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When we consider the last post, we were reminded how easy it is to twist words when the whole conversation has not been considered. Each part serves a particular aspect under-girding the writer’s main point, so I want us to begin our study of 1 John in that place, John’s main point. John writes in verses 1-4 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life…That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
What captures your attention in the opening of John’s letter? Three thoughts come to my mind. First, John’s words in the opening of this epistle draw our attention to the opening words of two other books in the Bible, the gospel of John and Genesis. Notice the similarities between “That which was from the beginning…the Word of life…”, “In the beginning was the Word…”, and “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” All three passages emphasize the eternality of the central figure in these books, God. In Genesis, the central figure is Yahweh the Creator. In John’s gospel, the central figure is the Word, the Creator, and in 1 John again, we find the Word of Life. Secondly, John’s words draw our attention to the physical reality of the incarnation of Christ. He says: “that which we have heard, our hands have handled, and that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you…” John is writing as a witness of physical events that he personally experienced, and then he is going to relate those events to the spiritual well-being of his church congregation. Apart from the incarnation of Christ, there could be no eternal life. Thirdly, John is going to emphasize his main point for writing the epistle. He says “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us…And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” John’s purpose can be summarized generally with the following statement: John wrote the his epistle confronting false teaching concerning the person of Christ and the nature of the Christian life, because he wanted these Christians to have a vibrant Christian experience as they walk in fellowship with God. God wants you to have a vibrant Christian experience as you walk in fellowship with Him, as well; therefore He preserved these words for your growth as a Christian. In our next post, I would like to dig a little deeper into John’s purpose, a vibrant Christian experience.
Imagine for a monument that you are a young person who has taken the potentially life changing step to run for public office in your local community. After formally announcing your candidacy, you are approached by a member of a popular local media outlet soliciting your first formal interview. Being young and inexperienced, you thrill at the opportunity to get your name and views out to the public, and after completing the interview, you eagerly anticipate its publication. Finally, the day comes that the interview is published. You pick up the paper and begin absorbing the article, but to your dismay, you meet an article that is far less flattering toward your views than you anticipated. You cringe in several location, where the author twisted your words, and presented them in a way that misrepresented your views. Every quote was verbatim, however not every quote accurately portrayed what you said in the interview. You quickly learned the hard lesson, that your words can be easily twisted and presented in a way that is quite contrary to your original intention.
As a pastor, it is both my passion and sacred duty to labor to “rightly divide” the word of truth for God’s people. Pastoral labors are not strictly academic; however, living and working in the midst of God’s people provide countless reminders of the devastating consequences of embracing false teaching to whatever degree we meet it. Ideas have consequences, and the degree to which we embrace right ideas will directly manifest itself in the blessings we experience in our daily Christian walk. To the contrary, wrong ides also have varying degrees of negative consequences. It was this passion that drove the Apostle John to pen a series of simple yet practical epistles to his beloved church family at Ephesus. Over last few months in our church here in Cape Coast, we have been studying the first of these epistles. Week after week, my hearts has been stirred by the pastoral love of John for his church family, and his desire to confront wrong thinking. It is my desire to share with you some of the highlights of our time spent in this epistle. Our next post will discuss the primary situation facing the church, and John’s approach to correcting this great problem in the church.
“Our love isn’t proportional to our forgiveness; it’s proportional to our understanding of forgiveness. If someone has been forgiven by Christ’s supernatural sacrifice at the cross—and yet that person never explores the depths of his sin and the miracle of the atonement—his love will remain tepid. It is impossible to know too much about God and his love for us in Christ. If someone is into theology and not into loving others, the problem isn’t that he’s spent too much time learning about God; it’s that he never took to heart what he learned. In fact, 1 John warns he may not even be a believer at all. Supernatural community begins with sound theology. It is unapologetic about the sinfulness of sin. It is honest about God’s personal wrath in a personal hell—rather than making hell seem like a logical consequence of his justice that even he’s embarrassed by. It glories in the miracle of the atonement—how at the cross something so horrific could achieve something so beautiful. And in keeping with Christ’s resurrection from the dead, it expects transformed lives as a result.”
Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community: Where God’s Power Makes a Church Attractive (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).