1 John

Evidence of Truly Living with God

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An Introduction to Courses

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Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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Main Course

The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of 1 John is first to understand the context and situation he is addressing, and then to grasp the essential three arguments he is making. John, the teacher and pastor, writes this letter in the aftermath of a serious schism in the churches that he oversees. The very brief reference in 1 John 2:19 states: ‘they went out from us, but they did not really belong to us’. He writes to describe the essential features of a life that is truly in fellowship with God (1:3). As such, the three key features that he gives serve as “tests and evidences” for discerning the truth and differentiating it from what is false and heretical. The three tests are: first, does the teaching encourage obedience to God’s commands? Second, does it encourage and lead people to love one another? Third, does it teach that Jesus is the fully human and divine Christ, the Son of God?


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above for an audio version of 1 John.

 

Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, or travelling in the car.


Read
Read

One of the foundational values and principles of Bible for Life is to encourage every disciple of Jesus who is engaging with a Bible book to read it through every day for a month (in preparation for the pod session).

 

It takes about 20 minutes to read straight through 1 John.

 

Because people usually find it difficult to follow the argument of this letter, I suggest that readers first familiarise themselves with John’s structure, as outlined in the Starter Course. In one sense, the letter is like the theme and variations of a symphony with three main themes continually being expressed in different ways.


Watch
Watch

There are times when studying the opposite has the effect of putting a subject into focus. The four part TV docudrama The State, which describes the lifestyle of ISIS in Syria, is an example of attempting to establish the idea of perfect religious community through severe religious law. As such, it runs violently against almost everything 1 John teaches.


Study
Study

No one would ever say the letter of 1 John is easy to understand. This is mainly because of the author’s literary approach, which is to keep referring to but then moving on and around his main themes and points.

 

Here are some strategies to help you get to the heart of this letter.

 

1) Keep reading and re-reading the text of this letter. Make your own notes on the structure and the development of the sub-arguments.

 

2) Identify the author’s key words (love, Spirit, command, world, life, etc), then focus on each one and see how each concept is developed and explained as the letter develops.

 

3) Explore how the author develops each of his three tests for orthodoxy (obeying the Father’s commands, loving one another, and believing in Jesus the Son of God) throughout the five chapters.

 

4) Use the ‘verse by verse’ material in the Main Course to understand and grasp the main argument and meaning of each section.

 

5) Study the way John uses phrases such as ‘We know that …’ to summarise his main points.

 

 


Meditate
Meditate

1 John is a gloriously rich book to mediate on. Begin your time with God each day by taking three or four verses, ‘wallowing in them very deeply’, and then live the rest of the day in the light of their truths.

 

Suggested verses for meditation

 

 

1:8-9   If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.’

 

2:15-17   ‘Do not love the world, or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.’

 

3:23   And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.’

 

4:9-10   ‘This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’

 

5:5   ‘Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.’

 

5:11-13   ‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.’

 

5:20   ‘We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so we may know him who is true – even his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

 


learn
Learn

Consider learning:

 

3:1   ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason that the world did not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’

 

3:23   ‘And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.’

 

4:16-21   ‘And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.’

 

5:11-15   ‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; and he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.’

 


Challenge
The Challenge

Explanation:  We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that being challenged spurs them on to master a subject.

 

Here are ten questions about ‘1 John’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

 

Easy:

Q1   What are the two headline definitions of God in 1 John?

Q2   How many of the original twelve apostles were alive when John wrote this letter?

Q3   What dramatic event has recently happened in the churches that John oversees?

 

Straightforward:

Q4   Throughout the letter, John writes in a ‘dualistic’ way making strong contrasts between two opposites; name three of them.

Q5   What is John’s stated purpose for writing this letter?

Q6   What is the doctrinal heresy that John is correcting?

 

 

Difficult:

Q7   What are the three leading features that John states are evidence of genuine Christian faith?

Q8   List three features of the life lived in fellowship with God.

 

 

Testing:

Q9   What work does John say the Holy Spirit does in a believer’s life?

Q10   What is the ‘sin that leads to death’ in 5:16?

 

 

Answers:

A1 – God is light (1:5); God is love (4:16).

A2 – Only John.

A3 – Some people have left the churches (2:19) and are trying to encourage others from the churches to join them (2:26, 3:7). John describes them as ‘false prophets’ (4:1).

A4 – Light/darkness; love/hate; Christ/antichrist; righteous/sinful; truth/falsehood; God/the Devil.

A5 –13 times in the letter John uses a phrase such as ‘I write to you …’, but arguably 5:13 is the summary reason: ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.’

A6 – John writes to correct the heresy that Jesus only appeared to come in the flesh – that he was not fully human (1:1-2 and 4:2-3). 

A7 – 1) Obeying God’s commands; 2) loving one another; and 3) believing in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

A8 – 1) The anointing of the Holy Spirit (2:20, 2:27, 3:24-4:6, 4:13-16, 5:6-8); 2) eternal life (1:2, 2:25, 5:11-13, 5:20); and 3) answers to prayer (3:21-22, 5:14-16).

A9 – The Holy Spirit 1) anoints us and remains in believers (2:20, 2:24); 2) leads us into the truth (2:20, 2:27, 5:6); 3) reveals to us that Jesus has come in the flesh (4:2); and 4) causes us to listen to those who bring the truth (4:6).

A10 – Although Jesus said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven (see the verse by verse notes in the Main Course), John seems here to have in view those ‘false prophets’ who are leading the schismatic apostates. Their denial of Jesus’ humanity and probable denial of his messiahship resulted in the corollary that they are denying the seriousness of sin and encouraging their people to play down the importance of the command to love one another.  This may have meant that in John’s view, they were now set to empathically reject Jesus and his atoning work. John might be indicating that this is in effect blasphemy against the Spirit.

 

Maps

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Book-in-a-Picture - The message and key features in a picture
    • Book-in-a-Picture
    • /
    • Challenges for the Early Church
    Challenges for the Early Church >
      Video - The book explained in 4 minutes
    • Video
      Summary - All the key features in a one page summary
    • Summary

    Summary and Exhortation

     

    The first letter of John was probably written from Ephesus in the mid CE80s. In the aftermath of a serious schism in the churches (2:19) he oversaw, John, the last remaining original apostle, wrote to both teach the features of the true Christian faith, and to give the young Christians pastoral help and guidance so they did not also go astray. The ‘false prophets’ leading the apostate movement seemed to be claiming a special anointing, denying that Jesus was fully human and as a result ‘watering down’ his atoning work, and downplaying the need to obey God and love each other.

     

    John teaches that true, genuine Christianity is evidenced by three features: obedience to God’s commands, specific obedience to the command to ‘love one another’ (3:11, and John 13:34), and belief in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. John the ever-caring pastor does not intend simply to tutor minds: he also writes to affirm the confused and hurting church members that they already have the anointing of the Spirit, and new birth as ‘children of God’ (3:1), and that as believers they have ‘eternal life’ (1:2) now. John both clarifies the features of true, genuine faith, and also points out the doctrinal heresies of the schematic apostates. John strongly emphasises the uniqueness of Christ and his atoning work: ‘He is the true God and eternal life’ (5:20).

     

    John’s style of writing is not easy to follow, with the result that it is hard to find two exegetes who see the same structure to the letter. Using several dualistic contrasts such as light and darkness, hatred and love, he chooses to move freely around his three leading points as he develops, comments, interweaves and builds on each of them. The letter has the features of being straightforward and profoundly deep.

     

    1 John is therefore about discerning and distinguishing between what is genuine, true Christianity and what is actually false, and as such it provides a way of assessing different spiritual phenomena and movements within the full diversity of Christianity throughout the different cultures of the world and throughout 2,000 years of history. Does a particular work or expression of church uphold both the divinity and humanity of Christ? Does it lead its followers into obedience to the commands of scripture, and do they obey the command to love (agape) each other?

    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    In a recent televised interview, Richard Branson the entrepreneurial founder of Virgin was asked how he wanted the public to judge him and his life. He immediately replied, ‘Judge me by my children’. John is making a similar point in 1 John 3:7-10: ‘Who (and what) are your children?’


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    Question 2 -

    If our love for God is evidenced by actions and not words (1 John 3:17-18), can a church justify spending millions on improving their church facilities in the light of this statement about world starvation from Unicef: 'Reducing poverty starts with children. More than 30 per cent of children in developing countries – about 600 million – live on less than US $1 a day. Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5’?


