First John 2.3-4 


1.   Turn in your Bible to Matthew 7.15-16.  The first two verses in our journey toward today’s text, in which the Lord Jesus Christ warned,

15     Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16     Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”


2.   Men who falsely claim to represent God, Jesus predicted, will come to Christians dressed in sheep’s clothing, will pretend to be part of the flock, but they are actually ravening wolves.  And how can you spot them and beware of the danger they bring?  “Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

3.   You can tell what they are by what they produce.  Like begets like.  After all, Jesus continued, do you go to a thorn bush to find grapes or a thistle bush to find figs?  Of course not.

4.   So, we know there is deception abroad because the Lord Jesus Christ predicted the deception.  And a bit of common sense would lead us to conclude that these false prophets, whoever they are, who pretend to be sheep but are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing, will do their dead level best to undermine what Jesus declared, will do their utmost to nullify and to neutralize the words of our blessed Savior.

5.   Several verses later, after explaining how it must be that evil fruit comes only from an evil tree and good fruit only comes from a good tree, essentially showing how logically impossible it is not to reproduce after your own kind, Jesus again concluded, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

6.   My friends, I know two preachers, two Baptist preachers, one who is as theologically and practically conservative as anyone I have ever known, and the other who is at the other end of the spectrum, both of whom essential denying what Jesus said in this passage.  Let me explain how they have denied what Jesus taught here.

7.   Both men have admitted that they were engaged in drunkenness and whore mongering, the one while he was married and the other while he was single, for three or more years while they were serving in the armed forces, one in the Navy, one in the Army.

8.   During their enlistments, they both assert, they never doubted they were Christians, even while the one was consorting with prostitutes and the other one was cheating on his wife.  What they are essentially arguing, since Jesus said that by their fruits ye shall know them, what they are essentially arguing is that by their fruits ye shall not know them.

9.   Jesus said that you can tell a man is lost by the fact that he continually and habitually lives like a lost man.  That’s what He meant by the statement “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”  But these two men who are pastors maintain that you cannot know them by their fruits, because they most certainly were Christians, despite the fact that they lived for years lives that were reprobate.

10. Now, who am I to believe, the Lord Jesus Christ?  Or some preacher who, by his opposition to the instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ, is showing himself to be a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing? 

11. Turn, now, if you would please, to First Corinthians 6.9-11: 

9     Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10     Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11     And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.


12. Notice three things the apostle Paul showed to the Corinthian Christians in this passage:  First, that those who behave unrighteously shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  Do not be deceived about this.  Though there are many today who argue that you cannot tell who is a Christian and who is not a Christian, the first phrase of verse 9 clearly means that the man who lives unrighteously shall not go to heaven.  And to disagree with the clear meaning of Paul’s statement is to flatly refute the truthfulness of God’s Word.

13. Next, in First Corinthians 6.9-10, Paul showed that there are sins that are particularly characteristic of unsaved people.  All sin is very sinful, but not all sin is equal in the damage that it does, not all sin reflects the same degree of disobedience and rebellion toward God, and not all sins are equally explicit in revealing the spiritual condition of the person who commits them.

14. My friend, if “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” does not mean that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, are Christians, are going to heaven, then what, pray tell, do words mean? 

15. Words have meaning.  And to argue that people who have sex with those they are nor married to can be Christians, or that people who are drunkards are Christians, flies in the face of Bible truth and seeks to undermine the authority of God’s Word.

16. Then, in verse 11, “And such were some of you.”  Is not Paul’s intent here, in these three verses, to communicate to his readers that when a person gets converted he becomes a different person, that he will not habitually practice these sins anymore, that his life and his lifestyle will be dramatically altered once he gets saved?

17. Some lost person thinks, “I don’t want to become a Christian because I would hate living that kind of life.”  Don’t you understand that when you get saved you get a new life?  Your desires are changed.  Your heart is changed.  Your affections are changed, so that you do want to life that kind of life.

18. Yet there are people that you know, as well as I, who maintain that you can smoke and drink and cuss and chew and go with girls who do, too, and still be a Christian.  They are asserting, whether they will come out and say it outright or not, that you can live like the Devil and be a Christian.

19. Now, are they right, who say this?  Or are they wrong?  According to the Lord Jesus Christ they are wrong.  According to Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation they are wrong.  And according to Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches they are wrong.

20. Turn to Galatians 5.19-21, please:

19    Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20    Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21    Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.


21. A quick glance at Romans 8.9 shows that whatever the flesh is, it is not something a Christian moves in and out of.  I have heard people say “I was in the flesh when I did that.”  Sorry, if you are in the flesh you are unconverted.  If you are converted you are in the Spirit, as Paul’s comment in Romans 8.9 shows:  “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

22. So, you are in the Spirit if you are converted, you are in the flesh if you are unconverted.  And it’s the flesh that produces such behavior as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like in a person’s life.

