The Three Certainties of the Epistle
1 John 5:18-21
We know that whoever is born of God sins not; but he that is begotten of God keeps himself, and that wicked one touches him not.

I. THE CERTAINTY OF THE POWER OF THE DIVINE BIRTH. "We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth him, and the evil one toucheth him not." This is doctrine which has already been laid down. In 1 John 3:6 sinlessness is connected with human action; here it is connected with Divine action. There is sin, as in the context has been admitted, within the Christian circle; but it is according to the norm of the Divine life not to sin. The language that is added here is unusual. Westcott would remove its unusual aspect by thinking of Christ, as the Begotten of God, opposed to the evil one. But it is God that is opposed to the evil one in the following verse; and the mere change of tense does not prepare for the introduction of Christ. In passing from the now begotten of God to the past begotten of God, we naturally think of the same person, only at a different moment, viz. that of the commencement of the Divine life. The new nature then received (ascribing all to God), it keepeth him; and the evil one, having nothing in the new nature to lay hold on, toucheth him not. He is indeed tempted; but he has a defense against temptation in his quickened sensibilities and activities.

II. THE CERTAINTY OF OUR POSSESSING LIFE FROM GOD. "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one." There is here the strength of personal assurance. We know that we are of God; we know that we draw our life from the highest source. But there is also the certitude of Christian pessimism - the worst view of the world. In the Christian judgment, the whole world lieth in the evil one. It is not only touched by the evil one (verse 18), but the evil one is, as it were, the circumambient element in which it passively lies, and by which it is completely moulded in all its systems and customs and institutions. This is not a cheering view to take of the world; but it would be less cheering to think that the world is only as God intended it to be - that it has not suffered from a fall. The counterbalancing truth is that, bad as it is, it is loved by God, and is susceptible of redemption. And the Christian optimism, which we are warranted to entertain, is this - that the world, in all its thinking and fashions, will yet be on the right side, not fraught with peril, but fraught with deliverance to souls.

III. THE CERTAINTY OF THE REVEALING POWER OF THE INCARNATION. "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." This is the third "we know" which the apostle recalls. We know that the Incarnation is a fact. Through the Incarnation our understanding is Christianized, that we know him that is true, which is equivalent to being in him that is true, which again is equivalent to being in his Son Jesus Christ. This God whom Jesus Christ reveals, this is the true God, and eternal life. The proof of the Divinity of Christ here lies in this, that in his incarnation he absolutely reveals God as Father, as infinite Love, which is the highest truth about the nature of God, and also absolutely reveals eternal life, which is the highest happiness of God, he being, according to the thought of verse 11, the receptacle of it for us. From the center all things are made capable of ultimate explanation. The world, as it lies in the evil one, may seem to call up gloomy thoughts of God; but the Incarnation, the fact that Christ is come, and come into the midst of the world for its redemption, calls up bright, cheering thoughts of God. Parting word. "My little children, guard yourselves from idols." In parting, he naturally fixes on the word of special affection for his readers. In verse 18 he put forward Divine keeping - "he that was begotten of God [the Divine birth] keepeth him." Here he puts forward self-keeping - "guard ['keep,' with added emphasis] yourselves," i.e., in the use of means. The idols against which we are to be on our guard are the vain shadows that usurp the place of the true God. In connection with heathen idolatry, there are such false representations of God as these - that he is to be apprehended by sense; that he is confined to temples made with hands; that he has a divided sovereignty; that he takes delight in impurities and in the blood of human victims. In connection with idolatry, in the wide sense here to be thought of, there are such false representations of God as these - that he is pleased with our taking selfish gratification; that he does not extend his interest beyond our home, or some narrow circle with which we are connected; that he is indifferent to our happiness; that he does not notice our actions, and will not bring us into judgment for them. Let us oppose to these false representations of God the representation given in the Incarnation. Let us brood over this great fact till all vain shadows flee away, and God comes forth to us in all the splendour of his love. This is a word suitable for parting. We may think of John, now amid the realities of heaven, still beseeching us, and with greater intensity, to beware of the deceitful shadows that are here as often taken for God. - R.F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: We know that whoever is born of God doesn't sin, but he who was born of God keeps himself, and the evil one doesn't touch him.

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