Friday, August 14, 2015

Reading Through 1st John

index johnI am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book The Message of John’s Letters: Living in the Love of God, written by David Jackman. My analysis of the letter by 1st John is in black below. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

1st Epistle of John is probably written by John the apostle even though the name of the author is not mentioned in the epistle. There is a great deal of early external evidence (Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian) that the Apostle John wrote the letter. The “we” in the prologue would indicate an apostle or close associate is the author. The style, vocabulary and phrasing of the letter make it likely that the same author wrote this epistle and the Gospel of John.  It was probably written from Ephesus to Christians in the Roman province of Asia in about 85-97 AD (Between the Gospel of John and Revelation), though some scholars propose and early date (60-65 AD) because 2.19 may indicate the church was still dealing with internal Jewish issues, but because of external evidence and the evident references to the Gospel the later date is more likely.

1 John chartThe letter was written to motivate believers to deeper fellowship with Christ and to give them confidence in apostolic doctrine and in the promises of eternal life leading to the practice of love and righteousness. The message of 1st John is "God wants us to have deeper intimate fellowship with Him so that we can experience real LIFE in His Light and His love and then pass it on to others."

The Message is announced in the opening of the letter. Jesus provides the way to deeper fellowship with God and the joy it provides. Jesus is the pattern and the power for us to experience eternal life – growing, deep, intimate relationship with God - as verified by John who experienced Jesus face to face in the flesh. The goal of the message is deeper fellowship with God which leads to deeper fellowship with each other. 1.1-4

Our writer here wants to emphasize that the Christian message is identical with Jesus; it took personal form in a person who could be heard, seen and even touched...Christ is the gospel. The person and the message must be held together. 1 John 1.1-2, 21–22

Let us never forget that the realities to which John testified, and in which our faith is grounded, include the death of our Saviour on the cross, which opens up our pathway to joy. To the extent that we are convinced of the total sufficiency and efficacy of that sacrificial death, we shall know a deep joy which no-one can drain, a full joy which nothing can quench. 1 John 1.3-4, 25

Deeper fellowship happens as we live our daily lives (walk) openly and responsively with God (in the light). To beat the darkness of sin we must admit our sin and expose ourselves to the light of relationship with Christ. We know that we are having intimate relationship with Christ when we are obeying His Word, imitating His life and loving His people. We grow in intimate relationship with God when we realize who we are in Christ and make a daily decision to seek God and reject the world system. We recognize truth and error correctly (walk in truth) as we build our lives around the word of God and listen to His Spirit. Then we will know that we have relationship with the true Jesus. 1.5-2.27

Where Christians are at variance, or separate from one another, it is always true that someone is already walking out of fellowship with Christ. This does not mean that we shall all agree about everything, but that is not the essence of fellowship anyway. It is about loving one another and valuing one another, so that we can agree to differ without severing the ties that bind us to one another as sons and daughters of the light. 1 John 1.6-7, 31

God’s righteous character remains absolute in his world, and deviation from that character, as revealed in God’s law, remains sin. That law is not an arbitrary set of rules designed to restrict and inhibit human life, but the expression of God’s will for human relationships in accordance with his own nature of light and love. 1 John 1.10, 37–38

A true Christian does not make false claims about his perfection, but neither does he become careless and blasé about his behaviour, as though sin did not matter. He recognizes, with gratitude, that when he does sin his case is not hopeless. The very presence of Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, before his Father is enough to guarantee forgiveness and secure restoration. 1 John 2.1, 45

The test of living in the light is growing in love for God. And the ultimate proof of that is not in the heightened emotion of exciting worship (though that may well be an expression of reality) but in the daily, detailed, disciplined obedience by which our characters are being transformed into the image of the God we love. 1 John 2.3-6, 49

The law of God does not inhibit; it enables. In our Western cultures we tend to give ‘law’ the impersonal inflexible connotation of the Roman lex. But the torah of the Old Testament is not an abstract code. It is the personal loving instruction of our omniscient Father, telling his children how to live their lives for maximum fulfilment. From the beginning of God’s revelation the law of love was taught, because the law was an expression of the character and will of its giver, who is love. 1 John 2.7-8, 52

When a group separates itself into an élite, holier-than-thou huddle, claiming a deeper understanding or experience than other gospel people, beware. It will not be long before unbalanced teaching begins to lead its adherents away into undisguised error. Once the central truths of the faith are denied, the appetite for Christian fellowship is lost. 1 John 2.19, 71

Because the Holy Spirit is the divine teacher given to each and every believer, there is no additional secret ‘knowledge’ into which they need a gnostic sect leader to initiate them. The Holy Spirit is the author of the apostolic testimony (our New Testament) which is his great teaching tool. If you have God’s Word in your hand and God’s Spirit in your heart you have everything you need to understand truth and grow in Christ. 1 John 2.26-27, 77-78

