As usual, I’m here in the camper where I belong. It’s a cloudy day here in North Georgia and we haven’t been able to say that much this summer. I don’t want to jinx anything, but there’s a rumor going around that we might get rain several days this week. That would be awesome.
Hey, before we get into our look at First John, I want to mention again that Vol 2 of (Re)Discovering the Bible, launches tonight at midnight on Amazon Kindle. Thanks to all of you who read volume 1 and either recommended it to friends or reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads, or both. Volume 2 is focused on the Gospels and Acts. It’s not a commentary, though I do offer some commentary on certain passages, it’s a companion guide to help you as you read through those books. My goal is to help make the Bible come alive to readers and to help you help yourselves.
The Gospels and Acts are absolutely essential to making sense of the Bible. The whole Bible is about Jesus and it’s the 4 Gospels where we learn His true identity, who He was and is, and what his purpose was and it. Those 4 little memoirs tell us EXACTLY who Jesus is. Acts is the only book that describes how people became Christians and how Churches were born.
Naturally, I want you to take advantage of it. So for the next 5 weeks (35 days), volume 2 will be priced at only $3.99 at the Kindle Store. After that, the price goes up to $4.99. Please get it, read it, and encourage you family to get and read it. I truly want this little book to go viral.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not saying that because I want to make a fortune on book sales. I want to make Jesus famous again. I’m not keeping a dime of the money from this book. Not one red cent. Every penny will go to local Church ministry.
Ok, now that my shameless promotional commercial is out of the way, let’s get cracking on the little 5 chapter letter we know as First John.
There’s no definitive answer to which of John’s writings was first, though there is a kind of consensus that Revelation was last. Since all of his work as completed inside a 10 year period between A.D. 85 and 95, they are virtually simultaneous. Traditionally, John did his writing in Ephesus and on the island of Patmos where he was exiled by the Emperor, Domitian.
Nearly all traditions agree that John spent his later years in the mighty city of Ephesus, where he eventually died of natural causes.
Legends hold that he took Mary, the mother of Jesus with him when he moved to Ephesus, where she also passed away. That story, whether true or apocryphal suggests that John took Jesus’ charge to care for his mother quite seriously.
Another legend, which John makes mention of, and refutes, in his Gospel, was that John would never die. That rumor was built on an interesting foundation. First, Jesus had said to Peter concerning John, ‘What’s it to you if I want John to live forever, you follow me.’ John 21:21-23.
6:06Also, it was widely told that Domitian had ordered John boiled in oil, but that the Apostle had survived the ordeal unharmed, which is why the old man was exiled to Patmos, which he also survived. And of course, John was still alive decades after the other Apostles had been martyred.
In his later years, John became famously known as, ‘the apostle of love’. One story says that in his dotage, John would be carried to Church where he was seated on a comfortable mat due to his age. Out of courtesy, he would be asked whether or not he had a word for the Believers. Each week his reply would be, “Beloved, let us love one another”. Eventually, after weeks of the same greeting, a frustrated member of the Church in Ephesus blurted, “Have you no other word for us, Brother?” John’s sure and quick reply was, “What else is there?”
Love is a major theme in both John’s Gospel and in this, his first letter. In 1 John alone, he mentions love 36 times in 24 verses, mostly in chapters 3 an 4. Chapter 1 is the only 1 of the 5 where he doesn’t mention it.
All this talk of love is remarkable coming from the once firebrand of a young disciple who was quick to silence others and to wish for fire and brimstone on a town that rebuffed Jesus. He along with his brother, James, were nicknamed ‘the sons of thunder’ by Jesus, probably because they were so quick to judge. Now, in is final days, John has become known best by his commitment to Christian love.
Looking at the book a little more directly; in Chapter 1 – John reminds readers of his authority as an eyewitness. There are a couple of reasons why he does this. One is because of the rise of a philosophical cult called Gnosticism.
Gnosticism was (and is again), a mystery philosophy that pushed a doctrine of ‘secret knowledge’. One had to be initiated into a deeper way of knowing that went beyond head knowledge.
Gnostics did not believe the dual nature of Jesus as both man and God. He was God, but his humanity was a ruse. He merely looked human. He couldn’t be truly man, because flesh was evil.
Interestingly, Gnosticism expressed itself in one of two ways; the first was asceticism. Practitioners would deny themselves any physical pleasures, be they dietary, financial or sexual. They were the forerunners of the monks and nuns who would later renounce living in society and would become reclusive. I’m not suggesting Monks and Nuns are Gnostics, but ‘Christian’ Asceticism has its roots in that philosophy.
The other school of thought said that because the flesh was evil we should just let it do whatever it wanted and concentrate of freeing our spirits. It was this hedonistic branch that Jesus addresses in many of his communications to the 7 Churches of Asia we read about in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.
John spends much time in his writings directly and indirectly disputing the claims of the Gnostics.
