Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Test of Fellowship Part 6

SERMON            GM14-015

SERIES:              Christian Living in a World of Chaos & Contradiction

SCRIPTURE:     1 John 1:8-2:2

SUBJ:                  Fellowship with God

SUBTITLE:        The Test of Fellowship (Part 6)

SUMMARY:       The Christian life is viewed as a life of fellowship

SCHEME:           To desire fellowship with fellow believers



          1B     Fellowship is tested on practical grounds (1:5-2:11)

                   1C     Practical grounds of moral like-ness (1:5-7)

                   2C     Practical grounds of confession of sin (1:8-2:2)

                   3C     Practical grounds of obedience (2:3-6)

                   4C     Practical grounds of love for God (2:7-11)

          2B     Fellowship is tested on relational grounds (2:12-17)

                   1C     The Positive Relationship (2:12-14)
                   2C     The Negative Relationship (2:15-17)

          3B     Fellowship is tested on Christological grounds (2:18-28)

                   1C     The Contrast (2:18-21)
                   2C     The Christological (2:22-23)
                   3C     The Centrality (2:24-28)

This first section of John’s letter deals with the fact that the Christian life is to be viewed as a life of fellowship. We have clearly seen that the Christian life is a life of fellowship with all other believers and with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have also clearly seen that our claim to this life of fellowship can be tested, and should be tested. Once again we seen from our passage that our claim of fellowship can be tested at least three (3) ways. It can be tested by:

·        Practical grounds
·        Relational grounds
·        Christological grounds

A.   Review

Last week we finished our section on the habitual practice of the confession of sin. It was important that we examined this carefully and in-depth because it is a one of the essential element of the test of our claim of knowing God and having fellowship with God.

Our passage revealed to us four major principles that enable us to maintain a practice of regularly confessing of sins.

·        The must be an acknowledgment of sin (8)

We must admit the reality of sin in our lives and that we do sin. Otherwise, we have deceived ourselves and we prove that the salvific truth and work of God is not in our lives. IOW, if we fail to admit or acknowledge that we sin vs make mistakes, have a problem, have some hang-ups, or ignore our actions as sinful we prove that we are not an actual child of God.

·        There must be an agreement about sin (9-10)

We must agree with God that when our actions or attitudes violate the standards of God, the result is sin. We say the same thing as God. God says it is sin – we must say it is sin.
·        There must be an abatement to sin (2:1)

John’s goal in writing was that his readers, whom he called his dear children would not commit a single act of sin. His goal was for the eradication or extinction of sin in their lives. John expects true believers to grow and mature and as they do sin is less active or prevalent in their lives.

·        There must be an advocate against sin (2:2)

Even though John’s goal was the extinction of sin in the lives of his readers, he was realistic enough to know that they might sin. So John said if you sin (btw-not when you sin) we have a helper who has been called in to assist us in legal proceedings of a court room. We have an advocate who advocates that God actions are in line with the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. John made it clear that the advocate is for both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. No believer stands without a helper when the accuser accuses us before the Father.

B.   Introductory Device

We now turn our attention to today’s passage. As we do and for our introduction, I want to share a quote from Peter T. Forsythe:

 "The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master".

Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, p. 22.
C.   Obedience is the mark of every believer.

As you know at salvation Christ becomes the master of every believer. As a matter of fact Romans 6:18 tells us

“Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.”

D.   How is obedience the mark of every true believer? Why is obedience so important?
E.   Our passage stipulates three (3) assertions proving that continuing or ongoing obedience is the mark of a true believer.

F.    This is a good reminder for us all that as we claim to have fellowship with God that our claim can be tested by or made known by the keeping of the commandments of God.

[So, let’s dig into…]

                   3C     The Practical Grounds of Obedience (2:3-6)

The conjunction “and” in verse three shows that vss. 3-6 are closely connected to this entire section that begins in verse 5 of chapter one and runs through the end of verse 11 in chapter two. We will examine three (3) assertions in this section of scripture.

[The first assertion stipulated by this passage is…]

1D     Assurance is derived from the principle of obedience (3)

          “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1 Jn 2:3, ESV)

            First of all it is an unfortunate truth that many believers struggle with the assurance of their salvation. Even if you don’t you will encounter various people in the body of Christ and in everyday life who are at odds with the idea that they are saved.

          This turmoil usually comes after some great sin or failure that they might have been guilty of. Or during a painful trial or tribulation they “loose that sense of assurance.”

          What does John say about assurance?

          First of all – John equates “knowing” God with the fact of having fellowship with God.

          Second – John clearly shows the absolute marriage of the idea of true spiritual knowledge of God with obedience to the will of God.

          John is not shy about this concept. In the Greek language that John used our assurance is derived from this unbreakable bound between these two principles.

          This assurance is a natural product of these principles knowledge will result in obedience and obedience results from knowledge.

          John uses the word ginwskw. As a matter of fact John will use this word some twenty-five (25) times in this letter. The root form means “to know.”

          This word gives us the idea of personal knowledge that is gained or has been gained through observation, experience, and instruction.

