Archive for June, 2015

Notes on 1 John – 3:1

See what kind of love the Father has given to us,

As the next clause states the result of the love God has given us is that we are children of God. John’s wish here is that we understand what kind of love it is that could result in such a declaration of sinners such as ourselves. What kind/type of love is it that results in such a transformation in those who are the object of that love.

First, it is a transformative love. It is a love that impacts us at the deepest level, even changing our status.

Second, it is an inclusive love, that is to say it is a love that is extended to those who are not worthy of it who we think should be excluded. This is seen in the fact that John is taken aback at our being called children of God.

Third, it is an initiating love. We read in 1 John 4, “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” (1 John 4:10, ESV).

Fourth, it is a divine love. Again in 1 John 4 we read the well-known words, “God is love’ (1 John 4:8, ESV). The love that results in such transformation is consistent with God’s nature.

Fifth, it is a perfect love (1 John 4:18).

SIxth, it is a comforting love that drives our fear (1 John 4:18).

Seventh, it is a sacrificial love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).

Eighth, it is a timely love (Romans 5:6-8).

Ninth, it is an undeserved love (Romans 5:6-8).

Brothers and sisters, do you see the wonderful love with which you are loved?

that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

The result of such a wonderful love is that we are called, identified as, children of God. To be a child is to be an heir, to belong, to have a home and identity and security and hope and stability. And we have all these things with God. We have this status as child because Jesus, the Son of God, has fully satisfied for our sins, so that there is nothing that stands against us before God. Jesus died that we might be included – and more than simply included but counted worthy and made beneficiaries of God. Consider these verses.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:16-17, ESV).

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29, ESV).

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:7, ESV).

John adds the assurance, “and so we are.” Don’t you understand dear Christian that you have God as your Father and by his power through his Son he has secured all that he has promised and he is freely giving it by grace? Our identity is children of God.

The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Being a child of God sets us apart from the world. God does not mind making distinction between those who are his and those who are not. The truth is, the distinctions along these lines that grate against our flesh are not the problem for God that they are for us. We have been set apart from the world and we must learn to embrace that existence, but we must not embrace it in an arrogant way. Arrogance in Christians is not John’s goal in writing to them about their identity and distinction from the world that we have in Christ. Rather, John is writing to comfort those who are being opposed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. There is a great temptation to think that if the world opposes us en masse then we must be wrong. However, we must recall that the world did not know and therefore opposed Jesus. We cannot expect more favor than was received by God himself.

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Notes on 1 John – 2:28-29

And now, little children, abide in him,

John continues his encouragement to his readers, addressing them in tender terms, to abide in Jesus. John wants his readers to stay with Jesus. Remain in him. Don’t turn to the antichrists who are claiming some knowledge and denying Jesus. One more time, “How are they to abide in Jesus?” “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John, 2:24, ESV). Remember the good news of Jesus. Believe it. Don’t stray from it.

so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink back from him in shame at his coming.

Jesus is coming back. We long for the day of his return praying, Lord, come quickly. However, no one knows the day or the hour – despite what some articles currently circulating about stars and planets apparently aligning and what that supposedly means would have you believe.

John’s statement begs a question. Why would be shrink back from Jesus when he returns? We must remember Jesus is not coming like a mommy to a newborn child who needs to be swaddled. Jesus is coming to judge both the quick and the dead. His judgment in exact and final. It is only those who are found united to him by faith who will stand justified. Being religious is simply not enough. We must be in Christ. We must be known by him. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV).

John encourages us to remain in Jesus in order that in that great and awesome day we are not forced to vainly rely on our works which will not be enough. The only confidence we have in the day of judgement is that we are found in Jesus by grace through faith.

If you know that he is righteous, 

The character of Jesus is important for us to understand. Just as a branch grows with the characteristics of the vine, so Christians grow with the characteristics of Jesus. Indeed all people grow with the characteristics of the one they serve. Jesus is righteous. He never sinned. He is perfect. Paul tells us that Christians have been created in Christ Jesus for good works. Who and how Jesus is defines who and how we are if we are abiding in him.

you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

It is important to note that John does not say, “Everyone who practices righteousness will be born of him.” Being born of Jesus is not the result of practicing righteousness. It is the other way around. If someone is walking in righteousness in accord with the Word of God, it is because they have been born of Jesus. Faith in Christ brings about transformation that might be mimicked but cannot be produced any other way.

