The Christian, the Law, and Legalism, Part 3
by Karl Kemp 2/04/2012 / Bible Studies
We started the discussion of James 1:18-2:13 in Part 2. This is Part 3.
(21) THEREFORE PUTTING ASIDE ALL FILTHINESS AND ALL THAT REMAINS OF WICKEDNESS [The NIV has, "the evil that is so prevalent."], IN HUMILITY RECEIVE THE WORD IMPLANTED, WHICH IS ABLE TO SAVE YOUR SOULS. [[The "word" here can apparently be equated with the "word of truth" of James 1:18. The "word" here and in verses 22, 23 clearly includes God's moral law. To receive God's word implanted is to take His word into your heart (by faith) and to live/walk as the word requires (by grace through faith) - to become/be a doer of the word (1:22, 23, 25). The first half of verse 21 shows that receiving the word implanted includes putting off everything that is sinful from your heart and life (cf., e.g., Rom. 13:12; Eph. 4:22, 25; Col. 3:8; Heb. 12:1; and 1 Pet. 2:1). Much scripture also shows that we must also put on God's truth, righteousness, holiness, love, etc. TO SAVE YOUR SOUL INCLUDES NOT LOSING YOUR SOUL TO ETERNAL DEATH, the second death of Rev. 20:14, 15 (see James 5:19, 20; 1:15; Matt. 16:24-27; and Heb. 10:35-39; all these verses are discussed in my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?").]] (22) "But [AND] PROVE YOURSELVES DOERS OF THE WORD [God's "word" includes His moral law.], and not merely hearers who delude themselves. [It's not acceptable, Biblical Christianity for us to be mere hearers of the word of God. Cf., e.g., Matt. 7:24-27; Luke 11:28; and Rom. 2:13.] (23) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror [[The hearer of the word who isn't a doer is the man who listens to the word without making it top priority to understand the word, to take the word into his heart (to receive the word implanted), and to become/be a doer of the word on a continuous basis (by grace through faith). James considers looking at your face in a mirror to be a low-priority item; you don't need to remember and meditate on what you have seen.]]; (24) for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of a person he was. [The NIV has, "immediately forgets what he looks like."] (25) BUT ONE WHO LOOKS INTENTLY AT THE PERFECT LAW, THE LAW OF LIBERTY [[We are required to keep, and it is a blessing for us to keep, "the perfect law, the law of liberty." God's "perfect law" includes all the moral requirements given in the Old Testament and the New Testament. This is the "perfect law" in that, through Jesus Christ and new-covenant salvation, we have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness, and we are enabled to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God, which includes walking in His love, by grace through faith. It is "the law OF LIBERTY" in that we have been set us free from bondage to sin and spiritual death (cf. John 8:31-36; Gal. 5:1-25; Rom. 8:1-16). Instead of "liberty" we could translate "freedom"; the NIV has, "the perfect law that gives freedom." James 2:12, which also mentions "the law of liberty," confirms that God's moral law is included in what James means by these words.]], AND ABIDES BY IT [In other words, he is a doer of the word.], NOT HAVING BECOME A FORGETFUL HEARER [When you make hearing, understanding, and doing, God's Word top priority, you don't just go away and forget what you have heard.] BUT AN EFFECTUAL DOER, THIS MAN SHALL BE BLESSED IN WHAT HE DOES. (26) If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue [Cf. 1:19; 3:2-12.] but deceives his own heart [Compare "delude themselves" in 1:22. As James shows in 2:10, 11, Christians are enabled, and required, to walk according to God's word/law in every area.], this man's religion is worthless. (27) This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, AND TO KEEP ONESELF UNSTAINED BY [THE SINFUL THINGS] OF THE WORLD [cf. James 4:4]. ... (2:6) But you have dishonored the poor man. [James 2:1-5 show how they dishonored the poor man.] Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? (7) Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? [We are called "Christians" though our having become united with the Lord Jesus Christ.] (8) If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well. [[James is continuing with the topic of dishonoring the poor man of 2:1-6. The NIV has, "If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right." The NIV and many commentators understand the "royal law" to refer to the law (commandment) to love your neighbor as yourself, quoted here from Lev. 19:18. (This commandment is given special prominence in the New Testament [cf. Matt. 19:19; 22:39, 40; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:8-10; and Gal. 5:14]. Fulfilling this commandment along with the even-more-important first great commandment [Matt. 22:37, 38] pretty well covers fulfilling all God's moral requirements for His people. However, as we discussed in the Introduction, it isn't adequate to say that all we need are the two commandments to love God and to love our neighbor. We also need God's definition of what it means to love God and our neighbor that is provided by other commandments.)
