John, too like Jesus & Paul, Teaches a Sanctification for Salvation Doctrine that Joseph Prince Fights Against (Part 1) – By Rev George Ong (Dated 20 Nov 2021)
One of my concluding statements in this article in case you missed it:
“‘If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar…’ (1 Jn 2:4 NLT) And no liar can inherit the kingdom of God because Jesus says all liars will be cast into the lake of fire in Rev 21:8. By John’s definition in 1 Jn 2:4 about what constitutes a liar, Joseph Prince, is indeed, a liar, as Prince teaches there are no more laws or commandments to obey for New Covenant people. How can Joseph Prince, a liar, who is bound for hell, not be a heretic?”
(This article was also sent to Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, General Secretary, NCCS office, and for the attention of the Executive Committee Members.)
The aim of this article is not only to expose Joseph Prince for twisting the text of 1 John 3:15 (see below for the video), but more importantly, to prove that John, too, like Jesus and Paul, teaches a sanctification for salvation doctrine that Joseph Prince vehemently fights against.
For Jesus’ teaching that sanctification is required for salvation, please click here to read.
For Paul’s teaching that sanctification is required for salvation, please click here to read.
I will cover passages in the epistles of John in Part 1 in this article and passages in the gospel of John in Part 2 in the next article.
Before I prove to you that John too, like Jesus and Paul, teaches a sanctification for salvation doctrine, let me show you how Joseph Prince tries to explain away the doctrine as revealed by John in 1 John 3:15.
In a weekly sermon aired on 10 November 2021 on YouTube about two weeks ago (this particular sermon was first preached on 14 June 2015. Note that besides Joseph Prince’s Sunday sermons, he also has his previous sermons uploaded during mid-week on every Wednesday), Joseph Prince said the following; please click to view excerpts in the 2-minute video:
“1 John 3:15, ‘Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’ So because of this verse, some people say, ‘You see salvation is not eternal. Redemption is not forever.’ Why? ‘Because whoever hates his brother’; how can you hate your brother; this expression is only used for Christians, only Christians have this brother-brother thing. Am I right? – which means it’s possible to hate your Christian brother and end up with no eternal life. That’s how they conclude. Now, the thing is this, friend, when it comes to John, John writes like James writes, to all the 12 tribes. Obviously, all the 12 tribes are not saved. But you know how he calls them? Brethren. For Christians, especially, he will use beloved brethren. Many times, beloved is for Christians. And so does John, John used beloved for Christians. But a brother can be a Jewish brother who is not saved. John, Peter, James and John call unsaved, unsaved Jewish people, brother. Okay, even though they are not saved. They are their bros. ‘Yo, bro, kind of wish you knew, your eyes was opened to the fact that the Messiah came, bro. Messiah, came, bro. He came, bled, died, was raised from the dead, yo.’ He calls them ‘brother’, okay, context.”
Joseph Prince states in the video that John, in 1 John 3:15, was writing to his Jewish brothers who were unsaved. However, many of us are well aware that Prince also teaches that while John, in 1 John chapter 1, (regarding Prince’s teachings that 1 Jn 1:9 was written to unbelievers) was written to unbelievers, John, in 1 John chapters 2-5 (which also includes 1 John 3:15), were written to believers.
Now, what’s going on?
One moment Joseph Prince says that 1 John chapters 2-5 (which also includes 1 John 3:15) were written to believers, but when he comes to 1 John 3:15 in this particular video, he now says that John was writing to unbelievers, John’s unsaved Jewish brothers.
Can you see how dishonest and unprincipled Joseph Prince is when it comes to Bible exegesis? Whenever his Grace Theology is threatened, he would resort to twisting text to make it say what he wants. What is worse he flip-flops over an earlier statement or decision regarding 1 John chapter 3 in general and 1 John 3:15 in particular that they were written to believers.