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    Question 3 -

    ‘I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray’ (2:26). Who is trying to lead you astray?


    starter course

    podcasts

    the essentials

    Structure and Argument

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    The Problem, the Context and the Answer

    The Father's Family

    The Evidences of Obedience and Love

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    Author:

    Although recent scholarship attributes this letter to a late first century author, this idea must be strongly challenged on the basis of the opening verses that repeatedly state that the author is testifying and proclaiming that he, and those with him at the time, had seen and heard and touched Jesus Christ’s physical body. This emphatic claim cannot be lightly dismissed in a letter that repeatedly claims to be challenging serious heresy by stating the truth! In addition, in stating that he and those with him lived with ‘the Word of life’ (1:1), the author is claiming apostolic authority. We should therefore view the author as the apostle John. The strong literary similarity in content, themes, style and context indicate that 1 John, 2 John and 3 John have a common author. These first features are also in evidence in the Gospel of John.

     

    Date:

    It is not possible to date this letter with any certainty, but once we accept that the apostle John lived a long life (as John 21:23 implies), and that he lived the latter part of it in Ephesus (as the literary evidence from the second century affirms), then any date between AD70-90 or perhaps even later is possible.

     

    Circumstances:

    As with all scripture, the author and recipient’s circumstances and context exert a defining influence on the meaning of the text. John’s statement in 2:19 that ‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us …’ is the only absolutely clear circumstantial reference, although it is supported by two references to the apostates’ continuing influence on those John is pastoring: ‘I am writing these things to you about those that are trying to lead you astray’ (2:26), and ‘do not let anyone lead you astray’ (3:7). Since John’s focus is on the evidence of genuine belief in Jesus, we cannot be sure exactly what the apostates, or ‘false prophets’ (4:1), were teaching, except that they seem to:

    1) Deny that Jesus was fully human (1:1-2, 4:2, 2 John 7-9)

    2) Allow in some way disobedience to God’s commands, specifically the command to ‘love one another’ (2:3-11). This heresy could be considered to be incipient Gnosticism, or Docetism. John is speaking into the confusion in order first to teach the evidence of genuine Christian faith, and second to pastor and strengthen the hurting and confused believers.

    Although this is not essential to the message, interpretation and application of this letter, the traditional assumption that John wrote from Ephesus to the surrounding churches in Asia Minor (West Turkey) is a perfectly viable context. The apostle John is therefore writing a theological and pastoral letter to counter the effect of widespread heresy among the people in the churches he oversees throughout the region now called ‘Western Turkey’.

    Genre:

     

    The document entitled ‘the first letter of John’ is a general letter, despite the fact that neither the author’s nor the recipient’s names are mentioned. The argument of the letter is developed by the author’s continual circular movement around three main points. Throughout the five chapters he returns to his main points, building on them, developing them, clarifying them from different perspectives and, at times, restating them.

    John writes with a distinctive style:

    1. He often clarifies the meaning of a statement by following it with a denial of its opposite (for example 2:9-10, 3:7-8a, 4:4-5, 4:7-8).
    2. He frequently employs contrasts: light/darkness, righteous/unrighteous, love/hate, life/death, liar/truth.
    3. He uses ‘favourite’ phrases such as ‘We know …’, ‘This is how we know …’, ‘Dear friends …’, ‘Dear children …’, ‘I write to you …’.

    Structure:

     

    Part 1   1:1 – 2:27   Introduction

    Foundational issues (1:1 – 2:2)

    The evidence of obedience and love (2:3 – 2:11)

    Encouragements and warnings (2:12-17)

    The context (2:18-27)

     

    Part 2   2:28 – 4:6   The Three Evidences of the Genuine

    Test 1: obedience, righteousness and parentage (2:28 – 3:10)

    Test 2: love (3:11 – 18)

    Summary assurance (3:19 – 24)

    Test 3: doctrine (4:1 – 4:6)

     

    Part 3   4:7 – 5:21   Application Section

    Exhortation to ‘love’ and ‘faith’ (4:7 – 5:5)

    The witnesses (5:6 – 10)

    Summary assurances (5:11 – 5:21)

    Themes:

     

    John writes as teacher and pastor to address the damage caused by a schism that has left the church throughout the region fractured, confused and hurting. As a teacher, he writes to those he oversees to teach them three leading criteria by which they can test whether what they hear, see and encounter is genuine orthodox Christianity. As a pastor, he writes to encourage, love and strengthen the church, not only assuring them that their faith is orthodox, but assuring those of ‘[you] who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’ (5:13).

    1. The first test of orthodoxy is that we obey his commands (2:3-6). John develops this in 3:4-10.
    2. The second test and evidence of genuine Christianity is that we love one another (2:7-11, 3:11-20, 4:7-12, 4:16-21).
    3. The third means of discerning what is false and what it true is the doctrinal Christological affirmation that ‘Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’ (4:2). This is asserted in 1:1-4 and enlarged in terms of Trinitarian theology in 2:22, 4:9-10, 4:13-15, 5:1-5, 5:6.

    Sub-themes:

    1. The ‘anointing of the Spirit who leads us into truth‘ (2:20-21), and testifies to Jesus (4:2, 5:6).
    2. Eternal life is only found through believing in, and walking in the light of, Jesus Christ the Son of God.
    3. Everything that is not orientated around belief in Jesus Christ the Son of God and lived out in obedience to his command to love one another is actually, in the final analysis, walking in darkness and sin. It is pursuit of what the world loves and is ultimately motivated by the devil.

     

    Literary Genre >
      Structure and Argument -

    Structure and argument:

     

    Discerning a clear structure to the first letter of John is not easy. Indeed, while there is widespread agreement on the points John is communicating, it is almost impossible to find two exegetes who completely agree on the structure of the letter. This is because, although the three tests and evidences that he gives for genuine Christian faith are essentially straightforward, John makes his argument by continuously circling around to and from his different points.

     

    John writes as both teacher and pastor. As a teacher, his message is exceptionally severe; he is adjudicating into a highly charged and sensitive situation on one of the most sensitive of all subjects: who is a genuine Christian, and who is not. But as a deeply loving pastor, his profound care and love for those in his ‘pastorate’ keeps breaking through in his writing. The result is that the flow of the letter is not always clear.

     

    Nevertheless, a helpful structure can be outlined as follows:

     

    Part 1   1:1 – 2:27   Introduction

    Preliminary issues, encouragements, warnings and context.

     

    Part 2   2:28 – 4:6   Main Argument: The Three Evidences of the Genuine

    The three main evidences of the true life lived in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

     

    Part 3   4:7 – 5:21   Application Section

    Exhortation to ‘love’ and ‘faith’, witnesses and summary assurances.

     

    The argument through these three sections can be elaborated as follows:

     

    Part 1   1:1 – 2:27   Introduction

    Preliminary issues, encouragements, warnings and context.

    John the pastor is writing into a sensitive and charged situation in order to clarify for many who are bewildered and confused how they can discern genuine Christianity from what is false. He builds his argument as follows …

     

    First he begins in 1:1-4 by affirming the physicality of Jesus’ human body, which appears to be the theological problem at the root of the doctrinal difficulty that has led to the schism (2:19). He will return to this in 4:1-3. This introduction also endorses John’s apostolic authority and thereby his right to adjudicate.

     

    John’s second foundational point is to delineate the pure righteousness of God in contrast to the universal sin of humanity (1:5 – 2:2). But God has himself provided an atoning sacrifice through the blood of his Son Jesus Christ, and anyone who confesses their sins will be restored back to fellowship in God’s pure light.

     

    John then introduces the first two leading evidences of ‘walking in the light’ with God: these are that we obey his commands and we love one another (2:3 – 2:11).

     

    John will develop these leading points in the main section of the letter, but at this point (2:12 – 14), his pastoral heart bursts out in six carefully constructed encouragements to assure the genuine believers that they are indeed walking in the light.

     

    These encouragements are followed by three pastoral warnings (2:15 – 17) that identify the leading motivations underlying humanity’s love for the world.

     

    John completes his introduction by outlining the serious context into which he is writing (2:18 – 27). A schism has occurred and is dividing the church in the region, as the apostates who ‘den[y] that Jesus is the Christ’ (2:22) are trying ‘to lead [the genuine believers] astray’ (2:26). John uses this contextual summary to clarify orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, emphasising the anointing of the Spirit who teaches and leads believers into the truth.

     

     

    Part 2   2:28 – 4:6   Main Argument: The Three Evidences of the Genuine

    The Three main evidences of the true life lived with in fellowship with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ.

    John now describes three defining tests for discerning genuine, true Christianity. Towards the end of each of the three main sections, John writes a summarising statement; ‘This is how we know …’

     

    The first evidence of genuine Christianity is a righteous life lived obeying God’s commands (2:28 – 3:10). Such obedience proves that the person is a ‘child of God’ (3:1,10), while in contrast, a sinful life disobeying God’s commands is evidence that the person is a ‘child of the devil’ (3:10). This is because ‘no one who lives in him keeps on sinning’ (3:6, also 3:9), indeed, ‘he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God’ (3:9).

