That You May Know…

Posted: May 12, 2016 in 1 John, Route 66, Uncategorized

Route 66: 1 John, “That You May Know…”

“Do you know you’re going to be with God in heaven?  If God were to ask you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” what would you say?”  So begins the questions from the famous witnessing tool Evangelism Explosion.  And they are good questions!  Are you going to heaven?  If your answer is “yes,” then how do you know?

For Christians, the answer is Christ.  We have faith in Him as the Son of God who died for our sins at the cross & rose from the dead three days later.  Because Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, we can know our sins have been paid for, and we know that those who have faith in Him have life.  (And praise God for it!)  But for some, there might be additional questions.  “How do I know if I really believe?  What if it’s all a head game, and my supposed faith isn’t really sincere?  How can I be certain?”  If that’s the case, then the letter we know as 1 John is for you.  The main issue in John’s first letter is assurance.  Can the believer know that he/she is truly saved?  Is there any evidence that can prove it?  Yes & yes.  Those who believe in Christ can know that they are saved, and once we know, then we can have joy.

BACKGROUND:
Although we identify the book as 1 John, technically the letter is anonymous.  Nowhere does the author name himself, but that said, he certainly doesn’t hide himself either.  Parallels between 1 John and the Gospel of John are numerous, and there can be little doubt that the person who authored one, authored the other.  According to tradition (and internal evidence within the gospel of John, as well as the book of Revelation), that man is the apostle John, the son of Zebedee, brother of James, and beloved disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Nothing in the letter definitively tells us when and where the apostle wrote his letters, nor is there any specific audience mentioned in 1 John itself.  Again, we rely heavily upon tradition & the Church Fathers for this information.  It seems that after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, John went to Ephesus, where he ministered for quite some time until he was later arrested and ultimately ended up in exile on the Isle of Patmos.  It was while he was in Ephesus that he wrote his gospel account & likely all three of his letters (at least the three that we have that survived and were included in the canon of Scripture).  Date-wise, we’re looking anywhere from 85-95AD.  If it seems perhaps a bit late for an apostle, remember that Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted from approximately 30-33AD.  If John were the youngest of the apostles (which seems likely), then he may have been a young teenager when he walked with Jesus, making him a much more senior 69-79 year old by this point, but definitely well within the possible age range of living & writing.  His next two letters identify him only as “the Elder,” but the title certainly would befit the apostle by that point.

With the later date of writing, we can assume a couple of things: (1) the church has been established within the Roman Empire & has started to transition into mainly a Gentile group, and (2) along with the establishment of the church came the rise of cults and heresies.  Heresies never take long to get started – like fungus, they can pop up almost immediately with very little root.  Paul wasn’t even done planting churches by the time he had to deal with heresies among the congregations (Colossians, in particular), and certainly by the time John wrote, false teaching had become far more prevalent.  Gnosticism (in various forms) was on the rise, with its dualistic teaching of physical things being evil & spiritual things being good, with special knowledge (gnosis) required to distinguish between the two.  True Christians were becoming confused, and John wrote to help provide clarity.  They had believed the truth, and the proof was in the way they lived their physical lives.  They had solid assurance of their faith because their love of God was demonstrated in their love for others.

Of course that’s a reassurance that we continue to need today.  There’s no lack of false teaching out there.  Some things picked up by certain corners of the visible church are downright antichrist, and we need to beware.  In other areas, we’ve tended to buy into the idea that our internal confession of Jesus is all that matters, and the way we live our lives has no bearing on our relationship with God.  Not so!  Whether it is James, Paul, or the apostle John – all of the New Testament writers affirm that our outward actions is important evidence of our inward faith.  We can know that we’re saved, and that assurance can give us the confidence and joy we need when the doubts inevitably come.

