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Expert Evidence of Salvation

By Matthew Black, Pastor

Text: Ephesians 5:15-16

Date: Part 1  Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 7pm (Intro and Mark 1)

          Part 2  Wednesday, February 4, 2009, 7pm (Marks 2-4)


Tabernacle Baptist Church

7020 Barrington Road

Hanover Park, Illinois 60133

Website: www.GodCentered.info

Introduction: Open your Bible to the book of 1 John.  The title of our message is, “Expert Evidence of Salvation”.  This is part one of a three part series through 1 John.  My goal is to increase your joy!!  The more you are assured of God’s love for you the more fruitful and productive you are going to be!


Two Audiences

There are two audiences in 1 John.  The whole book of 1 John is written to true Christians in their battle against the Gnostic false professors who were trying to infiltrate their churches.  John’s goal is to show how a person can know they are a Christian and to recognize the fruit that genuine regeneration always produces.  The essential argument of 1 John is that there are certain evidences and marks whereby you will definitely know if you have experienced the new birth. 


Purpose: Give Believers a Full Assurance of Salvation

The purpose statement of the entire book is found in 1 John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God”.   John’s motivation for writing was to give Christians a full assurance of the faith they profess to.

The phrases “we know” or “hereby we know” of “that we may know” are found over and over again in John’s writings—17 times in the Gospel of John and 14 times in the book of 1 John.  If you count the parallel words and ideas such as to “know”, “believe”, “love God” “abide in God”, or “see God”, then John’s theme becomes crystal clear: he wants believers to have the assurance of their security in Christ.  

The whole message of 1 John asks this question: what does a person with the new birth look like?  John’s teaching leads us to conclude that a transformed heart will always result in a transformed life.  John is so unequivocal at this point, that perhaps we should have began the first chapter with a study of this book, and we could have ended all controversy.  John unequivocally teaches that a born again person cannot continue in sin. 

Similarities Between the Modern Carnal Christian Teaching and Ancient Gnosticism

The results of the carnal Christian teaching are similar to Gnosticism as they both do great damage to the doctrine of regeneration.   The reason for writing 1 John was because there were false teachers, the Gnostics who denied the necessary evidence of the new birth.   Of course they said they were born again, but they had no fruit.

The Gnostics’ Doctrine was Seductive and Tempting

Pastors and church leaders today are tempted to entertain the goats instead of feeding the sheep.  Many have shifted from thoughtful line upon line teaching in the churches to a “show business” sensationalistic mentality.  I believe many within the professing church have swallowed the deception of the ancient Gnostics that the new birth does not necessarily have to result in a change of life.  John sounded a clarion call to holiness in the book of 1 John.  He wrote and warned the Christians of his day in 1 John 2:26-27 that they should not fall under such a deception:

These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.  

The word seduce means to “to cause to stray…to lead away from the truth, to lead into error, to deceive.”[1] The Gnostics seduced people into believing that behavior is not important.  This is a great temptation today for church leaders.  It is much easier to excuse sin than to deal with it in the church.   Those who have hoisted the carnal Christian teaching onto their churches give great comfort to those who have no evidence of the new birth.  It is a great temptation because it can bring in greater numbers.  Less people are offended since there is no need to change.  A person can live just as an unsaved person and still go to heaven.  Lewis Sperry Chafer, who laid the modern foundation of antinomianism in the church was clear that a so-called ‘carnal’ Christian and an unbeliever are indistinguishable.  He said:

The 'carnal' Christian is... characterized by a 'walk' that is on the same plane as that of the 'natural' [unsaved] man.[2]

The Gnostics taught the same in John’s time.  They said that you could be reconciled with God and still practice sin as a way of life.  They minimized the seriousness of sin. John is therefore constantly drawing a line in the congregations between the saved and the lost.   Listen to Pastor John preach in 1 John 3:10, “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.”  This tells us that humanity can be divided into two groups—the children of God and the children of the devil. No other classification is possible.  Yet how tempting and seductive it is to draw that distiction for the sake of padding the pews with warm bodies!

The Gnostics Delighted in a Man-Centered Way of Living

Fourteen times the Apostle John compells his readers to love the brethren.[3] The Gnostics were not concerned about exalting Christ and lifting up others.  They were interested in a selfish way of living.  They would have loved Frank Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way”.  One of the first signs of the new birth, John says, is a deep affection for other Christians and a desire to be around them and lift them up.  John was teaching nothing new. John was following the Lord who said in John 13:35  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”.  The Gnostics cared less about love and desired instead a special “knowledge” to puff them up (1 Corinthians 8:1).  It is obvious by John’s letter that the Gnostics were intensely self-focused and self-serving.  The Gospel on the other hand makes a person God-serving and others-focused.