     

    The second evidence of genuine Christianity (3:11 – 3:18) is that a person actively loves other people in the way that ‘Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ (3:16).

     

    John then (typically) pauses to summarise his argument and encourage those who obey God’s command to ‘love one another’ and ‘believe in the name of the Son of God’ (3:23), that despite what they may consider to be their own feeble efforts, they should not live under condemnation, and they will receive what they ask from God (3:19 – 24).

     

    The third evidence that a person is a genuine Christian (4:1 – 7) and has ‘the Spirit of God’ is that they acknowledge that ‘Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’ (4:2). Those who have the ‘Spirit of truth’ will ‘listen to us’ (4:6).

     

    Part 3   4:7 – 5:21   Application Section

    Exhortation to ‘love’ and ‘faith’, the witnesses and a summary exhortation.

    Having outlined the three leading tests of genuine, true Christianity, John now gives a long summary exhortation that we should love one another in the way that God has shown us his love through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The letter ends with the testimony of witnesses, and summary assurances of the true believer’s spiritual position.

     

    John begins his conclusion to the letter with a long exhortation (4:7 – 5:5) urging the true believers to actively love one another, following the example of the love of God himself in his Son’s atoning sacrifice. In this exhortation, John refers to each of the three main evidences of genuine Christianity.

     

    John’s final argument (5:6 – 12) is that the Spirit of God himself testifies to the Son of God. This is what differentiates the ‘water’ message of the apostates, from the ‘water and blood’ message of God himself. Those who have the Son of God are already participating in the life of God that will last forever and ever.

     

    Finally, John ends his letter (5:13 – 21) with a series of assurances describing the spiritual position of those who believe in the name of the Son of God: they have eternal life, their prayers will be answered (including their prayers for each other to live in greater obedience to God), the devil can never take them away from God, and they know the true God.

     

     

    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    ISIS adopted as part of its ideological core a document entitled 'The Management of Savagery: the Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass'. It promotes the necessity of absolute mercilessness and savagery in the creation of a pure Islamic State. The document was also adopted by Al-Qaeda in Iraq. It advocates and sanctions pure terror and ultra-violence. Its author, Abu Bakr Naji, wrote: ‘Despite the blood, corpses and limbs which encompass it and the killing and fighting which its practice entails', jihad is God’s 'greatest mercy to man' and 'slaughter is mercy'. List the contrasts between this document and the philosophy and the message of 1 John. http://www.rudaw.net/english/analysis/21022015


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    Question 2 -

    When was the last time that you participated in worship which began with the corporate confession of sin, followed by absolution (1:8-10)?


    Question 3 -

    If you were asked by your denomination to be one of the selectors choosing people to train for church leadership, in the light of 1 John, what features would you look for in the candidates you met and interviewed?


    Question 4 -

    Is it fair to state that, if we are honest, we can all recognise that deep within the heart of the nature of humankind there is a reaction against those people who believe in God’s truth and who make a serious effort to live their lives in the light of it?


    Question 5 -

    ‘Sin’ is a word that is almost unheard of outside the church today. Bible scholar Karen Jobes writes: 'The claim that there is a God and that violation of his moral standard is sin invites harsh social disapproval in a culture that no longer believes in absolute truth and sees any such claim as a wrongful and arrogant assertion of power'. Can you think of places where the word ‘sin’ is used today? https://relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/26172-why-doesnt-anybody-talk-about-sin-anymore


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    Question 6 -

    Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims and Mormons are among a number of religions that deny that Jesus is the Son of God. In 1 John 5:13, John states that his purpose in writing this letter is to assure those who believe in Jesus the Son of God that they have ‘eternal life’ (notice the similarity with his Gospel – John 20:31). Why is the assurance of eternal life directly linked to Jesus’ divinity? Have you ever spoken with members of these religions about these things? What is their experience of the Holy Spirit?


    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • 1:1 to 2:27
    • /
    • 2:28 to 4:6
    • /
    • 4:7 to 5:21

    Part 1   1:1 – 2:27   Introduction

     

    Argument – Foundation 1 – The Incarnation: John begins in 1:1-4 by affirming the physicality of Jesus’ human body, which appears to be the theological problem at the root of the doctrinal difficulty that has led to the schism (2:19). He will return to this in 4:1-3. This introduction also endorses John’s apostolic authority and thereby his right to adjudicate.

     

    Comment on 1:1-4   The physicality of Jesus’ humanity

    John begins with the incarnation of Jesus by describing with great care and repetition the physicality of Jesus’ body. He, along with those with him, have heard him, seen him, looked at him, and ‘our hands have touched him’ (1:1). This implies that John is referring to Jesus’ ‘physical body’ after the resurrection (John 20:20,25; 21:13 etc). Three times he uses the word ‘proclaim’ to describe how he and those with him now actively testify to the appearance of the one who was from the beginning with the Father. This is all in order that others, and specifically the reader, may have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. The whole letter is written for this purpose (v3). John writes all this not only to introduce the letter, but to counteract the heresy (which he will articulate in 4:2) that Jesus Christ only seemed to come in the flesh from the very first words of the letter. This heresy is incipient Gnosticism – a belief system which taught that Jesus was fully divine but only appeared to be a human being. John is also asserting his ‘apostolic’ credentials. He is one of those who was with Jesus throughout Jesus’ ministry, and was specifically given apostolic authority by Jesus both to testify to the truth about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and to invite those who read and hear to join the fellowship of those who believe and live in fellowship with him. John has every right and duty to adjudicate on the serious theological, doctrinal and pastoral issues dividing the church.

    V1-3 The writer begins by dramatically claiming in his opening words to have personally seen, heard, touched and lived with Jesus himself! These sentences are therefore strong evidence that the writer is John, or at least one of Jesus’ first disciples. Those who think otherwise must provide a convincing explanation why this forceful appeal to truth is itself a blatant white lie!

    V2 From the letter’s very beginning, and throughout, John is unequivocal that Jesus, and Jesus only, is ‘the life’, that is, the eternal life (5:20). The apostates may have been claiming that they were the ones with eternal life, a life that the original church members did not have.

    V3 The entire purpose of the letter is to ensure that the reader has fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ; this is the true and living way.

    V4 John begins all his letters by speaking about the joy of walking in the truth (2 John 4, 3 John 3).

     

     

    Argument – Foundation 2 – The Atonement: John’s second foundational point is to delineate the pure righteousness of God in contrast to the universal sin of humanity (1:5 – 2:2). God has himself provided an atoning sacrifice through the blood of his Son Jesus Christ and all who confess their sins will be restored back to fellowship in God’s pure light.

     

    Comment on 1:5–2:2   Our sin and the remedy of God’s atoning sacrifice

    Having described the humanity and incarnation of Jesus, John now addresses humanity’s involvement with sin around three statements before describing God’s remedy for all sin through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.

    1) The denial that sin breaks fellowship with God (v6): disobeying God breaks fellowship with God, but living (walking) in obedience to him brings fellowship with one another as the atoning blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin.

    2) The denial that sin exists within us (v8): the second result of denying sin within us is ‘self-deception’ – if you are deceived, by definition you do not know you are deceived. The remedy is to ‘confess our sins’ (v9) and then, once again on the basis of his character and atoning work, ‘he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (v9).

    3) The denial that we have sinned (v10). Thirdly, if we deny any past involvement with sin we demonstrate, despite whatever we may claim, that our lives are not built on his teaching.

    Summary: Our sin and God’s remedy: John now summarises our “relationship” with sin, and how sin should be dealt with, by stating that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for all sin – not only our sin, but the sin of the whole world. It is God, and not humanity, that defines the criteria for being in fellowship with him, described as ‘walking in the light‘ (1:7). Sin, which John will define in 3:4 and 5:17, is described more generally here as broken fellowship with God, which is ‘walking in darkness’ (v6) – being blind and unaware that it is possible to have an altogether different existence with God.

    These verses are absolutely clear: we have all sinned, and we all need to confess our sins and repent. This needs to happen in two ways. First, and most importantly, at conversion. But an ongoing pattern, the ‘Holy Habit’ of confession, restores our fellowship with God. So it is a serious concern that many parts of the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches do not practice corporate confession and absolution at the beginning of corporate worship.

     

     

    Argument – Evidence of Obedience and Love: John then introduces the first two leading evidences of ‘walking in the light’ (1:7) with God.  These are that we obey his commands and that we love one another (2:3 – 2:11).

     

    Comment on 2:3-6   The primary evidence that we are in the truth is that we obey God’s commands

    Just as Jesus himself obeyed his Father in all things, so our faith is demonstrated to be genuine when we also obey God’s commands. True fellowship with the Father, through the Son, is based first on the confession of sin (1:5 – 2:2), and second on living in obedience to the Father’s commands.