GENERAL OUTLINE
The letter of 1 John is notoriously difficult to outline, so much so that some scholars believe that the letter was not written as a unified whole, but pieced together & assembled from various sayings and teachings of John.  Others see the letter as unified, but abundant with repeated cyclical themes.  Textual evidence suggests that the letter has never been received as anything other than a whole unit, so it’s likely that John did write it all at one time, but what exact plans he had in organizing his thoughts may not be known until we get to heaven. J  For our purposes, we’re going to look at some broad strokes, based on how John describes God at various stages of his letter, bookended by the witnesses of God and the apostles.

  • The witness of the apostles (1:1-4) – John writes as a personal witness of the incarnation of Christ.  Believers can have joy in the gospel message because it is trustworthy.
  • Abiding in the God of light (1:5-2:27) – John gives assurance to his readers as he writes how those who abide in God and walk in holiness are those who know the Father.
  • Children of the God of righteousness (2:28-3:15) – The theme of holiness continues, with it being the distinction between the children of God and the children of the devil.
  • Loving others with the God of love (3:16-5:5) – Our actions as believers are not just upward, but outward.  As we love others, we demonstrate the love of God in our own lives.
  • The witness of God (5:6-21) – Once more, John writes of the confidence we have in our faith.  This time, not by the witness of men, but by God Himself.

 

The witness of the apostles
The eternal made physical (1:1)
John’s 1st letter begins much like his gospel, with the incarnation of the Word of God.  However, there are some differences.  In his gospel prologue, the emphasis was on the eternal existence of the Word & His ultimate identity as God.  In the letter, the emphasis is on the physical existence of Jesus as God incarnate.  (Of course, it’s not that John doesn’t mention the other…)  John makes a point of saying that the apostles touched, handled, and looked upon Jesus.  The “Word of life” became a real, physical Man, and thus it was this Man who died for our sins and made our salvation possible.

Why does John hit this so hard?  Probably due to the influence of a couple of offshoots of Gnosticism: Cerinthianism and/or Docetism.  In the first, the natures of Jesus and the Word were separate, with the Divine nature coming upon Jesus at His baptism & leaving Him at the cross – thus Jesus was Man, but never fully God.  In the second (Docetism), Christ only appeared to have a physical body, but it was all an illusion.  Both heresies are grounded in the idea that the physical/material is inherently evil, and only the spirit is good – thus God would have nothing to do with actually becoming physical.  The gospel truth is drastically different.  What John proclaims (and what the rest of the New Testament affirms) is that the eternal Son of God truly became physical Man.  He is 100% God and 100% Man at the same time.  Only a real Man could step in as a substitutional sacrifice for other men, and only the real God has the power and perfection to make it possible.

The word declared (1:2-3)
John’s point in saying all of this is that he (and others – he uses the plural) was a witness to it.  Christians may have heard stories from some, but John was a first-hand witness.  His testimony could be trusted.  And it can!  We don’t follow (as Peter wrote) cleverly devised fables (2 Peter 1:16) when we read the pages of Scripture – we read the first-hand accounts of the men who witnessed these things themselves.  These are primary sources, and they can be trusted.

These primary witnesses declared the incarnate God to us – they declared to us the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And the result of their declaration is fellowship.  Those who believe are brought into the fellowship of God.  The apostles have a relationship with God the Father & God the Son, and their relationship is our relationship when we believe.

Joy in the gospel (1:4)
The result of our relationship (κοινονια)?  Joy. John gives three purpose statements (some count four) throughout his letter – the first is here.  John wrote these things so that our “joy may be full.”  When we know that we have a solid relationship with God, then we can have joy.  When our salvation is assured, we can rejoice.  It’s when the doubts come that we grieve & stress.  We wonder if what we prayed was sincere enough – if what we believed was believed enough, etc.  All of our attention leaves the assurance of the things God has done & it gets put on us & what we have done.  And when salvation becomes all about us, we have no assurance at all (because we can’t earn our salvation in the first place). 

That’s one reason John wrote the letter.  He wants his readers to be certain – to be sure – to have joy.  Jesus doesn’t save us so that we could continually question our salvation; He saved us so that we could rejoice and glory in Him.