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That Last Paragraph Though…

There has been a lot of talk about the last paragraph of the SCOTUS decision, the beauty of it, the grace, the wonder. Rightly so. It is a beautiful piece of writing. It states,

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the  highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded form one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Nevermind whether or not the constitution does or doesn’t grant anyone anything. Despite the fact that I am a young(ish) Christian with a beard, lots of kids, a 4×4 truck with window stickers, and a fighting spirit who was rather drawn to crazy uncle Ron, and thinks the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag is kind of hardcore and therefore awesome, I actually know almost nothing about constitutional law. The constitutionality of the decision is simply not my issue. My issue is, and I think the church’s issue should be, the fact that if we take out the clause about the petitioners (because in our fear and pride it gets our dander up to even hear “them” mentioned in relation to marriage) and focus on how the court has talked of marriage, many (perhaps most) Christians would agree wholeheartedly. Look at just those words.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the  highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. Marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.

In my estimation, a significant part of the church’s struggle in understanding how to relate to and love people in the LGBTQ community is that we affirm the above statements and then tell them they can’t have it. We say, “Marriage is the greatest thing ever.” We endlessly organize marriage conferences. We celebrate family, even including “family” in the names of our churches. We preach endless sermon series on marriage. We talk about how awesome sex is – in the context of marriage. We tell our youth these are the things to which they should be looking forward. We talk about widows and widowers passing away as going to be reunited with their spouse in heaven. But here is the problem. Biblically speaking, there is a union more profound than marriage. Marriage does not embody the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people don’t become something greater than once they were. Marriage doesn’t embody a love that may endure even past death. The SCOTUS decision is essentially saying that in marriage we find our identity, security, and hope. In so far as the church has taught what is proclaimed in these few lines of the SCOTUS decision, she has taught her people to look to marriage for their identity, security, and hope. In so far as the church has taught or even encouraged people to look to marriage for their identity, security, and hope, the church has led her people in idolatry.

The Bible (most clearly in Ephesians 5:22ff) teaches that marriage is a picture of a greater union – the union of Christ and his church. The Bible teaches that the love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family in marriage is a love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family that is dependent on a greater love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family – the love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family secured for us and given to us by Jesus. The Bible does affirm that the two become one flesh, perhaps this could be fairly stated as it is the SCOTUS decision, but the fact remains, as a married man, I am fundamentally the same, a sinner in need of grace. I haven’t, by getting married, achieved some higher plane of existence – I still need Jesus. The Bible teaches that in the New Heavens and New Earth marriage won’t continue; rather, the reality to which marriage pointed will be fully consummated and unaffected by sin and no longer pictured by a shadow of the reality.

I am not so naive as to think that the Church is solely responsible for how the SCOTUS decision came out. I get that the world is full of sinners (ourselves included) who run around proclaiming with Greg Focker, “I’m a person who has feelings, and all I have to do is do what I wanna do and all I want to do is hold on to my bag and not listen to you!” However, I also get that when I went off to college I tried to go to the sister church of the church in which I grew up. I tried to go to the church that all my youth group friends went to. But at the end of the day, after weeks of sermons on marriage, sex, and family and how to improve each and have a godly version of each, I left because all of those things were years away, but I was sinning right then. I didn’t need to know how to have a godly marriage, and godly sex, and godly offspring five years from then. I needed to know there was a Savior right then. I needed the gospel. I couldn’t articulate what I felt in those terms at that point, but that was it. Was that an immature view of things? Perhaps. Maybe. Not convinced. But I do know to mature past that “immature” point I needed the gospel. I needed to hear about a Savior on whom I could fix my eyes, not a marriage I could hope one day to have. So while I don’t think that the church should bear the full weight of the SCOTUS decision, we do need to make sure we are giving our people a truly biblical picture of marriage that points to the story that is actually about sinners finding their true identity, security, and hope, and we need to make sure that story is not an afterthought. We need to stop offering sanctified versions of the world as the place to find identity, security, and hope. We need to give people the gospel. Now, as much as ever. It is only through believing the gospel and finding that we have a forgiveness of sins and  a new hope, identity, and security in Jesus that outstrips anything else that we are freed and strengthened to reject the hopes, identities, and securities offered by the world.