     

    Comment on 2:7-11   The second evidence that we are genuine believers, or are ‘walking in the light’, is that we love one another

    The ‘old‘ command (v7) is that we love one another (John 13:34-35): ‘by this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another’. This love is not a feeling or a passion, it is a decision to do and work for the best for the other person regardless of the cost to ourselves. To hate someone is to plunge yourself into darkness (v11) like the unforgiving steward, a parable that proceeds to the point where hatred has placed both servants in a dungeon of darkness (Matthew 18:35). To decide to hate is to decide to become blind; it is to cloud yourself so that not only can you not see the light, but you deceive yourself into thinking that light does not even exist. To decide not to hate and to forgive the one who has damaged you is to disallow them the power of subjecting you to their dominion. To forgive them is to free yourself. The Roman and Jewish leaders who killed Jesus were unable to control him, because he, the light of the world, forgave them and thereby publicly exhibited a superior ability and existence. This is the victory he gives us, through which we ‘reign with him’ (Romans 5:17) and become ‘more than conquerors’ (Romans 8:37).

     

     

    Argument – Encouragements and Warnings: John will develop these two leading points of 2:3-11 in the main section of the letter, but at this point (2:12 – 14), his pastoral heart bursts out in six carefully constructed encouragements to assure the genuine believers that they are indeed walking in the light. These encouragements are followed by three pastoral warnings (2:15 – 17) that identify the leading motivations underlying humanity’s love for the world.

     

    Comment on 2:12-14   Specific encouragements for the church

    We understand the flow of John’s argument when we remember that he is writing as both teacher and pastor. As teacher he will begin to expound the third evidence of genuine faith in 2:18, but before he does so he pauses to express his own love and encouragement for those he oversees with two strong pastoral exhortations. He first encourages the different generations in the church, before then warning them all against the three areas of temptation (v15-16). V12-14 form a carefully constructed series of encouragements in which the children, the (grand?) parents and then the young adults are each encouraged by John. His message to them can be broadly stated that they are succeeding in the very exhortations and tests that he has given and warned about up to this point in his letter (1:1-2:11). In the context of all his strongly worded absolutes, John writes these verses to assure all his ‘dear children’ (2:12, 2:14) that they are doing well, their sins are forgiven, they have overcome the evil one, and they do know the Father. They are living in the light and in the true ‘fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1:3).

     

    Comment on 2:15-16   Specific warnings for the church

    In 2:7-11, John has reminded the church that love for one another is one of the leading features and evidences of the true life lived in the light, so now he warns that we are not to ‘love the world or anything in the world’ (v15).He lists three categories: the lust (undisciplined sexual desires) of the sinful nature, the ‘lust of the eyes’ (the covetous, avaricious desires for wealth and possessions), and ‘boasting of what he has and does’, the pride of life (v16). John is looking deeper than the actions themselves to the motivations that cause our actions. These are the leading sinful characteristics of the world, and because they are contradictory to the Father’s pure light, motivation and character, they ultimately cannot last, they are ‘passing away’ with the world. In contrast, a life motivated by love for God through his Son will last forever, and John will later describe this as the ‘eternal life’. Jobes comments ‘It is only by allowing God to assume his rightful place in our lives as the sovereign Lord that we can rightfully satisfy physical needs, enjoy material blessings, and have true security to live comfortable and tranquil lives.’

    V17 This is the first specific command of the letter.

     

     

     

    Argument – The Letter’s Context and Foundation 3 – The Divinity of Christ: John completes his introduction by outlining the seriousness of the situation into which he is writing (2:18 – 27). A schism has, and is, dividing the church in the region as the apostates who deny that Jesus is the Christ are trying to lead the genuine believers astray. John uses this contextual summary to clarify orthodox Trinitarian doctrine emphasising the anointing of the Spirit who teaches and leads believers into the truth.

     

    Comment on 2:18-27   The letter’s context and the doctrinal test of Trinitarian faith

    In this section, John brings the first part of the letter to an interim summary by stating his reason for writing – the context of the letter – which is the mass desertion from the early church of a group of people who not only deny ‘that Jesus is the Christ’ (v22), and are now trying to lead other ‘orthodox’ believers ‘astray’ (v26). John will elucidate this heresy in greater detail in 4:2, and 5:1,5, but at this stage he simply introduces it as the reason for the desertion. The section is therefore the third leading test for orthodoxy, following the first evidence of ‘obeying’ (2:3-6), and the second evidence of ‘love’ (2:7-11). The section is specifically Trinitarian, with the Holy Spirit carefully described as an anointing that teaches the church truth. After affirming this doctrinal litmus test in 2:20-23, John then adds two essential ways for believers to remain orthodox: first, to hold onto the truth of the gospel that they were taught and they accepted when they first believed (v24-25), and second, to trust the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

    V18 John’s use of the term ‘antichrist’ must not be confused by Jesus’ different use of the term in Mark 13, or Paul’s use in 2 Thessalonians 2. John’s own definition in v24 is everyone ‘who denies that Jesus is the Christ’ (4:2). He directly links the emerging ‘antichrists’ with ‘the last hour’. Again, John has his own particular use of the words ‘hour’ and ‘day’ (see John 4:21 in the ESV translation), but here he seems to be alerting and reminding his pastorate that the emergence of these ‘anti-Christ’ teachers is in itself evidence that Christ has initiated the era of his Kingdom.

    V20 In choosing to use the word ‘anointing’ alongside the words ‘Holy’, and ‘truth’, John is directly referring to the Holy Spirit, ‘the Spirit of Truth’ (John 15:26, 16:13) who proceeds from the Father and testifies to Jesus (John 15:27). John is therefore stating that the third evidence of orthodoxy is Trinitarian doctrine.

    V22-23 John articulates the essence of all Christology: that Jesus is the Christ. John will develop this third essential text of orthodoxy in 4:1-3. He is stating that the teaching of the apostates is not only wrong, it is actually a ‘lie’ and therefore completely unacceptable!

    V26 Those who have left the church (v19) are now seeking to lead astray those who are holding onto the orthodox truths (see 3:7). Besides holding fast to the gospel (v24-25, and see Paul’s emphatic summary in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5), believers will be able to maintain and remain orthodox and in true ‘fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ by holding onto and following the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit (v26-27).

    V27 In the context of v18-27, John is stating that the orthodox believers do not need to listen to any ‘special teaching’ from those who have left the church (v19), that is, from teachers who are actually false teachers, or to use John’s stated terminology, ‘antichrists’ (v22).

     

     

    Part 2   2:28 – 4:6   Main Argument: The Three Evidences of the Genuine

    The Three main evidences of the true life lived in fellowship with the Father.  John now describes three defining tests for discerning genuine true Christianity. Around the end of each of the three main sections John writes a summarising statement, ‘This is how we know …’

     

    Argument – Test 1 – Obedience, righteousness and parentage: The first evidence of the true life lived in fellowship with God, who ‘is light’ (1:5), is a righteous life lived obeying God’s commands (2:28 – 3:10). Such obedience proves that the person is a ‘child of God’, while in contrast the lives of the ‘children of the devil’ (3:10) are characterised by disobedience to God’s commands. The essential truth is that ‘no one who lives in him keeps on sinning’ (3:6), indeed, ‘he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God’ (3:9).

     

    Comment on 2:28-3:10   The First evidence of living in fellowship with the Father

    From 2:28 to 3:10, John expounds the first main feature of the true life lived in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, which is that we obey his commands. John begins with a strong affirmation that those who do obey his commands are God’s children now (3:1-3). He then argues that a person’s behaviour demonstrates their parentage: ‘he who does what is right is righteous’ (3:7), and this is ‘how we know who the children of God are and who are the children of the devil’ (3:10). John’s essential point is that ‘no one who is born of God will continue to sin’ (3:9). He is not expecting us to be faultless for the rest of our lives, he is saying that the essential motivation of our lives is ontologically different (Paul teaches this in Romans 8:5-17). In contrast to the uncontrolled, chaotic, lawless nature of sin, everyone ‘born of God’ (3:9) will increasingly live in conformity to his commands. If I repeatedly hurt my wife by continuing to wilfully damage her over a long period of time, then despite whatever I may say to the contrary, the evidence is that I neither love her, nor do I treasure her welfare and best interests.

    V7  Since John is writing to explain the schism that has and is taking place across the churches he oversees, we should understand that he has in view those he mentioned in 2:19 who have left, those who ‘went out from us’ (2:19). In v7-8, John is making the point similar to James 2:14-26 that our proof of parentage is demonstrated not by what we say, but by the hard evidence of what we do!