  • If you don’t have assurance in your salvation, get your eyes back onto Christ.  The whole gospel message is about what HE has done; not us.  HE became flesh, HE dwelt among us, HE died on the cross, HE rose from the grave, etc.  It’s about Him.  Look again to Jesus & find joy!

That’s all the prelude – the first of the two bookends to the letter.  John’s writing begins in earnest in vs. 5…

Abiding in the God of light
Fellowship with/in God (1:5-7)
John already wrote about the fact that those who believe the gospel as the apostles declared to them have fellowship with God.  What does it look like?  Apparently, it’s bright. J  God is light (1:5), and those who have fellowship with God have fellowship with Him in the light.  This introduces the theme (which will be found throughout the letter) of holiness.  When we sin, we engage in darkness, but that’s exactly what we’ve been saved out of.  Since Jesus saved us out of sinful darkness, our actions ought to reflect the light of God, as that is where we now are.

Our forgiveness in Christ (1:8-2:2)
That’s not to say that Christians live lives of sinless perfection.  We don’t!  We sinned in the past, before we knew of Jesus, and we still trip and fall into sin today even as we know Jesus.  John uses the present tense when writing of sin here, so this is stuff we still sometimes do.  In fact, if we claim we don’t (if we say we have no sin), then John says we’re lying to ourselves and to God – in which case we’ve just sinned again (1:8,10).

Thankfully, even when we fall into sin, the Christian has grand assurance!  1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  When we sin, we have a solution!  Confess your sins to Christ Jesus, and He will forgive.  He’s already done the work necessary for our cleansing when He died on the cross & rose again.  He’s already made Himself the “propitiation for our sins,” (2:2) becoming the perfect satisfaction to the wrath of God.  All that is required for us to receive the forgiveness and cleansing of God is our request.  All we need to do is ask.

  • So ask!  There is zero reason for a Christian to live in guilt.  We CAN be cleansed, so be cleansed!  Obviously it’s not just a matter of muttering a rote prayer without thought or meaning, but for Christians who truly and humbly go to Christ in confession and faith, we can know that He forgives us.  So appropriate that forgiveness!
  • And once Jesus has forgiven you, walk in that forgiveness.  Too many Christians refuse to forgive themselves after they have already been forgiven by God.  To be honest, that places us on way too high of a pedestal.  God is the highest standard.  When He forgives you, nothing else is needed.

Walking in the old & new commandment (2:3-11)
So this all begs the question: “If we aren’t supposed to sin (walk in darkness), but we have forgiveness when we sin, then how does this all help us deal with the assurance of our salvation?  It seems like we’re back at square one.”  Not at all.  The issue of assurance comes in with the idea of how we walk.  Are we walking in darkness, or are we walking in light?  It’s not a matter of the occasional trip & fall…everyone is going to do that.  When we occasionally trip & fall, we have the marvelous promise and assurance of forgiveness through Jesus.  But how is it we consistently live our lives?  How do we routinely walk around?  Are our lives better characterized by our relationship with God, or by the sin in which we immerse ourselves?  What are our habits?  What is the outward witness of our inward faith?

This is what John is going to come back to over & over again in the letter.  Here, he puts it in the idea of keeping God’s commandments (2:3).  Those who claim to know God, but don’t keep His commandments, lie. (2:4)  Yet those who do keep the commandments have the love of God in them (2:5).  Objection: did John just become a Judaizer?!  Absolutely not.  Again, the idea isn’t sinless perfection; it’s consistent habit.  What is it that characterizes our lives?  That’s the sort of thing that will show whether or not our hearts have been truly transformed by Jesus.

And by the way, John isn’t writing of the Jewish commandments in the law of Moses; he’s writing about the commandment to love.  In what seems to be a series of contradictory statements, John says that he’s not writing a new commandment, but an old commandment – but at the same time, he’s writing a new commandment (2:7-8).  If it’s new, it can’t refer to Moses – but it’s also something that shouldn’t take the believers by surprise.  It’s something that’s been around since the beginning – introduced by Moses, but amplified by Jesus.  John 13:34–35, "(34) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (35) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." The disciples knew they were to love their neighbors – to love their enemies…now they are commanded to love one another with the same love with which Jesus loved them.  They are to love one another as believers unto death.  That’s love!

