Sunday, January 9, 2011

BS11-001 Introduction to I John



The Fruit of Fellowship with Christ

A Series on the Fruit, Benefit, and the Joy of Walking With Christ

“Introduction to the First Epistle of John”
(Part I)


INTRODUCTION

To set the table and to prepare for the delicious and nutritious banquet given to us by Christ through John, we will take tonight and next week, Lord willing as our introduction to this letter. Join us each week as we examine this wonderful letter verse by verse.


A.   Invitation to Study this Letter

1.     This letter has always been loved by the Christian Church

2.     This letter is filled with profound thoughts expressed in simplistic expression

3.     This letter is both reflective and practical for your daily life in Christ

4.     This letter was written to reassure and further develop Christians in their faith

5.     This letter needs to be studied deeply, meditated on intently, and loved dearly

6.     This letter is concerned with the fundamentals of Christian theology

7.     This letter was written by an old man who had pastoral charge over a number of churches. (Probably the churches in Asia) 

B.   Information to Substantiate This Letter

1.     A crisis had arisen in a church due to the rise of false teachers

2.     It seems these false teachers have left the church by this time

“They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (I John 2:19)

3.     These false teachers were still in contact with the members of one of or all of the churches that John was responsible for

4.     These teachers were challenging the character of Christ and they challenged whether John’s people were Christians at all

a.     They claimed to have true fellowship with God

b.     The claimed to be sinless

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness , we lie and do not practice the truth…if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (I John 1:6, 8, 10)

c.      They said they actually knew God and no one else did

“Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him… (I John 2:4)

d.     They claimed to live in the “light”

“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” (I John 2:9)

e.      They did not believe that Jesus was the Christ or that He was the Son of God.

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the anti-Christ, he who denies that Jesus is the Christ.” (I John 2:22)

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” (I John 5:1)

“Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (I John 5:5)

f.       They denied that Jesus actually came in the flesh or was born as a man

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the anti-Christ, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” (I John 4:2)

g.     They did not accept nor obey Jesus commands.

“Whoever says I know him but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him… (I John 2:4)

This is serious! You cannot say that you know Jesus Christ or that you are a Christian and not obey God. Living sinfully and rejecting the commandments of God proves that you do not know God and it proves that you are not a Christian. 

h.     They seemed to live their life for their own sensual/pleasure

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (I John 2:15-17)
i.       They apparently lacked love, brotherly love

Wow, these guys were bad news! They challenged the very character and core of Jesus Christ by challenging his teachings.

They claimed to have true fellowship, to be sinless, that only they knew God, that they lived in the real light, they didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ from God, they denied he even was a man born in the flesh, they refused to accept his commandments and obey them, they lived for all the pleasure and sensuality that they could find and they were not very loving. Sound like anyone you know? Hope not! Do you wonder why John wrote this letter?

Let’s wrap up this section on the information that substantiates this letter:

·        John must deal with these false teachers and shut them down before they pollute the churches and lead precious sheep astray

·        John is dealing with a very definite system of teaching that spread and opposed the teachings of Jesus

·        The church is under attack by a formidable enemy and adversary

·        John must defend and demonstrate the Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah

We are just setting the stage by way of introducing this letter so that we can understand what John means. We have seen an invitation to study this letter and now we have seen some information that substantiates the need for this letter.

C.   Implications to Supplement this Letter

1.     There is no reference to persecution in this letter.

a.     Problems – are not mentioned or even referenced

b.     Persecution – are not mentioned

c.      Pain

2.     There is a marked absence of references to comfort or consolation.

This leads us to believe that things were not too bad for the church and believers at the time John wrote. This was probably just before John was arrested and put into a pot of boiling oil to die. We know he did not die and was banished to the Island of Patmos where he received the Revelation of Jesus Christ for the seven churches in Asia.

This letter is to combat false teaching and not to confront or console pain from persecution.

3.     The real danger seems to be in the attitude of the recipients toward:

a.     The world – they were beginning to love it

This diminishing enthusiasm and developing love-affair with the world was making them more and more susceptible to what we call “worldliness.”  So John warns his readers about loving the world and the things in it. 

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” (I John 2:15-16, ESV)

b.     The Christian faith – they were questioning its validity

A.   E. Brooke wrote this about their attitude,

“The enthusiasm of the early days of the Faith is no longer theirs. Many of them had been brought up as Christians, and did not owe their faith to a strong personal conviction or experience.” [1]

Brooke’s is saying that a spiritual laxity with some internal squabbling had developed into a lackadaisical attitude among the Believers. They weren’t as steadfast in their fellowship with God and with each other as they once were.


[1] A. E. Brooke, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, International Critical Commentary, pp. ii-iv

6 comments:

Seams Inspired said...

Can't wait to study this more, Gregg! :o) Have a couple of questions...

1. What happened to 'them' or the false teachers? Do we know? This makes me curious to know if they started their own church when they left the true church.

2. In your point B-4-g, to which commandments is John referring? This seems to be a verse that can bog us down in legalism if we're not careful. Just asking for curiosity's sake more than anything. :o)

Happy Sunday! :o)

Gregg said...