The Gnostics Departed from the True Faith

The most controversial thing John said to the believers was that the Gnostics had departed from the faith.  He taught that genuine holiness was necessary, and the churches began to shrink because the Gnostics did not want to hear that.  John is quite clear:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us (1 John 2:19).   

Listen to A.W. Tozer’s comments on John:

Yes, John could have taken the easier way. Just a little compromise and the important people would begin to say, “This man is really doing good things for the community.” But John was a man of faith. He knew what he believed; he knew in whom he believed. He was willing to take the heat...[4]

The price for standing up for a Gospel that radically changes people is smaller churches.  I did not say “small” churches, but smaller ones.  There are some very large faithful churches in our day.  There is nothing spiritually noble about being small or large.  We are called to be faithful.  It was hard to stay faithful in John’s day, and it is the same in ours.  Most pastors want to sweep departing people under the rug.  Very few churches today indeed practice church discipline.  John on the other hand drew attention to the people departing the churches.  In essence he was saying if the people were truly regenerate, they would have remained in the church. 

How many churches are there today that have no real examination and inquiry into the soul of new members?  How fearful pastors are for people to depart.  This is because many churches are built on the principle of what Charles Spurgeon called “entertaining the goats instead of feeding the sheep”?[5]  Many churches have even departed from the true faith because of a focus on numbers instead of holiness.  I read an article recently from Portfolio magazine, a premiere business magazine.  One of the cover stories is on Joel Osteen.  It is called, “God Wants Me to Be Rich”.[6]  This is the Gospel according to Joel Osteen.  He believes part of the reason Christ died was so that you could be healthy and wealthy.  How do we know if Joel is right or if he has departed from the faith?  Titus 1:9 tells us that if we “hold fast the faithful word” then we are going to stop the mouths of those such as Osteen and others who have departed from the faith. 

In John’s fight against the antinomian Gnostics, he gave eleven marks of a true believer.  No where does he mention earthly wealth, prosperity, or “living your best life now”.  The book of 1 John is a masterpiece of biblical progressive sanctification and is an indictment of the antinomians of his day and of ours.  He puts out an “all points bulletin” for a true believer.  The following eleven marks are the biblical characteristics that define all those who have truly experienced the new birth.[7]   We can trust them, because they come from an apostolic expert!

In 1746, Jonathan Edwards was in the midst of the Great Awakening.  Hundreds were being saved around him.  So he wrote A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections.  The book deals with the biblical evidences of true conversion.   Many were criticizing this great revival.  Some people were claiming to know Christ who had not truly been changed.  Some said it was just an emotional roller coaster ride.  Ok, they did not say that because there were no roller coasters then, but you understand. 

Popular teaching at the time of the Great Awakening was that the prevelent proof of conversion was a feelings-based experience.  There were many people that were merely seeking an experience.  Edwards wrote against this.  He said, “Assurance is never to be enjoyed on the basis of a past experience.  There is need of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit...[in] giving assurance".[8] 

The apostles were very concerned about Christians having assurance of salvation throughout their writings in the New Testament.  John actually wrote an entire book that gives series of eleven identifiers of salvation.  Just like the new twenty dollar bill has a number of security features, so these marks on your life are meant to give you joy and assurance that God has worked in your heart.  Again, the summary verse of the entire book is found in 1 John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God”.  Child of God, God’s heart for you is “that you may know”.   We have all enternity to enjoy the Lord, but He wants Christians to enjoy their eternal salvation today! 

Mark 1: A True Christian Delights in the Intimate Fellowship of the Lord

Spiritual intimacy is like a drug for the Christian.  To look into the face of Jesus through prayer and the Word is a thrill!  John says as much in his first chapter, verses 3-4:

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

Fullness of joy in assurance is possible through your intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son.  Paul speaks of this sweet fellowship in Philippians 3:10.  He is not concerned with cold facts alone, but a genuine experiencial union with Christ.  He explains how he has lost everything for Christ, but it is no matter to him.  He has gained his heart’s desire by knowing Christ.  He cries out:

…That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.

Genuine believers crave deep and satisfying fellowship with Christ more than all the comforts and pleasures of the world.  They constantly return to His throneroom and “live in the heavenlies”, because this brings them fullness of joy.

Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”  Christ’s joy is in us, because Christ is in us.  We fellowship with Him.

Again, Jesus prays in His high priestly prayer before going to Gethsemane to die that our greatest joy and glory would be union and fellowship with Himself and His Father.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17:21-23). 

Christ promises an abundant life for all Christians.  False teachers tell us this means God will give you practically anything you want—health, wealth, prosperity, happiness.  But when Christ said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), he was speaking of spiritual life that comes from union with Him.  This intimate fellowship gives us comfort and the relief that we have been forgiven of our sins! 

We read at the very end of the Bible in Revelation 21:3 that God is going to dwell with us etnerally in intimate fellowship.  The Apostle John writes there, “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”  He will wipe away all your tears on that day.  You will understand of the deep love God has for you, and His great compassion for you.  You say, “Heaven’s a long way away.  What about now?”  In fact, Paul tells us we do not have to wait until heaven to experience this kind of intimate fellowship.  He says in 2 Corinthians 6:16, “ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  He is the God we draw near to in time of trouble, like a shelter in the time of storm (Hebrews 4:16).  We have “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (Hebrews 4:19).  That anchor is our union with Jesus Christ.  He sends His Spirit into our hearts, and we cry out “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).  The true Christian delights in the intimate fellowship he has with the Lord.  This is what makes our joy full.

Mark 2: A True Christian is Sensitive to Sin

If spiritual intimacy is like a drug for the Christian, then sin is like a cancer-causing food.   All you want to do as a child of God is get rid of it—keep it as far away as possible.  Look again at 1 John 1 and verse 5.  John tells us something about God.  “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  The wording here in the Greek is emphatic.  It is a double negative and literally reads, “God is light and in him, NO, not a trace of darkness at all!”   Verse 6 therefore says, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth”.  A Christian is sensitive to sin because of his union with Christ. 

Lost People are Blind to Their Sin

Some people make some amazing claims.  Have you ever been witnessing, and you ask them if they have told a lie, and they say, “Yeah, once or twice”.  On several occasions I have had people tell me that they have never lied, stolen, taken God’s name in vain.  In fact, they can hardly remember they have committed any sin.  All the while they will take God’s name in vain while I am talking with them.  For someone like that, John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  Then in verse 10 he makes it crystal clear, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Because God is light and has shined in the Christian’s heart, he often will see more sin in his life, even though he has less sin in his life than the unbeliever.   Now that you are saved, people think you are practically sinless, but you feel like Isaiah.  You often say with him, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

You see, the closer you are to God, the more you see your sin.  When you were lost, you thought you were ok.  Today you look back, and you cannot comprehend how blind you were.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 

True Believers Instead Walk in the Light

Verse 7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  We are sensitive to stay away from sin, so that we do not hinder our fellowship with Christ and our other brothers and sisters.  We “confess our sins” (verse 9).   Believers are immediately aware of the majority of sin in their life and desire to confess it and forsake it.  When sin occurs, I will often whisper a prayer of confession immediately to God, and I will right away take measures to confess it to others if I have offended someone.  I will use every means to forsake it.

Our Advocate

When Christians sin, there is a temptation from our old nature to return to the legalistic of the world.  You may want to atone for your sin in some way.  You may want to do a trade off and work harder for God.  All those are works righteousness.  We do not have the power to save ourselves, and neither can we have the power to sanctify ourselves.  We must go to Christ our Advocate.  Look at 1 John 2:1-2, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2  And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”.  A Christian knows to go right back to the Cross when he sins.  We had no righteousness of our own before we are saved, and we have none of our own after we are saved.  It is all of Christ!  Without Christ, you are an undone sinner.  The only thing that will kill your guilt is beholding the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  He says, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). 

O Wretched Man that I am

As a Christian you make no excuses for your sins.  You do not hide them.  You are all too aware of them.  Instead you cry out with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).  The answer is: Jesus Christ will certainly deliver you.  Without that hope we would all crumble under the weight of our weariness.  If God has put that sensitivity to sin in your heart, then rejoice!  He gave us salvation to enjoy it for His glory.  There is nothing more that glorifies more than a forgiven sinner rejoicing in his salvation. 

Mark 3: A True Christian Practices Righteousness

We obey delight in obeying God’s Word.  In 1 John 2:3, John says, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments”.  Do you have the power to say no to sin?  Have you experienced victory over sins that used to enslave you?  Then rejoice.  You are Christ’s follower.  Remember Christ gave us a commission to go and preach the Gospel?  And after they come to know Christ, what are we supposed to teach them in Matthew 28:20?  “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”.   The word “keep” in 1 John 2:3 speaks of “watchful, thoughtful, careful obedience”.  If it is your desire to obey God in the biggest and littlest of things, then rejoice.  This is how we are assured that we know Him! 