When I first heard Joseph Prince posturing the view that John was writing to his Jewish brothers, who were unbelievers in 1 John 3:15 in the video, I instinctively knew he was spewing out nonsense. I then turned to read the entire 1 John chapter 3 and the immediate context of 1 John 3:15 in 1 John 3:13-16 and discovered that my suspicion was confirmed.
From the start in verses 1 and 2 of 1 John chapter 3,
1 John 3:1-2 ESV
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is,
one would unmistakably conclude that 1 John chapter 3 was written to believers.
Now, for the context of 1 John 3:15, let’s examine 1 John 3:13-16:
1 John 3:13-16 ESV
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
In the phrase of 1 John 3:15, ‘Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer’, Joseph Prince states that the ‘Everyone’ and ‘brother’ refer to John’s Jewish brothers who were unbelievers. Yet, a cursory reading of 1 John 3:13, 14 and 16 would reveal that ‘brothers’ in these three verses have to refer to believers (whether Jewish or/and Gentile believers).
How could John be referring to two different types of brothers – one type, referring to believers in 1 John 3:13, 14 and 16, and another type – referring to unbelievers, the Jewish brothers in 1 John 3:15, when all four verses, V13-16 are in the same context? John was definitely addressing the same audience – believers (whether Jewish or/and Gentile believers), and not two different audiences – one for believers in 1 John 3:13, 14 and 16, and another for unbelievers (John’s Jewish brothers) in 1 John 3:15.
Even if it is really possible that two different types of brothers are meant here in 1 John 3:13-16, how would one know they are different when John hadn’t given any indication that they are distinct? How could one be sure that John had, indeed, switched audiences from Christian brothers in V13-14 to Jewish brothers (unbelievers) in V15 and then back to Christian brothers in V16, when John hasn’t even given a single clue that he had. To posture the view that an author could switch audiences within a short span of 4 verses with no warning, is indeed, a strange way of interpreting the scripture.
One seemingly unnoticeable point that catches my attention that many may gloss over that demolishes Joseph Prince’s argument is in 14b,
“Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (NIV)
This means that what would result in spiritual death and disqualify one from eternal life is not just someone who hates a brother in V15,
“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him,” (NIV)
but just the fact if one does not have love for the brothers in V14b.
That being the case, Joseph Prince should have stated that John was writing to his Jewish brothers (unbelievers) not just in V15 but also in V14b. The fact that he didn’t only reveal the wishy-washy, knee-jerk and unthinking manner he goes about defending his argument.
The truth is there are no Jewish brothers (unbelievers) referred to in 1 John 3:15. It is thrown in by Joseph Prince as a desperate attempt to save his ‘once righteous always righteous’ and his ‘justification-only without sanctification’ salvation doctrine from being exposed. And if he has to read into and twist the text to achieve his insidious agenda, he would daringly do it. This is not the first time he has done it but he has committed this forbidden act time and again.
What’s most sickening is that Joseph Prince can even justify his text-twisting by alluding to the fact that he is doing it in context,
“But a brother can be a Jewish brother who is not saved. John, Peter, James and John call unsaved, unsaved Jewish people, brother. Okay, even though they are not saved. They are their bros. ‘Yo, bro, kind of wish you knew, your eyes was opened to the fact that the Messiah came, bro. Messiah, came, bro. He came, bled, died, was raised from the dead, yo.’ He calls them ‘brother’, okay, context.”
This is the kind of guy who dares to say publicly without battling an eyelid that he is interpreting a text in its context when it is obviously clear that he did the opposite – by interpreting it out of context. And as I have pointed this out to you, he has done this countless times. What a serial hypocrite!
Why must Joseph Prince twist 1 John 3:15 to mean what it doesn’t? As I have said, it is mainly to prevent the falsity of his ‘once righteous always righteous’ doctrine, and also his ‘justification-only without sanctification’ salvation doctrine from being uncovered.
What John in 1 John 3:15 is actually stating is that if there is the lack of sanctification or right-behaviour in our lives – that we continue to hate our brother, we have committed the sin of murder and “no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” John is clearly teaching that the lack of sanctification in our hatred for our brother, will disqualify us from having eternal life.