          John’s use in this verse – by this we know that we have come to know him provides absolute knowledge. John uses the present tense and the perfect tense showing that we have a continued or ongoing assurance that we have actually entered into an ongoing relationship with God.

          John wants to comfort his readers by giving them the means by which they can know for certain that they know God.

          Don’t forget the Gnostics, the false teachers were running around claiming to have a “mystical” knowledge of God known only to them and those “initiated” in their little group.
          Now John uses the word “if” – “if we keep his commandments – giving the grounds or the principle making assurance true and valid.

          The word if was chosen and used because it shows that this claim is conditional. This claim of knowing God or being a Christian may not be true of everyone who claims to know God or claims to be a Christian.

          The phrase actually is a call or a challenge that everyone who claims to know God should examine themselves to discover whether he meets or fulfills the condition.

          Now, the plural form of “commandments” simply draws our attention to the various commands or precepts that God has made known to us.

          The word “keep” is a present tense verb. It is used by John to show us that the “keeping” of God’s commandments is an on-going, habitual, or continuing practice.

          It excludes periodic or rare moments of obedience or no obedience at all.

          The keep is actually an interesting word. Within the word is the idea of a very watchful and very involved or committed concern to obey whatever God has commanded.

          The reason that this assurance is derived from this principle – a Christian is obedient – is known by the fact that the person who has been made a Christian by the HS applying the work of Christ to their soul has within himself a growing love for and a growing desire to obey the commands of God.

Alfred Plummer wrote this, “There is only one way of proving to ourselves that we know God, and that is by loving obedience to His will.” [1]
So, we can maintain absolute assurance that our fellowship or relationship with God is valid because that assurance is founded on a solid principle.

This assurance is derived from the principle that knowledge equals obedience.

Our theme this morning is that obedience is the mark of the true Christians.

This is a good reminder for us all that as we claim to have fellowship with God that our claim can be tested by or made known by the keeping of the commandments of God.

[The second assertion stipulated by our passage is found in verse 4. This assertion is that…]

2D     An Assumption is discovered by the poverty of obedience (4)

          “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4, ESV)

            John turns the tables a bit here. He is still driving his point home but now from a negative view point.

          John’s use of “If” places the emphasis on the hypothetical claim that is being made. The grammar puts the attention on the person who is making the claim that he knows Christ. He claims to know God but in reality he is a liar and is void of the truth. 

          The phrase “does not keep” should really read “is not keeping.” This person at the very time he is claiming to know God is not keeping or obeying the commands of God.

          This is why you cannot point backwards to a date, place, or event such as walking an aisle or raising your hand or even praying a prayer for assurance of your salvation. The assurance is derived from the principle of present tense keeping God’s commandments.  

If you want assurance look and see what it is you are doing right now? This is why the assumption can be made or discovered that a person is really a liar with no truth in him because he or she is not at the current time keeping the commandments of God.

When there is a clear contradiction between your profession and your practice the assumption can be made that you are a liar.

The claim is false. The wording in the Greek is actually a bit stronger it reads, “A liar he is.” It is emphatic.

Salvation changes a person. True salvation gives us different loves, motivations, desires, world-view, attitudes, and perspective.

Yes sometimes these things grow ever so slowly in some people. We don’t all grow the same or at the same pace. But we cannot say that we know God and have a life of continuing and habitual disobedience.

So, we can maintain absolute assurance that our fellowship or relationship with God is valid because assurance is founded on a solid principle. This assurance is derived from the principle that knowledge equals obedience.

And we validate an assumption discovered by the poverty or lack of obedience.
Our theme this morning is that obedience is the mark of the true Christians.

This is a good reminder for us all that as we claim to have fellowship with God that our claim can be tested by or made known by the keeping of the commandments of God.

[There is a third assertion stipulated by our passage. This third assertion shows that there is…]

3D     An application determined by the practice of obedience (5-6)

          “…but whoever keeps his word…” (5a)

          Literally this reads “but he who if he may be keeping his word.”

          It is used because it is impersonal and very general. Meaning it includes every and all genuine believers.

          This individual is characterized or is known by his practice. This individual keeps and continues to keep or to practice God’s commandments.

          As far as I can tell there is no significance to the fact that John has used the word commandments and now the word for word.

          The “truth” the “commandments” and the “word” are the same words for the same thing.

          So, this individual, the one spoken of in verses 5-6 is marked by his everyday obedience to God’s known will.

          “…in him truly the love of God is perfected.”

          This is a difficult phrase. It can have a couple of different meanings. Its meaning hinges on the words “of God.” This can be objective or it can be subjective.

          If it is meant to be understood as objective, then it could mean that the man who is consistently obedient, thus truly saved, his love for God is perfected.

          If it is meant to be understood as subjective, then it could mean that God’s love for those who keep and are keeping his commandments is perfected.

          Plummer and Kistemaker just to name a couple of my favorite dead guys think it is meant to be understood as subjective.

 The translators of the NIV took it that way and they translated the phrase as “God’s love is truly made complete in him (the one who is keeping and continues to keep his commandments.

          Hiebert another favorite of mine says that if you look at the parallel in verse 4-5 – God’s truth is not in him and God’s love is in him – give us a clue.