I prefer the view that the "royal law" includes all the moral law that God requires Christians to keep (by His saving grace in Christ). The royal law can undoubtedly be equated with the "perfect law, the law of liberty" of 1:25 (cf. 2:12).]] (9) But if you show partiality [See James 2:1-6. The Greek verb translated "show partiality" is closely related to the Greek noun translated "personal favoritism" in 2:1; both Greek words were derived from the same Greek noun. To "show partiality" to the rich (against the poor) violates God's law.], you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (10) For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. [[Cf. Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26 (Septuagint). To break one of God's commandments is to break God's law, and God's people are not supposed to be transgressors. Here's further confirmation that the Bible teaches that Christians are enabled, and required, to walk in the righteousness and holiness of God, with the victory over all sin. This is good news! James' point here is that he doesn't want to hear anyone minimizing the importance of loving/showing mercy to the poor (or of keeping any other commandment). He wants to see repentance where repentance is required.]] (11) For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery, also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. [It's worth mentioning that 1 John 3:15, which was written in a context dealing with the need to share with a brother in need, says that "everyone who hates his brother is a murderer."] (12) SO SPEAK AND SO ACT, AS THOSE WHO WILL BE JUDGED BY THE LAW OF LIBERTY. [In other words, we will be judged according to our works (see under Rom. 2:6 in this paper). These words confirm that Christians are enabled, and required, to fulfill God's moral law/commandments. God knows if we are making it top priority to stop sinning and to live with victory over sin.] (13) For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy [[Cf., e.g., James 1:27; 2:8; Matt. 5:7; 12:7; 18:21-35; and Luke 6:36-38. All Christians are dependent on God's mercy/grace. (We were spiritually dead, and we were sinners. Furthermore, although it need not be the case, most Christians have had to receive God's mercy of forgiveness for sinning after they became Christians. Everything we receive from God throughout this life and on into eternity comes by His mercy to us through Christ Jesus.) This being the case, we must show mercy to others, even as we have been commanded. In this context, James is undoubtedly thinking mostly of showing mercy to the poor brethren in Christ (see 2:1-12; 14-26; 1 John 3:11-24).]]; mercy triumphs over judgment [or, condemnation]." That is, God can be merciful to those Christians who show mercy. (Compare our need to forgive if we want to be forgiven.) We can't earn God's mercy by being merciful (or by doing anything else), but the Bible clearly shows that we can block His flow of mercy by failing to show mercy. All sin tends to block God's grace/mercy. In 2:14-16 James goes on to deal with the need to share with the brethren in need.
James 4:11, 12. (These verses fit well with the sins of the tongue and the strife, jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, etc. mentioned in James 3:1-4:10.) "Do not speak against [[This Greek verb can also be translated "speak evil of, defame, [or] slander"; the NIV has slander here. The Bible is clearly against all such speech (cf. Lev. 19:16; Psalms 50:19, 20; 101:5; Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Pet. 2:1; 2:12; and 3:16. The English word "devil" was derived from the Greek adjective "diabolos" [slanderous/the slanderer]).]] one another, brethren. He who speaks against [The Greek verb used earlier in this verse is also used here, and it is used again later in this verse.] a brother, or judges [[James is speaking here of totally inappropriate judgments (cf. Matt. 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-45; Rom. 14:1-13; 1 Cor. 4:5; and James 2:4). There are situations that require Christians/the Body of Christ to make judgments about other Christians. See the discussion on this topic under Rom. 14:4 in my "A Paper On Faith." The five passages I just listed don't exclude all forms of judging. When Christians/the Body of Christ take note of the fact that a Christian is clearly going against God's Law, it is God's Law that is acting as Judge, not those taking note of (and properly dealing with) the sin. Also see, e.g., Matt. 7:6; 7:15-20; 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thess. 3:6-15; and 1 John 4:1-6; these verses show that there are situations where Christians are required, in some ways, to judge others. We must be very cautious about trying to judge another's motives, or what they have been instructed to do by God, but we have been instructed, for one thing, to evaluate (judge) whether ministries are valid. We cannot follow every person who says he has been sent by God (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rev. 2:2, 20-23).]] his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. [[A "Christian" judges the law by failing to keep the law, for example, the commandment to love his neighbor as himself mentioned in 2:8 (by failing to submit to the law, he sets himself above the law and, in a sense, judges it as unworthy), and he speaks against the law, and judges the law, by trying to take the place of the law (and of God Himself, who gave the law [cf. 4:12]) in passing his own (inappropriate) judgments.]] (12) There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor [cf. James 2:8]?"
