Freedom from Hell
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, July 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
1 John 5:18-21
We recently marked the United States' two-hundred and twenty-sixth year of freedom. What a blessed time we had celebrating the great political freedom we enjoy in this country!
Yet there is a freedom, called spiritual freedom, that is infinitely superior to political freedom. But the vast majority of those who celebrate Independence Day each year do not experience it As captives of Satan, such people are traveling on the road that is wide which leads to death and hell. In Matthew 7:13 Jesus said, "For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Such people, unless they trust in Christ, die in their sins. This is true even of people who are brought up in the church. Without the liberation from slavery to sin by Jesus Christ, all haters of God will surely arrive in hell. To such people Jesus will say on the last day, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Thanks be to God, we have been delivered from that road to destruction! Today we who are Christians can celebrate our freedom from hell, freedom from slavery to Satan, freedom from sin, and freedom from second death. Those who love Jesus Christ are traveling on a different road to a different destination. We entered through the narrow gate and are traveling on the narrow road that leads to eternal life.
In this study of the freedom we have in Christ from 1 John 5:18-21, we want to speak about three points: First, who is our liberator; second, who are the liberated people; and, third, in what does our liberation consist.
Why We Need a Liberator
In 1 John 5:20 we read a description of our heavenly Liberator, "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life."
Why do we need a liberator? The Bible tells us that in Adam all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Thus, through Adam we became without strength, ungodly sinners, enemies of God. In 1 John 3:8 we read, "He who does what is sinful is of the devil," and in 1 John 3:10 we read that we became children of the devil. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 we read that "the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." They became like sons whose eyes have been gouged out. If you have not trusted in Jesus Christ, this is your condition. Instead of glorying in your understanding, you should weep for your ignorance and blindness.
When we were dead in trespasses and sins, the devil ruled our minds, will, and affections. We were completely disobedient to God and completely obedient to Satan. In Psalm 51 David spoke for us all when he said, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Moses tells us in Genesis 6 that every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts was only evil all the time. We were of the devil and did what pleased the devil, not God, in all our thoughts, words, and deeds. We were described and characterized as non posse non peccare, not possible not to sin.
All that changed when Christ our liberator came. If the Son sets us free, we are free indeed. So we read in 1 John 5:20, "We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true." John says "we know." That is an interesting Greek word, oidamen, which appears in verses 18, 19, and 20. There are a number of words in Greek that mean "to know," but this one means to have a knowledge that is intuitive, Spirit-wrought , and certain. In Romans 8:28 Paul uses oidamen again, saying, "We know all things work together for good." He is speaking about knowledge that comes to us through the Holy Spirit, who puts it so deep within us that we are certain of it. So John says we are sure of this fact, with Holy-Spirit-produced certainty.
What is it John says we have no doubt about? That the Son of God has come. That is the doctrine of incarnation. God the Son became man; he who was without sin appeared in the flesh to take away our sins, as we read in 1 John 3:5. Jesus Christ, our liberator, came from heaven into this world and took upon himself human nature to redeem us.
Who Is Our Liberator?
Who, then, is our heavenly liberator? First, he is Jesus of Nazareth, the one who lived in this world. He was a historical person, a human being, yet without sin, virgin-born. No wonder Peter said, "In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk!"
Who is our liberator? We are told here he is the Christ-the One promised in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Who is our liberator? John calls him the Son, meaning the eternal Son, the second Person of the Trinity-in other words, God-who gave us being and who upholds us by the power of his word.
Who is our liberator? In verse 20 we read, "This one is the true God." Jesus Christ is the true God, the true Deity, over against all the false gods of the world. In John 1 we read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In John 20:28 doubting Thomas confessed, "My Lord and my God!"
Who is our liberator? In this passage he is called eternal life. When we are born we have physical life, which he gave us, but when we are born again, he also gives us eternal life. Without Christ's life in us, we are hopeless and outside of his kingdom. Our eyes are not opened to understand who our liberator really is. "Who do you say that I am?" is the most important question Jesus asks us. He alone is eternal life. It is he who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life," and "I am the resurrection and the life."