23. The Spirit of God produces something else entirely in a person’s life:  love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.  Not perfectly, mind you.  Not without interruptions from time to time as the old nature’s conflict with the Spirit of God continues, since as Galatians 5.17 shows us, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other.”  But the Christian life is life, while the life of the unconverted person is really spiritual death.

24. Let us now take a step back and look at the broad brush strokes of what the Lord Jesus Christ taught and what the apostle Paul taught in support of the Savior:  Christians and unsaved people do not live the same kind of life.  And though no one is sinlessly perfect, there are sins that are particularly characteristic of people who are not saved, as you have seen.

25. Paul listed some of those kinds of characteristic sins in First Corinthians 6.9-10, and he provides a similar kind of list here in Galatians 5.19-21, showing clearly that you cannot live like the Devil and be a Christian.

26. So, we have seen the doctrine taught by the Savior.  We have also seen the doctrine taught by the apostle Paul, in two different letters.  Not surprisingly, the apostle Paul is in complete agreement with his master and his Lord.

27. After brother Isenberger comes to lead us in song we will take up our text for this morning’s sermon, First John 2.3-4, where we will discover yet another apostle of Jesus Christ who is in complete agreement with his master.  You cannot live like the Devil and be a Christian.  Let us now stand.



1.   Please turn in your Bible to First John 2.3-4 and stand for the reading of God’s Word:

3     And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

4     He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.


2.   You cannot live like the Devil and be a Christian.  On the face of it you might be surprised that anyone would argue with that proposition, but so-called Christians all over America argue against that proposition every day when they live in the slop trough of such sins as we have seen and yet insist that they are Christians.

3.   It’s clear from the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ that He didn’t think anyone could live like the Devil and be a Christian.  He said as much when He indicated that you could recognize who the false prophets are by their fruits, by the way they who claim to represent God live their lives.

4.   It’s also clear from the teachings of the apostle Paul that you can’t live like the Devil and be a Christian.  He clearly explained as much to the Corinthians and to the Galatians.  What do words mean if First Corinthians 6.9-10 and Galatians 5.17-19 are not descriptions of those who are not Christians?

5.   Yet there are pastors of conservative Baptist Churches here in the United States of America who claim they were converted while they fornicated for years, while they adulterated for years, while they did drugs for years, and while they were drunkards for years.

6.   Who are we to believe, some Baptist preacher who claims he got saved as a teenager, and then consorted with whores for five or six years and then supposedly “got right” with God?  If such a pastor is correct then we are to believe that by their fruits you cannot know them, and that those who do such things shall inherit the kingdom of God, entirely contradicting what Jesus taught and what Paul declared.

7.   But a fellow doesn’t have to be a preacher to openly oppose the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles.  He can be some fairly typical Church member who decides to abandon the wife of his youth in favor of a girl half his age.  But he’s still a Christian, he insists.  How do we know?  We know because he says he is.  And we know because his foolish pastor says he is saved, but who does err, not knowing the Scriptures.

8.   After all, a pastor who says an adulterous Church member who leaves his wife for another woman isn’t converted may have to admit that his preacher friend, who is a repeat offender adulterer himself, is no likelier to be saved than his cheating Church member.  We mustn’t threaten to bring down the interconnected little house of cards, must we?  We dare not simply take God’s Word at face value, dare we?

9.   Folks, I get really tired of all this nonsense.  I am weary of those who claim that the Lord Jesus is so pathetic and weak a Savior that He can’t save those who come to Him from the power of sins in their lives.  And I agree with the now departed to heaven evangelist, Oliver B. Green, who I once heard say on the radio, “Don’t you tell me that the omnipotent Spirit of God can indwell a Christian without His presence being felt in the way that man lives.  I don’t believe it.  I don’t believe it.  I don’t believe it.”  Neither do I believe it.

10. I believe the Bible.  I believe the Lord Jesus Christ.  I believe the apostle Paul.  And I believe the apostle John.  So, dealing with this matter of living like the Devil while claiming to be a Christian from a different angle, notice what John has set before us in our text for this morning.

11. There are three observations that are quite easily made from First John 2.3-4:



“And hereby we do know that we know him”

1B.    To paraphrase the apostle, “Here is the way you can be sure that you are really born again.” 

1C.   My friend, being sure that you are really born again is what assurance really is.  It’s being sure.  Being sure of what?  Being sure that your soul is safely in Jesus’ hands, committed to His trust, washed in His blood. 