The church has done a great job of exalting marriage as the ultimate relationship. The world is just following our lead.

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Notes on 1 John – 2:26-27

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 

Apparently, there were some who were trying to lead people astray. Paul dealt with such people, and here John is dealing with such people. In our naivety we find it hard to believe that there are those who are in the church, even who are influential in the church, who want to deceive others on issues pertaining to the gospel. Our misunderstanding of what it means to be judgmental has resulted in an unwillingness to maintain the importance of sound doctrine. The apostles didn’t suffer from this disease and the church is better (perhaps we could even say the church is established) because of it. Paul went as far as saying those who preach a different gospel should be damned. John is calling them actively deceitful. They are liars, and John wants the gospel note to ring true in the ears of Christians, so he has written this letter about these liars.

Earlier, we mentioned the discussion around what we are calling John’s statements of purpose. Some maintain that they are statements of content. 1 John 2:26 is helpful in this discussion. Here John uses a preposition that clearly implies content. His use of such a preposition to indicate content at this point makes one wonder why he did not use such a preposition in the other statements, if in fact he was trying to convey content and not cause.

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you,

The anointing in view is the Holy Spirit, as stated in 1 John 2:20. The deceivers do not have such an anointing as demonstrated by their denial of Jesus.

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:1-3, ESV).

Christians have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps and guides and ministers to Christians even by teaching them and working faith in them, giving them a credible profession. The Spirit of Christ does not leave us. What we have received remains.

and you have no need that anyone should teach you.

This is the go to verse of those who despise authority and refuse to submit to church leadership. They use it so say, “I have figured it out, and you are wrong, and the Bible tells me I don’t need a teacher, so I don’t have to listen to you.” The problem is that this in not what this verse means. We know that this is not what this verse means for two reasons. First, John is teaching them. If John means that they have no need whatsoever to learn from someone who knows more than they do, why is he writing them an authoritative letter? Weird. Second, the Bible says things like,

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:11-14, ESV).

So, if we take John in this weird, I-can-figure-it-all-out-on-my-own-and-don’t-have-to-submit-to-you way, then we create a problem by making Scripture inconsistent based not on a fair treatment of what it means but on our refusal to submit to any authority other than ourselves.

What could John mean then? Well he means, what you have received from us is not incomplete. Nothing needs to be added to what the apostles have proclaimed to you and I now write to you. You don’t need to supplement the gospel. Through our preaching you have received both the Spirit and knowledge.

It is the Holy Spirit who illumines our hearts and minds to hear the gospel as it is preached and enables us to believe the gospel as it is preached. The Holy Spirit will direct you in what you have been taught. In verse 20, John wrote, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge” (1 John 2:20, ESV). This is what John is asserting again. You have both the Holy Spirit and knowledge, don’t believe those who are trying to deceive you by convincing you that you don’t have knowledge.

But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is not lie-

What the Holy Spirit has taught you concerning Jesus through the apostles and now reminds you of through my letter, is true and is not a lie. The Holy Spirit does teach us. Jesus was able to encourage his disciples not to worry about what they would say when standing before judges on the basis that the Spirit would direct them. Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit would call to remembrance all the things that he had taught them. The Holy Spirit has a real ministry in and to and through his people. However, the Spirit’s ministry is not contra God’s word. We should expect to be led and encouraged and taught by the Holy Spirit, even in surprising ways. We also should recognize that the normal means of being taught by those called to the task are just that, the normal means, but are no less the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us. If what the Spirit teaches is true and is not a lie then at any point we find the “spirit” teaching us something contrary to Scripture we can absolutely certain it is not the Spirit teaching us.

just as it has taught you, abide in him.