Glad you liked it, I hope it is of some benefit to you and all who spend time looking it over. We don't really know what happened to them. They don't seem to have started a church of their own, it seems they like to infiltrate existing churches and pervert biblical doctrine for their own. They didn't seem to be the type to do the work it would take to start something of their own. They seemed to travel from church to church.

The commandments John seems to be referring to are the two main commandments of loving God and loving neighbors and those command that center around on godliness and holiness. He does not refer to the 10 commandments nor does he refer to legalistic preferences of men. He is not advocating that we have to keep lists, or the legalistic trap of "we don't drink, dance, or chew, or go with girls who do" that many believers want to entrap us with.

John's emphasis is on the direction of one's life not the perfection. He, as you already know, zeros in on a desire for growth and holiness rather than praying a praying and living in continued bondage to sin. He is implying new life results in new living. Salvation is a changed life not an addition of "Christ" to a life of sin and debauchery.

If one were to study this passage as well as any passage carefully, prayerfully, and diligently, then that question as you also already know would never come up. Thank you for asking it for those who may not be as spiritually mature and would possibly be tripped up by it.

Your questions and comments are tremendously welcomed, you might be surprised to know, I don't know it all. :)

God bless you!

Gregg

John said...

Hi Gregg,

I've been in a small group the past couple of months studying 1 John and something keeps coming up that puzzles me. The person who is leading this study has noted on several occassions that the references to Light and Darkness are not about salvation.

Basically, he is saying that 1 John was written to believers about believers. That it's possible for a true believer to walk, live and be in the darkness because we all still sin and if we deny the truth, deny our sinfulness or hate our brother, we are in the dark (but still saved).

I've read quite a bit on this from various sources & commentaries and I consistently see what I believe is the theme of these passages; Those in the dark are not true followers of Christ. Those in the light are always in the light even when we do sin.

Two things seem clear throughout the theme of scripture. When we are born again, we enter into fellowship and the light as redeemed children of God, through the imputation of Christ's righteousness and His work on the Cross. Nothing can take us out of this fellowship or the light. Yes, we will still sin but in the big picture, we're still in the light and in fellowship w/God. Not because of anything we do or don't do but rather, because of what Christ has done.

Any suggestions on how to approach this individual on this topic?

What bothers me about this the most is that it can give the impression that many are saved when their lives show otherwise. I often hear how someone was saved when they were 3 or 4 and didn't really 'find' GOd until they were 30 or 40. Or, how someone has been back-slidden for 20 yrs and we need to pray that they'll "come back".

I don't want to have a legalist attitude or judge anyone but it seems more and more that this sort of teaching softens the Gospel down to someone simply making a decision or saying a prayer to believe and viola! They're 'in'. Based on this way of thinking, the majority of people in the world are 'saved' because they 'believe'.

Appreciate your in depth reviews on things like this!

~ktf~
John

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Once again you have come up with something very thought provoking. most enjoyable to read.


Thanks for the visit and lovely comment it is very much appreciated.

THE OLD GEEZER said...

Brother Gregg

I'm looking forward to following along :-)

~Ron

Gregg said...

John -

I am surprised that your group leader does not see these references to light and dark as being related to salvation. If his premise or thesis is that this is a letter about believers he is wrong. John did write to believers but about the false teachers who were infiltrating these Asian churches. He is also wrong that a true believer to walk in or live in darkness. Sinning as a believer is not the same as living in darkness. You are right in questioning that and your instinct that is correct.

You are right, those who live or continue in darkness are not believers. They are lost.

"Two things seem clear throughout the theme of scripture. When we are born again, we enter into fellowship and the light as redeemed children of God, through the imputation of Christ's righteousness and His work on the Cross. Nothing can take us out of this fellowship or the light. Yes, we will still sin but in the big picture, we're still in the light and in fellowship w/God. Not because of anything we do or don't do but rather, because of what Christ has done."

This is absolutely correct.

What bothers me about this the most is that it can give the impression that many are saved when their lives show otherwise. I often hear how someone was saved when they were 3 or 4 and didn't really 'find' GOd until they were 30 or 40. Or, how someone has been back-slidden for 20 yrs and we need to pray that they'll "come back".

You are right. Many people think they are believers when they are not. I don't think the NT teaches back-sliding or carnal Christians. Decisions are not salvation. The bible doesn't teach anything about "receiving or asking Christ into your heart." Salvation is a transformation.

I don't want to have a legalist attitude or judge anyone but it seems more and more that this sort of teaching softens the Gospel down to someone simply making a decision or saying a prayer to believe and viola! They're 'in'. Based on this way of thinking, the majority of people in the world are 'saved' because they 'believe'.

You are not being legalistic, you are being biblical. It does soften the gospel. It is misleading.

How to approach him. Wow. First, prayerfully. Second with Scripture. He needs to be shown like Aquilla and Priscilla helped Apollos understand the scriptures more fully. He needs to be taught more clearly and fully about what salvation is. Take him to dinner and explain your concerns and show him from scripture what salvation really is. If he refuses he needs to be labeled as a heretic and avoided. That his extreme and hopefully would never come to that. He can't be allowed to continue in this false understanding of the gospel.

Gregg

Yvonne - thanks, glad you found some benefit

Ron - Thanks!