We must remember that John was writing to the same audience – Christian brothers in this text:
1 John 3:14-15 NIV
14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
Here, John tells them in 1 John 3:14, that believers will be passed from spiritual death to life (salvation) because of their love for each other (sanctification). Yet, the other side of the truth which John also tells the same audience of Christian brothers in 1 John 3:15, which many may have missed, is that believers can be passed from life back to spiritual death through the sin of hatred (lack of sanctification). Unrepentant hatred (lack of sanctification) can, indeed, affect believers’ salvation.
Here, John did not say that those who did not have the righteousness of God in Christ (justification) will not have eternal life, though it is still true. But John says that those who did not deal with the sin of hatred in their lives (sanctification) are putting their salvation at stake. John is clearly emphasising on the crucial role of sanctification or the lack of it in our salvation.
Let me now unveil John’s teaching about the necessity of sanctification for our salvation.
To fully understand the point that I am making about 1 John 3:15, we need to see it in its larger context of 1 John 3:14-17:
A. 1 John 3:14-17 NIV
1 John 3:14-17 NIV
14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
John went straight to the point by stating if you contravene the sanctification requirement, by hating your brother or sister, which is equivalent to the murder sin, instead of loving them, you aren’t saved. In other words, if you don’t show evidence of right-behaviour to your right-believing, or sanctification as proof of your justification, eternal life isn’t yours to claim, as the only way to prove true faith is works (of love).
The Apostle John believes that works of love (sanctification) are the evidence of saving faith (justification). Though our works do not have merit and can’t earn salvation, they do validate whether or not one’s faith is authentic. If there are no works, it means that the faith that one claims to possess is false.
John and James speak with the same voice. John in 1 John 3:14,17 is echoing what James writes in James 2:15-17:
1 John 3:14,17 NIV
14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
James 2:15-17 NASB
15 “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
The point that both John and James are making is that if one doesn’t show works of love (sanctification) to their brothers or sisters, he remains in death (no justification). For John, God’s love is not in him, and for James, his faith is dead. Both are making the same point that if there is no proof of sanctification, there is no justification to speak about. Hence, sanctification in your right-behaviour is necessary for salvation, and not just justification in your right-believing.
B. 1 John 3:7-10 & 1 John 2:29
Let’s look at the next passage in 1 John 3:7-10:
1 John 3:7-10 NASB
7 “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.”
The salvation doctrine that John states in 1 John 3:7-10, which focusses on the crucial role of sanctification, contradicts that of Joseph Prince. This is because Prince teaches the false doctrine that what saves is only the imputed righteousness of Christ (justification) and that our salvation has nothing to do with practical righteousness or righteous living (sanctification).
As Prince always says in his sermons, “Your state (sanctification) can never affect your standing (justification)”, which is false. This is because both your standing (justification) and your state (sanctification) can affect your salvation as both are essential to saving faith. Just as works cannot be separated from faith in salvation, practical righteousness (sanctification) cannot be separated from imputed righteousness (justification).
Note that John didn’t say in 1 John 3:7 and 10 (NASB),
“the one who possesses the righteousness of God in Christ is righteous,” and “anyone who does not have the righteousness of God in Christ is not of God.”
This is because justification wasn’t the emphasis of John but sanctification is. That is why John says it emphatically in 1 John 3:7 and 10 (NASB) that,
“the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous,” and “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.”
In other words, one who practises righteous living (sanctification) is proof that one has been endowed with the imputed righteousness of Christ (justification). Conversely, one who doesn’t show proof that he is living righteously (lack of sanctification), cannot claim that He is of God and that he has the imputed righteousness of God (no justification). What John has stated in 1 John 3:7 and 10 is so clear that no one can miss that he was highlighting the crucial importance of sanctification for our salvation.
Let’s look at another version (GNT) of the same text in 1 John 3:7 and 10:
1 John 3:7, 10 GNT
7 Let no one deceive you, my children! Whoever does what is right is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. 10 Here is the clear difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: those who do not do what is right or do not love others are not God’s children.