1 John 3:4. This significant verse informs us that even as righteousness is lawfulness, SIN IS LAWLESSNESS. This verse is discussed as part of 1 John 2:28-3:12, a passage that clearly shows that Christians are enabled, and required, to live/walk in righteousness and purity with the victory over sin, keeping God's moral law, on pages 208-213 in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."
Some Other Verses to Consider: Deut. 6:1-9; 30:11-20; Isa. 2:2-4; 42:4; 51:4-8; Micah 4:1-5; Matt. 23:23, 24; and 1 Cor. 9:8, 9.
3. CHRISTIANS ARE ENABLED, AND REQUIRED, TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD/CHRIST. The commandments of God go with the Law of God.
Matthew 28:19, 20. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THAT I COMMANDED YOU; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Luke 17:10. "So you too, WHEN YOU DO ALL THE THINGS WHICH ARE COMMANDED YOU, SAY, 'WE ARE UNWORTHY SLAVES; WE HAVE DONE ONLY THAT WHICH WE OUGHT TO HAVE DONE.' "
John 14:15-24. "(15) IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS. ... (21) HE WHO HAS MY COMMANDMENTS AND KEEPS THEM, HE IT IS WHO LOVES ME; AND HE WHO LOVES ME SHALL BE LOVED BY MY FATHER, AND I WILL LOVE HIM, AND WILL DISCLOSE MYSELF TO HIM. ... (23) ... IF ANYONE LOVES ME, HE WILL KEEP MY WORD [Jesus' word includes His commandments.]; AND MY FATHER WILL LOVE HIM, AND WE WILL COME TO HIM, AND MAKE OUR ABODE WITH HIM. (24) HE WHO DOES NOT LOVE ME DOES NOT KEEP MY WORDS; AND THE WORD WHICH YOU HEAR IS NOT MINE, BUT THE FATHER'S WHO SENT ME."
John 15:10-17. "IF YOU KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS, YOU WILL ABIDE IN MY LOVE; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. (11) These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you [[Jesus' joy is the joy He experienced as He always kept the Father's commandments and (fully) abided in His love. Here Jesus exhorts His disciples to always keep His commandments so they may (fully) abide in His (and the Father's) love. Many Christians have no room for such concepts; they speak only of God's unconditional love; however, these verses are clear enough, along with many others. See, for example, John 14:21, 23 (quoted above); Jude 1:21; and see the discussion of Rev. 2:1-7; 3:1-6, 11, and 14-22 in my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?" The fact that there's so much out-of-balance teaching on God's unconditional love helps explain the low level of emphasis on repentance, on having a healthy, Biblical fear of God, and on living in righteousness and holiness that we often see in our day.]], and that your joy may be made full. (12) This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. [This isn't Jesus' only commandment, but it is of key importance.] (13) Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (14) YOU ARE MY FRIENDS, IF YOU DO WHAT I COMMAND YOU. ... (17) THIS I COMMAND YOU, THAT YOU LOVE ONE ANOTHER."
1 Corinthians 7:19. "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but WHAT MATTERS IS THE KEEPING OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD." This verse is very important to this study. It confirms that the bottom line of Christianity is the keeping of the commandments of God (by grace through faith). It also confirms the important point that Christians are not required to keep the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, like circumcision.
1 Corinthians 14:37. "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that THE THINGS WHICH I WRITE TO YOU ARE THE LORD'S COMMANDMENT." Paul's commandments (and those of the other apostles) came with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Cf. 1 Thess. 4:2.
Ephesians 6:1-3. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (2) Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise [The promise is spelled out in the next verse.]), (3) that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth." See Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16. It is significant that the apostle Paul quotes the fifth of the ten commandments of the Mosaic Law and considers it still applicable for Christians. All ten commandments by their nature are moral commandments and are binding for all time (to the extent they are applicable), with the exception of the fourth commandment, which deals with the Old Testament sabbath. It's clear that Christians are not required to keep the sabbath as required under the old covenant (including the fact that it came on Saturday). See, e.g., Col. 2:16. I'm not suggesting that Christians aren't obligated to set aside time for worship and rest; in some ways Sunday has become the Christian's sabbath (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; and Rev. 1:10).