Another motivation for Chapter 1 is explained in a little more detail in John’s 3rd letter. It would seem there were certain ‘leaders’ in the Church who discounted the message of the Apostles and held themselves as superior and dominant. John writes specifically about one of these men, Diotrephes, in his 3rd letter.
At any rate, John spends a great deal of time reminding readers that He was an eyewitness of the things of which he spoke and wrote. In this, he sounds very much like Peter in 2nd Peter.
Then he spends much of the first chapter reminding his readers that while we never escape sin, we can be better than we are because of Jesus. And no matter how far we wander, we can always come home.
It’s from there that John spends the majority of his letter, talking about how love should at the center of our lives. It should drive our actions and should be more than just a word. We can’t just talk a good game, but must walk our talk.
Sure, he takes a few side trips but always comes back to love being our motivation of all we say and do.
Probably my favorite side trip is in Chapter 3, where John takes a moment to look ahead to that great day when we shed these weak, sickly, suffering shells for eternal glory. Verse two is one of my all time favorites, and, I still love the way King James says it, “ Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He sall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Boy howdy, I could stop and vacation in that verse for a long, long time.
As you read through this letter, please take special note in chapters 2-5 how often John really does keep coming back to love.
Before we go, I want to stop for a second and one other scenic overlook. Let’s look a verse 13 of chapter 5. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.
Wow, what a verse.
First, note the phrase believe in the NAME of the Son of God. Name implies personality. I truly believe this is a reference to Jesus humanity. He’s not some alien or deity from some otherworldly place, He has a name. He is human. He is real. It takes me back to Chapters 3 and 4 in the book of Acts. In Chapter 3, John is with Peter at the temple where they meet a lame man and say, In the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Verse 6. Can you get any more specific than that? It is the NAME of the God-Man that brings healing, that brings life.
As if there is any doubt, when they’re explaining themselves about this act, in Chapter 4 verse, 10 Peter says it is the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man is standing before you well.
And in verse 12. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other NAME under heaven given among men by which you must be saved.
The Son of God. Our confidence in not in some dude on TV, or some guru sitting cross legged in a far away temple high on some remote mountain side. He is the God who became a man. Not disguised as a man. Really God and Really man. John wrote all about that in Chapter one of His gospel.
You know what, I think I’ll just read that here. Joh
Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Joh 1:2 He was in the beginning with God.
Joh 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Joh 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Joh 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Joh 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
Joh 1:7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
Joh 1:8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
Joh 1:9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
Joh 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
Joh 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
Joh 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Joh 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
That’s the name John is speaking of here in Chapter 5.
The other part of the verse I want to note is where John says, ‘that you may KNOW you have eternal life. There are oh so many people who live in doubt as to their destiny. Entire denominations lead Believers to lack confidence in what Christ has done. I love a song we sing at Church that says this:
Christ is my reward And all of my devotion.
Now there’s nothing in this world that could ever satisfy.
Through every trial My soul will sing
No turning back, I’ve been set free,
Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me,
Everything I need is in you, Everything I need.
Christ is my all in all, the Joy of my salvation,
And this hope will never fail, Heaven is our home
Through every storm My sould will sing
Jesus is here, to God be the glory.
Oh, friend, you don’t have to doubt, you don’t have to wonder. You can know. If you’re a believer who questions, I’m so sorry someone has led you down such a terrible path that keeps you in suspense and worry. Tonight, you can lay your head down on your pillow in confidence that if you open your eyes in eternity, that eternity is secure. You can KNOW. Your faith is not vain. It is sure. In the name and by the name you have been saved. Rescued. You are safe. If you are part of a Church that teaches anything else, get out. Run as fast as you can. Contact me and I’ll help you find a good one.
For some of you who might be listening and are still on the fence about Jesus, today you could get off the fence, surrender, the Bible calls it repentance. It means, hand the keys to Him and let Him drive. He never makes a wrong turn. You can rest assured, you can KNOW that you will arrive at your forever destination safely.
If you need assurance and you make your choice to surrender, please let me know. Ping me. I want to celebrate with you. And, I want to put you in touch with a good Church if you don’t have one. A Church where you can feel at home and who will help you with your next steps.
I’m done. That’s all I got. Can’t wait till next week. My wife, Brittan will be joining us as we talk about hospitality, truth, and standing strong. We’ll be in 2 John. Until then, be blessed and be a blessing.
Appendix: All the references to love in 1 John
1Jn_2:5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
1Jn_2:15 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.
1Jn_3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1Jn_3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
1Jn_3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1Jn_3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
1Jn_3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1Jn_3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
1Jn_3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
1Jn_3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
1Jn_4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1Jn_4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1Jn_4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
1Jn_4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1Jn_4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1Jn_4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1Jn_4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1Jn_4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
1Jn_4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1Jn_4:19 We love because he first loved us.
1Jn_4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1Jn_4:21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1Jn_5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.
1Jn_5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.