     

     

     

    Argument – Test 2 – Love: The second evidence of living the true life in fellowship with the Father is that a person actively loves other people (3:11 – 3:18), in the way that ‘Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ (3:16). 

     

    Comment on 3:11-18   Love for others is the second evidence of the true life lived in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ

    John now develops the second evidence (see 2:7-11) of the true life of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. This is that ‘we should love one another’ (v11), and it flows very naturally from the ‘first evidence’ of obedience to his commands, precisely because his command is that we love one another! The section falls into two parts: in the first (v11-15), he emphasises the imperative to love one another by contrasting it with the hatred and evil motivation that drove Cain to murder his brother (v12). When we love others and ‘lay down our lives’ for them in the way that ‘Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ (v16), we demonstrate to heaven and earth that ‘we have passed from death to life’ (v14). John adds that this is the ‘eternal life’ (v15). This love must be lived out in practical action, providing for those in need – especially believers in need (Galatians 6:9-10). The short section ends with John using his chosen formula to summarise his point: ‘This then is how we know that we belong to the truth’ (v19).

    V16 This relates directly to Jesus’ teaching in John 15:13: ‘Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.’ Paul’s specific imperative for husbands is that lay down their lives for their wives (Ephesians 5:25-28).

     

     

     

    Argument – Summary assurance: John then pauses to summarise his argument and encourage those who obey God’s command to ‘love one another’  and ‘believe in the name of the Son of God’ (v23), that despite what they may consider to be their own feeble efforts, they should not live under condemnation, and they will receive what they ask from God (3:19 – 24).

     

    Comment on 3:19-24   Summary assurances and encouragements

    John now summarises the first two main parts of his argument that he has been teaching since 2:28. ‘This then is how we know that we belong to the truth’ – a life of obedience to the Lord’s command to love one another is the righteous life (2:28-3:10), and genuine Christianity is evidenced by actively obeying the Lord’s command and example to love one another (3:11-18). These verses hold a deep message of encouragement to the young Christians John is writing to, assuring them that the Spirit of the Father within them understands and knows their fledgling attempts to obey Jesus’ command to love one another, which they may often fear they are failing to do in practice.

    V20 This is one of the greatest assurances of the letter. Our efforts to love others may seem to us weak and even pathetic, but our Heavenly Father knows our hearts and he sees far better than even we can understand that we are trying to learn how to actively love others.

    V21-22  These verses express the beautiful truth that when we live in fellowship with the Father obeying his commands, we can ask him for any type of thing and he will provide it. This is the promise of John 15:7.

    V23 This is the first time that John brings his three leading arguments together in one sentence: belief in Jesus, obeying his commands and love: ‘And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded.’ This leads directly into John’s next assurance to those he loves and pastors, that the presence and dynamic life of the Holy Spirit within us is proof that ‘he lives in us’ (v24).

    V24 The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is evidenced by our belief in Jesus and the desire to love others, in obedience to Jesus’ one command. This is the exact substance of Paul’s leading prayer for all believers in Ephesians 3:16-19.

     

     

     

    Argument – Test 3 – Doctrine: The third evidence (4:1 – 6) that a person is a genuine Christian and has ‘the Spirit of God’ is that they acknowledge that ‘Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’ (v2). Those who have the ‘spirit of truth’ will ‘listen to us’ (v6). 

     

    Comment on 4:1-6   The third evidence that a person is truly living in fellowship with the Father is that they believe the Trinitarian doctrine that ‘Jesus Christ has come in the flesh’

    John has assured us that the Holy Spirit’s presence in us is itself evidence that we are in Christ (3:24). This leads him to return to and develop an axiomatic truth he first introduced in 2:22-23, that the third feature of the true life lived in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ is the doctrinal acknowledgement that ‘Jesus has come in the flesh’ (v2).This is the reason why John opened the letter with a full description of his own encounter with Jesus, describing how he and his friends had heard, seen, touched and lived with Jesus (1:1-4). The false teaching that Jesus only ‘seemed’ to be human developed into a full-blown heresy called Gnosticism that flourished in the second century CE. In the 21st Century, the argument tends to be on the other foot: the denial of Jesus’ divinity.

    V5 This seems to refer not just to those who follow the ‘antichrist’ spirits who deny that Jesus ‘has come in the flesh’ (v2-3), but to those who have caused schism in the churches (2:19) and are still trying to lead faithful believers astray (2:26, 3:7). The comment that ‘the world listens to them’ could indicate that those who have left are successfully planting new churches and growing.

    V6 The evidence that a person has ‘the Spirit of truth’ is very simply that they will listen and receive the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. In Luke’s words, they are ‘people of peace’ (Luke 10:6).

     

    Part 3   4:7 – 5:21   Application Section

    Exhortation to ‘love’ and ‘faith’, the witnesses and a summary exhortation.

    Having outlined the three leading evidences of genuine, true Christianity, John now gives a long summary exhortation that we should love one another in the way that God has shown us his love through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The letter ends with the testimony of witnesses, and summary assurances of the true believer’s spiritual position.

     

    Argument – Exhortation to ‘love’ and ‘faith’: John begins his conclusion to the letter with a long exhortation (4:7 – 5:5) urging the true believers to actively love one another, following the example of the love of God himself in his Son’s atoning sacrifice. In this exhortation John refers to each of the three main evidences of genuine Christianity.

     

    Comment on 4:7-21   God’s love for us – the example of the life we must live with each other

    Having described and taught the three leading features of the life truly lived in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (2:28-4:6), John applies these teachings to our lives by defining what love is and exhorting us to love lives of love. God himself has defined love in his two great acts: his intervention into the world in the incarnation (4:9), and in ‘sending his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (4:10). When a community of believers lives in this way, laying down their lives for each other (3:16), God himself lives among us. John 14:21 teaches that God is manifest, or revealed, in a person who loves in this way. Today in the 21st Century, the word love is used by humanity to justify almost anything. Love is the opposite of sin, and it cannot be loving to practice or teach anything described in the Scriptures as sin because sin always ultimately destroys people. In his love, our heavenly Father wants the best for us. There is a circle of love in which the love initiated by God and evidenced in the incarnation and atonement worked by the Son births faith in the hearts of those that hear and believe, so they receive the Spirit who then establishes love for God and all believers in and through them. This is the community of prayerful love that Jesus teaches about in John 13-16.

    V13-15  John returns to his third evidence: Trinitarian doctrine. When the Spirit in us testifies to the Father sending the Son to be our Saviour, this is itself evidence that God is living in us. When we see a person loving the Father and the Son and believing that the Son is Lord and Christ, we are watching evidence that the Spirit is in that person, that is, God is dwelling in that person, and that person is dwelling in God.

    V16-18 When we are truly living in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, we shall not fear the moment of judgement when we stand before God and give account to him (Romans 14:12). The ‘perfect love’ that we grow into when in fellowship with the Father will ‘cast out all fear’.

     

    Comment on 5:1-5   Summary of the 3 evidences of genuine Christianity

    John now summarises his argument by bringing together the three evidences of the life truly lived in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ: obeying God’s commands, especially the command to love one another, within the contextual belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

    V3  If we love someone, we will as a direct result want to do what pleases them, helps them and meets their deepest needs, and so genuine love for God will be expressed in obedience to his commands. God’s commands are summed up in the phrase ‘love one another’.

    V4 To live in this community of prayerful love enjoying fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Spirit is to live in a different realm from the world, motivated by very different desires from worldly ‘cravings‘, ‘lust‘ and ‘pride‘ (2:15-17).

     

     

     

    Argument – The Witnesses: John’s final argument (5:6 – 12) is that the Spirit of God himself testifies to the Son of God. This is what differentiates the ‘water’ message of the apostates, from the ‘water and blood’ message of God himself. Those who have the Son of God are already participating in the life of God that will last forever and ever.

     

    Comment on 5:6-12   The witnesses and the testimony

    Having made his summary statement in 5:1-5, John turns directly to the doctrinal heresy at the root of the schism in the church (2:19): that Jesus only appeared to be human (4:2). John began his letter with a strong personal testimony about humanity of Jesus (1:1-4), and now he now contrasts the ‘water only gospel’ as proclaimed by those who are trying to lead his people ‘astray’ (2:26; 3:7) with the ‘water and blood gospel’ of the ‘fully human’ atoning work of God’s only Son (3:16, 4:9-10). In v6-8, which are complicated by what we now know is a textual disruption, John argues that Jesus’ humanity is witnessed by ‘water’, Jesus’ ‘blood’, and the Holy Spirit. In v9-10, John states that God’s testimony about his Son by definition trumps every other statement by man! This leads John back to the subject of ‘eternal life’ that he first introduced in 1:1-2 and which has been underlying all that he has written. Life lived in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ is the life that will last for ever, even beyond death for ever more. It cannot be improved because it is the life lived with the very author of life, it is the true eternal life. The argument is very similar to John 10:27-28: ‘My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life’.

