2 PETER

 

Last spring we reviewed the biography of Peter as found in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.  We found that he changed dramatically from a rough, sometimes wavering fisherman, into a powerful apostle of the faith.  The change was brought about by his witness of Jesus resurrection and by the filling of the Holy Spirit.

 

We do not have canonical documentation of Peter’s subsequent life and ministry.  However, there are several late first and second century books and letters that provide some more information about him.  (Many modern authors write books that deny that Peter ever went to Rome at all, and, therefore, deny papal succession from Peter.)  Two Gnostic accounts of Peter are The Apocalypse of Peter and The Gospel of Peter.  The apocryphal Acts of Peter describes a spiritual battle between Simon Magus (see Acts 8:9-25) and Peter in Rome.  It also tells of Peter’s martyrdom in Rome.

 

Peter is writing this letter to a series of Christian churches scattered through what is now central and northern Turkey.  This is an apocalyptic Diaspora letter intended as a pastoral encouragement to the believers.

 

 Most commentators say these were written to Gentile believers.  However, I think the letters were written to New Jewish believers, possibly dispersed by the persecutions in Jerusalem.  There may have been Jewish synagogues in the provinces dating back to the times of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions.  There would have been ‘God-fearers” in the synagogues, gentiles who worshipped with the Jews, and who believed in Yahweh, and now were converting to Christianity.

 

The churches were in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia These are Roman provinces in northern and central Asia Minor (Turkey today).  One would approach them by sea through the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles, and the straits of Bosporus into the Black Sea.  We have no record of Peter having been there, but I suspect that he did minister in that region.  You will recall that Paul thought to go to Asia (a Roman province by that name) and Bithynia, but Paul and Silas were forbidden by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-10).  We do not know why Paul was forbidden, but I would postulate that this was Peter’s mission territory, where he ministered on his way to Rome.

 

Peter has called the believers the elect.  He used the term ‘foreknowledge’.   This is a constant principle throughout scripture.  Divine election is more than ‘predestination’.  It involves God’s prescience from before the beginning of the world.  It implies 

God’s call but requires our response.

 

1.    Called by God:  1 Peter 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 5:10. 

2.    Foreknowledge: Acts 2:23; Rom 8:29, 11:2; 1 Pet 1:20.

3.    Known by God: Hosea 5:3, 12:1; Amos 3:2; I Cor 8:3; Gal 4:9.

4.    Predestinated: Eph 1:5, 11; Rom 8:29-30.

5.     Also: Psalm 139.

The First Epistle of Peter was written to newly formed churches located in northern Asia Minor, along the south coast of the Black Sea.  The churches consisted of exiles from the persecution of the church in Jerusalem (Diaspora), newly converted Jews living in the communities where they settled, and Gentiles that became believers.  Many of these Gentiles could have been ‘god-fearers”, that is Gentiles that found Judaism attractive, and would join the Jews in worship in the synagogues.  Eventually large numbers of the Gentile communities became believers, causing consternation amount the political, economic, and religious leadership, which led topersecution of the believers.

See the note at the end of this week’s lesson.

 

I have postulated that Peter established many of these churches as he traveled through the region on his way from Jerusalem to Rome.  We do not have documented evidence of this, and many scholars think that Peter did not know any of these churches personally, and was writing generalized pastoral letters to them.  For what it is worth, I think they are wrong.

 

In his first letter, Peter addressed the new churches that were beginning to undergo some degree of persecution.  He encouraged them to stand up to the persecution, and used Jesus as their example of patient endurance while suffering.  

 

Peter’s first letter was written to young churches, many newly formed and filled with excitement that accompanies a new venture.  The new believers were warned of impending and real persecution, but are encouraged to face it bravely because Jesus also suffered and died, and because his return was thought to be imminent.

 

By the time this second letter is being written the churches are well established, but are now undergoing internal problems brought about by false teachings in the church.  It is amazing how quickly errors arise in the churches.  The churches are not much more than one generation old.  This letter is going to the next generation of the churches.  The issues now center around the invasion of false teachings about the faith.  The gospel is no longer simple.  The moral restraints of the Gospel were becoming burdensome.  the expected parousia (return of Christ) has not occurred.  The facts of Jesus life, death and resurrection are being questioned by the false teachers, and the people are becoming confused.  Hellenism (Greek philosophy) is the dominant worldview of the day, and it is being mixed into the teachings of the church.  Finally Gnosticism is making inroads into the thinking of the people.

 

Gnosticism is a poorly defined amalgamation of Greek philosophy, Biblical teachings, and oriental mysticism, that places an emphasis on esoteric knowledge (gr. gnosis) rather than faith for salvation.  Jesus resurrection is explained spiritually, but his physical resurrection is denied.  In fact, they denied that Jesus came in the flesh, because God could not be tainted by the evil of the material world.  Therefore, if the Christ was truly God, he could not have really been a man.