  • Is it easy?  No.  It wasn’t for Jesus, either.  It cost Jesus everything.  But it was worth it.  It was what God desired for Him to do, and we would have no salvation without it.  Loving one another as Jesus loved us can be difficult, but it’s always worth the cost.

This is what John was referring to when writing about walking in the light & keeping the commandments of God.  Someone can say he/she is in the light, but if there is still hatred of his/her brother, then something’s wrong (1:9).  Love is evidence of our faith – thus love gives us assurance of our faith.

Digression: dedication of the letter (2:12-14)
John takes a bit of a break here to write out several dedications.  He never mentions the direct church to which he wrote, but he obviously knew the members of the congregation.  He knew their faith – and that’s made plain in vss. 12-14.  He knew their sins were forgiven, that they knew God from the beginning, that they had overcome the wicked one, etc.  He didn’t identify the church by name, but he certainly identified them by their fruit.  He knew they were saved, and he could rejoice in that fact.

From a present-day perspective, this becomes important because so many people have a tendency of looking at 1 John as a letter intentionally causing people to question their salvation.  Not so!  John knew these people were saved.  Apparently they were the ones who weren’t so sure.  The reason John gives so many tests of salvation is so that his readers could look down the list & check them off.  By identifying the things that God outwardly does in our lives as believers, the Christians could see each & every thing God had done.  Likewise for us.  Don’t read 1 John & get nervous about your works; read 1 John and look for the work of God.

  • That said, we are supposed to examine ourselves and see if we’re in the faith.  If there’s no evidence of the work of God in your life, you ought to be nervous.  That ought to shake you to a point of pouring out your heart and soul to the Lord Jesus in prayer.  False assurance of salvation is far worse than a lack of assurance of salvation.  That’s a mistake of eternal proportions.  (Yet one that can be fixed at any time!)

Abiding in the will of God (2:15-17)
This seems to be attached to the dedication a bit, but also serves a bridge to the next series of thoughts.  All of these young children, fathers, and young men were to seek the Lord Jesus instead of the things of the world.  They were to abide in Christ; not the things the world offers.  The world offers nothing but lusts of various sorts (2:16) – the world is passing away (2:17) – only the things of God lasts forever.  That is what we should seek, and that is where we should abide.

Again, the idea comes down to habit.  How can your habits be described?  Is it seeking after the world, or seeking after God? Where do you live your life – where do you abide/remain/set down roots?  That’s the evidence to whether or not your heart has been transformed by Christ.

Abiding in the gospel of God (2:18-23)
One area in which it’s certain Christians ought to abide is the gospel of Jesus Christ!  If we begin in the faith, we continue in the faith.  There are others who don’t.  They fall away when they listen to antichrist teachers, of which there are many in the world (2:18).  They get caught up in a false doctrine, a false salvation, and a false Christ.  And because they fall away, they show that they never had any assurance in the first place.  As John states, “if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” (2:19).  The fact that they gave it up shows they didn’t have any root in Jesus.

John was convinced that wasn’t the case for his readers.  They had the “anointing” (2:20) – they had the indwelling Holy Spirit in their lives who bears witness to the truth of God.  The Spirit testifies to Christians that Jesus is the Son of God, and when we can acknowledge that, we have a great piece of evidence for our salvation.  It’s the person who denies the Father and Son who is antichrist (2:22).  They’ve fallen away from the truth of the gospel, thus they have no promise of salvation.

  • Vs. 23 is key when it comes to other religions & cults:  1 John 2:23, "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also."  How can we tell if a sect claiming to be Christian actually is Christian?  By what they believe about Jesus.  If they believe Jesus is the Son of God, God of true God, affirming everything the apostles wrote about Him, then it’s good.  If not, then it’s not.  Mormons deny the deity of Christ – Jehovah Witnesses deny the deity of Christ – Muslims deny the deity of Christ, etc.  By definition, they are antichrist religions.

