Birth of God is a Deep, Radical, Inward Transformation

“…the new birth involves the acquisition of a new nature through the implanting within us of the very seed or lifegiving power of God. Birth of God is a deep, radical, inward transformation. Moreover, the new nature received at the new birth remains. It exerts a strong internal pressure towards holiness. It is the abiding influence of God’s seed within everyone who is born of God, enables John to affirm without fear of contradiction that he cannot go on sinning (2 Cor.5:17; 2 Peter 1:4).”

– John Stott, The Letters of John, p.131 (italics in original)

A Definition of Sin

“There follows a definition of sin. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness (anomia). There are other definitions of sin in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 14:23; Jas. 4:17; 1 Jn. 5:17); but this, far from being ‘somewhat superficial’ (Dodd), is the clearest and most revealing. The statement ‘sin is lawlessness‘ (that is, a defiant violation of God’s moral law) so identifies the two as to render them interchangeable terms. Wherever one of them is read, it is possible to substitute the other. It is not just that sin manifests itself in disregard for God’s law, but that sin is in its very nature lawlessness. Lawlessness is the essence, not the result, of sin. Thus exposed in its ugly reality, the seriousness of sin emerges. The heretics seem to have taught that to the enlightened Christian questions of morality were a matter of indifference; today our sins are excused either by euphemisms like ‘personality problems’ or by the plea of cultural relativity. In contrast to such underestimates of sin, John declares that it is not just a negative failure (hamartia, sin, meaning literally ‘missing the mark’, and adikia, unrighteousness, a deviation from what is right or just), but essentially an active rebellion against God’s known will. It is important to acknowledge this, because the first step towards holy living is to recognize the true nature and wickedness of sin.”

– John Stott, The Letters of John, p.126-127

Eternal Life is a Present Possession

“Three important truths are taught in these verses [1 John 5:11-12] about eternal life. First, it is not a prize which we have earned or could earn but an undeserved gift. Secondly, it is found in Christ, so that, in order to give us life, God both gave and gives us his Son. Thirdly, this gift of life in Christ is a present possession. True, it is further described as eternal, aionios, which means literally, ‘belonging to the age’, i.e. the age to come. But since the age to come has broken into this present age, the life of the age to come, namely ‘eternal life’, can be received and enjoyed here and now.”

– John Stott, The Letters of John, p.186

Can’t Go Back to a Life of Selfishness

“The historical manifestation of God’s love in Christ not only assures us of his love for us, but lays upon us the obligation to love one another. No-one who has been to the cross and seen God’s immeasurable and unmerited love displayed can go back to a life of selfishness. Indeed, the implication seems to be that our love should resemble his love: since God so loved, we also ought – in like manner and to a like degree of self-sacrifice – to love one another. Cf. 3:16, where the duty of Christian self-sacrifice is deduced from the self-sacrifice of Christ.”

– John Stott, The Letters of John, p.166

The Church is Central to the Gospel

“The gospel which some us proclaim is much too individualistic. ‘Christ died for me,’ we say, and then sing of heaven: ‘Oh, that will be glory for me.’ Both affirmations are true. As for the first, the apostle Paul himself could write, ‘The Son of God..loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Gal. 2:20). As for the so-called ‘glory song’, the gospel does promise ‘glory’ for believers in heaven. But this is far from being the full gospel. For it is evident from Ephesians 3 that the full gospel concerns both Christ and the ‘mystery’ of Christ. The good news of the unsearchable riches of Christ which Paul preached is that he died and rose again not only to save sinners like me (though he did), but also to create a single new humanity; not only to redeem us from sin but also to adopt us into God’s family; not only to reconcile us to God but also to reconcile us to one another. Thus the church is an integral part of the gospel. The gospel is good news of a new society as well as of a new life.”

– John Stott, The Message of  Ephesians, p. 128-129

Two of the Strongest Incentives to Evangelism

“Indirectly in these past verses the apostle indicated two of the strongest incentives to evangelism. He began by emphasizing that the revelation and the commission which had been given to him belong indissolubly together, for what had been made known to him he must without fail make it known to others. All revealed truth is held in stewardship. It is given to be shared, not monopolized. If men cannot keep their scientific discoveries to themselves, how much less should we keep to ourselves divine disclosures? Paul went to emphasize the valuable content of the message itself. He was convinced, as we should be, that Christ never impoverishes those who put their trust in him, but always immeasurably enriches them. Here then is the double obligation that Paul felt, first to share God’s truth and secondly to share Christ’s riches. So what is needed today for a recovery of evangelistic zeal in the church is the same apostolic conviction about the gospel. Once we are sure that the gospel is truth from God and riches for mankind, nobody will be able to silence us.”

– John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p.120-121

No Higher Knowledge

“Growth in knowledge is indispensable to growth in holiness. Indeed, knowledge and holiness are even more intimately linked than as a means and end. For the “knowledge” which Paul prays is more Hebrew than Greek in concept; it adds the knowledge of experience to the knowledge of understanding. More than this, it emphasizes ‘the knowledge of him’ (Eph. 1:17), of God himself personally, as the context within which we ‘may know what is…’ (Eph. 1:18), that is, may come to know truths about him. There is no higher knowledge than the knowledge of God himself. As Adolphe Monod expressed it: ‘Philosophy taking man for its centre says know thyself; only the inspired word which proceeds from God has been able to say know God.’ ”

– John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p.54

In The Light of Eternity

“At this point it may be wise to pause a moment and consider how much all of us need to develop Paul’s broad perspective. Let me remind you that he was a prisoner in Rome. Not indeed in a cell or dungeon, but still under house arrest and handcuffed to a Roman soldier. Yet, though his wrist was chained and his body confined, his heart and mind inhabited eternity. He peered back ‘before the foundation of the world’ and on to ‘the fullness of time’ and grasped hold of what ‘we have’ now and ought to ‘be’ now in light of those two eternities. As for us, how blinkered is our vision in comparison with his, how small is our mind, how narrow are our horizons! Easily and naturally we slip into a preoccupation with our own petty little affairs. But we need to see time in the light of eternity, and our present privileges and obligations in the light of our past election and our future perfection. Then, if we shared the apostle’s perspective, we would also share his praise. For doctrine leads to doxology as well as duty. Life would be worship, and we would bless God constantly for having blessed us so richly in Christ.”

– John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p. 44