Olsen Park Church of Christ

Four Important Themes at the Close of First John (2)

Introduction. In our first lesson this morning we began to consider four important gospel themes found in the last half of the first epistle of the apostle John. For simplicity we have categorized under four simple headings: 1) Loving, 2) Knowing, 3) Abiding, and 4) Perfecting. In our final lesson this morning we will conclude this study, considering the final two themes.

III. Abiding. In our English translations we might not see the emphasis John places on the theme of abiding, until we consider the frequency of the word from which this is translated.

A.      The Greek word menō (μένω) shares a common ancestry with our word “remain” and carries the idea of staying in a place or condition. John uses this word 23 times in this short epistle.

1.      Abide is certainly an accurate translation but we should understand the full force of this word to see its emphasis.

2.      Thayer tells us that “in reference to place” it means “not to depart, to continue to be present”—“in reference to time” it means “to continue to be...to last, endure”—“of persons, to survive, live”—“in reference to state or condition” it means “to remain as one, not to become another or different.”

a.    It is usually translated with words such as dwell, stay, continue, abide, or remain.

B.      To appreciate the emphasis John places on this we must first notice some points he made prior to our section of the book.

1.      Walking as Jesus walked is a responsibility of the one who says “he abides in Him” (2:6).

2.      The one who loves his brother “abides in the light” (2:10).

3.      John praises faithful young men because “the word of God abides” in them and they have “overcome the wicked one” (2:14).

4.      Although the world is passing away, the one “who does the will of God abides forever” (2:17). This is a contrast to the temporary nature of the world and a different way of speaking of “eternal life” dwelling in a person (cf. 3:15).

5.      The apostate show by their departure that they are not “of” believers, because believers continue with one another (2:19).

6.      Believers must choose to “let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning” (2:24a).

a.       If (and when) this happens believers in truth “will abide in the Son and in the Father” (2:24b).

7.      What John calls “the anointing” is said to abide in his readers and teaches them “concerning all things” (2:27).

a.       This may refer to a miraculous spiritual gift of knowledge or revelation.

b.      If not, it refers to the gospel that teaches how one may “abide in Him” (2:27b).

8.      We can choose to “abide in Him”—John commands it (2:28) and this prevents us from having to feel shame at the Lord’s coming.

a.       We will see in the next section that John speaks of perfected love casting out fear (4:18).

b.      If we compare these two statements we may see that if abiding in Christ prevents shame at Christ’s coming we may see abiding in Him as synonymous with having love perfected in us. This “casts out” fear and prevents “shame” at the Judgment.

9.      By definition, “whoever abides in Him does not sin” (3:6).

a.       This doesn’t say one can’t sin, it says that in sin one is not staying, remaining, or continuing in Him.

b.      To say otherwise (as John puts it) is to say that sinning is abiding in Christ, which of course it is not.

10.  By definition, the one “born of God does not sin,” (again) not because it is impossible to sin but because “His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin” (3:9).

a.       It is unclear if John here uses the figure of seed as it is so often of the seed of  a plant representing the word of God planted in the soil of the human heart...

b.      Or, if it is drawing off of the concept of being born of God. The seed (or genetic material) of a father may be said to remain in his offspring. So too, the germinating force from our heavenly father remains in the one who is living as one born of God the Father.

i.         Either way, the word of God is that by which we are “born again”(1 Pet. 1:23).

ii.       We might compare this to 2:14 where allowing the word to dwell in the young is connected with overcoming the evil one—we don’t sin when we allow “His seed” or “the word of God” to dwell within us.

C.      When we get to the last half of the epistle John actually uses this theme less, but he still uses the word menō ten times.

1.      The one who does not love his brother “abides in death” (3:14).

a.       This is a contrast with the condition of the one who loves his brother and abides in the light (2:10).

b.      One does not have “eternal life abiding in him” if he shows himself to be a murderer by hating his brother (3:15). 

c.       This is interesting wording. While on the one hand the Christian lives in “hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7) and it will only be truly realized “in the age to come” (Mark 10:30), like the earnest of the Holy Spirit, faith, behavior, and allowing the word to dwell in a believer places within the Christian that which will become eternal life in the age to come.

2.      God’s love does not abide in the one indifferent to the needs of his brother (3:17).

3.      Once again, we know we abide in Him as we keep His commandments (3:24a) and we may know He “abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (3:24b).  

a.       I think these are two sides of the same coin. How do I know His commands? By the Spirit inspired word.

b.      If I keep His commands, it is allowing the Spirit inspired word to direct my behavior. This is something I can know and discern.

c.       The Spirit dwelling in me is realized therefore by the word dwelling in me. The same point is restated in 4:13.