John returns to his earlier topic of abiding reminding his readers that his exhortation is not contrary to the Spirit.

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Notes on 1 John – 2:25

And this is the promise that he made to us - 

It is of utmost importance that we understand we are talking about a promise, not a wage. If God were dealing with us in terms of wage, what we earn, we would have no hope. We see the force of God’s promise coming out at several points throughout the Bible. Here are a few examples.

I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the  Lord (Exodus 6:8, ESV).

The  Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it’” (Exodus 33:1, ESV).

“So I lay prostrate before the  Lord for these forty days and forty nights, because the  Lord had said he would destroyyou. And I prayed to the  Lord, ‘O Lord  God, do not destroy your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemedthrough your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember your servants, Abraham,Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, lest the land from which you brought us say, “Because the  Lord was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, andbecause he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.” For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.’ (Deuteronomy 9:25-29, ESV).

He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
They asked, and he brought quail,
and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant (Psalm 105:39-42, ESV).

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed (Malachi 3:6, ESV).

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith… For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise (Galatians 3:13-4 & 18, ESV).

We see in these verses that God made a promise to his people. God has been faithful to his promise that he made to his people. God’s promise is the basis of his people’s prayers for forgiveness. Though his people have sinned against him and he has disciplined them for their sin, he has not forgotten his promise. God’s unchanging faithfulness to his promise is the very reason his people have not been utterly destroyed. The Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to deal with the sin of his people so that the promised blessing might be secured for his people from every nation. The inheritance can come by either law or promise, not both. The inheritance comes by promise.

Any expectation of good things from God is unreasonable apart from the promise that he has made and fulfilled through the finished work of Jesus Christ. What is the promise?

eternal life.

It is not only that there is this promise from God that is before us, but also that this promise is precisely the opposite of what we have earned. In the garden God spoke to Adam saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17, ESV). Of course, Adam did eat of the fruit. Paul explains the results of Adam’s rebellious action in Romans 5 where we find that as our covenant head, his act of sin brought condemnation to all men. Additionally, Paul reminds us that we have all sinned. Paul goes on to write in Romans 6, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a, ESV). We are all sinners living under a sentence of death. We are dead men walking. However, that is not the end of the story. There is a promise! There is a Savior! So Paul can continue his thought in the same verse, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b, ESV). By our sin we all have earned death. By God’s promise those united to Christ by faith are given eternal life.


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Notes on 1 John – 2:24

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you.

John writes a lot about abiding in his short letter. He mentions it about 20 different times in these 5 chapters. It becomes quite clear that in John’s mind abiding is rather consequential. John makes claims such as, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning” (1 John 3:6, ESV). And, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9, ESV). So the question must be asked, “How do we abide in God?” This question in answered in 1 John 2:24.

John calls his readers back to what they have heard from the beginning. What is that? What is from the beginning? It seems important. Recall where John began his epistle.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3, ESV).

That which was from the beginning is the story of Jesus, the good news concerning Jesus, the gospel! John is commanding his readers to let the gospel remain in them. John’s point is this – Remember Jesus. Remember the gospel. Remember the forgiveness that is yours in Christ; lay claim to it by faith. Remember that God almighty took on flesh to save you. Remember that the Creator is also the re-Creator. Remember that because of the finished work of Jesus, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV). Remember that you are not supposed to sin, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1, ESV). Let this truth abide in you, speaking truth to you, shutting up the mouth of Satan when he screams in your ear that you are too much of a screw-up to be loved by God, or that you are too good to need a Savior to die in your place. In those moments of despair and of pride remember the gospel!

If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.

Here is the beauty of the gospel. We do not abide in the Son and in the Father by working. We don’t. We can’t. We abide in the Son and in the Father by his Word, his gospel, his good news abiding in us and doing something to us. If we are thinking that we can work our way into abiding in the Son and the Father, then we have rejected the gospel. If we think that we have to work our way into abiding in the Son and in the Father, then we have rejected the gospel. Paul approaches the same idea writing, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16, ESV). The basis of our abiding in God is his Word, his gospel, abiding in us – nothing else.

