. So once again what did He command? That we should believe on the Name of His Son Jesus and love one another as He told us. 24. The one who does this, dwells in God and God in him. Proof that He really does indwell us is the presence of His Spirit, which is an outright gift.
FIRST JOHN, CHAPTER FOUR
“How can new Christians avoid false teachings?”
1. Beloved, do not believe every spirit or person claiming to be inspired but put them to the test to see if their message is of God. Many false prophets are making their appearance in the world. 2. You can tell if a spirit is from God by checking his message: Any spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is God from all eternity and has come to us in human flesh, is of God. 3. Any spirit which refuses to confess Jesus this way is not of God. You can be sure his teachings are inspired by the antichrist. You have heard that such teachings would be becoming. The fact is, they are already here.
“Is that the only test for false teachers?”
4. You are of God, my children, and enjoy a superiority over false teachers because the One Who is in you is mightier than he who is in the world. 5. Those teachers are of the world; they speak the language of the world, and the world likes to listen to them.
6. We, on the other hand, belong to God. Only the one who knows God will listen to us. Thus we have another good test for distinguishing between the spirit of error and the Spirit of Truth.
“Is this new love the same as God’s love?”
7. Yes. Everyone who displays this new love is born of God and knows God. This love flows from God and there is no other place to get it. 8. Therefore, the man who has not this love, cannot claim to know God, for God is love. 9. And how has God revealed this love where we are concerned? By sending His only begotten Son into the world that we might have life through Him. 10. Notice that it was not a matter of His responding to our human love, for He loved us first and sent His Son to be the payment for our sins.
11. Therefore, Beloved, if God’s love behaves like that, how ought we to love one another? Granted that no one has ever seen God at any time, yet He does live within us, and His love is in action when we love one another.
12. Remember, this is one way we know we are saved.
13. Keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is also a witness to our salvation. The fact of His presence is proof that we live in God and that He lives in us. Furthermore, I have told you how that I, personally, saw that the Father send His Son to be the Savior of the world and testify to the truth of it. Did no this letter begin that way? 15. Where any man acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in that man and he in God.
16. So, by His Spirit, we truly know and believe that God has love for us. The one who loves—divinely loves—lives in God. Love is the expression and summary of all the Scriptures teach.
“Is this new love supposed to eliminate all fear of God?”
17. As darkness flees before light, so does fear vanish before love. The degree to which we truly love God is the extent to which we can look forward to the Day of Judgement without fear. We are like Christ, right now, even though we are still in the world. We have His nature, and we can love the Father as He did. 18. And the more we love Him, the more we displace any fear of meeting Him. Fear is a corrective device. Its presence shows only that we are not loving God as much as we should The more a man loves God, the less conscious he is of any punishment. 19. Keep in mind though that we love Him only because He first loved us.
20. Now if a man boasts of loving God, but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar. He has seen his brother and has no love for him. What love could he possibly have for the God he has never seen? 21. No, the divine command makes the matter clear; he who loves God must also love his brother. It is impossible to love one and not the other.
FIRST JOHN, CHAPTER FIVE
“Can we love God apart from obeying Him?”
1. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (God incarnate), is born of God; and whoever loves the Father will also love His child. However, love for God is not possible apart from treasuring His commandments. 2. If we observe His commandments, we can be sure that we also love His children. Does that sound strange?
3. Obedience to His commandments is the way our love is expressed. Far from being a burden to us, His commandments are a delight, for they reveal His will. 4. Besides, the person who is born of God triumphs over the world. Yet this makes faith the real victor, since it is by faith that we are born of God.
5. The only one who can triumph over the world, therefore, is he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
BELIEVE. The Apostle makes different use of the word here. Writing to Christians, he does not mean it in the sense of obtaining salvation, as it is found in other places of the N.T. This is an assurance letter. Therefore, “believe that Jesus is the Christ” is the result of salvation. Sit in a chair. Lift your feet from the floor. Say to a friend, “I believe this chair will hold me.” Why? It already is. John finds that Jesus’ indwelling produces this conviction. Such faith is the result of His work in us, not the cause of it. He is saying, only those who are born-again believe that Jesus is God. It is another assurance of salvation.
“What evidence is there for the truth of Christ?”
6. This is He Who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. Not by water only, which stands for cleansing; but by water and blood, which represent the application of righteousness. 7. We have the Holy Spirit’s witness for this, and He is the Spirit of Truth. 8. So there are three who bear witness; the Spirit, the water, and the blood. These three concur as one and they are one.
INTERNAL WITNESS. When a person receives heaven’s witness within himself, it is unshakable. True, it is subjective, and others can challenge it for that reason. But the witness is not for others. It is for the Christian himself. When truth rises within a man, he is freed from having to look to others or outside sources for confirmation. The water and the blood have stood for cleansing and applied righteousness from the first days of the Old Testament where they foretold Christ’s work for man. One could not go far wrong in interpreting the water as the Word of God, the blood as the applied holiness of the new nature, and the witness of the Holy Spirit as God’s voice within our own souls.
9. We readily accept the testimony of men, yet isn’t the testimony of God higher? We have divine authority for what we believe. For God has borne witness to His own Son. 10. The person who believes in the Son of God has this same, divine attestation within his own heart. The man who does not believe in the Son of God treats God as a liar; for he spurns the witness that God Himself gives concerning His Son.
11. And what is the truth so attested to the hearts of men? That God has given us eternal life and that life is in His Son.
12. He who possesses the Son has this life; he who does not have the Son of God is lifeless. 13. I have written these things to you who do believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you already have life, yes eternal life!
“What about our prayer requests?”
14. Here is the confidence we can have toward God in the matter of prayer; the certainty that He hears us when we ask anything according to His will. 15. Since we know He hears every request which coincides with His plans, we know such a request will be granted.
“Could you illustrate that?”
16. For example, if you are one in whom this new love is active and you see a sinning brother in the church, you can pray for that brother, and God will grant him a changed life. This is a matter in which you can have great confidence in praying, provided the brother’s sin is not unto death. I am not telling you to pray for such a man inasmuch as his sin is fatal. Prayer confidence cannot apply where God Himself is powerless to help a man. That would be like praying for Judas or those who went out from among us.
SIN UNTO DEATH. This occurs when a church member has sampled all there is in Christ and turns away from Jesus in a determined apostasy. This is a hostile, anti-Christian attitude that mocks the Lord and leaves no room for recovery. God has nothing more to offer the person who explores and samples the whole range of Christian experience and then turns away from it in open rebellion (Heb. 6:4-6).
“Then we really are safe in Christ?”
18. Yes, the man who is born of God has a new, sinless nature. This new creation, which is of divine origin, is so protected that the Wicked One cannot touch it. That alone should give you unlimited assurance. 19. We can be absolutely certain that while the world about us is in the hands of the Wicked One, we belong to God!
20. Something else is clear too—the Son of God has come and given us a sense of truth. Thus we are able to recognize the True God and live in His True Son, Jesus Christ. He is the True God and Eternal Life!
21. Oh, my children, this world is full of idols. Guard yourselves. Watch out for anything or anyone that would undermine Jesus’ place in your life!
CHRISTIAN IDOLATRY. This is more subtle than pagan idolatry where objects of worship are substituted in the place of God. With Christians, it is a matter of priority. Family, money, job, and a good time are often placed ahead of God’s Commandments. Satan can deceive Christians with good things to keep them from the best. Do not let family situations, overtime pay, a prestige position, or a weekend outing, keep you from your obligation to Christ.
By C. S. Lovett
Copyright © 1966, 1982, 2020
2020 Revision edited by D. L. Hettema