 

Gnosticism may take the form of severe asceticism or blatant immorality.  The asceticform of Gnosticism taught that because the body, and all matter, is evil it must be controlled by rigorous discipline of the flesh.   However, immorality was the preferred form, and the teaching said that since body is completely evil it cannot be controlled, and therefore it does not matter what is done in the body.    Thankfully, with the right knowledge (gnosis), the spirit can be saved.  This led to rampant hedonism among the gnostics.  We will look at Gnosticism later in our study to see how it is still present in the churches of our day. 

 

Peter is writing this letter to bring the people back to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  Jude 3.

 

 

Greeting

 

1:1-2 Simeon Peter,

Simeon is a Greek transliteration of the name Simon.  (See Acts 15:4).  This was the most common name among Jews during the period from 100 BC to 200 AD.  Jesus changed his name to Cephas (or Peter) (John 1:40-42; Matt 16:13-20).

 

a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ…  The term servant is equivalent to bondservant or slave.  Paul, James and Jude use this same term to express their relationship to Jesus.  He was the one that bought them from slavery to sin, and redeemed them to himself.

How do we see our relationship to Jesus?

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

Peter assures the people that their faith is not in any way inferior to that of the apostles.  The teachings of the apostles are as certain in the post-apostolic age as they were in the beginning.  The false teachers who are teaching something new are in error.

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

The knowledge of God here implies the knowledge that comes with conversion, as opposed to knowledge in v. 5, for example, that implies knowledge attained by study.  This is a personal knowledge that has strong practical and ethical implications, and is very different from the secret knowledge of the Gnostics that led to moral libertinism.  Peter invokes God’s blessing on the true believers in the churches.

Confirm Your Calling and Election

 

 

1:3-4 Historical and theological introduction

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

How do we become partakers of the divine nature?  Do we become gods?  Are we to reflect God’s character?  Or do we share the divine attributes of immortality and incorruptibility? 

        Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in             you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

 

        1 Cor. 15:50-53 I tell you this, brothers:flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Behold! I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

 

 1:5-7 Ethical exhortations.  A catalogue of virtues

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  

    1. Faith - pistesThis is specifically Christian faith in the Gospel, not Hellenistic ‘loyalty’.

    2. Virtue - Areth   This is translated ‘excellence’ in Philippians 4:8.  Its typical Greek connotation is the achievement of human excellence, but here it implies obedience to God.

    3. Knowledge - gnoseiHere knowledge means the wisdom and discernment needed for a virtuous life.

 

    4. Self-control - egkratelan   This is a Hellenistic ideal of being master of one’s body and soul, self-restraint and ascetic control of the bodily passions, especially sexual passions.  In Galatians 5:23 it warns against the misuse of Christian freedom in libertinism.

    5. Steadfastness - upomonen   Courageous and steadfast endurance the face of suffering or evil, based on one’s trust in God and his promises.

    6. Godliness - eusebeian   This is found rarely in Christian use, and is found only in in Paul’s letter to Timothy. 1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

    7. Brotherly affection - philadelphian  In non-Christian use this denoted family affection between physical brothers and sisters, but in the early church this was used for fellow-believers, brothers and sisters in the faith.

    8. Love - agape   This occurs in most Biblical catalogues of virtues, and usually finished the lists, while faith, pistis, begins the lists.  Love is the crowning virtue that encompasses all the others.  Jesus taught that love of God and love of neighbor encompassed all of the commandments.  Matthew 22:34-40But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

1:8-9 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.  Beware the danger of willful blindness.(Jeremiah 5:21-31).

 

1:10-11 An eschatological exhortation

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Can we achieve final salvation if the ethical fruits of faith are absent in our lives?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication between the governor Pliny and the emperor Trajan

 

Pliny was the Roman governor in Pontus and Bithynia.  He wrote to Trajan, the Roman Caesar concerning the handling of Christians in his province:  

 

I have never been present at an examination of Christians.  Consequently, I do not know the nature or extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, nor the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed.  Nor am I at all sure…whether a pardon ought to be granted to anyone retracting his beliefs, or if he has once professed Christianity, he shall gain nothing by renouncing it; and whether it is the mere name of Christian which is punishable, even if innocent of crime, or rather the crimes associated with the name.

 

For the moment this is the line I have taken with all persons brought before me on the charge of being Christians.  I have asked them in person if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them.  If they persist, I order them to be led away for their punishment; for, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished.