Believers must continue and persevere to develop deeper fellowship with Christ. Because of what Jesus did in His 1st coming and what He will do in His 2nd one, we must pursue relationship with Him. Growth in relationship is evidence that we have been born-again. Jesus' sacrificial love, lived out practically in the lives of His people, shows who really belongs to Him. We can know that we belong to God and reassure ourselves when doubting, by trusting God and His promises and seeing His work in our lives. This results in greater confidence and more evidence of God's working in our lives. We develop a deeper relationship with Jesus by having a right relationship to the truth of the Word of God. 2.28-4.6

We need to stop our busy Christian lives from time to time, to assess honestly how much of our activity is an expression of love for the Lord who loves us, and how much comes from being driven along by a desire to impress (which reveals a fundamental insecurity), or by group pressures (which dictate whether or not we ‘belong’). We need to remind ourselves often that it is our love relationship with the Father that matters most, that what we are is far more significant than what we do. Security comes through realizing that our identity as God’s dearly loved children depends not on our activity, but on his electing grace. Our loving Father wants each one of his children to develop to the full his or her unique potential; to be like Jesus. 1 John 3.1-2, 83-84

Fellowship with a sinless Saviour and continuance in our sins (keeping on sinning) are mutually contradictory. No compromise is possible. And the logical conclusion we are to draw is that we cannot expect to be confident on that day when we see Christ, if we are complacent about sin in our lives here and now. 1 John 3.4-6, 89

If hatred ultimately reveals itself in murder, love, taken to its conclusion, reveals itself in sacrifice. Love does not destroy another’s life, whether in thought or deed. Love gives its own life so that another may live. 1 John 3.11-18, 100

When we deal with our condemning heart on the grounds of God’s truth and love—even though it recurs a dozen times a day—we can become sure that the Lord accepts us in spite of all our faults, and that we can therefore come to him in prayer. We do not need to tear. We can come boldly and meet God face to face. We can pour out our hearts to him and be absolutely frank and honest, completely open about our needs and requests. 1 John 3.19-22, 105

John’s concern is with people who are active in the church, with how to distinguish pseudo-prophets from true teachers. We do not try to see into their hearts. That would be as impossible as it is unnecessary. We need to listen to what they say, what they are confessing about Christ, and then to observe who their followers are. 1 John 4.4-6, 116

Finally, believers deepen fellowship with Jesus by letting His love flow through them to others resulting in maturity, confidence, victory and answered prayer. True spiritual power to overcome evil and be what God wants you to be comes from the Holy Spirit inside you. You know you have the Spirit when you are rightly related to God's people (love). True believers have victory over sin and death. We experience this now as we trust, love and obey God. If you have put your trust in Jesus, you can have confidence that you have eternal life because God's testimony about Jesus is certain. The promise of eternal life, answered prayer, victory over sin and death, and intimacy with Christ should lead us to single-minded commitment. 4.7-5.17

God’s love finds its completion by creating in us that same kind of self-giving love as his. It is a love that will send us into the world, as it sent his one and only Son, ‘to give and not to count the cost’... People should be able to look at a Christian fellowship and see the God of love within his people. That is the goal God’s love is working for, and for us to be content with anything less is to deny the gospel. If we know that God really loves us, let us allow that love to flow into and overflow from our lives. 1 John 4.11-12, 123

That sort of intimacy with God is possible only if we rely on his love and live in him. If we would think his thoughts, we must give ourselves to the study of his Word. If we would experience more of his love, we must rely on him more thoroughly. Sometimes we go through trials and testings for that very reason, because the God who loves us wants us to rely on him more completely or to trust him more fully. He allows such experiences to refine and strengthen our trust and to increase our appetite for him, for no-one has less of Christ than he really desires. 1 John 4.16-19, 129.

Faith that does not lead to love is meaningless. Love that is not based on faith is powerless. 1 John 5.1-5, 134.

It is only as we firmly grasp who Jesus really is and what power he has that all the apparent superiority of the hostile forces is put into its true perspective. Only then do we realize that this world and its desires are passing away (2:17) and that what looks so strong and immovable is actually decaying and doomed to destruction. And this faith is not escapism; on the contrary, it is the only ultimate realism. 1 John 5.1-5, 144.

There is no truth apart from God, for truth is grounded in God’s character alone. Truth is not the majority view in the opinion poll. It is not feeling good about something. It is not an emotional encounter. All truth is God’s truth, because only he is the ultimate reality. 1 John 5.6-9, 149

For it is not the magnitude of the sin that prevents its pardon, as though there existed this one sin for which Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient. Rather, it is the attitude and disposition of the sinner that excludes the possibility of forgiveness. 1 John 5.14-17, 164

If we live under Christ’s lordship we must remember that he has commissioned us all to go into the world, not to withdraw from it. Our new attitude is not one of indifference or separation, but one of involvement and compassion, after the model of our Saviour. 1 John 5.19, 170

We have a responsibility to attend to sound teaching, to guard our Christian lives, to have done with false goals, whether spiritual, intellectual or material. The enemy is still false teaching, inspired by the evil one; but Christians can be sure. They can know with certainty that they have eternal life. They can have confidence about the things that matter most. 1 John 5.20-21, 172

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