Abiding in the truth of God (2:24-27)
In addition to abiding in the gospel is the need to abide in proper doctrine.  One is what the Bible teaches about Jesus – the other is what the Bible teaches on everything else.  Stay in the truth.  Stay in what the Spirit of God (the anointing – 1:27) teaches.  The Spirit Himself keeps us in Christ, because He is the one who helps us abide.

That’s the internal.  John goes back to the external…

Children of the God of righteousness
Looking forward to Christ (2:28-3:3)
When we abide in Christ, we have joyful assurance.  We can look forward to “His coming” (2:28) with a clear conscience.  Again, much of this has to do with our practice.  Evidence is seen in our outward actions.  God is righteous (2:29), thus those who belong to God practice righteousness.  After all, children tend to act like their parents.  Through Christ, God becomes our heavenly Father, and we become His children.  The evidence of His parentage is our purity – our righteousness – our transformed lives.

Christians and sin (3:4-9)
How are we transformed?  We don’t live in sin.  We used to – we lived in lawlessness (3:4), but that is exactly why Jesus came.  He was manifested to take away our sins (3:5).  If He’s taken them away, then we don’t do them any longer – we don’t consistently practice them.  What we do practice is righteousness (3:7), because the One who saved us is righteous.  Jesus saved us, destroyed the works of the devil in our lives, and gave us a new nature – one in which we cannot sin because we’ve been born of God (3:9).

That all sounds pretty radical, but we need to remember this is the same apostle who wrote that if a Christian claims to be without sin, he’s lying (1:8,10).  So again, this has to be talking about habit.  It is impossible for a Christian to sin, continue living in sin, and purposefully decide to live in sin without consequence.  It’s not impossible for a Christian to stumble & fall – it’s not even impossible for a Christian to engage in a season of rebellion.  God will surely discipline us during those times – perhaps harshly – but we will not lose out on our salvation in the meantime.  What is impossible is for a Christian to change his/her nature.  If we’ve truly been given a new nature by the grace of Jesus, then we cannot discard it and go back to living the way we did before.  Transformation is just that: transformation.  The work of the devil has been destroyed, so that old nature is gone.

The idea is that Christianity isn’t something that be made up or imagined.  We either have a new nature in Christ, or we don’t.  Someone might be a false convert, but they cannot change who they are.  That’s a work that belongs solely to God.  And the good news for a Christian is that once God has changed you, you’re changed!  You know when you’ve sinned, because your new nature is one that is sickened by your sin.  You’re grieved when you grieve the Holy Spirit.  You mourn over the mistakes you make.  These things aren’t things to make us doubt our salvation; they are grand assurances of them!  They are the marks that your nature has been transformed by Christ, and the sin you now commit is unnatural.  You’ve been transformed, and your conscience bears witness.

Practicing sin vs. practicing love (3:10-15)
What’s the difference between those who practice sin & those who practice righteousness?  It is the difference between being a child of the devil & a child of God. (3:10)  Those who refuse to love are those who engage in hate, and hatred leads to murder & more.  The love that we have for one another is proof of our transformed heart.  That’s the proof that we have passed from death to life (3:14).

John has much more to say about love, and it basically takes up the rest of the letter…

Loving others with the God of love
Testing our love (3:16-23)
OK, so we know that outward love is evident fruit of true Christian salvation.  What does outward Christian love look like?  It ought to be obvious.  We lay our lives down for one another (3:16) – we help one another in every way that we can (3:17).  When we love, we don’t just do so in words, but we do it in deeds (3:18).  And guess what?  It’s obvious.  We know when we’re loving someone else, and we know when we’re just paying lip service to it.  Our hearts will tell us when we’re loving or when we’re faking.  And if our hearts condemn us, then surely God isn’t fooled – as John writes, God is greater than our hearts & He knows all things (3:20).  We can’t pull one over on God – we aren’t going to be able to convince Him that we truly loved our brother when we didn’t…especially when we know deep down that we didn’t.  But the flip side of that is just as true.  If our hearts testify that we truly act in love, then guess what?  We’re loving.  That’s when we can have confidence toward God (3:21).  That’s when we can know we’re truly acting according to the commandments of God, just as He told us to do (2:23).