Joseph Prince says it’s wrong for us to do, as everything has already been done by Christ on the cross. Prince is actually saying that since justification (what Christ has done for us on the cross) is all that is necessary for salvation, sanctification (our doing) is totally redundant.
But is that what John teaches? No! John states in 1 John 3:7 and 10 (GNT):
“Whoever does what is right is righteous,” and “those who do not do what is right or do not love others are not God’s children.”
John states the opposite from Prince that we must do and do what is right. Those who do what is right are righteous. Those who don’t do what is right are in trouble as they aren’t righteous nor are they God’s children. Practising righteousness and doing what is right is sanctification, and to John, sanctification is needed as much as justification for saving faith.
John didn’t say if you are justified or have the righteousness of God in Christ, you are righteous, though it’s still true. He says if you don’t practise righteousness or if you don’t do what is right, you are not righteous. So John is preaching, not justification here, but sanctification for salvation.
1 John 2:29 is also dealing with the same issue:
1 John 2:29 NASB
29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness also has been born of Him.
1 John 2:29 NLT
29 Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.
Here, John is saying the same thing that for one’s righteousness (justification) to be genuine, he must practice or exhibit the practical works of righteousness (sanctification) – failing which his righteousness or faith is false. False faith is one that is without works. True faith (justification) can never be one that is without works (sanctification). Good works are never an option but essential for true faith.
“Though we are saved by simple faith, that simple faith must be proven by concrete works.” (George Ong)
“A faith that is without works is just as false as a faith that can be bought by works.” (George Ong)
Here, John says it very clearly that sanctification is needed for salvation:
“everyone who practices righteousness also has been born of Him” (1 Jn 2:29 NASB), or “all who do what is right are God’s children.” (1 Jn 2:29 NLT)
But Antinomianism, of which Joseph Prince represents, teaches differently. They consider that once a person has received Christ by faith into his life (justification) by saying the sinner’s prayer, he is automatically and irreversibly saved, without even bringing sanctification into the salvation equation.
Even though Prince says works (sanctification) will follow after salvation, works will never affect salvation even if one doesn’t show works because of his doctrine that our state (sanctification) can never affect our standing (justification). Prince will just evade this issue by saying that works will follow. But if pressed on what if works don’t follow, he will never say that the person is not saved in the first place.
Joseph Prince cannot now say that if works (sanctification) don’t follow salvation, he is not saved in the first place, because he has already declared the person as permanently and irrevocably saved, once that person has said the sinner’s prayer (justification). This is his ‘justification-only without sanctification’ false doctrine of salvation.
This only goes to prove that in Antinomianism, mental faith (which is equivalent to demon’s faith in James 2:19) is all that is required for salvation as works or sanctification (of holiness and obedience) do not play any part at all in the saving grace theology of Joseph Prince, the Antinomian.
Trusting in a false faith without works in Joseph Prince’s doctrine is just as dangerous and false as trusting our works for saving faith. The biblical way to go is to view our works not as contribution to salvation but as validation of a true and saving faith.
What James teaches in James 2:14-26 about faith without works that cannot save is certainly not a strange theology but an emphasis found in the New Testament. James is on the same page as John on the issue of works (sanctification).
While James teaches that we are justified by works because faith (justification) must be evidenced by works (sanctification), John is even bolder and goes straight to the point to state that if your life has the evidence of sanctification, you are saved. But if your life has no proof of sanctification, you aren’t saved:
“the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;” and “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.” (1 Jn 3:7, 10 NASB)
Why was John so confident and bold about just focusing on sanctification for salvation in 1 John 3:7 and 10 without even bringing justification into the picture? It is because, to him, sanctification is the only concrete way of proving one’s justification.
C. 1 John 2:17
Who says salvation is just about believing and nothing about doing as Joseph Prince has deceived the church with?
