“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.”
These words of John to the well-beloved Gaius clearly divide. The division is between good and evil. At the same time, it is between them who are of God, and them who have not seen God. There are only these two groups of people. John spoke of no middle ground. One group has not seen God, and the other is of Him, or belongs to Him.
They that do evil are the ones who have not seen God. Quoting various Old Testament scriptures, Romans 3:10-18 puts it this way, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” These words of Paul speak of the one group; the one that has not seen God, to use John’s words.
John meant something other than seeing God with the eyes. What he spoke of is taking heed to God. Is it the evil that they do that keeps them from seeing God? Or is it that they have not seen Him and so commit evil? The above words from Romans 3 tell us it is the latter. Scripture speaks of His law being written in men’s hearts. Many do not heed His law that is there. In fact, at the end of Romans 1:32 Paul ends a list of sinful behaviors with this, “… Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” It is because they don’t take heed to God that they do evil. This is not ignorance of God, but awareness of His demands, and choosing to set them aside. It is rebellion.
But, John also said that he that does good is of God. Romans 3, above, speaks of the whole human race. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, no, not one. Yet something is different about certain ones. They do good and are said to be of God. Some change has come upon them. The difference is because of the LORD Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:19-22 relates, “For it pleased the Father that in (Jesus) should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight …” God has effected a reconciliation between Himself and mankind through the death, burial, and resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ. This was the reason Jesus came to earth.
Ephesians 2:7-9 notes, “That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Paul tells the Ephesians that their works, good deeds, do not come into the equation when it comes to being saved. This is entirely the gift of God through His grace, kindness, and mercy.
For the group that has not seen (neither heeded or acknowledged) God, a change is possible. It must start with acknowledging our sin, and the person of God, and His claim on their life. And, ends with resting on the LORD Jesus Christ as Savior. Then, doing good comes, showing that they are of God.
For the group that is of God, the verse above brings a command; “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.” It must be that though they are of God, it is possible that they could follow after evil. So, John provides this reminder. The ways of the world are still attractive to us. Praise God, His salvation is not taken back by Him when we stumble. As Paul told the Romans, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) May we strive to follow God and do that which is good.
The caution is not vain:
We may unfaithful prove,
And turn from God to sin again,
And fall from pardoning love;
Yet will we boldly press
T’ward our high calling’s prize,
And follow after holiness,
And to perfection rise.
Perfection is the good
Which wrestling saints receive,
Worthy of all to be pursued
Who in our Lord believe:
Perfection is the goal
Which terminates our race;
And comes to that, the spotless soul
Expires in his embrace. (Charles Wesley)