2017 03 05 am 1 John 5:1-3 The Root and the Fruit

John returns to the Three Profession of faith tests again. There is a golden nugget of salvation truth in these verses!

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
How many of us learned and understood the rule ‘i before e except after c,’ FIRST time?
And how many of us only needed to be told once that you should squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom up? The fact is that most of us don’t get something unless we hear it several times; right? So repetition is a helpful thing when it comes to learning. And there is a lot of repetition in John’s letter. As we come to this passage, there is much here that will sound familiar to those who have read through the first four chapters of the letter; John is repeating the three profession of faith tests again. But it won’t do us any harm at all to think about these things again.

And this is so for one reason especially: You see, we could have included these three verses with last week’s passage about the importance of loving one another, because these verses also speak about loving one another. But a vital truth would probably have gotten lost or been skipped over. And we don’t want to miss this vital truth or fail to give it the attention it deserves. It is a truth that is important in terms of correct doctrine. But understanding it also has significant implications for the Christian life. So let’s consider the implications of what John says in these verses about THE ROOT AND THE FRUIT OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. If you think of a tree or a plant, everything above the ground grows out of the root that is below the ground. And this means that in one sense everything above the ground can be called the fruit of the root – stem, branches, leaves, flowers, fruit or vegetable, all of it. And it is vital in terms of the Christian life that we know what is the root and what is the fruit. So they will be our two main points today – the root and the fruit.

I. So first of all, let’s consider what John says about the ROOT of the Christian life. John says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him.”

A. And with these words we come to the vital truth of these verses right away. And they have to do with WHAT COMES FIRST. And to see this we have to look closely at the grammar of this verse.
1. The word “BELIEVES” translates a Greek word that is present in tense and active in voice. And that means that believes is something being done now, in the present. And because it is active in voice, I do this; it is not something done to me but I am actively believing. So “everyone who believes” describes a person who is actively doing something, right now, which is to believe. And it is exactly the same with “everyone who LOVES the Father.” That too is a description of a person who is actively doing something, right now, which is to love. So “loves” is also present in tense and active in voice.
2. But the other verb or doing word in this verse is “BORN.” And it translates a Greek word that is perfect in tense and passive in voice. And the perfect tense refers to something done in the past that has ongoing effects. The English kind of brings that out with “has been born.” So this means that being born was something that happened in the past but it continues to have an effect – I was born and I remain a person who was born. And because it is passive in voice, it is not something a person did himself or herself, it was done to them. We might say that someone gave birth to them or birthed them. And who did the birthing is made clear as we see that they were “born of God.”
3. So whatever this “has been born of God” phrase means, it comes before the other two things in this verse – belief and love, and indeed everything else described in this passage. And that is why we have called this point the root of the Christian life. Our being born of God is the root of the Christian life; it is the decisive event from which every other aspect of the Christian life flows.

B. Now, what is fascinating here is that John assumes that those he wrote to know what being born of God is. He doesn’t explain it here. And he used the same phrase back in 2:29 and 3:10 but he didn’t explain it there either. Well, what this phrase refers to is the doctrine of REGENERATION, or what is commonly called being born again. We can be sure that John had taught his readers what it means to be born of God. In ch. 3 of John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about being born of God. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And with those words, Jesus revealed the decisive importance of being born of God, and that being born again is a work of the Holy Spirit.
1. And His words emphasize what we said earlier about our being PASSIVE in this rebirth – it is something done to us. It wasn’t that long ago that we considered this doctrine in one of our afternoon sermons. In EZEKIEL 36, God is talking to Israel. He describes their utter wickedness as the reason why He has sent them into exile. And He tells them that He is going to rescue and restore them. But He is very clear; it is not because of them that He will do this. It is not because they repent or change or anything like that. He will do this to them, He says, for the honour of His name. And then He explains what He is going to do; He says, “I will put my Spirit within you.” “And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” A HEART OF STONE is a lifeless/cold/dead heart. It has to be replaced before anything else can happen. And just as you do not see many dead people performing heart transplants on themselves at hospital, so a person with a spiritually dead heart cannot give themselves a new, living heart. This has to be done to them. And it is done by the Holy Spirit. God said, “I WILL put my Spirit within you.” “And I WILL remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
2. One of my catechism classes has begun learning the Bible verses from the TOPICAL MEMORY SYSTEM. I would recommend it to you. See me later if you want more information about where to get hold of it. The idea is that you learn a Bible verse and then you add a second one and then a third one, so you build up this store of memory verses in your heart. And the verses are arranged by topics. The first topic is Christ the Centre. And the first verse is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” That’s what we are talking about here. Right at the beginning of the Christian life is this decisive moment when we become a new creation – the heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh; hostility to the things of God is replaced with attraction to the things of God. This is what being born of God means. And it is the work of the Holy Spirit.

