We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him not.
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one.
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.
This is the true God, and eternal life. My little children, guard yourselves from idols.1 John 5:18-21 ASV
On almost every page of the New Testament, the spiritual foe of Christians is identified, not as a mere principle, but as personal, intelligent, malignant and cunning.
Yes, it’s Satan, the Devil, the great dragon, serpent and evil one!
We know … This is the second of three great certainties stressed by the apostle in 1 John 5:18-20:
(1) We know that we are guarded from the evil one by Jesus Christ our Lord.
(2) We know that we belong to God in a hostile, Satan dominated world.
(3) We know the great basic of divine revelation, especially the Incarnation of God in Christ.
That we are of God … To what other source, indeed, could the joyful life in Jesus Christ be attributed?
The whole world … Here the word “world” does not apply to the natural creation at all, but to the evil inhabitants of the world who continue under the dominion of the evil one.
These are defined as, the idolaters, infidels and wicked men, who having made themselves the subjects of the devil … they lie under the wicked one, and are under his dominion.
Lieth in the evil one … By saying that it lieth in the evil one, he represented it as being under the dominion of Satan. Of particular interest is the word “lieth” as used here.
Because Homer used the word (lieth) to denote the bodies of men lying on the ground slain, the apostle, by using the word here, represents the wicked men of the world as lying slain by the devil, to give us an affecting idea of the miserable and helpless state of mankind fallen by the stroke of that malicious merciless enemy.
The following New Testament references regarding Satan are examples of the extensive Biblical teaching regarding the devil:
The prince of the power of the air, the spirit which now inwardly worketh in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).
The god of this world (who) blinds the eyes of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Our adversary going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).
(Wicked men) are held in the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26).
We are not ignorant of (the devil’s) wicked devices (Ephesians 6:11).
Through his subtlety (Satan) seduced the mother of all living (Eve) (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Christians are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Colossians 1:13).
This is the third of the three great certainties with which John concluded his epistle; and it is rather an extensive certainty.
We know Christ who is the true one!
We are “in Christ,” having believed in him and having been baptized into the “one body,” Christ’s spiritual body.
This is the true God (an unqualified designation of Jesus Christ as God).
As a result of Christ’s redemptive work, we enjoy eternal life (presently, in the joys of Christian service, and ultimately, throughout all eternity).
Where the literal interpretation makes good sense, the literal interpretation is probably right.
And, taking Ephesus as an example of all the great cities of that era, such an exhortation certainly makes good sense.
Ephesus was dominated by the Temple of Diana of the Ephesians, that temple being the center of immorality and licentiousness.
The temple institution was a force of incredible power in pagan civilization.
The right of sanctuary for criminals of all classes had crowded it with the vilest men on earth.
To have anything to do with the Temple of Diana was to be associated with the very dregs of society … and to be brought into contact with commercialized superstition and the black arts.
Beyond the literal and immediate application of this final apostolic edict, however, the spiritual overtones of such an admonition are universal and timeless.
No Christian must ever set up in his heart any idol which usurps the place rightfully belonging to the Lord.
The gods of the ancients lie buried under the debris of millenniums; but people still worship sex, gold, wealth, power, fame, “success,” youth, humanity, self, pleasure, wine, or even their families, instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.