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12. "Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought [or, as to how it is necessary for you] to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. (2) FOR YOU KNOW WHAT COMMANDMENTS WE GAVE YOU BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD JESUS. (3) FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD, YOUR sanctification [[The Greek noun is "hagiasmos"; I would translate HOLINESS. See the last chapter of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" on the meaning of holiness in the New Testament; see on 1 Thess. 5:23; 4:1-8; and 3:10-13 in that chapter.]]; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality [[Paul undoubtedly singled out the sin of sexual immorality because he had just learned from Timothy (cf. 1 Thess. 3:1-10) that this was still a problem in the newly-founded church at Thessalonica, but holiness requires abstaining from all sin.]]; (4) that each of you know how to possess his own vessel [that is, his own body] in sanctification [HOLINESS; "hagiasmos"] and honor, (5) not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; (6) and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter [by getting involved, for example, with his brother's wife, or daughter] BECAUSE THE LORD IS THE AVENGER IN ALL THESE THINGS, JUST AS WE TOLD YOU BEFORE AND SOLEMNLY WARNED YOU. (7) For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in [in the state or sphere of] sanctification [HOLINESS; hagiasmos; the KJV has "unto holiness," the NKJV "in holiness," and the NIV has "to live a holy life."]. (8) Consequently, HE WHO REJECTS THIS IS NOT REJECTING MAN BUT THE GOD WHO GIVES HIS HOLY SPIRIT TO YOU. (9) Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; (10) for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, (11) and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; (12) so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need."
2 Thessalonians 3:4-15. "And WE HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD CONCERNING YOU, THAT YOU ARE DOING AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO WHAT WE COMMAND. (5) And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. (6) NOW WE COMMAND YOU, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. ... (10) For even when we were with you, WE USED TO GIVE YOU THIS ORDER: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. (11) For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. (12) Now such persons WE COMMAND AND EXHORT in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. ... (14) And IF ANYONE DOES NOT OBEY OUR INSTRUCTION IN THIS LETTER, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. [The desired result is the repentance of the brother.] (15) And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." Paul obviously considered the sin of living an undisciplined life a serious matter, but there's a big difference between this sin and sins like apostasy and full-scale rebellion.
1 Timothy 6:13, 14. "I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, (14) that you KEEP THE COMMANDMENT [[To "keep the commandment" here equals being faithful to the new-covenant, which includes living in righteousness and holiness (in accordance with God's commandments). Timothy (and all Christians) are charged to be faithful (by God's enabling grace through faith) until the end of his life, or until Christ returns, whichever comes first. For Timothy (or any minister) the charge includes being faithful in his ministry.]] WITHOUT STAIN OR REPROACH UNTIL THE APPERING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST."
2 Peter 2:21. "For it would have been better for them not to have known THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ["The way of righteousness" speaks of the righteous way of life Christians are enabled, and required, to live through salvation in Christ Jesus. Cf., e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-21; 2:24; and 2 Pet. 1:1-11. In 2 Pet. 2:20 Peter spoke of having "escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."], than having known it, to TURN AWAY FROM THE HOLY COMMANDMENT ["The holy commandment" here speaks of the new covenant (cf. 1 Tim. 6:14 [just discussed]), with the emphasis on the holy state in which Christians are enabled, and required, to walk/live.] delivered to them."
2 Peter 3:2. "that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets [speaking of the Old Testament prophets; cf. 1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:19-21] and THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD AND SAVIOR SPOKEN BY YOUR APOSTLES." "The commandment" here is probably essentially equivalent to the "holy commandment" of 2 Pet. 2:21 (just discussed). The gospel of the new covenant came to the recipients of this epistle from our Lord and Savior (and God the Father) through the apostles. It comes to us through the writings of the apostles.
1 John 2:1-6. These verses powerfully demonstrate that Christians are enabled, and required, to keep the commandments of God, with the victory over all sin. On these verses see pages 206-208 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." I'll just quote verses 3-6 here, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, IF WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS (4) THE ONE WHO SAYS, 'I HAVE COME TO KNOW HIM, AND DOES NOT KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS, IS A LIAR, AND THE TRUTH IS NOT IN HIM; BUT WHOEVER KEEPS HIS WORD [which includes His commandments], IN HIM THE LOVE OF GOD HAS TRULY BEEN PERFECTED [cf. 4:12]. BY THIS WE KNOW THAT WE ARE IN HIM: (6) THE ONE WHO SAYS HE ABIDES IN HIM OUGHT HIMSELF TO WALK IN THE SAME MANNER AS HE WALKED." And it is clear that He didn't sin at all.
1 John 3:22-24. These verses are important to this study. 1 John 3:22, 23 are discussed as part of 3:16-23 on page 75 of my "A Paper on Faith." "and whatever we ask we receive from Him, BECAUSE WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS AND DO THE THINGS THAT ARE PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT. (23) THIS IS HIS COMMANDMENT, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another [We must believe the truth and walk in line with the truth (by grace through faith)], JUST AS HE COMMANDED US. (24) THE ONE WHO KEEPS HIS COMMANDMENTS abides in Him. We know by this the He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us."