By the gospel abiding in us we abide in God, we see the importance of abiding in the Son and in the Father in Jesus’ words recorded in John 15.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:1-11, ESV).

We are dependent of Jesus, the Word of God, beginning, middle, and end.

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Notes on 1 John – 2:20-23

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you have all knowledge.

John contrasts his readers with those who had gone out from them by pointing to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and midst. John’s readers have the Holy Spirit. He has worked faith in them and has set them apart. He keeps them that they might not be led astray. He works knowledge and discernment in them, that they might walk in confidence, knowing the truth.

I write to you not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 

Here we have another of John’s purpose/content statements. In our flesh we often get bored of hearing the same thing over and over again. We think we should get something new from our pastor. This verse is a good reminder that we need to taught the truth repeatedly. John is not writing falsehood. He is writing truth. John is not writing the basics of the gospel, the truth, to a people who are ignorant. They have all knowledge. John is writing the basics of the gospel specifically because they know the gospel and he wants to remind them of what they know in order that they might stand strong in what they have heard even in the face of the lies they are currently hearing from other avenues. John is like a parent who looks at a child faced with some conundrum, knowing they have prepared the child for such a situation, saying, “You know what the right thing to do is.” John is saying, you know what is true. The gospel is true. The substitutionary work of Jesus is true. The real forgiveness of sins is true. The full deity and humanity of Jesus is true. Stick to what you know. There is no alternate truth. If someone is lying about Jesus, they are not giving a different version of the truth, they are lying. Stand strong in what you know.

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?

Perhaps John had been called a liar. Now he is pushing back. Reminding his readers of the truth and that the one who denies the truth is the liar. The Christ is the Messiah of the Old Testament, the promised anointed one who is the fulfillment of the promises of a better prophet the Moses, a better priest and priestly sacrifice than Levi and his many lambs, and a better king than David. Jesus is the promised Messiah who is the final and ultimate prophet, priest, and king. Anyone who denies that Jesus is the promised Christ is a liar.

This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

Not only are we to see this person who is denying Jesus as a liar, but also as an antichrist. Earlier John said that there were many antichrists. Here he lets us know who they are. Any who deny God is who he says he is is an antichrist.

No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

God cannot be divided against himself. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4, ESV). “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30, ESV). We do not get God piecemeal. Through the Son we are reconciled to the Father. The work of Jesus was reconciling us to the Father. There is no such position as being right with the Father (i.e. having the Father) that does not involve coming to him through Jesus. There is no way to come to Jesus in true faith that does not reconcile you to the Father. The Father and the Son are in agreement in the work of redemption. You cannot have God as your Father if you do not have the Son as your Savior. You cannot have the Son as your Savior without having God as your Father.

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Notes on 1 John – 2:18-19

Children, it is the last hour,

The next chapter of redemptive history, the only chapter that remains to be written, is the end – when Christ returns in victorious judgement, and all who are found in him are brought into glory. For this reason, John, and other biblical authors, say it is currently the last hour. The last hour has been a long hour as it began with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, the last hour is the time in which we live.

and as you have heard the antichrist is coming,

The antichrist is defined in 1 John 2:22 and 4:3 as one who denies or does not confess Jesus as being from the Father. Other passages, such as 2 Thessalonians 2 refer to the man of lawlessness who is from Satan, denies Jesus, and seeks to deceive Christians but is ultimately defeated by Jesus. The man of lawlessness and the antichrist refer to the same figure. There is one who will come to wreak havoc on the church. Our confidence for such a day does not come is some creative eschatological scheme that allows us to escape tribulation; rather, our confidence comes from the victorious Savior who will not be defeated or suffer the loss of any of those for whom he died.

so now many antichrists have come.

The threat is not simply from one grand antichrist. John says many have already come. Again, he defines antichrist for us in his letter. He writes, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son (1 John 2:22, ESV). “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 antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 John 4:3, ESV). The spirit of the antichrist is already at work deceiving and leading astray, yet even now we know that none who belong to Jesus will be lost.

Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 

The presence of the antichrist in the world proves John’s earlier statement that it is the last hour. Paul warns Timothy of this reality of ministry in his first letter. He writes,

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:1-5, ESV).

When we think of how the spirit of the anitchrist will lead people astray we often immediately think of the lures of the world: sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Of course, we can and do sin when we seek to fulfill our flesh with what the world has to offer. However, notice that Paul doesn’t warn Timothy of folks coming with loose morals and thereby leading people into the teaching of demons. Paul warns of those who are coming with extra restrictions, with extra-biblical piety, that draws us away from pure gospel truth. Such scrupulousness is a denial of Jesus because it declares, even if only in an implicit way, that he is not enough.

They went out from us, but they were not of us;

These folks will work their way into churches, often being accepted based on their reputation for piety and conservative living. When they leave a church it can be devastating in a number of ways. People will ask, “What did we do? Are we in sin like they said we were? Should we not do that thing? Shouldn’t we listen to someone who is so willing to stand on their convictions? Maybe they have a point.” Sometimes such people leave with a great dramatic flurry of ostentatious accusations. Sometimes they leave quietly. Sometimes they never enter a church a again because “Churches these days just don’t get it.” Sometimes they bounce from church to church never finding a place that meets their standards.Sometimes churches press on without them. Sometimes churches are divided over such issues. John comforts his readers by reminding them, yes, they were with us and left, 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.

If they were of us, they would still be with us. Plain and simple. How can John be so confident with such an assertion. Recall his record of Jesus’ words in John 6. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37-39, ESV). John can make such a confident assertion because he believed the gospel. John knew that Jesus would not fail to accomplish what he said he would do, and he said he would lose none who are his.

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Notes on 1 John – 2:15-17

Do not love the world or the things in the world.

John is not calling us to utter rejection of all things that have been created. Rather, John is calling us to a right relationship with the world. John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world. Was he in violation of his own word written later as the Holy Spirit led John? No. God loved the world, which he had created for his glory but had been ravaged by sin, and secured its redemption. God loved the world for what he had made it to be and would restore it to. We, as part of the fallen world that God sought to redeem, love the fallen world for the justification, security, hope, and identity that we think it will give us. God loved the world as an object of redemption. We love the world as the source of redemption. God loved the world and sent his Son for the sake of the world. We love the world for the sake of ourselves. This is what John is warning us against. Do not hold the world or its things as ultimate. Do not look to the world or its things for hope, security, or identity. Do not love the world or its things.

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

We can only have one true object of our love. God made us the object of his love that we might make him the object of our love and that we might reflect his love to the world. If we are loving the world, as discussed above, seeking our life in the world, then we are by definition not loving God, seeking our life 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.

Here John gives us a clear definition of what we can expect from the world. The Gospel Transformation Bible summarizes John’s threefold definition as sensuality, materialism, and pride; we could also summarize it as pleasure, possessions, and reputation. The problem with seeking such things from the world is that it can’t deliver what it promises. All of creation is broken by the fall. We can’t source redemption from that which is in need of redemption. We can’t source eternity from that which is finite.

John’s threefold description of what is in the world should remind us of the scene of the fall of man into sin. Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6, ESV). It is not a stretch to see the connection between Eve’s love of the tree and John’s love of the world. Note the parallels:

good for food          –>          desires of the flesh

delight to the eyes          –>          desires of the eyes

to be desired to make one wise          –>          pride in possessions

When we love the world we are making the same choice of the creation over the Creator that Adam and Eve made.

And the world is passing away along with its desires,

When we choose the creation over the Creator we are choosing that which is by definition fading over he who is unchangeable. The world promises glory and buries the fact that it is a fleeting and fading glory in the fine print of its offer. Paul writes,

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we await for it with patience (Romans 8:18-25, ESV).

When the world promises redemption, hope, security, and identity, it is promising to provide the very thing for which it longs itself but does not have. Again, that which is in need of redemption is no source for redemption. Do not look to the world for the things for which the world itself longs? Do not look to the world for that which God freely gives in Christ.

but whoever does the will of God abides for ever. 