    V6  John’s reference to Jesus coming ‘by water and the blood’ seems to be John’s contemporary way of asserting Jesus’ full humanity.

    V12 Eternal life is the ‘highest’ life, it cannot be improved on because it is life lived in fellowship (1:4) with the creator of life. It is always cruciform. It is the life lived with Jesus now that continues forever and forever and beyond the grave.

     

     

    Argument – Summary assurances: Finally, John ends his letter (5:11 – 21) with a series of assurances describing the spiritual position of those who believe in the name of the Son of God: they have eternal life, their prayers will be answered, including their prayers for each other to live in greater obedience to God, the devil can never take them away from God, and they know the true God.

     

    Comment on 5:13-21   Final Assurances and Encouragements

    Having concluded his argument, John, ever the deeply loving pastor, writes several final assurances and encouragements to those who believe in the name of the Son of God and as a direct result have eternal life. These are structured around 6 statements: ‘We know …’

    1. We know that he hears us (if we ask according to his will) (v15)
    2. We know that we have what we asked of him (when he hears us) (v15)
    3. We know that the one born of God does not continue to sin (because Christ protects them) (v18)
    4. We know that we are children of God and the whole world is under the control of the evil one (v19)
    5. We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding (v20)
    6. We know the true God (v20)

    V13-15   Deep in John’s consciousness and understanding of the life of the Spirit is the knowledge that to have the Son is to have eternal life. This truth occurs repeatedly in his writings. The one who believes in the Son has the life eternal, which is the highest existence because it is life lived with the author of life in the new Creation. This life is evidenced by a fruitful ‘prayer life’ because fellowship with the Father leads naturally to petitions, not for what we want, but for the will of the Father to be completed, which of course are answered precisely because they are the will of the Father.

    V16-17   The key to understanding these unexpected instructions surely lies in the context which John is addressing. In referring to the ‘sin which leads to death’, John surely has in view, as he has had through out the letter, the decision of some to turn away from ‘believing in the name of the Son of God’ (v13), and from obeying his ‘command to love one another’ (3:23). Nevertheless, there are others in the churches who do believe in the name of the Son of God, but whose lives are not yet exhibiting the obedience and love that Jesus called for, and that mirrors the character of the Father. John instructs us to pray for these believers that their lives will exhibit the character of Christ, his obedience to the Father’s commands and his love for others, and assures us that in time these petitions will be fully answered.

    V18-20 John is not stating that we are, or shall be, faultless, but that we are inherently different because our motivation is now different. To use Paul’s argument in Romans 8:9, we are now ‘controlled’ by the Spirit. In stating that ‘the evil one cannot harm him’, John is saying that the evil one cannot ultimately separate the believer from God (as per John 10:28; Jude makes a similar point in Jude 24 in the context of the immoral teachers). Whatever may happen to the believer’s body, nothing can separate us from our primary ‘undivided devotion to Christ’ (1 Corinthians 7:35).

    V20 This is arguably the most exclusive statement in the Bible, and it is the summary of the entire letter. In blatant contrast to the apostates who are dividing the church, Jesus and Jesus only is the true God and there is no higher or greater experience than living with him.

    V21 In this reflective final comment, John sees all falling short of Christ – all sin – as essentially being idolatry. An idol is anything that takes the place of God. Or to put it differently, to love anything other than the Father and his Son Jesus in the power of the Spirit is to commit idolatry.

    2:28 to 4:6 >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
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    • Leading Imperatives
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    • Implied Imperatives
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    • Applications
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    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of ‘1 John’:

    John, the teacher and pastor, writes this letter in the aftermath of a serious schism in the churches that he oversees. He writes to describe the essential features of a life that is truly in fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. As such, the three key features that he gives serve as “tests and evidences” for discerning the truth and differentiating it from what is false and heretical. The three tests are: first, does the teaching encourage obedience to God’s commands? Second, does it encourage and lead people to love one another, and third, does it teach that Jesus is the fully human and divine Christ, the Son of God?

    The leading imperatives:

     

    2:15   Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

     

    2:24   As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.

     

    2:27   But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

     

    2:28   And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

     

    3:7   Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.

     

    3:11   For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

     

    3:12   Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.

     

    3:13   Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

     

    3:16   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.

     

    3:18   Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

     

    3:23   And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

     

    4:1   Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

     

    4:7   Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

     

    4:11   Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

     

    4:21   And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

     

    5:16   If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life.

     

    5:21   Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

     

     

     

    Implied Imperatives:

     

    The western culture of the 21st Century is a culture of strong relativism, where not only is the assertion that there is only one truth considered intolerant, but even some who self-identify as Christians deny that scripture has one meaning and that there is an orthodox interpretation of the gospel.

     

    Part 1   1:1 – 2:27   Introduction

     

    Preliminary issues, encouragements, warnings and context.

    John the pastor is writing into a sensitive and charged situation in order to clarify for many who are bewildered and confused how they can discern genuine Christianity from what is false. He builds his argument as follows …

     

    1:1-4

    •  We should believe John the apostle’s testimony that he has seen and touched the physical body of the risen Christ.

     

    1:5 – 2:2

    • We should acknowledge our sin and confess it openly. When we do this, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus purifies us from every effect of sin.

     

    2:3 – 2:11

    • We must obey God’s commands and specifically the command to love our brothers and sisters. This is evidence that we are children of God.

     

    2:12 – 14

    • We should believe and hold firmly to the great truths of our salvation: that our sins are forgiven, that we know the Father and Jesus and have overcome the evil one

     

    2:15 – 17

    • We should identify and reject the motivations of pride, lust and covetousness that underlie the evil in the world.

     

    2:18 – 27

    • We should hold firmly to the belief that Jesus is the Christ, and we should seek to learn from and follow the Spirit who leads us into the knowledge of the truth.

     

    Part 2   2:28 – 4:6   Main Argument: The Three Evidences of the Genuine

    The three main evidences of the true life lived with in fellowship with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ.

    John now describes three defining tests for discerning genuine, true Christianity. Towards the end of each of the three main sections, John writes a summarising statement; ‘This is how we know …’

     

    2:28 – 3:10

    • Hold firmly to the truth that we are God’s children now.
    • As we stop sinning, we will grow closer to Christ. As we grow closer to Christ, we will stop sinning.

     

    3:11 – 3:18

    • We should love our brothers and sisters by laying down our lives for them.
    • True love takes action.

     

    3:19 – 24

    • We should ensure that our hearts hold to the truth that our Father loves us.

     

    4:1 – 6

    • We must be wise and exercise discernment when we encounter different creeds, each claiming to be the authentic life lived with God the Father.

     

    Part 3   4:7 – 5:21   Application Section

    Exhortation to ‘love’ and ‘faith’: the witnesses and a summary exhortation.

    Having outlined the three leading tests of genuine, true Christianity, John now gives a long summary exhortation that we should love one another in the way that God has shown us his love through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The letter ends with the testimony of witnesses, and summary assurances of the true believer’s spiritual position.

     

    4:7 – 5:5

    • Always pursue learning how to love others more deeply and effectively, because this is the very heart of God.
    • ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love’ (Galatians 5:6).

     

    5:6 – 12

    • We should believe the testimony that God has given about his Son Jesus Christ.

     

    5:13 – 21

    • Whatever we may feel, we must hold onto the truth that the true eternal life is found only in fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.
    • We should learn how to pray and receive things from our Father.
    • We should pray for our brothers and sisters who believe but have not yet reached a place of living righteous lives, obeying the command to love one another.
    • We must never turn to other creeds and faiths. Eternal life is found only in Jesus Christ.

     

    Applications:

    • Love one another (4:11 and throughout the letter) by learning how to lay down our lives for our sisters and brothers in the way that Jesus laid down his life for us.
    • Obey his commands (2:3), but specifically the command to love one another.
    • Believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ (3:23).

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

     

    Since the imperatives in 1 John focus on believing in Jesus and loving one another, disciples of Jesus should practice Holy Habits and patterns of living that cultivate the regular daily lifestyle of ‘laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters’ (3:16).

     

     

    A suggestion; every day for a month make a conscious decision to do something for, and thereby meet the need of, someone else. Record what happens over a month. This sort of Holy Habit is more effective when practiced in partnership with other believers. 

     

    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    In the past few weeks ‘Alt-Right’ supporters killed a woman during a demonstration in Charlottesville, USA, and an Islamist cell killed a number of people in incidents in Barcelona, Spain. John writes about this in 3:12-15: what are the main points he makes?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    1 John 1:2, 3:14, 4:13, 4:15, 5:11-13, 5:20. Study these verses and summarise for yourself the magnificent truths about the eternal life we have now begun to live with Jesus. In contrast, study what these verses teach about the opposite (2:17, 3:15).


