Counterfeit Christians (1 John 3:1–10)


fake-christian3The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it. How do they learn to identify fake bills? Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. Rather, they study the real thing. They become so familiar with authentic bills they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it or, often, simply by feeling it.

This is the approach in 1 John 3, which warns us in today’s world there are counterfeit Christians—“children of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:10). But instead of listing the evil characteristics of Satan’s children, Scripture gives us a clear description of God’s children. The contrast between the two is obvious.

The key verse of this chapter is 1 John 3:10: a true child of God practices righteousness and loves other Christians despite differences. 1 John 3:1–10 deals with the first topic and1 John 3:11–24 takes up the second.

Practicing righteousness and loving the brethren, of course, are not new themes. These two important subjects are treated in the first two chapters of this epistle, but in 1 John 3the approach is different. In the first two chapters the emphasis was on fellowship: a Christian who is in fellowship with God will practice righteousness and will love the brethren. But in 1 John 3–5 the emphasis is on sonship: because a Christian is “born of God,” he will practice righteousness and will love the brethren.

“Born of God” is the idea that is basic to these chapters (1 John 2:293:94:75:1418). “No one who is born of God practices sin … he cannot practice sin because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9). To “practice” sin is to sin consistently and as a way of life. It does not refer to committing an occasional sin. It is clear no Christian is sinless (1 John 1:8–10), but God expects a true believer to sin less, not to sin habitually.

Every great personality mentioned in the Bible sinned at one time or another. Abraham lied about his wife (Gen. 12:10–20). Moses lost his temper and disobeyed God (Num. 20:7–13). Peter denied the Lord three times (Matt. 26:69–75). But sin was not the settled practice of these men. It was an incident in their lives, totally contrary to their normal habits, and when they sinned, they admitted it and asked God to forgive them.

An unsaved person (even if he professes to be a Christian, but is a counterfeit) lives a life of habitual sin. Sin—especially the sin of unbelief—is the normal thing in his life (Eph. 2:1–3). He has no divine resources to draw on. His profession of faith, if any, is not real. This is the distinction in view in 1 John 3:1–10—a true believer does not live in habitual sin. He may commit sin—an occasional wrong act—but he will not practice sin—make a settled habit of it.

The difference is a true Christian knows God. A counterfeit Christian may talk about God and get involved in “religious activities,” but he does not really know God. The person who has been “born of God” through faith in Christ knows God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Because he knows them, he lives a life of obedience: he does not practice sin. 1 John 3:1–10 gives us three reasons for living a holy life.

Continue the three reasons at

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