Four Important Themes at the Close of First John (1)
Introduction. The closing
section of First John is characterized by four important gospel themes. In both
lessons this morning I’d like for us to consider these. For simplicity they may
be categorized under four simple headings: 1) Loving, 2) Knowing,
3) Abiding, and 4) Perfecting. We will look at two in each lesson
I. Loving. This section begins with reference to a “message”
heard from “the beginning” (3:11).
John uses this phrase he is generally using it in one of two ways.
speaks of someone or something going back to the beginning of creation, such as
Jesus (1:1; 2:13, 14), or the devil who “sinned from the beginning”
2. Or, he
uses it to speak of the beginning of the gospel. We see this in references to a
commandment they have “had from the beginning” (2:7) or things “heard”
from the beginning (2:7; 2:24; 3:11).
this text I think John refers to the latter. From the beginning of the gospel
Jesus had taught them to love one another (John 13:34; 15:12. 17)—specifically
to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12).
this section of the epistle John uses the phrase “love one another” five
is a message “from the beginning” (3:11).
is His commandment (3:23).
is a trait of one “born of God” and one who “knows God” (4:7).
is something we should do because God loved us (4:11).
is an indication that God abides in us (another theme we will consider) and
that His love is “perfected” in us (the final theme we will consider)
may notice a few things from the passages that use this phrase.
is not optional—it is a command.
is a condition of our relationship with God in Christ. Without it we cannot
truly claim fellowship with Christ.
is a moral obligation. Whether we feel like it or not the fact that God did
it for us should compel us to do it for one another.
II. Knowing. John offers a number of things as ways
by which we can know certain things.
can know we have passed from death to life. Love for “brethren” can
enable us to know that we have “passed from death to life” (3:14a).
we don’t love we “abide” (another theme we’ll consider) “in death”
can know love. The sacrifice of Jesus, by which He “laid down His life
for us” allows us to “know love” (3:16a).
knowledge not only helps us to understand what love truly is, but it should
compel us to act in turn, having a willingness “to lay down our lives for
the brethren” (3:16b).
can know we are of the truth. Loving in “deed” and in “truth” (3:18)
can allow us to know “we are of the truth” (3:19a).
can grant us an assurance within our hearts “before Him” (which I take
to mean before His bar of judgment) (3:19b).
may compare this with 4:17 where the ability to have “boldness in the day of
judgment” is a demonstration of love perfected in us. This is a different
way of describing love in deed and truth.
D. We can
know God’s Spirit is within us. John teaches that we can know the reality
of God’s Spirit dwelling within us. Yet, what is compelling about this is that
John says we know this by whether we keep His commandments.
God’s commandments shows that we are allowing the Spirit given to us (literally
“from” or “out of” God) to abide in us (3:24).
This tells us something about the nature of this indwelling. It is not a
possession. It is a reflection of what we believe and what we testify as a
consequence of that belief.
We see this from the verses that follow charging us to “test the
spirits” (4:1). A spirit that is not from God is a doctrine espoused
by a person teaching it. In the same way, a spirit that is from God is a
doctrine espoused by a person that conforms to the revelation of the Holy
Spirit and is taught by a person (4:1-3).
is a tangible, discernible thing that is not a matter of feeling, or a mystical
presence. He repeats that we can know God abides in us by the Spirit He has
given us (4:13).
Unless we take this as the denominationalists do that we can feel, hear,
or internally sense God’s presence in our life, we must understand the
indwelling of God’s Spirit within us as something that is accomplished by the
conscious decision to allow God’s word to dwell within us.
can know if our love towards our brethren is what it ought to be. John
returns back to our first theme of loving by saying we can know whether or not
we truly love our brethren. We can know it by whether or not we keep God’s
doctrine of Christ (as the world sees it) may appear unloving in teachings
regarding church discipline or restrictions on behavior.
says it actually allows us to know what true love is for our brethren.
may know that we have an “understanding” granted to us from God. John declares
that in the revelation of the gospel of Christ we “know” that Christ has
granted us “an understanding” (5:20a). This understanding involves
some profound truths about Jesus and our relationship with Him.
are in Him.
is the “true God.”
is “eternal life.”
As John teaches it any doctrine that denies the Deity of Christ stands
outside of this “understanding” Jesus has given to us.
John teaches it, any doctrine that teaches eternal life in any other source is
also outside of this “understanding” Jesus has granted to us.
Conclusion. We looked at
two themes so far, I encourage you to join us in our second period of worship
as a church, following our Bible classes, in which we will look at two final
themes: abiding and perfecting.