1 John 5:1-4. "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ [The apostle John says it this way because the heretics he was refuting when he wrote this epistle denied that "Jesus is the Christ."] is born of God [The new birth enables us to walk in righteousness (cf., e.g., 1 John 2:29), and it enables us to love with the love of God (cf., e.g., Gal. 5:22; 1 John 4:7, 12); however, righteousness, love, and such things don't just automatically manifest themselves in the lives of born-again Christians. We must cooperate with God's grace/Spirit through faith (faith based on, and submitted to, God's Word). For one thing, we must walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis (cf. Gal. 5:16).]; and whoever loves the Father [Instead of "the Father," the Greek more literally reads "the One who begat."] loves the child born of Him [or, "loves the one begotten of Him."]. [[If we love God, we will love those born of Him, speaking of the other born-again Christians. Love of the brethren is a dominant theme in this epistle (cf. 2:9-11; 3:10-24; and 4:17-21).]] (2) By this we know that we love the children of God, WHEN WE LOVE GOD AND OBSERVE [DO] HIS COMMANDMENTS. [John's wording is a little unusual here, but his point is that if we really love God and keep His commandments (we don't love God if we don't keep His commandments [cf. 1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21, 23, 24, 31; including His commandment to love the other born-again Christians]), we will necessarily "love the children of God."] (3) For THIS IS THE LOVE OF GOD [John is speaking of love for God.], THAT WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS; AND HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT BURDENSOME. [Cf., e.g., Matt. 11:28-30; James 1:25. God's commandments bring freedom (not bondage) and divine order.] (4) For whatever is born of God [speaking here, as in 5:1, 2, of born-again Christians] overcomes the world [[To overcome the world here means to be faithful to God and His Word (especially the Word of the new covenant) by believing the truth and living in line with the truth, being enabled by God's grace/Spirit. The heretics John was refuting were part of "the world." Cf. 1 John 4:4-6. On the world, also see 1 John 2:15-17.]]; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." It is by faith we submit to the gospel of the new covenant and are born again, and it is by faith that we stay faithful to the new covenant in what we believe and in how we live (by God's enabling grace/Spirit).
Quotations on 1 John 5:1-4. First I'll quote from Donald W. Burdick ("Letters of John the Apostle" [Moody Press, 1985], page 359): "This section on the ethical test of the genuineness of salvation (1 John 4:7-5:5) concludes with an assurance concerning the possibility of keeping God's commands. What is the point of talking about obedience as evidence that one loves God and His children, if obedience is so difficult that it is practically impossible. John's answer is that it is far from impossible. The load is not to heavy to bear...not because it is light, but because of the enabling power the new birth makes available. Being born of God enables a person to make righteousness his life-style (3:9); being born of God results in love for one's fellow believer (5:1); and being born of God provides the ability to obey God's commands (5:3b-4a). The apostle presses the matter of enablement back to initial faith (5:4b). [We must continue to walk in faith.] Faith in Jesus as God's Christ results in regeneration, and regeneration provides ability to overcome the world and to obey God's commands. ...."
I'll also quote from I. Howard Marshall ("Epistles of John" [Eerdmans, 1978], under 1 John 5:4): "How, then, can the believer keep God's commandments? John's answer is that he has been given the power by God to overcome the forces of temptation which would prevent his obedience. Everyone born of God has overcome the world. The power that enables believers to overcome false prophets (4:4) also enables them to overcome the world with all its temptations. And what is this power? The means of victory is our faith. The fact that we hold the true faith from our hearts is the means whereby the power of the new world operates in us and enables us to overcome the world. To believe that Jesus has been victorious is to have the power that enables us also to win the battle, for we know that our foe is already defeated and therefore powerless. And it is precisely faith that we need. To the natural man the power of evil appears uncontrollable, and to the weak Christian the force of temptation appears irresistible. It requires a firm belief in Jesus to enable us to dismiss this appearance of irresistible, uncontrollable evil as being merely appearance. Nor is such faith a means of escape from conflict; on the contrary it is right in the middle of evil's display of power that the believer is able to call its bluff and proclaim the superior might of Jesus. Such faith is far from being wish-fulfillment or sheer illusion. On the contrary, it rests foursquare on the fact that Jesus Christ has defeated death [and sin and Satan], and anybody who can defeat death can defeat anything."
We will continue this study in Part 4.
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.