    Question 3 -

    Throughout our lives we have to balance the needs and demands of our relationships, our time, our money, and the ambitions we have and work towards. 2:15-17 warns us about three powerful motivations that can wreck our fellowship with Jesus as we walk in the light. Be honest with yourself and identify the areas where you are most vulnerable, and then pray about these with a friend.


    Question 4 -

    John states that it is God himself who has defined love (3:16, 4:9-10). However, in the 21st Century world, love is understood to be almost anything we choose to make it, even behaviour that is completely contrary to scripture. What are the leading features of the love of God expressed in Jesus’ incarnation and atoning sacrifice?


    Question 5 -

    Why do some turn away from following Jesus and turn to ‘false Christs’ (1 John 2:22-23, 4:2, also Mark 13:6)?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Church Councils and Heresies

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on 1 John

    Loving God and Heavenly Father, we thank you for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and ask that as we live in fellowship with you and your Son Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us, we might be given grace to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, for the glory of your name. Amen.

     

    Commentary on the Prayer:

    Loving God (4:16) and Heavenly Father (3:1), we thank you for the anointing of the Holy Spirit (2:20) and ask that as we live in fellowship with you and your Son Jesus Christ (1:3), who laid down his life for us (4:10), we might be given grace to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (3:16), for the glory of your name. Amen.

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    Commentaries on 1 John

     

    Commentary Comment
    Karen H. Jobes: ‘1, 2, 3 John

    Exegetical Commentary on the NT

    An outstanding commentary that begins with excellent exegesis of the Greek text and then interprets and applies its meaning to contemporary 21st Century living. The author’s comments are brief and succinct and are frequently brought to life with poignant personal examples from life.
    I. Howard Marshall: ‘The Epistles of John

    NICNT

    A readable, sound and helpful approach to understanding the Johannine literature.
      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Sermon Series on ‘1 John’

     

    Series Title:   The Evidence of the True Life with God

     

    Strategy for preaching through 1 John:

    • Since the chapter divisions are not synchronised with the structure of John’s argument, it will not be helpful to preach this very complicated letter one chapter each Sunday for five Sundays.
    • A short series could be constructed around the key subjects:
      1. The context and problem
      2. The evidence of obedience
      3. The evidence of love
      4. The evidence of the Christological doctrine
      5. Fellowship with the Father and with his Son

     

    • A more helpful systematic approach could be to preach ‘sectionally’, along these lines …

     

    Text Title Theme
    1 John 1:1-4 ‘The Son, and the life of fellowship with him’ Introduce the letter (context, author, situation). John’s apostolic authority to write. The physicality of Christ. The life of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
    1:5 – 2:2 ‘The power of confession and the atonement’ The three ways that sin is denied. The necessity of confession, and the power of Christ’s atonement to change us.
    2:3-11 ‘Evidence 1 and 2: Obedience to God’s commands, and love for one another’ Introduce John’s two leading arguments: obedience and love.
    2:12-17 ‘Encouragements and warnings’ Assurances about our status in Christ, and three worldly motivations to avoid.
    2:18-27

     

    ‘The apostates’ The context and problem John faced. Their mistake; John’s answer.
    2:28-3:10 ‘The evidence of obedience’ Obedience, righteousness and our existence as God’s children.
    3:11-24 ‘The evidence of love’ Christ’s example. Active love. Assurance that there is no condemnation. Answers to prayer.
    4:1-6 ‘The evidence of the Spirit pointing to Christ’ The work of the Spirit. Affirming the humanity of Christ.
    4:7-5:5 ‘Love in action’ The example of Christ’s love. The necessity of loving each other.
    5:6-21 ‘The witnesses and the assurances’ Summary assurances. The true God and eternal life.

     

     

     

     

      Church Councils and Heresies -

    Timeline of Church Councils and Developments of Creeds and Heresies

               

    325AD        Council of Nicea: ‘Jesus is truly God.’

     

    381AD        Council of Constantinople: ‘Jesus is truly human.’

     

    431AD        Council of Ephesus: ‘Jesus is only one person.’

     

    451AD        Council of Chalcedon: ‘Although one person, Jesus had two natures, divine and human.’        

     

     Developments of Creeds and Heresies:

     

    Arius:  Jesus was not God, although he was the finest of all God’s creatures. He was not eternal, he had a beginning.

     

    Council of Nicea:   Condemned Arius. Jesus is “of the same substance – homoousios – as the Father”. The Council stated: ‘Jesus is God’.

     

    Appolinarius:   Denied that Jesus had a mind or soul.

     

    Council of Constantinople: ‘Jesus is fully human.’

      

    Nestorius: Divided Christ into two persons: divine and human.

     

    Council of Ephesus: ‘Jesus is only one person.’

      

    Eutyches: Fused the humanity and deity of Jesus so that he had only one nature, the divine: The Monophysites. Today the Coptic Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches are Monophysites, although some say that actually there is not a ‘heresy’ problem, it is simply a difference in language and understanding.

     

    Non-Orthodox (heretical) views in the 21st Century:

     

    1. God is revealed generally – Jesus is not divine:

     

    Bahai Faith: One God who is known through a series of manifestations, including Jesus (and Krishna, Zoroaster, Muhammed etc).

     

    Freemasonry: God is a supreme being expressed through all the major religions, Jesus is understood to be merely human.

     

    Scientology: Seems to have no view on Jesus at all.

     

    Theosophical Movement: God is impersonal. Jesus is one of many great religious teachers but is not divine.

     

     

    1. Jesus has two natures:

     

    Branch Davidians: God has two revelations to humanity: one in Jesus Christ and the other at the end of time.

     

    Christian Scientists: God is not Trinity. The human Jesus is distinct from Christ and merely revealed ‘the spiritual’ Christ to the world.

      

     

    1. God is not Trinity, and Jesus is not divine:

     

    Christadelphians: Jesus is less than God. God is a person but not a Trinity.

     

    The Unification Church (‘Moonies’): Jesus is God’s second self – but he is not God himself.

     

    The Church Universal and Triumphant: Jesus was not fully human and divine. He did not die as a sacrifice for sin.

     

    Islam: God is one being. Jesus is a prophet.

     

    Jehovah’s Witnesses: Reject the Trinity. Jesus is ‘a mighty one, but not as almighty as Jehovah’. The Holy Spirit is not a person.

     

    Rosicrucianism: God is impersonal. Jesus is not fully God.

     

    Spiritualism: Jesus is the exemplar for living, but he did not atone for sin by his sacrificial death.

     

     

    1. Jesus has two natures:

     

    The Children of God: Generally orthodox beliefs – but allowed promiscuity.

     

    Mormons: ‘We believe in God, the eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’ Some evidence that they are moving towards a mainstream orthodox Christian faith.

     

    The International Churches of Christ: Orthodox Christian faith – but heavy controlled pasturing and a strong emphasis on giving money.

     

     

    1. I am not aware of any group that denies Jesus’ humanity

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    The Western Culture is one of ‘radical relativism’ where the concept that there is one truth is denied, along with the idea that a text can have only one meaning. Such concepts are viewed suspiciously as systems of power that enable the one who interprets the text to control other people. Nevertheless, the gospel speaks of a gracious God who at immense cost to himself has in the person of his Son worked a just atonement for humanity and in doing so has expressed his love for sinful humanity. John’s repeated exclusive assertions that Jesus is the Son of God and that eternal life is only found in him are absolutely contrary to contemporary relativism. Jobes writes: ‘the greatest act of love – the sharing of God’s love in Christ – is increasingly perceived as a self-righteous power play that is taboo in polite company’. The Church faces the challenge of remaining true to this exclusive truth in the 21st Century: how can we do this?


    Question 2 -

    Given John’s repeated emphasis on the necessity of the cross for our atonement, the forgiveness of our sins and the assurance of eternal life, is there any place for non-violent theories of atonement?


    Question 3 -

    Is rejection of God’s offer of eternal life in Jesus Christ a morally neutral decision?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -
    • Answers to Questions

    Taster Course:

     

     

    QQQ

    In a recent televised interview, Richard Branson the entrepreneurial founder of Virgin was asked how he wanted the public to judge him and his life. He immediately replied, ‘Judge me by my children’. John is making a similar point in 1 John 3:7-10: ‘Who (and what) are your children?’

