Olsen Park Church of Christ

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 this morning,

I. Loving. This section begins with reference to a “message” heard from “the beginning” (3:11).

A.      As John uses this phrase he is generally using it in one of two ways.

1.      He 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” (3:8).

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).

a.       In 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).

B.      In this section of the epistle John uses the phrase “love one another” five times:

1.      It is a message “from the beginning” (3:11).

2.      It is His commandment (3:23).

3.      It is a trait of one “born of God” and one who “knows God” (4:7).

4.      It is something we should do because God loved us (4:11).

5.      It 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) (4:12).

C.      We may notice a few things from the passages that use this phrase.

1.      It is not optional—it is a command.

2.      It is a condition of our relationship with God in Christ. Without it we cannot truly claim fellowship with Christ.

3.      It 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.

A.      We 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).

1.      If we don’t love we “abide” (another theme we’ll consider) “in death” (3:14b).

B.      We can know love. The sacrifice of Jesus, by which He “laid down His life for us” allows us to “know love” (3:16a).

1.      This 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).

C.      We 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).

1.      This can grant us an assurance within our hearts “before Him” (which I take to mean before His bar of judgment) (3:19b).

2.      We 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.

1.      Keeping 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).

a.       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.

b.       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).

2.      This 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).

a.       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.

E.      We 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 commandments (5:2).

1.      The doctrine of Christ (as the world sees it) may appear unloving in teachings regarding church discipline or restrictions on behavior.

2.      John says it actually allows us to know what true love is for our brethren.

F.      We 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.

1.      He is true.

2.      We are in Him.

3.      He is the “true God.”

4.      He is “eternal life.”

a.       As John teaches it any doctrine that denies the Deity of Christ stands outside of this “understanding” Jesus has given to us.

b.      As 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.

Kyle Pope 2015

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