There may be someone here disputing this.  John wrote verse 4 for you, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him”.  You may be here and say, “I love God, I just don’t live for Him”.  That is a false claim.  If you loved God you would obey Him.  Jesus said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”  Love for God is not equated with emotions and sentiments but with obedience.  1 John 2:5, “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him”.  How can we know that we are in Christ?  Not by fleeting emotions, but by our desire to be perfectly in line with Him!  We want to perfectly reflect His Word in our lives!


Mark 4: A True Christian Will Not Live for This Present Evil World

John tells us in 2:15-17, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

If you are a believer, you have rendered yourself dead to this world of sin.  Specifically, you do not live for, and thereby worship the world’s pleasures, possessions, and pride.  The world offers a false happiness.  We know that true happiness is found in our holy fellowship with Christ. 

What does John mean by “Love not the World”?

What is the “world”.  This phrase referes to the world system.  We read in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not”.  There is an evil system of sin that is governed by the wicked one that the Bible calls “the world”, or in Greek, the cosmos.  Ephesians 2:2-3 says, “in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

This world system encompasses the way of the sinful life, and the way Satan rules in and through the hearts of unbelievers.  It encompasses false religion, godless thinking, immorality, materialism, and sinful pleasures.  It offers a counterfeit happiness.  The pleasures of sin are but for a “season”, and then they turn to bitterness.  Jesus said whoever sins is “the slave of sin” (John 8:34).  Sin is slavery!  So we reject the wicked one’s offers that come from all that this world offers.


Traps vs. Treasures

The Christian does not have a heart that latches on to all the temporary pride and pleasures and possessions that are passing away.  We can be get trapped, but we see it as a trap, not as a treasure.  The uncoverted heart is attracted by trifles and toys.  To the lost person, the world is filled with treasures, not traps.  We know that all these things pass away.  We live in light of the Day of Redemption. 

Thomas à Kempis rightly observed, “How quickly the glory of the world passes away!”[9]  He went on to say, “He is truly wise who looks upon all earthly things as folly that he may gain Christ”.[10] 

Who won this year’s Superbowl?  You may remember.  There was much fanfare and glory.  Who won it ten years ago? We will all soon forget this world’s glories. 

A Christian’s heart is not turned toward this world’s glories, and it is certainly is not given to this world’s evil.  Christians do not love this world, but live for another world entirely.  I John 5:19 says, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness [or, the wicked one]”. 

We are IN the World, but not OF the World

Of course, when we become believers, we do not move into monasteries and convents.  We still live and work in the world.  Most of the time the world looks at true Christians and thinks they are crazy.  That is because we are IN the world, but not OF the world.  Jesus explained it in John 17:14-17, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

We are not of this world, but we must be very careful.  Christians can and do get sucked into the traps of the temporary pride and pleasures and possessions of this world that is passing away.  We must daily surrender ourselves as living sacrifices to live for another world—to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). 

What joy the assurance of our salvation brings!   Rejoice if there is a hostility in you toward the world.  That is the Spirit of God in you! 

Conclusion: God wants your joy to be full.  It will not be full until you are fully assured of His love for you.


[1]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G4105). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, He that is Spiritual, rev. ed. (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1987), 21.

[3] 1 John 3:11; 3:14; 3:16; 3:17; 3:18; 3:23; 4:7; 4:8; 4:11; 4:12; 4:20; 4:21: 5:2; 5:3.

[4]Tozer, A. W. ; Eggert, Ron: The Tozer Topical Reader. Camp Hill, PA. : WingSpread, 1998, S. 2:83

[5] Charles Haddon Spurgeon. “Feeding the Sheep or Amusing the Goats?” Quoted in Frank G. Ciampa’s The Spirit of Reformation (Xulon Press, 2007), 115.

[6] Karl Taro Greenfeld.  “God Wants Me to be Rich” (Portfolio Magazine: August 2008 issue), 201

[7] John MacArthur’s writings have been especially helpful in guiding me through the exposition of 1 John.  I have modified a few of the points, but for the most part, these eleven points come directly out of his book: Saved Without A Doubt (David C. Cook Publications: Colorado Springs, 1992), 81-108.

[8] Ibid., 82. 

[9]Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996.


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