     

    https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/my-top-10-quotes-family

     

     

    QQQ

    If our love for God is evidenced by actions and not words (1 John 3:17-18), can a church justify spending millions on improving their church facilities in the light of this statement about world starvation from Unicef:

    Reducing poverty starts with children. More than 30 per cent of children in developing countries – about 600 million – live on less than US $1 a day. Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually it is a child under the age of 5’?

    https://www.unicef.org/mdg/poverty.html

     

    Comment:

    If this question does not challenge us then something is deeply wrong. Church buildings do need renovation and improvement from time to time and improvements will be justified if there is evidence of effective discipleship as a result.

     

     

    QQQ

    ‘I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray’ (2:26). Who is trying to lead you astray?

    Comment:

    Don’t be naive, Jesus himself was quite specific (Mark 13:20-23). The strategy is against Christian doctrine, Christian reputation and lifestyle, and Christian discipleship.

     

     

     

    Starter Course:

     

    QQQ

    ISIS adopted as part of its ideological core a document entitled ‘The Management of Savagery: the Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass’. It promotes the necessity of absolute mercilessness and savagery in the creation of a pure Islamic State. The document was also adopted by Al-Qaeda in Iraq. It advocates and sanctions pure terror and ultra-violence. Its author, Abu Bakr Naji, wrote: ‘Despite the blood, corpses and limbs which encompass it and the killing and fighting which its practice entails’, jihad is God’s ‘greatest mercy to man’ and ‘slaughter is mercy’. List the contrasts between this document and the philosophy and the message of 1 John.

     

    Comment:

    Fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ is not reached by the violent and severe imposition of religious law, or through violence and killing. It comes through repentance and the confession of sin (1:5-2:2), and through faith in Jesus and obedience to his command to ‘love one another’ (3:21). In God’s gracious mercy, he has worked a just atonement for us which is received by faith. It is the Holy Spirit who then testifies to Christ and leads us into truth and the result is that he empowers us to love one another.

    http://www.rudaw.net/english/analysis/21022015 

     

     

    QQQ

    When was the last time that you participated in worship which began with the corporate confession of sin followed by absolution (1 John 1:8-10)?

     

     

    QQQ

    If you were asked by your denomination to be one of the selectors choosing people to train for church leadership, in the light of 1 John, what features would you look for in the candidates you met and interviewed?

    Comment:

    Only those who are walking in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ will be able to introduce this life to others and help them also to live in this true fellowship. So selectors should look for evidence of the three leading features that John states to be evidence that a person is truly living in this fellowship: obedience to the Lord’s commands (2:3, 3:10, 5:3), especially the command to love one another (2:10, 3:16, 4:21), and an understanding and belief in the true doctrine of Christ (4:2, 4:14-15). 

     

    QQQ

    Is it fair to state that, if we are honest, we can all recognise that deep within the heart of the nature of humankind there is a reaction against those people who believe in God’s truth and who make a serious effort to live their lives in the light of it?

    Comment:

    Yes!

     

    QQQ

    ‘Sin’ is a word that is almost unheard of outside the church today.

    Bible scholar Karen Jobes writes: ‘The claim that there is a God and that violation of his moral standard is sin invites harsh social disapproval in a culture that no longer believes in absolute truth and sees any such claim as a wrongful and arrogant assertion of power’. Can you think of places where the word ‘sin’ is used today?

    https://relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/26172-why-doesnt-anybody-talk-about-sin-anymore

    Comment:

    ‘Sin Bin’ in Rugby, ‘Sin City’, the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’.

     

    https://relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/26172-why-doesnt-anybody-talk-about-sin-anymore

     

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2Dj6ktPU5c

     

    QQQ

    Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims and Mormons are among a number of religions that deny that Jesus is the Son of God. In 1 John 5:13, John states that his purpose in writing this letter is to assure those who believe in Jesus the Son of God that they have ‘eternal life’ (notice the similarity with his Gospel – John 20:31). Why is the assurance of eternal life directly linked to Jesus’ divinity? Have you ever spoken with members of these religions about these things? What is their experience of the Holy Spirit?

     

     

     

    Main Course:

     

    QQQ

    In the past few weeks ‘Alt-Right’ supporters killed a woman during a demonstration in Charlottesville, USA, and an Islamist cell killed a number of people in incidents in Barcelona, Spain. John writes about this in 3:12-15: what are the main points he makes?

    Comment:

    It is impossible to establish good by doing evil. Or as James said, ‘The anger of man does not work the righteousness of God’ (James 1:20).

     

     

    QQQ

    1 John 1:2, 3:14, 4:13, 4:15, 5:11-13, 5:20. Study these verses and summarise for yourself the magnificent truths about the eternal life we have now begun to live with Jesus. In contrast, study what these verses teach about the opposite (2:17, 3:15).

     

     

    QQQ

    Throughout our lives we have to balance the needs and demands of our relationships, our time, our money, and the ambitions we have and work towards. 2:15-17 warns us about three powerful motivations that can wreck our fellowship with Jesus as we walk in the light. Be honest with yourself and identify the areas where you are most vulnerable, and then pray about these with a friend.

     

     

    QQQ

    John states that it is God himself who has defined love (3:16, 4:9-10). However, in the 21st Century world, love is understood to be almost anything we choose to make it, even behaviour that is completely contrary to scripture. What are the leading features of the love of God expressed in Jesus’ incarnation and atoning sacrifice?

    Comment:

    He voluntarily came and died for you and me, so that we can be restored to fellowship with the Father. He calls us to do the same (3:16) so that others can join in this fellowship.

     

    QQQ

    Why do some turn away from following Jesus and turn to ‘false Christs’ (1 John 2:22-23, 4:2, also Mark 13:6)?

    Comment:

    Poor teaching, or in some cases, no teaching. Persecution. Intentional disobedience.

     

     

    Dessert (Extras) Course:

     

    QQQ         

    The Western Culture is one of ‘radical relativism’ where the concept that there is one truth is denied, along with the idea that a text can have only one meaning. Such concepts are viewed suspiciously as systems of power that enable the one who interprets the text to control other people. Nevertheless, the gospel speaks of a gracious God who at immense cost to himself has in the person of his Son worked a just atonement for humanity and in doing so has expressed his love for sinful humanity. John’s repeated exclusive assertions that Jesus is the Son of God and that eternal life is only found in him are absolutely contrary to contemporary relativism. Jobes writes: ‘the greatest act of love – the sharing of God’s love in Christ – is increasingly perceived as a self-righteous power play that is taboo in polite company’. The Church faces the challenge of remaining true to this exclusive truth in the 21st Century: how can we do this?

    Comment:

    Respectfully (1 Peter 3:15) and clearly (2 Corinthians 4:2). We should seek appropriate contemporary ways of presenting Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) to those around us, especially the ‘people of peace’ (Luke 10:6). God’s will is that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and his promise is that the gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world (Matthew 24:14). ‘Process Evangelism’ which enables people to engage with the message of the gospel over time and respond with their bodies, souls, minds and spirits will be effective over time. In all this, we must never compromise on the uniqueness of Christ who was both God and with God and his unique atoning work.

     

    QQQ         

    Given John’s repeated emphasis on the necessity of the cross for our atonement, the forgiveness of our sins and the assurance of eternal life, is there any place for non-violent theories of atonement?

    Comment:

    Yes, as long as the whole atoning work of Christ is fully proclaimed.

     

    QQQ         

    Is rejection of God’s offer of eternal life in Jesus Christ a morally neutral decision?

    Comment:

    No, every person’s response to the message of Christ crucified is the most important decision they will ever make. Their entire future is determined by it.

      Coaching Questions -
    • Coaching Questions

    Coaching Questions for the 1 John Pod Sessions

     

    Sections Point to be noted
    Opening: What’s the main thing happening with you at the moment?

     

    At the end of our last pod you said you would be happy for me to ask you this question …How have you got on?

    How did you go about engaging with 1 John?

     

    Are there specific things you want to talk about today from your study of 1 John?

                …any questions,                 

                …or things you don’t understand?

     

    What verses made the greatest impression on you?

     

    Substance – Message and Theology:

     

    QQQ – How would you express the three evidences John gives of the true life lived in fellowship with the Father and the Son?  

     

    QQQ – What do you think is the key passage of 1 John?

     

    QQQ – What image best explains Christ’s fully human and fully divine nature?

     

    QQQ – Which model of the Trinity would you use with non-Christians?

     

    QQQ – Have you ever witnessed powerful movements within a church and been unsure if this was genuinely God at work?

     

    QQQ – Who is the most discerning person you know?

     

    QQQ – What is the evidence of the Spirit in our lives (2:27, 4:2, 4:6)?

     

    QQQ – What is the most effective way of learning to actively love other people?

     

     

    Your insights:

     

    Application:

     

    Holy Habit:

    QQQ – What question shall I ask you when we next meet in the light of the application that you have made from our study today?

     

    QQQ – What Holy Habits can we build into our lives so that our lives become more and more loving?