Who is our liberator? In 1 John 4:14 John says, " We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." There is no other savior. Jesus Christ alone is the Savior of the whole world. Oh, some may wonder at him, even though they don't wonder about the food that goes into their mouths, or wonder who their mothers and fathers are. But they wonder about Him who alone has being in himself-the eternal, infinite God.
Who is our liberator? In 1 John 2:2 we read, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins." He is the only propitiation, the one who by his death turned away God's wrath that was against us.
Who is our liberator? In 1 John 3:5 we read, "But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins, and in him there is no sin." That was the purpose of his coming. How did he do it? In verse 8 of 1 John 3 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." Jesus Christ came to bind the devil so that he could save us who were kept by the devil as his slaves.
He Gives Us Understanding
Not only do we believe that Jesus came into this world and lived among us, but we also believe that he has given us understanding-the Greek word dianoia means "capacity to understand and to interpret things correctly." In other words, because of sin, every unbeliever is blind and has no capacity to understand reality. Sin affects our mind, will, and affections, so that, as we read in Genesis 6:7, every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts are only evil all the time.
When Jesus Christ came, he gave us the capacity to interpret things correctly. This is a gift from him which we can enjoy all the time. Our eyes have been opened by Jesus Christ, who alone is the source of all true understanding. He alone can give us dianoia, the capacity to understand all reality, especially the capacity to know God. This is great blessing, because knowing God is eternal life.
In 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul said concerning the reaction of the mighty, the educated, the rich, the famous, the intelligentsias of the world to the gospel: "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We need knowledge of God, but Satan blinds our eyes. But thanks be to God, we have a liberator from heaven who gives sight to the blind. So in 2 Corinthians 4:6 we read, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." God gives us understanding.
Ephesians 4:18 tells us that once we were darkened in our understanding. That is the condition of every unbeliever. An unbeliever doesn't believe in Jesus Christ, doesn't read the Bible, and treats Christianity with perfect hatred because he is darkened in his understanding. Once we also were darkened in our understanding, but now, because God gave us the Holy Spirit, we have understanding of God. So John writes in 1 John 2:20 and 27 that we have an anointing from the Holy One and thus know the truth. We are people of the new covenant: We are born of God and we know God! We know who our Father is.
Some people do not know who the heavenly Father is. Most people have no question who their earthly fathers are. In fact, if they have any doubt, they can have scientific tests done to determine who their fathers are. But why don't they know the heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? Because they have not been born of God and are not his.
So John writes in 1 John 2:27, "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you." Unless we are born of God, we cannot see or enter the kingdom of God. But if we are born of God, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit; thus, we can see and understand the kingdom of God. As people of the new covenant, we know God and his truth. We have eternal life, as we read in John 17:3, where Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
The princes of this world, the mighty of this world, do not understand what God has given us in the gospel because the gospel is spiritually discerned. The natural man does not receive things that are spiritual. But the Holy Spirit enlightens the eyes of our understanding so that we can understand the things of God. The Bible tells us we have the mind of Christ; we have been given a new capacity to understand and to interpret reality correctly. A person does not need a Ph.D. to do that, but he does need to be born of God.
The Greek text tells us the Son gives us this understanding as a gift. Why does God give us this gift? So that we may pray and put forth effort in seeking the kingdom of God, so that we may diligently study the Scriptures, so that we may come to know God. We use the capacity given to us to acquire knowledge--giní´skomen--that we may know God. That word is used for study, for effort. It is knowledge acquired through effort, in other words. We can acquire it because we have been given understanding. When we have this understanding, we will open the Bible and it will speak to us. We will be able to "grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ." We will be filled with joy when we read the Bible, and as we grow in our knowledge of God, our faith will also grow and all depression, misery, and anxiety will disappear.
We Are Safe in God
Third, verse 20 tells us that we are safe. John writes, "And we are in him who is true . . . ." That means we are in God the Father. What an amazing component of our eternal security. We are united with God the Father! We are in him who is true. We are located in God.