C. And the point of everything we have said about being born of God is that it comes first; it is the root of the Christian life. You are not a Christian because you believe or because you love or because you obey or because you do anything, you are a Christian because the Spirit of God has given you new birth! That is the vital truth of v1. Everything else grows out of our being born of God.

II. So right here within all these words about what we are to do as Christians, we are reminded not to view any of it as what makes us a Christian. What makes us a Christian is the work of the Holy Spirit. The ROOT of the Christian life is being born of God. So with that truth firmly in view, we can briefly look now at the FRUIT of the Christian life.

A. And we simply take these in the order that they are set before us in these verses. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” So the first fruit of the Christian life is BELIEVING that Jesus is the Christ.
1. When Jesus spoke about being born again in John 3, He said, “THE WIND BLOWS where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” And what He meant was this: You cannot see the Holy Spirit do the work of regeneration; a born again person doesn’t start to glow or get a halo. But the result of the Spirit’s work is that a person believes in Jesus Christ. This new creation, who is now attracted to God and inclined to believe what he or she reads or hears in the Bible about Jesus believes in Him.
2. And what they believe is “that JESUS IS THE CHRIST.” And this is John’s shorthand for Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God who came to earth to live as a human being and died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins and who rose again from the dead. So it is the correct understanding of who Jesus is and what He came to do and it is personal in terms of He did it for me. So a person who is born again by the Holy Spirit knows and believes that Jesus is the Christ.
And let me just speak here for a moment to those of you to whom all of this is new; your focus needs to be belief in Jesus. Everything we have said about being born again is to comfort those who already believe that Jesus is the Christ. But if you are not yet a Christian, you have to focus on this: You are a sinner who will go to hell unless you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. So if you believe in Jesus, you shall be saved.

B. So the first fruit of the Christian life is believing that Jesus is the Christ. The second fruit of the Christian life is that we LOVE the Father.
1. The great commandment is that we love God with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And it is the Father who gave us new birth by His Spirit; it is the Father who gave us His Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, it is from our Father that we receive every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ.

C. And the third fruit of the Christian life is that WE LOVE “WHOEVER HAS BEEN BORN OF HIM” OR “EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST.” What is the second great commandment? That we love our neighbour as ourselves. So those who are born of God will love their brothers and sisters. And perhaps the only thing we could usefully add to what we said already said about this love is that these verses leave make it clear that WE CANNOT CHOOSE WHICH OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS WE WILL LOVE. We must love them all; we must love “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ” and “whoever is born of [God].”

D. And finally, vv2-3 draw our attention to OBEDIENCE as the third-equal fruit of the Christian life. We read, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”
1. Sometimes when FRUIT SALAD is served for dessert and you serve yourself, you can leave those plastic cherry things or the pineapple chunks in the bowl and just grab the bits of fruit that you like. But it is not like that with the fruit of the Christian life. Those born of God will believe and love God and love others and obey God’s commands.
2. And John says, “And His commandments are NOT BURDENSOME.” A person who is born of God doesn’t find them a burden and isn’t looking for ways to avoid obedience; he knows that God’s commands are right, and he wants to keep them and he loves them.

So once again, we have these profession of faith tests that John has returned to again and again in his letter: If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, and if you love the Father, and if you love your brothers and sisters, and if you love to obey God’s commandments, then you may be certain that you have been born of God. But don’t ever lose sight of what comes first; don’t confuse the root and the fruit. You see, when you focus on anything you do as the root of the Christian life, you will fall either into THE TRAP OF PRIDE – haven’t I done well! – or THE trap OF DOUBT – how can I be a believer when my obedience and love is so weak, and undone by my disobedience? But when you understand that the root of the Christian life is the work that the Holy Spirit has done within you, then you have an anchor for your assurance that is all of God.

And this means that when your faith is fragile, or your love has been limp, or your obedience has been ordinary, you go to the cross, you confess your sins, and you remember that Jesus said, “This is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Amen.