2C.   And this assurance is vital to a Christian’s sense of well-being and peace of mind, because we cannot live sinless lives this side of glory.  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” First John 1.8.

3C.   But the assurance must come into the Christian’s life in the right way.  And the right way assurance comes into the Christian’s life is found here in First John 2.3.

2B.    For You Who Enjoy A Bit Of Grammar, Let Me Parse A Couple Of Verbs In First John 2.3

1C.   There are two words commonly translated “to know” in the Greek New Testament.  The word “oida,” which generally refers to understanding and comprehending something by figuring it out, by reason, by rationale, by intellectual apprehension.  But that word is not found here.

2C.   The word that is found here is “ginwskw,” which has to do with knowledge that is typically gained by familiarity, by experience, by association.  This is the word associated with knowing someone because you have met him.  It doesn’t mean perfect knowledge or complete understanding, but it is real knowledge and real understanding, however incomplete it may be.

3C.   This second word, our word “ginwskw,” is found twice in this first phrase of First John 2.3, but in two somewhat different forms.

4C.   The first form, in the phrase “And hereby we do know,” is present tense, active voice, indicative mood.  The word is pronounced “ginwskomen.”  What this form of the word means is that the apostle John is indicating to his readers that we, his readers, right now, in the present, and in ongoing and continual fashion, know something.  Thus, you right now know something.

5C.   The second form, in the phrase “that we know him,” is perfect tense, active voice, indicative mood.  From the same root word, this form is pronounced “egnwkamen,” and refers to having come to know something or someone in the past, but with an impact or an effect that is still felt in the present.  That is, I came to know God through faith in Jesus Christ at some point in time past, and I still know Him, because knowing Him then has an effect that stays with me now.

6C.   Now, what does this phrase mean that John has written and that we have analyzed?  As I paraphrased before, John is telling his readers that there is a way you can tell right now that you really did get saved in the past.  There is a way you can have a right now assurance of the salvation that was secured when you came to Christ in days gone by and became one who knows God.

7C.   Thus, we see that assurance of salvation is possible.  But we also see that assurance of salvation is not based upon the past, even if you really did get saved in the past.  Assurance of salvation is something that must be current.  It is a sureness, a confidence of being saved, that is rooted in the present, not the past.

8C.   So, we can already see that those who claim they know they are saved while living in bad sin over time have a problem, since assurance is associated with the right now in a real Christian’s life, not the past.



Oh, how most modern day so-called Christians hate the thought of assurance of salvation being closely related to a person’s obedience and lifestyle.  But verse 3 says what it says.

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”

1B.    Here is where the false prophets begin to play their word games and seek to confuse the issue in an attempt to neutralize what the Bible says.  They will say something like, “Well, no one perfectly keeps God’s commandments, so how can anyone know by this criteria who is really saved?”  They may even throw in “Judge not lest ye be judged.”  Oh, how that verse is misinterpreted.  But that’s another sermon.

2B.    My friend, the apostle Paul, in First Corinthians chapter 13, made a point of stating in two verses that the Christian knows “in part.”  No believer knows Jesus completely, knows Jesus perfectly.  But the genuinely saved person does know Jesus sufficiently.  In like manner, no Christian keeps God’s commandments completely or perfectly.  It’s not possible this side of heaven.

3B.    But there is a difference between the heart’s obedience of the child of God and the feigned and fake obedience of the pretender, is there not?  The Christian is, after all, a new creature in Christ, while the unconverted man is still the same old dead in sins carcass he’s always been.

4B.    These issues dealt with, and recognizing that no obedience this side of heaven will be complete, will be perfect, will be entirely consistent, we see that assurance of salvation comes from obedience to Christ’s commands. 

5B.    This is how you can know that you have come to know Him, if you keep His commandments, if you obey Him, if you do His will, if you follow His directions.  And if you think your certainty of being a Christian is based on something other than obedience, something other than following His directions, something other than doing His will, then you are dealing with something other than a Biblical, something other than a Scriptural, something other than a spiritual, assurance of salvation.