But not only that, John also says, "even in his Son, Jesus Christ." In other words, we are doubly safe: safe in the Father and safe in the Son. We find the famous statement of the security of a believer in John 10:28-29. Speaking of his disciples, Jesus, who is eternal life, says in verse 28, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." We are gripped by the mighty Christ. Then Jesus says in verse 29, "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." We are gripped by the Father too. We are so united with God the Father and God the Son that nothing in all creation is able to snatch us from their hand and separate us from God. No one is able to sever the cord of everlasting love by which we are bound to our God.
The people of God are the truly liberated ones. In 1 John 5:19 John writes, "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." We were of the world, as we read in 1 John 4:5, and that is why we loved the world. Worldliness was our lifestyle.
Additionally, we were idol worshipers. In 1 John 5:21 we read, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." Not only were we worshipers of Mammon, Molech, Dagon, and Baal, but we were also worshipers of ourselves, worshipers of our children, worshipers of physical beauty, worshipers of false philosophies and theologies, worshipers of false science, worshipers of country, worshipers of cars, and worshipers of careers. What is an idol? It is anything in our lives that occupies the place that should be occupied by the true and living God. Idols are God-substitutes, and, as unbelievers, we worshiped and gloried in such idols. PGM In fact, as unbelievers, we were proud of being idol worshipers. But unbelievers do not realize that behind every idol is a demon. In other words, every idol worshiper is a worshiper of Satan, and he lives every moment under the thumb of Satan.
So in 1 John 3:8 we read that we were of the devil-ek tou diabolou-and in 1 John 3:10 we read that we were children of the devil, ta tekna diabolou. But no more! In 1 John 5:19 John writes that we are of God-ek tou Theou. It says that we know this without any doubt, again by using the word oidamen. We know beyond a shadow of doubt that we are of God, born of God, children of God. We are people to whom is given the nature of God.
What happened to us? We used to be of the world and of the devil, but no more. Born of God, we now have divine nature, divine knowledge, and eternal life. We are children of God. So John writes, Oidamen hoti ek tou Theou esmen-"We know beyond a shadow of doubt we are of God." It is an indicative, a statement of fact. Right now we are of God. If we are "of God," we have nothing to worry about. We have been moved out of the realm of death, misery, and darkness into the realm of life, joy, and light. As we read in 1 John 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death to life."
How many people are still in the realm of death, ignorant of eternal realities? Oh, they may move about, to and fro, having a good time, saying, "Eat, drink, and be merry." But they have no understanding of the serious danger in which they are. In John 5:24 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." The Greek text tells us it is a one-way transition. Once we have crossed to life, we cannot go back. The Lord Jesus Christ came from heaven into our hell to take us out of that hell and put us in the realm of life, and that liberation cannot be undone. In other words, if we are born of God, we cannot lose our salvation, our sonship, our eternal life.
The Bible declares that there are only two classes of people: children of God and children of the devil. John tells us that the whole world, meaning the unbelieving people of the world, lies under the control of the evil one. The Greek word for "lies" means "to lie passively, helplessly, and complacently like an infant who is lying on the breast of his mother." There is no struggle, in other words. This is the way the world lies in the control of the devil. Every unbeliever lies powerlessly and passively under the power of evil one, whose goal is not only to steal, kill, and destroy them, but to rule over them. He will not let them go, and they cannot free themselves, whether they are mighty, educated princes, or paupers.
But, thank God, those whom God has called to himself have been liberated from the dominion of the devil, and, having crossed over from death to life, they can never turn back to death. In Romans 8 we read that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
What Does Our Liberation Consist Of?
What does this liberation consist of? First, it consists in understanding. Though we were blind, all of a sudden the Messiah gives us sight. What type of sight is it? Oh, it is much better than physical sight. He gives us spiritual sight, by which we can look on Jesus Christ and understand that he is God, that he is man, that he is holy, that he is Savior. We have no problem doing this because this understanding is given to us by God himself.
Second, it consists in knowledge of God. With the understanding that God gives us, we are able to acquire knowledge of God by prayer and study of the Holy Scriptures.
Third, our liberation consists in our having been given eternal life. We can say with the apostle, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O grave, is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:55). We can go through the valley of the shadow of death in peace. Note, it is not the reality of death but the shadow of it, because we have eternal life.
