The Greatest Event in History
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, July 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:4-10
If we ask certain people what is the greatest event that took place in human history, they would say it was the fall of man. This was when man declared his independence from God, which we read about in Genesis 3. If we ask certain historians what is the greatest event that took place in history, they will all have different wrong answers. Only in the book of truth, the Bible, do we find the true answer to this question.
The greatest problem of man is human sin, and the greatest event that took place in history is the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The eternal Son of God came into history in human form to deal with our sin and set us free from the dominion of sin and Satan. He will come again a second time, as he promised, to put an end to all rebellion of men and of angels.
In this study we want to examine three points found in 1 John 3:4-10: First, the nature of sin; second, the origin of sin; and, third, the removal of sin.
The Nature of Sin
In 1 John 3:4 we read, "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness." The Scripture gives us a number of definitions for sin.
- In Romans 14:23 we read, "Everything that does not come from faith is sin." That means any action performed by us against the voice of our own conscience is sin.
- In James 4:17 we read, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins." We are to love our neighbors as ourselves; thus, if we fail to show love by doing good to them, we are sinning. We are told that Jesus Christ went about doing good, and Paul tells us that Christians are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Thus, if we do not do good works, we sin.
- In 1 John 5:17 we are told, "All wrongdoing is sin."
- In 1 John 3:4 we read, "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness." This is a more fundamental definition of sin. Sin is anomia, lawlessness. That is a convertible proposition, meaning that sin is lawlessness and lawlessness is sin.
When we look at a little child or a teenager or a middle-aged person or an old person who is about to die, we see sin in all these people. The essence of sin is revolt against God's law, which Paul tells us is holy, just, good, and spiritual. Since God's law is the expression of God's character, sin is against God himself. It is taking a position of opposition to God Almighty. A sinner says, "I will not have God the King to rule over me and I refuse to obey his law." This is not passive rebellion. Sin always is very active against God.
Lawlessness is the very nature of the antichrist who is coming, whom Paul speaks about in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 8. In verse 3 Paul writes, "Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction." This antichrist is characterized by rebellion against God. And in verse 8 Paul says, "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming."
A sinner is one who opposes God Almighty. That is why we must never define sin in a nice way. Sin is active revolt against the Christ, and every sinner is an antichrist. But all sinners should keep one thing in mind: God Almighty opposes sinners, and God Almighty always wins.
Sin is purposeful disregard for God's law, even though that law is designed for our benefit. In James 2:12 it is called the law that gives freedom. Sin is active refusal to conform to this law. It is a repudiation of the revealed will of God. Thus, to sin is to assert one's own wicked will as the rule of action against the absolutely good will of God. But on the last day, the Christ will declare to all who would not submit to him, "Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness, wickedness, and iniquity."
I hope we will not define down sin. For example, we recently heard adultery defined as "a romantic relationship." That is what the news people call it, and we Christians begin to believe such euphemisms. We may even find ourselves asking, "What's so wrong with two people engaging in a romantic relationship?" Every day we are defining sin down in this way. May God have mercy on us so that we will see sin as it truly is: active, wholehearted rebellion against God.
The Origin of Sin
Second, in 1 John 3:8-10 we find the origin of sin. In verse 8 we read, "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work."
John tells us that sin originated in the devil. The devil was created as a good angel. He had great beauty, power, and wisdom, yet he became evil. This is the mystery of iniquity. In Christianity there is no eternal dualism, no eternal good and eternal evil in eternal conflict with each other. There was a definite origin of evil, there is a continuance of it, and, in time, there will be a final disposition of it.
Evil began in the devil and since then he has continued to sin. After the devil tempted Adam and Eve, they also became sinners; and in Adam all human beings have been born sinners whose nature is to revolt actively and purposefully against God Almighty.
Thus, all sinners are children of the devil because they do evil and have their father's likeness. Jesus Christ himself spoke of this in John 8:44, saying, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of all lies." There is a very simple test you can perform to determine who your father is: just ask yourself whose desire are you fulfilling. Jesus Christ fulfilled the desire of his heavenly Father; a sinner carries out the desire of his father, the devil.
In the Greek the devil is called diabolos, which means slanderer. In Hebrew he is called satan, which means adversary or opponent. He is also called the evil one, ho poneros, a term which John uses in 1 John 3:12 and 1 John 5:18-19, and which Jesus Christ used when he prayed in John 17:15 that his disciples would be kept from the evil one.
In 1 John 3:8 we read, "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning." Satan was created good, just like Adam and Eve, but after he sinned once, he has continued to sin. It is his habit. He is characterized by non posse non peccare, which means that he can only sin, and all who follow him can only sin as well. The devil is the aboriginal sinner-the aboriginal murderer, liar, deceiver, and tempter. He is always against God, against God's rule, and against God's people.
Under the Devil's Control
The Bible declares that all sinners are under the control of the devil. Not only can he does control them from outside by prompting them to do what he wants, but he can also enter into them and control them through their thoughts and desires, as we read he did with Judas in John 13:2 and 27. What is devil's purpose in all his activity? Jesus exposed it in John 10:10, saying, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."