4.      Loving one another is the visible demonstration that the unseen God “abides in us” (4:12).

5.      Confession of Jesus as the Son of God demonstrates that we stay in God and God stays in us (4:15).

a.       This shows that confession of Christ “with the mouth” is not a single event made “unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10), but a lifelong condition that must be maintained.

b.      Our “once saved, always saved” friends need to consider such statements in this epistle! The book of Hebrews is not the only text that demonstrates that the child of God, once saved can be lost.

c.       Only by remaining true to our confession can the Christian be assured that God remains in us.

6.      Finally, the one abiding in love—and we should remember this is not man defined love, but God defined love—“abides in God and God in him” (4:16).

a.       We see here that God is in us to the degree His love is shown in us.

IV. Perfecting. In Scripture the word perfect is usually translated from the Greek word teleioō (τελειόω).

A. Thayer defines this, “to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end.”

1.   Unfortunately most of our English translations render it with different forms of the word “perfect,” probably as a result of the use of the Latin word perficio used for this word in the Latin Vulgate. The participial form of perficio is the word perfectus from which our word is derived.

a.   Yet, in Latin, this word meant, “to finish” in the sense of following through on something.

2.   In modern English, however, the word perfect is unavoidably connected to the idea of flawlessness (e.g. the clichˇ “Nobody’s perfect!”).

a.   Some translations will use words like “complete” or “mature” but it is just difficult to find a word that expresses the complete sense of teleioō.

B.   Five times in this book John uses this word. Four of these come in the last section of the epistle. In every case it is in reference to perfected love.

1.   It is difficult in these passages to isolate when John, through the Holy Spirit is talking about a mature, complete, full love we show and exhibit toward others, and when he is talking about behavior that allows and demonstrates God’s love as being fully and completely applied toward us.

a.   What I mean is, while God’s love was demonstrated once for all on the cross, the degree to which that affects our life is a matter of our choice.

b.   If we live in sin we prohibit and prevent God’s love from being fully and completely effectual in our lives.

c.    When we abide in His word, we allow all of the fullness of God’s love to impact our life—His love is perfected in us. As we look at the places it is used we must ask which sense is being applied or if both applications are inherent in its usage.

C. Perfected love.

1.   Earlier in the book, we see that the “love of God is perfected” in the one who “keeps His word” (2:5). As we saw earlier, this enables us to know we are in Him.

a.    So, we know we are in God by obedience to His word just as we know His love is “perfected in us.”

2.    As we noticed in the previous theme, “if we love one another” we may know two things: 1) “God abides in us,” and 2) “His love has been perfected in us” (4:12).

a.   We might be tempted here to see this as simply addressing our behavior as the sense of perfected love, but its connection with knowledge of God abiding in us may also suggest that it is talking about how God’s love becomes effectual toward us.

3.   We see a similar thing in 4:17. The ability to have “boldness in the day of judgment” is a demonstration of love perfected in us.

a.   While the “boldness” addresses behavior as a demonstration of perfected love, the verse ends “because as He is, so are we in this world.”

b.   We imitate Him and represent Him to the world. This is behavior, but it is also only accomplished because of the degree to which we allow His love to become complete in our lives.

4.   Finally, John addresses the relationship between fear and perfected love. He declares, “perfect love casts our fear” (4:18).

a.   Is John talking about our love for God and others allowing us to cast out fear? In the previous verse he was talking about the confidence we may have on the Day of Judgment when love is perfected in us.

b.   This has led some to say, “I will just love others and in that love I may have confidence on the Day of Judgment!”

c.   That fails to recognize that John has defined love for others and God by what God did for us in Christ laying down His life (3:16).

d.   If I am unfaithful to God’s word, I have reason to fear and I cannot expect His love to become complete and effectual in my life. If I abide in His word I need not fear.

Conclusion. We have not attempted in this study to analyze this section of the epistle in a comprehensive manner or offer verse-by-verse commentary on its content. By considering these four themes, however, we may draw out some important principles that should influence our service toward God.

A.      Love defines and is defined by our relationship with God.

         Do you want to know your relationship with God is sound? Obey God.

         Do you want to have a good relationship with others? Obey God.

         Do you want to understand the difference between love and selfishness? Obey God.

B.      Knowing God is something we can perceive through following His word.

         Do you want to know that you are right with God? Know and follow His word.

         Do you want be assured that God dwells in you? Know and follow His word.

         Do you want to know you are the parent, child, student, employee, neighbor, or Christian you should be? Know and follow His word.

C.      Being in Christ means maintaining particular relationships, conditions, and states.

         The child of God stays within God’s word.

         The child of God continues in relationships with God’s children.

         The child of God maintains godly attitudes and actions.

D.     We allow God’s love to impact our lives by obedient love.

         How can we make sure that God’s wondrous love in Christ will be applied to us to the uttermost? Love God and keep His commandments.

         How can we have confidence on the Day of Judgment and stand before God without fear? Love God and keep His commandments.

Kyle Pope 2015

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