What is the will of God? That we come to him in faith for all that he has promised in his Word. Run to your Father through Jesus Christ in the strength of the Holy Spirit.


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Notes on 1 John – 2:12-14

I am writing to you, little children, because

John declares his intention/content six times in these three verses. He addresses his statements to “little children,” “fathers,” “young men,” and “children.” “Little children” and “children” may well refer to the same group. John is probably addressing Christians at different maturity levels.

There is some discussion as to whether the word translated “because” in the ESV should be understood as a purpose clause, as in the ESV translation (and most other translations), or as announcing the content of John’s writing. If the latter option is taken, a better translation would be what is found in the NET Bible (a helpful translation with study notes focused on syntax, translation, and text critical issues), “I am writing to you, little children, that your sins have been forgiven because of his name” (1 John 2:12, NET Bible). I am not sure that a hard distinction has to be drawn between the two options. When we look at the content of John’s letter, it is clear that the content (taking the NET reading) is consistent with the rest of the letter. However, it is also clear that the motivation that John has in writing is that his readers would know and believe what it is that he his writing to them. If we accept that John is writing in light of some pre-gnostic controversy that has arisen in the church, it makes sense to say John is writing to tell them that their sins are forgiven because their sins are forgiven. In other words, John is announcing the gospel because he wants his readers to have confidence in the truth of the gospel.

your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

Children have little experience with life and often have to be reminded of reality. Parents of small kids are constantly giving basic, obvious instruction and encouragement to their kids. “Brush your teeth.” “It was just a dream.” “There are no monsters in your closet.” “Daddy loves you.” “Pick up your room.” Similar basic, obvious instruction and encouragement is needed by those who are young in the faith. When we are young in the faith, while our flesh has been crucified with Christ, it is still strong, the old is still passing away. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 5, it is still making war within us. Our crucified flesh is like a snake that has been killed but can, by mere reflex and muscle memory, strike and bite. When we are young in the faith, a common venomous bite that is inflicted by our flesh is the lie, “Your sin is too much to be forgiven.” John offers the anti-venom, the truth, “Your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”

Notice the motivation, “for his name’s sake.” If our sins were not forgiven, Jesus death would have been in vain and his name sullied. While our redemption is certainly for our good, it is ultimately for the glory of God. We are Christ’s reward for his perfect work. The Father will not withhold what belongs to his Son. Satan cannot take what Jesus has claimed. Your sins are forgiven, not because you are special, but because Jesus is, and his work was effective.

I am writing you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.

There is a confidence in life that those who are old have simply because they have been around long enough to have a track record. They know how things work. They know what to sweat and what to ignore. The same is true for mature Christians. Often times a mature Christian facing some difficulty only needs to be reminded, “God hasn’t changed.” With that simple phrase can come years of Scripture that has been hidden in their hearts and years of testimony of God’s faithfulness in their life and the lives of those around them. They know their God. They know who is from the beginning. They know they can trust him even if they don’t understand what he is up to at the moment.

I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

Young men in the faith have tasted victory over sin. They know their freedom and the conquering power of their King. However, with new situations, with new difficulties, they need to be reminded that the truth applies to that situation as well. They fear and fail and need to be reminded of the victory that is their’s.

I am writing to you, children, because you know the Father.

Sometimes a kid simply needs to be reminded who their daddy is and why that matters. Sometimes, those you are young in the faith need to be reminded of the same reality. You belong to God. He is your Father. He loves you. You know him. Run to him. Don’t be scared, you know he loves you.

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.

God hasn’t changed! Neither has John’s encouragement to those that are mature in the faith.

I am writing to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 

Young men, you are fighting and growing weary. Remember where your strength lies. Remember who it is that strengthens you. Remember that word of God, which is powerful to create and redeem, abides in you. Remember that you have overcome the evil one. Victory is yours because you are God’s and his unconquerable word abides in you. Stand, young men. Stand in Christ.

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