The Scripture calls the devil the prince, or the god, of this world, who rules with power from his throne. But naive people don't see this reality. The whole world lies in the control of the devil, as we read in 1 John 5:19, but most people neither know it nor acknowledge it. The devil is the ruler of the kingdom of the air, we are told in Ephesians 2:2. Yet he is also a creature under the control of God Almighty, to be disposed of in due course at God's predetermined time. In fact, we are told God has prepared eternal fire for the devil and his angels.
The Removal of Sin
Third, this passage speaks about the removal of sin. Jesus Christ came down from heaven, met the devil, and defeated him. This is the greatest event that ever took place in human history, the greatest story ever told.
Man's greatest problem is sin. In Romans 3:23 we read, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The wrath of God is already being revealed against sinful man. Hell is already prepared. God will never be caught by surprise. It is all ready, prepared for the devil, his angels, and all humans who follow the devil by doing his desires. This is a big problem.
Who, then, can solve this problem of man? Who is able to remove the heavy burden of sin from our shoulders? Who can deliver man from this body of death? John answers this question in 1 John 3:5, saying, "But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins."
John says Jesus Christ appeared. We are not told that he was born, although he was, indeed, born of Virgin Mary. By using the term "appeared," John is implying the preexistence of this One who appeared on the scene of history. He is the eternal Son of God, which John makes clear in verse 8, saying, "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." The one who appeared is the the Son of God who took upon himself human form.
The Person of Christ
In 1 John 1:1-3 we read, "That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us."
The appearance of Jesus Christ is the greatest event that ever took place in human history. Eternal God became man. In Galatians 4:4-5 Paul tells us, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights as sons." God sent his Son from heaven "to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). He came sharing our humanity "so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death" (Heb. 2:14-15). He appeared in human form, and yet we are told that he was sinless: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). In 1 John 3:5 John said, "In him is no sin," meaning no sin in his preexistence, no sin in his incarnation, and no sin in him now. The sinless Son of God became man to deal with sin by waging war against the aboriginal sinner, the devil himself.
The Work of Christ
What is the work of this One who appeared? In 1 John 3:5 we read that he came to take away our sins. No one else could, so God sent his Son, who alone could take away sin.
The incarnation of Christ was for the singular purpose of taking away our sin. John the Baptist spoke concerning him, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) Jesus Christ took the entire weight of sin from our shoulders, setting us free forever from all guilt, from death, and from the wrath of God, and gave us rest.
O sinner, you may pretend that you are free and happy, but that is not what the Scripture says about you. If Jesus Christ has not taken away your sins, you are still loaded down with guilt. The weight of sin is on you and will crush you in due course. But Jesus Christ saw our plight and came to rescue us from our sin. This shows us the enormity of our sin problem. If sin were nothing, God would not have sent his Son in human form to die for our sin.
In Leviticus 16:20-28 we find an illustration of how Christ takes away our sin. There we read,
When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-all their sins-and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place.
We find the idea of Christ bearing our sin also in Isaiah 53:11-12:
After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
In 1 John 3:8 John speaks about the work of Christ in this way: "The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil." O sinner, do not take any comfort! The heaven-sent warrior, the great antagonist has come against you and he will win. PGM He will pursue you to your eternal death because he is an opponent of sin.
John says Jesus Christ came to destroy everything the devil did. The word is lusÍ, which means to untie, to loose, to take apart and pull down everything. The incarnation of Christ was for the purpose of taking down the edifice Satan built, thus destroying his kingdom and authority. In Hebrews 9:26 we read concerning Jesus Christ, "But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself."
Why did Jesus Christ appear? He appeared that he might bind the strong man, the devil, and set us free. He appeared that he might condemn sin in his flesh on the cross. He appeared that he might condemn the prince of this world and drive him out. All this was accomplished when Christ was crucified on the cross. Jesus himself said in John 12:32, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He appeared that he might shed his blood on the cross, for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
In John 16:11 Jesus told his disciples, "The prince of this world now stands condemned." He appeared that he might fulfill the ancient prophecy, the protoeuangelion, which says, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen. 3:15). He appeared that he might crush the head of the devil on the cross. He appeared that he might disarm the evil powers and authorities and make "a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Col. 2:15). He appeared that he might take away our sins and destroy the work of the devil.
In Revelation 1:18 the Lord Jesus tells us, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." Jesus Christ came to take away the entire weight of our sin.
Overcoming the Evil One
Not only did Jesus Christ overcome the evil one, but in Christ we also have overcome him. In 1 John 2:13 John writes, "I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one." How do we conquer and defeat the evil one? There is only one way: by putting our trust in Jesus Christ.
We read about this in several places in the New Testament. In 1 John 4:4 John writes concerning the antichrists, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." In 1 John 5:4 John writes, "For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith."
Jesus accomplished the job he had come to earth to do: he defeated and bound the devil, took away our sins, destroyed death, and set us free. What is the proof that he succeeded in his mission? He has caused us to be born again, born of God. We were children of the devil, bad trees bearing only bad fruit. But Jesus Christ came and took away our sins, destroying the devil and setting us free. All who are born again participate in this great accomplishment of redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ.