Fourth, our liberation consists in our being given dignity as children of God. In 1 John 3:1 we read, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" We were sons of the devil, as we read in 1 John 3:10, but now we are children of God. It is an amazing exclamation. We cannot believe it, but we must because it is the truth: we are children of God.
Fifth, our liberation consists in our being able to have fellowship with God. In 1 John 1:3 John writes that the purpose of his epistle is that we "may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." Before, we were driven out from God's presence; now, we have been brought back into his presence. For what purpose? Oh, for the beatific vision, the fellowship, the joy unspeakable and full of glory, the happiness everlasting. That is our liberation.
Sixth, this liberation consists in the truth that we shall be like Jesus. In 1 John 3:2 we read, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him." Not only will there be absence of sin, but presence of glory.
Before, we could only sin-non posse non peccare-but now we are posse non peccare-it is possible for us not to sin. That is the freedom given to us by our Liberator. In 1 John 5:18, John is not exhorting us to stop sinning; he is not commanding us to stop sinning; he is not saying that we do not sin, conditionally. No, John is making a statement of fact: We do not continue to sin! That is the freedom given to us by Jesus Christ.
We must realize that this verse is not teaching that Christians never sin. We already mentioned that John is not teaching perfectionism in his epistle. We do sin and John makes mention of what to do when we sin. This verse is not saying that we are incapable of sinning. But the truth is, Christians do not continue in sin. A saint is not a man who never falls, but he is a man who gets up and goes on every time he falls. That is what John means when he says we do not continue in sin. Additionally, John is saying that we will not commit the sin unto death, which is to reject Jesus Christ in his person and work. But a Christian has freedom not to sin and the freedom to love and obey God. He is able to resist the devil and he will flee from him. He is able to wrestle with principalities and powers and stand in triumph over them through the freedom given to him by Christ. He is able to keep himself pure, as we read in 1 Timothy 5:22 and 1 John 3:3.
Not only that, Christians do not continue to sin because the One who was born of God keeps them safe. Jesus Christ is the good shepherd who is quite competent and able to keep us safe. What is the responsibility of a shepherd? To keep the sheep safe. This verse tells us that Jesus Christ does that. John uses the present tense of the verb tíªreí´, meaning that Jesus keeps us safe continuously all of our life.
Elsewhere we read that the Lord Jesus took seriously this important responsibility of keeping us safe. In John 17:12 he prayed, "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by the name you gave me." Here we find the same word, tíªreí´. What, then, is the reason we do not sin? The One who was born of God keeps us safe.
Who else is keeping us safe? In John 17:15 Jesus said to God the Father, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." Our liberation consists in the great freedom that we do not continue to sin. Both Jesus Christ and God the Father keep us safe daily. Gripped by Christ and gripped by the Father, we are safe.
What about the evil one? In verse 18 John concludes, saying, "and the evil one cannot harm him," or touch him. We have been transferred out of the dominion of Satan and brought into the realm of life, where we are seated with Christ. We are in God and the devil cannot harm us.
This tells us we cannot lose our salvation. Yes, Satan is the prince of this world, the god of this world, the dragon, the ancient serpent, the devil. He is the accuser of the brethren, but he cannot harm us because he is bound and defeated, under divine rule and on a leash. Safe in the arms of Jesus and God the Father, we cannot lose our salvation because he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. We are in God, and God is in us.
Freedom from Hell
If you are a believer, you have been set free by Jesus Christ. In the last verse of this epistle, John gives a final exhortation: "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols."
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you are in serious danger. The storm is coming, the rain is coming, the flood is coming. We just heard of a cargo plane colliding with a planeload of children going on holiday in Europe. I am sure these kids were having fun, playing and joking and laughing. They did not think they were going to die that night.
God has prepared an ark of safety for you to run into. What must you do to enter it? "Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
May God have mercy upon everyone who has not trusted in him. May he give them understanding that they may trust in him, enter into the ark who is Christ, and be saved forevermore. May those of us who have trusted in Christ enjoy this freedom and help us to keep away from all idols. Amen.
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Copyright © 2002, P. G. Mathew
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