1 John series: (post #9)
How many professing Christians are there in the world today? Figures place the number at approximately 2.3 billion. That’s 31% of the world’s population, and that makes Christians the most numerically dominant religious group in the world. Muslims currently stand in second place at approximately 1.8 billion, which amounts to a little over 24% of the world’s population.
Now, let’s think about what these numbers are telling us. Supposedly, Christianity is the most prolific religion in the world, with 31% of the world’s population classifying themselves as Christians. Admittedly, that 31% includes everybody from Catholics to Baptists, from Presbyterians to Pentecostals, from Lutherans to Orthodox, from Methodists to non-denominational, but the point is that Christianity is the world’s most popular religion by a pretty fair stretch.
Okay, now let me offer a quote from Jesus. It comes from Matthew 7:13-14, which is a part of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (N.K.J.V.)
As we read those words and compare them with those statistics that I quoted earlier, we see a grand-canyon-sized discrepancy. If the way that leads to destruction is broad, and if the gate of salvation is narrow, and if there are few who find that gate, and yet the most prolific religious group in the world is made up on professing Christians, either Jesus was wrong in what He said or a whole bunch of people worldwide who think they are Christians aren’t. I, for one, will side with Jesus on that discrepancy.
We are in a blog series on the book of 1 John, a series in which we are identifying ten distinctive marks of salvation that John describes in this book. These marks aren’t the only ones that could be named from the Bible, but they are certainly ten good ones. And what is the next mark (mark #7) on our list? It is the individual having God the Holy Spirit literally dwelling inside his or her body.
If you read the previous post in this series, you know that I’ve already said quite a bit about this mark in relation to the authentic Christian being an overcomer. Now, though, I need to give the mark its own time in the spotlight. John mentions the mark in the following three passages from 1 John. I’ll quote them all from the New King James Version and use boldfaced type to emphasize a certain word in each:
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)
By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. (1 John 4:13)
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)
As you can see, these three passages all teach that God literally dwells inside the Christian’s body. And how does He do that? He does it by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
If these three passages were all we had to go on for doctrine, there is plenty right here to teach us that the true Christian has God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside him or her. But, of course, these passages are not the only place where the New Testament teaches this truth. As a matter of fact, this specific mark is so necessary to authentic Christianity that Romans 8:9 goes so far as to say that if a person does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, that person is not Christ’s.
Yes, you read that right. If an individual does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, that individual is not a genuine Christian. You might ask, “But why is the New Testament so dogmatic on this issue?” It’s because it takes God the Holy Spirit taking up residence inside a person’s body to create what Jesus described as the born-again experience. And do you remember what Jesus told Nicodemus about being born again? He told him, “…I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, N.K.J.V.).
Allow me to explain how this works. Ephesians 2:1 teaches that people, prior to salvation, are “dead in trespasses and sins.” That means they are physically alive but spiritually dead. Therefore, the salvation experience is the person passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. John himself uses this same descriptive language in 1 John 3:14 and 5:11-12 when he talks about Christians having life by way of having passed from death to life. Again, the point is that salvation is a REBIRTH. That’s why Jesus called it being born again and why John refers to it in 1 John 3:9 and 5:18 as being “born of God.”
However, just as a baby cannot create its own birth, a person cannot create his or her own spiritual rebirth. That’s the role that God the Holy Spirit plays. The instant a lost person places saving belief in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence inside that person, and it is the Holy Spirit who creates the new birth inside that person and causes the person to pass from spiritual death to spiritual life. Then, following that moment of the new birth, the Holy Spirit continues to indwell the person and proceeds to do all kinds of other wonderful things. A partial list of those things could include:
- He convicts the person when the person sins. (John 16:8)
- He brings the nature of God into the person. (2 Peter 1:1-4; Ephesians 4:17-24)
- He teaches the person. (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13)
- He guides the person. (John 16:13)
- He gifts the person with at least one spiritual gift, a spiritual gift being an ability to perform an act of service in the Lord’s work. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-30)
Doctrinally speaking, this distinctive mark of having the indwelling Holy Spirit should be slotted first on any list of the evidences of salvation. I say that because it is the indwelling Holy Spirit who actually produces the other evidences in the person’s life. But for this series I have more or less followed John’s order in 1 John, and he doesn’t directly mention the indwelling Spirit until 1 John 3:24. He does refer to the Spirit’s “anointing” in 1 John 2:20, but that is merely an indirect reference to the Spirit, a reference that I’ll have more to say about in a later post.
So, for now, just know that if a person does not have God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside his or her body, that person is not an authentic Christian. No matter how long the person has been on the church roll, no matter how deep the baptismal waters were, no matter how honest or moral the person may be, if the indwelling Holy Spirit isn’t present, the person is still dead in trespasses and sins. I won’t even hazard a guess as to how many of the world’s more than 2 billion professing Christians fall into this category, but it is undoubtedly a large number. All I know is that Jesus, the universe’s leading authority on salvation, said, “The gate that leads to salvation is narrow, and there are very few who find it.”
Thanks, Chuck. It’s a very sobering one, too.