In 1 John 2:29 we read, "If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him." The verb is in the perfect tense, meaning you have been born again and you remain born again. A regenerate person can never be unregenerated.
In 1 John 3:9 we read, "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." We see that in several other places as well. We are born of God! We are set free! We are so free that the evil one cannot touch us. This is the victory Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.
If we are born of God, we have received divine nature and are God's children, a position that can never change. The proof that God's Son succeeded in taking away sin and destroying the devil is that we are born of God. What is the proof that we are God's children? That is the message of this whole epistle. In 1 John 3:7 John writes, "Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous." Whether or not we do what is right will reveal whether or not we are children of God.
Doing Reveals Being
Our actions reveal our character. This is why this epistle is very important. How do we know we are born of God? By our behavior. If we have been born again, there will be a change in what we do. For instance, he who stole will steal no longer; rather, he will work with his hands that he may have something to give. He who lied will no longer lie; rather, he will tell the truth.
Doing reveals the change of being. Doing reveals that we have been born of God, that we have been given divine nature, that God's sperm dwells in us, as we are told in 1 John 3:9 (hoti sperma autou en autŰ menei). Some theologians see this as a reference to the Holy Spirit. The sperm of God is in us, and this Holy Spirit has changed our being. Now that we are born of God, our nature has changed. We are now like the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. Now we love God's law and love to do it. Sin, in its essence, is revolt against the law of God, but a child of God loves to practice the law of his heavenly Father.
In 1 John 3:9 we are also told that a child of God does not practice sin and cannot practice sin. This does not mean a Christian will never commit a sin. It means his basic character and habit is changed and he no longer practices sin. Ou dunatai-it is impossible for him to practice sin. We must examine ourselves and see if this is true of us.
We want to make three points in conclusion. First, as we said before, there are only two families to which all the people on earth belong: the family of God and the family of the devil. In God's family all children have the likeness of the Father and his Son. God is light and in him there is no darkness. Concerning the Son we are told there is no sin in him. Therefore, God's children are those who practice righteousness. They have the family likeness of the Father and the Son.
The vast majority of people in the world belong to the other family, the family of the devil, for whose sake the hell is prepared. If a person says to God, "I refuse to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved because I enjoy my sin," God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit will pursue that person to the very end and dispose of him in that eternal fire which is already prepared. He will lose everything.
I was talking to a father once about his unbelieving son. He said the boy's grades are pretty good. I said, "Don't tell me about it. I don't like to hear the grades of someone who doesn't love God." I am not impressed by someone's grades. I am impressed when a person walks with God, upholds his law, and does that which is right.
If you are an unbeliever, I urge you to pay attention to the greatest event that ever occurred-the incarnation of Christ. Jesus Christ came, fought, and won, and Satan is defeated. Have you profited by this greatest event that dealt with the greatest problem humans have? The Bible tells us that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
Second, there is a type of teaching that says, "Positionally, I am a child of God and saved, but practically I am free to sin." This is a heresy which was perpetrated at John's church in the first century and still exists today. That is why the apostle writes, "Do not let anyone lead you astray," or "deceive you." What is the deception? To think that a person can be saved and yet continue to practice sin. There are thousands and thousands of preachers in this country and around the world who preach that a person can be saved yet practice sin. But such a life, according to this epistle, is an utter impossibility. When a person continues in sin, it only reveals that his father is still the devil. Doing reveals being.
Third, there is an idea which was popular during the time of John Wesley, but is no longer so popular that somehow a Christian can become perfectly sinless in this life. This is another lie. Sin will always remain in us in this world. However, we must grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. We do so through ongoing obedience until the day we die.
What About You?
I urge you not to define down sin, as our modern culture does. Don't call adultery "romance." Yes, people may do that, but it is not what God says. We must be ever conscious that the true nature of sin is revolt-active, purposeful rebellion-against God Almighty and his order. It is saying, "I will not have this God to rule over me!" We must be aware of the origin of sin and of the aboriginal sin of the devil. We must be aware that every sinner is under the devil's thumb and controlled by him in every way.
Praise God for the greatest event in history-the incarnation of Christ! God planned it and sent his Son-his sinless, eternal God/man Son-who waged war, not by destroying the law, but by fulfilling it. Through his active and passive obedience at the cross, he defeated the devil, rescued us, and set us free. Through him we also have overcome the devil.
The Bible tells us, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). It takes faith in Jesus Christ to do that. This mighty prince, the god of this world, shall flee from a child of God who trusts in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The truth is, if we are born of God, we need not sin! Our being is changed, and we will practice righteousness, upholding and honoring the law of God, just as his Son did.
I pray that the word of God will enter our hearts so that we will have insight to judge our own condition correctly. May we detect, detest, and destroy the sin in our lives and appreciate what Jesus Christ did in destroying sin and the devil and setting us free. May we henceforth love God more and render greater obedience to him, rejoicing in the mighty position he has granted to us. And if anyone concludes after self-examination that he is not a Christian, I pray that he will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. Amen.
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Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
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