          He says that truth and love originate in God but they do originate in man, so he thinks that the subjective is the only way it can be taken.

          A Lutheran named Lenski says that only in 5:3 does the context of the passage require a sense of our love for God. He says everywhere else in John’s letter God’s love for us is referenced.

          When you look at the meaning of the word perfected this seems to be right. The basic meaning of perfected is “to bring to an end, to bring to its goal.”
          The passive voice of the verb indicates that the believer’s characteristic obedience to God’s will has brought God’s love to its goal in the believer.

          So, God’s love for the individual that practices and continues to practice obedience having reached its intended purpose in the believer continues to vitalize the experience of fellowship in his life.   

          “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

This phrase “by this we may know that are in him” is a difficult phrase and can be difficult to pin down.

First – This phrase can be taken to be attached to what has just been written or it can be attached to what is about to be written. If it is attached to verse 5 then it seems John has concluded his discussion of obedience as a sign or evidence of true faith.

If it is to be attached to verse 6 then if may introduce a second “sign” of assurance that fellowship with God is being maintained.

I think it goes with verse 6 and it continues John’s thought that obedience is a sign or indication that gives assurance to the claim that we know God.

Verse 6 indicates this to be true and gives us a wonderful application. If you say that you know God and have fellowship with God then you will live your life the way that Jesus lived his.

Let’s look at it a little more closely shall we:  whoever says he abides in him…”

This phrase pictures or suggest a believer who is actually verbalizing his or her claim of being a Christian. The verb John uses “abide” points us to the fundamental relationship of the Christian life. It is in the present tense and it points us to the idea of an ongoing fellowship with God as the result of actually being “in Christ.” Our union with Jesus at our salvation results in an ongoing relationship and fellowship with the living God.
Simon Kistemaker helps us to see the importance of this when he wrote, “The verb presents the believer as abiding or dwelling ‘in him’ as the vital sphere of his life and being. It denotes ‘not a static condition but an active relationship that endures.’” [2]

“…ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

John’s use of “ought” rather than “must” makes it clear that the compelling power for such conduct is not an external force but it is an abiding inner drive that demonstrates what is claimed is true by the evidence of one’s life.

The pattern is simple. Jesus is our pattern. A believer will live like Jesus.
The idea contained in our grammar is that this life of imitation is not a broad or in general imitation but it is a close duplication of the way Jesus actually lived.

What does this mean exactly?

Jesus is our pattern or a template. The true or real believer will imitate that pattern or template. So we must go to the bible and see just how Jesus conducted his life. Once we see how he conducted his life, we then imitate it as closely as possible. This then becomes a continuing activity of the one who is truly a believer.

John 13:15 is a clear illustration of this point, “…I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.” (John 13:15, ESV)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph 5:1, ESV)

“Have this mind in you [what mind?] among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:5)

The Gnostics, the false teachers taught and believed that they could live anyway they wanted.

They indulged the sinful desires of the flesh. The believed they could “know” God and have a place in future glory and while living in this life live it anyway they desired including the engagement in sexual sins.

John says no that is not true and it cannot be true of a real believer. If you claim to know God through Christ, then imitate Christ and live the same way he did.

How did he live?

First of all – please understand John is not focusing on the perfection of Christ. He does not expect us to be perfect.

Second – John is not focusing on the miraculous part of Christ’s life.

What is John referring to?

What one thing characterized Jesus life and ministry while on earth?

He was dependent upon his father. He never acted in his own strength, energy, desires, or according to his own agenda.

He came to do the Father’s will.
He always dependent on the HS and his power for all that he did.

Listen, Jesus did not do this miracles by the way in his own divine, godly power. He laid that aside when he took on human form. All that Jesus did was dependent upon the HS.

That is how we are to live – never dependent upon ourselves, never independent of God, but always in dependence upon God through the power of the HS.

So, we can see John’s application for our everyday lives! 

Well, our theme this morning is that obedience is the mark of the true Christians.

This is a good reminder for us all that as we claim to have fellowship with God that our claim can be tested by or made known by the keeping of the commandments of God.

 [Let’s wrap this up!]


Counterfeit bills are never made in odd denominations ($3 or $8 or $12) but are meant to imitate the real thing. At first glance they seem real, you may have passed them along without knowing it. But there is always something bogus about them, some blur or omission, something that doesn’t exactly correspond to real money.

Phony Christians may fool many people: go right places, hang with right crowds, and say the right things (John says they say ’I know Him’) but their experience is that of an unchanged life. Unchanged on the inside (Lack a desire to surrender before the Lord). Paul says, ’they profess to know God but by their deeds they deny Him’. 

SPURGEON: An unchanged life is the sign of an uncleansed heart’

Exhortation:  Pray for the enabling of the HS in order to live with consistent obedience to the commandments of God proving you to be His child rather than being a counterfeit who says I know Him but does not.

[1] Alfred Plummer, The Epistle of S. John, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (1883; reprint ed., London: Cambridge University Press, 1938), p. 90
[2] Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968), p. 258

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done Gregg on an excellent write and read. There was much I didn't know about John, at school and Sunday school we only touched the surface not the in depth way you wrote this post.