6B.    Listen to what Charles H. Spurgeon wrote on the same subject, while commenting on a different verse in God’s Word: 

“Outward, practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace.  To wash in water with Pilate is nothing, but to wash in innocency is all important.  It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day.  It is vain to prate of inward experience unless the daily life is free from impurity, dishonesty, violence, and oppression.  Those who draw near to God must have clean hands.  What monarch would have servants with filthy hands to wait at his table?  They who were ceremonially unclean could not enter into the Lord’s house which was made with hands, much less shall the morally defiled be allowed to enjoy spiritual fellowship with a holy God.  If our hands are now unclean, let us wash them in Jesu’s precious blood, and so let us pray unto God, lifting up pure hands.  But “clean hands” would not suffice, unless they were connected with a pure heart.  True religion is heart work.  We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please; but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are.  We may lose our hands and yet live, but we could not lose our heart and still live; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within.  There must be a work of grace in the core of the heart as well as in the palm of the hand, or our religion is a delusion.  May God grant that our inward powers may be cleansed by the sanctifying Spirit, so that we may love holiness and abhor all sin.”[1]


7B.    So, how can a man be convinced that he is a Christian while living the life of a drunkard, while doing drugs, while stealing or extorting, while lying?  He can’t, unless he is delusional or deceived by false prophets.  At least, not in the way he ought to be convinced.  Beloved, the Bible teaches that Christians live differently than lost people do.  The Bible teaches that Christian’s lives are characterized by their obedience to Jesus Christ, not by their disobedience.  The Bible teaches that disobedience is what characterizes the life of the lost man.


“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

1B.    There is a kind of person who says “I know him,” who claims to be a Christian.  And by saying this he is really claiming that “I came to know Him and the effects of knowing Him are presently felt.”  This is just like the second “know” of verse 3, the perfect tense.

2B.    The only problem is that this kind of person who says he knows Jesus as a result of having come to Him in the past, who says he knows Jesus with a result that is carried from then to now, just so happens to be a guy who does not keep His commandments.  In other words, this is a guy who says he is a Christian, but there is no ongoing life of obedience.  The so-called conversion event of the past produces absolutely no effect in the present.

3B.    You know people like this.  Almost everyone at work who claims to be a Christian is like this.  Numbers of people here at our Church are like this.  No devotional life.  No prayer life.  No witnessing life.  No participation in evangelism.  No Bible reading.  No faithful Church attendance.  No giving to the cause of Christ.  No shunning evil and seeking a life of moral and spiritual purity.  No love for the lost and kindness for visitors.  No singing the songs of Zion and lifting up of the voice to the praise and glory of God.

4B.    What can be said about this type of person?  If a guy says he is a Christian, but he does not obey Christ’s commandments, he’s “a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  So, being a Christian is more than saying you are a Christian and living like the Devil.  Being a Christian is saying you are a Christian and backing it up by the way you live, giving credibility to your words, showing that there is more to you than mouth.



1.   Can you be a Christian and live like the Devil?  Jesus says “No.”  Paul says “No.”  John says “No.”  The answer is “No.”  You cannot be a Christian and live like the Devil.

2.   “But pastor, I know people who are Christians who sure look to me like they live like the Devil.”  Let’s make sure you don’t miss the whole point of this message.  You do not know people who are Christians who live like the Devil.  You know people who say they are Christians but who live like the Devil.

3.   But I don’t think we should let them get away with making such claims, because the Bible says they are liars and the truth is not in them.  And if you are a liar you are unsaved, Revelation 21.8.  And if the truth is not in you, which is to say that you are destitute of the truth, First Timothy 6.5, you are lost.

4.   Let it not be claimed by anyone who names the name of Christ that he is without sin.  Indeed, it is not possible to come to Jesus Christ, it is not possible to become a Christian, without acknowledging your sins and your sinfulness.  First John 1.9 declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”  But First John 1.8 reminds us that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

5.   So, there is no claim by the child of God that he is without sin.  Such a claim would be an outright denial of the truth of God’s Word.  Neither can any child of God claim superiority over any unsaved man, or make any claim of merit in God’s sight.  We deserve nothing!  Instead, we echo Paul’s confession in Romans 7.18:  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”

6.   These things now restated and understood by one and all, I hope, let us further state that the modern day notion of a sinner being saved in his sins is an unscriptural notion.  Such is not taught in God’s Word.  In God’s Word we are taught that by the doing and dying of the Lord Jesus Christ He purchased for us salvation from sins, not salvation in sins.

7.   Let us not turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, as some have done.  Therefore, we repudiate as unscriptural the wicked and ancient notion that has reared up its ugly head in these last days that a man can be a Christian and live like the Devil.  No!  No!  No!  You cannot live like the Devil and be a Christian.

8.   Maybe you need to really become a Christian.  Let’s you and me talk about that, shall we?  It’s the greatest need of your life.

9.   “Well, I just don’t feel like I need to be . . . .”  Excuse me.  The greatest needs are oftentimes not perceived needs.  What you feel you need is not always what you need.  And what you don’t feel you need is often your greatest need.  I can tell you, based upon the authority of God’s Word, that your greatest need is Jesus Christ.  And if you live like the Devil you need Him badly.  Let’s stand, shall we, as we’re dismissed in prayer.

[1]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury Of David, Volume I, (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers), page 376.

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