It’s good to test our love – to test our motives.  Sometimes we do just enough to try to ease our guilty conscience.  That’s not love; that’s works-based obligation.  Love gives freely, and it’s modeled in Jesus.  Jesus gave freely for us; we ought to give freely towards one another.  What that looks like will vary from case-to-case & person-to-person, but you’ll know it when you see it.  When you’re truly acting in love, there won’t be any question about it.

Testing the spirits (3:24-4:6)
John takes a bit of a break from the theme of outward love, but continues on in the thought of testing.  Just like we are to test our actions by the standard of love, so are we to test the spirits by the standard of the Scripture.  How do we know when we’re receiving the teaching of the Spirit of God or the spirits of Antichrist?  By what it says about Jesus.  1 John 4:2–3, "(2) By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, (3) and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world."  Remember that one of the reasons John was writing was to grant assurance of salvation to his readers who were caught in the middle of a bunch of false teaching.  They (like all Christians) would want to do the right thing & learn the right things – how could they tell the true teachers from the false ones?  By what they taught about Jesus.  A proper Christology isn’t the only aspect of correct teaching, but if that’s off, everything else is too.  What someone says about Jesus is a crucial starting point.  Is Jesus God?  Is He the Lord who was crucified for our sin & resurrected from the dead?  If a teacher can’t answer affirmatively on this, then you don’t need to listen to anything else he says.

The difference between the false teachers and the true teachers is their origin.  False teachers are of the world (4:5); true teachers are of God (4:6).  Those who truly belong to God will have ears attentive to the truth of God.  They will hear apostolic teaching & recognize it as such.  Jesus put it a different way: John 10:27, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."  If we belong to Jesus, it makes sense that we would respond to the teaching born out of His Spirit.

  • This isn’t to say that Christians can’t be deceived about anything.  False teaching sadly infects many churches & afflicts many Christians.  But true Christians won’t be deceived about the essential things.  When it comes to the deity of Christ, the resurrection, our salvation by faith – those are things true Christians will instantly recognize and eventually affirm.

God is love (4:7-16)
John continues in the idea of who is truly of God & who is not, while at the same time returning to the theme of love.  True Christians not only affirm essential teaching, having the Spirit of God within us bearing witness – true Christians also love one another, because that is part of our new nature.  God is love, so those who are the children of God cannot help but love.  The love of God is ultimately demonstrated through Jesus & His sacrifice for us, and He Himself serves as our example/model for how we love one another (4:10-11).

What does love do?  It gives us the assurance that God abides in us & we in Him (4:12-13).  Love is the outworking of the Spirit in our lives.  We didn’t generate it; God did.  So if it’s there, where did it come from?  God. J  Thus love is a marvelous measure to grant us assurance for our salvation.

  • I never worry about Christians who struggle with sin from time to time if they demonstrate a humble heart that loves God & loves others.  I worry often about people who claim a rigid holiness but have a heart full of hate.  God IS love, so if someone has no love in their lives, then where is God?  The fruit of the Spirit is primarily love (Gal 5:22), so without it, one cannot legitimately claim to be born of the Spirit.  Love isn’t optional for the Christian; it’s part & parcel of who we are.

The end of love (4:17-19)
What does love do for us?  The same thing that walking in righteousness & abiding in Jesus does does (2:28) – it gives us boldness and confidence in the day of judgment (4:17).  IOW, it gives us the assurance that we need for our salvation.  We reverently fear & respect God in worship, but we have no paralyzing fear of the day of judgment, because the love of God has cast it out (4:18).  God has worked within us, making it possible for us to love (4:19), and that is all of the assurance that we need.