1 John 2:17 NIV
17 “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
John says categorically in 1 John 2:17, “whoever does the will of God lives forever.” John contradicts Joseph Prince, as to John, salvation is not just about believing but also about doing (the will of God).
There is this direct co-relation between obedience (doing the will of God, sanctification) and salvation. To John, obedience is essential to salvation, and yet, Joseph Prince has the spiritual dare to spite John, who is an apostle, by branding obedience as legalism.
Here in 1 John 2:17, John is nothing more than echoing what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Therefore, if obedience (sanctification) is not a characteristic of your life (not perfect obedience), it will lead you to nowhere except to hell!
D. 1 John 2:3-4 & 1 John 3:24
Next, for John, the importance of obedience lies in this – that it is only in the obeying of Christ’s commandments (sanctification) can we be certain that we know Him (1 Jn 2:3). How can we be sure that we know God? By saying the sinner’s prayer and by repeating that we are the righteousness of God in Christ as Prince has always advocated (justification)? No! But by keeping His commandments (sanctification)! Obeying God’s commandments (sanctification) is used as the measure of whether we know God:
1 John 2:3 NASB
3 “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
1 John 2:3 NLT
3 “And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.”
In other words, without the evidence of obedience (sanctification), one does not know God. Obedience to God’s commandments is proof that one knows God and the evidence of salvation. For salvation to be genuine, obedience (sanctification) is mandatory. The simple truth is that it is only in the keeping of Christ’s commandments (sanctification) that we can be absolutely sure that we know Him.
According to John, the assurance of salvation does not come by looking to a past event of our conversion the day we say the sinner’s prayer (justification), but by ensuring that our present lifestyle is one of obedience to God’s commandments (sanctification) as revealed in His word:
1 John 3:24 NASB
24 The one who keeps His commandments remains in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He remains in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
1 John 3:24 clearly says that only those who keep God’s commandments (sanctification) remain in Him and He in them. Conversely, those who do not obey God’s commandments (lack of sanctification) do not remain in Him and He does not remain in them.
What’s more serious is that John teaches that a person who claims that he knows God and doesn’t obey God’s commandments is a liar:
1 John 2:4 NIV
4 “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”
1 John 2:4 NLT
4 “If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.”
There is a teaching that John being the Apostle of love, is less upfront than Peter, who could be brash at times. But John could be very forthright too. He tells you straight in your face that any person who claims that he knows God but does not obey His commandments is a liar. Do you know what Jesus said would happen to liars?
Revelation 21:8 NIV
8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
And no liar can inherit the kingdom of God because Jesus Himself says that all liars will be cast into the lake of fire in Revelation 21:8. The fiery lake of burning sulphur is scripture’s description of hell.
Very clearly, without ambiguity, John states that those who claim a relationship with the Lord Jesus but do not obey him are liars bound for hell. We find millions of people in the world today who claim to know Jesus. But do they obey Him and His commandments?
By John’s definition in 1 John 2:4 about what constitutes a liar, Joseph Prince, is indeed, a liar as Prince teaches there are no more laws or commandments to obey for New Covenant people.
If Joseph Prince is a liar because he doesn’t obey God’s commandments, what about the multitudes who blindly follow his teachings? They will go the same way as Prince is heading because Jesus clearly stated in Revelation 21:8 that the final destiny of every liar would be in the lake of fire!
How can Joseph Prince, a liar, who is bound for hell, and one who leads the multitudes to the same godforsaken destiny not be a heretic?
In conclusion, I do hope that readers of this article would begin to realise that John too, besides Jesus and Paul, teaches on the vital importance of sanctification for salvation. Both justification and sanctification are necessary for saving faith. One cannot do without the other. If one is absent, the whole thing falls apart.
But this isn’t the teaching of Joseph Prince, who teaches a ‘justification-only without sanctification’ salvation doctrine. Such a gospel is a half-gospel. A half-gospel is a false gospel that doesn’t save. If Prince preaches a half-gospel and a false gospel that doesn’t save, how can he not be a heretic?
Rev George Ong