By Lewis Willis
One of the great problems we face is, how do we know the difference between right and wrong; how can we know our relationship with God is what it must be; how can we tell the difference between those who serve God and those who don’t? Every generation struggles with these questions and the practical applications concerning them. Great exception is taken when a favored preacher or brother is identified as a false teacher because we do not seem to know how that determination is made. How can I know if Brother Whoever is in error or teaching error? That is the question.
Fortunately, God did not leave us without guidance regarding this problem. As a matter of fact, he addressed it directly. The question becomes: Will we accept what God said about the situation, or will we rebel against his will? There is a test prescribed in the Scriptures to determine who is teaching and practicing Truth and who is teaching and practicing error. Consider The Test with me.
The Apostle John spoke about the marvelous love of God bestowed upon his children. The full significance of that love has not be defined in the Scriptures; some aspects of his love await the second coming to be realized in their fullness. We know, however, that we shall be like the Lord through the love of God, when Jesus comes again (1 John 3:1-2).
Because of that love and these blessings, those who desire this hope, keep on purifying themselves, as he is pure (v. 3). We are then advised about sin and its effect upon that love, hope, and purity. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (v. 4). Sin is the enemy and destroyer of God’s love, our hope, and our purity. If we allow sin into our lives, we forfeit these blessings and benefits. The Test is: Have we transgressed God’s Law? If we have transgressed the Law, and failed or refused to correct the transgression, we have lost salvation and our identity as faithful servants of God. The only alternative that remains is, we have become servants of the Devil.
Let’s follow John’s instruction further. He said that Jesus was manifested to take away our sins (v. 5), and those abiding in him do not keep on sinning. Those who keep on sinning have “not seen him, neither known him” (v. 6). In chapter 2, verse 3, John wrote: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” Those who do not keep the commandments, do not know God! This is true if you are talking about an atheist, a denominationalist, or a brother who decides, for whatever reason, not to teach or stand for the Truth. Such an one has transgressed God’s law and is in sin, not righteousness. All we need do is compare what he teaches and/or practices with the Scriptures, to know whether or not he has passed The Test.
But, John is not through, yet. He warns that we not be deceived about this matter. He affirms: “He that doeth righteousness is righteous” (v. 7). Not “he who thinks or believes he is righteous,” but “he who doeth righteousness.” The Test is: Is this person we are concerned about doing righteousness? If not, he is guilty of unrighteousness, which the same author said is sin (1 John 5:17). Abiding in unrighteousness (sin), one has neither seen nor known the Lord (v. 6). The Test (the decision we must make) is, “Is this person in unrighteousness?” If so, he is lost, and if he is teaching unrighteousness to others, he is teaching them to be lost, thus making him a false teacher! This is true if he is teaching unrighteousness about the deity of Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures, instrumental music, or marriage, divorce and remarriage. God gave us The Test for making these determinations, so we must use it. Otherwise, we are in danger of becoming partaker with them in their evil deeds by supporting and defending them in theft sin (2 John 9-11).
This gets easier and easier, if we will listen to the Apostle. He continues: “He that committeth sin is of the devil” (v. 8). Is there any among us who cannot understand that language? Not maybe … possibly … supposedly. Rather, if one is committing sin (teaching error) he is of the devil. We can make all the apologies for the false teacher we wish, but these apologies do not change the fact! We hear people saying, “He just lacks knowledge . . . is honest and sincere . . . is right about most other things … doesn’t have the spirit of the false teacher of 2 Peter 2 . . . etc.” However, he is committing sin by teaching error, and the Bible says he is of the devil. The question becomes: Do we believe the Bible?
Sometimes, once a person has spoken on a subject and then learns he did not say the truth, it is impossible to get him to admit he was wrong and repent. His pride and stubbornness come into play, and he refuses to do what the Bible tells him to do about his sin. What about that person? John tells us about him. W e know he is not of God f o r “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin … he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (v. 9). John is not teaching the impossibility of apostasy. He is saying that one who is of God does not and cannot keep on sinning! Ignorance and pride are swept away, as the child of God corrects his sin. If he does not correct it especially after the sin has been identified to him he is no longer in fellowship with God, but is of the devil.
“Please, John, draw us an easy conclusion!” All right, here it is. This is the conclusion of The Test: “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother” (v. 10). We need help to misunderstand this statement. If one is in unrighteousness or sin, he is not of God. Whose servant is he, John? “The Devil’s.” “How dare you call our be-loved Brother Whoever the servant of the Devil,” we hear some say. We were not the ones who said that. The Holy Spirit, through John the Apostle, was the one who said it.
As the saying goes: God said it; I believe it, and, there-fore, I must accept it! Brethren, before it is too late, study 1 John 3:1-10. The peace and security of the Lord’s church is well worth the time and effort.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 17 p. 18-19
September 4, 1997