What love proves (4:20-5:5)
John wraps up the argument by returning to the practical nature of the love of God.  When we walk in true love towards our brother, we demonstrate that we are walking in the commandments of God – thus we are loving God & keeping His commandment (5:2).  This isn’t a call to burdensome legalism, but victorious Christian living.  No matter what doubts and questions Satan may throw at us, we can know that we know that we’re saved.  Our God overcomes Satan & He overcomes the world.  We have been born of Him, and thus we can have joy.

With that all said, John closes out his letter with the 2nd bookend.  He opened the letter by writing of the witness of the apostles; now he writes of the witness of God.  He just finished the section of love & righteousness being the assurances of our faith & our faith being defined as believing that Jesus is the Son of God (5:5).  Do we have testimony of that fact?  Yes – given to us by none other than God Himself.

The witness of God
The unified witness (5:6-8)
Who is Jesus?  He is the one who came by water and the blood.  He came incarnate as a Man, was baptized by John son of Zacharias, and became a bloody sacrifice upon the cross.  He was testified to by God the Holy Spirit Himself – even when the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and especially when Jesus rose from the grave, and personally indwelled every believer in Christ.  Thus the Spirit testified outwardly of Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, and the Spirit testifies personally to every believer now that Jesus is risen from the dead.

Due to time constraints, we don’t have time to get into the details of it tonight, but the latter part of vs. 7 & first part of vs. 8 in the KJV & NKJV are likely scribal additions to the actual text written by John.  The text most likely reads (as translated by NASB) “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” Although the part about the Father, the Word, and the Spirit being one is a wonderful (and true) statement about the nature of the Trinity, it was most likely a scribal note made out in the margin of a manuscript that eventually got copied into the text.  The idea is true, and is taught throughout the New Testament; it just isn’t original to 1 John 5:7-8.

The superior witness (5:9-13)
The bottom line is that God Himself testifies to the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit did so once, and does it repeatedly in every single person who comes to faith.  We have the witness in ourselves, and those who don’t believe God the Spirit make Him a liar (5:10).  There can be no more credible witness that God Himself – He is the ultimate star witness.

And what is it that He testifies? John says it best: 1 John 5:11–12, "(11) And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (12) He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."  That’s the gospel!  Believe the Son, and know that you have life.  Reject the Son, and be certain that you do not.  It’s that simple.  John wrote so that we might believe…so believe!

The result of His witness (5:14-17)
Once more, the end result here is assurance – confidence – boldness.  Not just for eternity, but for every day.  Because we are certain of our salvation, we can be certain that God hears our prayers.  We can be certain we have an ever-present audience with God, and that He is glad to grant our requests according to His will.  Whether we ask for ourselves, or we intercede on behalf of another brother or sister in Christ, our assurance of salvation gives us confidence to ask.

Closing exhortations/review (5:18-21)
John wraps it up by reminding his readers that true believers strive for holiness – that God protects them – the Son of God has come – and that we have been made His own.

Conclusion:
Do you have questions?  Do you doubt?  Have you wondered whether or not you’re truly saved?  Look again to the work of God in your life.  Look to see how God has transformed you – look back to see how you are no longer the person you used to be.  Where there was darkness, now there is light.  Where there was hatred, now there is love.  Where there was falsehood, now there is truth.  This is all of the work of Jesus.  Do you live every day perfectly?  Of course not – but you can know that you’re saved.  You can know that Jesus continues to act on your behalf, and that you belong to Him.  There is wonderful comfort & assurance in that!

At the same time, we might still have twinges of our conscience from time to time.  That’s a good thing!  That’s a sign that the Holy Spirit is still working in your life, shaping you into the person He wants you to be.  Be sure to pay attention to the prompting of the Spirit.  Maybe there have been some times that you know you haven’t loved as you ought.  Maybe there have been some times that you’ve taken too much advantage of the promises of forgiveness & you’ve dived into sin too often.  Examine them & confess them to God.  Deal with it, and be glad!  Rejoice that God is still working with you as one of His children! 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s