 

Concerning an anonymous pamphlet which contained the names of a number of accused persons: among these I considered that I should dismiss any who denied that they were or ever had been Christians when they repeated after me a formula of invocation to the gods and had made offerings of wine and incense to your statue, and furthermore had reviled the name of Christ (“cursed Christ,” maledicerent Christo): none of which things, I understand, any genuine Christian can be induced to do.  Others, whose names were given to me by the informer, first admitted the charge and then denied it; they said that they had ceased to be Christians two or more years previously, and some of them even twenty years ago.  They all did reverence to your statue and the images of the gods in the same way as the others, and reviled the name of Christ (Christo maledixerunt).  They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this; they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honour of Christ as if to a god, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery, to commit no breach of trust and not to deny a deposit when called upon to restore it.  After this ceremony it had been their custom to disperse and reassemble later to take food of an ordinary, harmless kind; but they had in fact given up this practice since my edict, issued on your instructions, which banned all political societies.    This made me decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by torture from two slave-women, whom they called deaconesses.  I found nothing but a degenerate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths.

 

A great many individuals of every age and class, both men and women, are being brought to trial, and this is likely to continue.  It is not only the towns, but also villages and rural districts too which are infected through contact with this wretched cult.  I think though that it is still possible for it to be checked and directed to better ends, for there is no doubt that people have begun to throng the temples which had been almost entirely deserted for a long time; the sacred rites which had been allowed to lapse are being performed again, and flesh of sacrificial victims is on sale everywhere, though up till recently scarcely anyone could be found to buy it.  It is easy to infer from this that a great many people could be reformed if they were given opportunity to repent.

 

Trajan’s reply is interesting.  You have followed the right course of procedure, my dear Pliny, in your examination of the cases of persons charged with being Christians, for it is impossible to lay down a general rule to a fixed formula.  These people must not be hunted out; if they are brought before you and the charge against them is proved, they must be punished, but in the case of anyone who denies that he is a Christian, and makes it clear that he is not by offering prayers to our gods, he is to be pardoned as a result of his repentance however suspect his past conduct may be.  But pamphlets circulating anonymously must play no part in any accusation.  They create the worst sort of precedent and are quite out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

2 Peter 1:12-21    Peter’s Testament and Defense    September 19, 2016

 

Last week Peter briefly introduced the purpose of the entire letter.  He presented:    

        1) the theological basis for the faith

        2) the ethical expectations of the believes

        3) and the eschatological benefits of belief in Jesus and of 

            living a virtuous life

Now Peter wants to reassert his own credentials before he continues with the letter.  There are false teachers in the midst of the churches, and Peter contrasts his apostolic credentials with the lack of credentials in the false teaches.  The apostolic age is coming to an end, and Peter is about to be martyred.  It may be that John will be the only remaining apostle once Peter is gone.  John is the only apostle that did not meet a violent death.

 

The teachings of the apostles are the right teachings.  Jesus is the true Savior of all who believe, and Peter received his teachings directly from Jesus.  Indeed, he was present with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus was glorified by the Father, and he was present through the passion week and the crucifixion.  He was witness to the resurrection and now is a true apostle.  

 

1:12-15 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.  I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.  And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Peter is nearing the end of his ministry and he wants to leave his legacy (testament) with his churches.  Twice he says ‘remind’ or ‘remember’.  Once he writes ‘recall’.  To ‘remind’ is to renew the mind.  It is also equivalent to ‘remembering’, in the sense of putting the members back together again.  This is one reason we go to church week after week, because we need reminding of the doctrines of our faith, and remembering how we came to be ‘saved’ by the Lord.

 

John 2:22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

John 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

 

1 Cor. 11:2 Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

1 Cor. 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

 

established in the truth that you have.   

As in Jude 3: Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

By this time there are mature believers in the churches, but many new believers are coming to the faith, and they might be easily swayed by the false teachings Peter is addressing.

 

…as long as I am in this body…

1 Cor. 5:1-10 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.    For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 

 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 

as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.

John 13:36-38 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, abut you will follow afterward.”  Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

 

John 21:18-19    Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

…after my departure…How would Peter keep reminding his flock after his departure?  Some scholars think that the Gospel of Mark reflects Peter’s account of the gospel, which he gave to Mark before his death.

 

1:16-18 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.  

One of the teachings of the false prophets was that the Gospel story and the resurrection accounts were concocted stories.  The teachings of Christ’s return and of future judgment, the Parousia, were made up as instruments of moral control.  Karl Marx considered Christian teachings to be the opiate of the people, a way to control the masses.  He would unmask the myth and set the people free.

The role of myth in Greek society meant stories about their gods that are not literally true, but conveyed religious, moral or philosophical truths in allegorical form.  Peter, however, wants to separate the idea of myth (mythos) from rational truth (logos), in relation to the gospel accounts.  The reference to the Transfiguration is meant to assure the readers that Peter is not making up stories, but that Jesus has the confirmation of God himself to be the eschatological king and judge.  And Peter was eyewitness of the event.

Matt .17:1-9 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

 

1:19-21And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The term ‘prophesy of Scripture’ refers to all approved Old Testament scripture, not only the prophetic books.  Therefore the entire teaching of the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in the Messiah.  

Psalm 2:1-12     Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

    The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,

        against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,

    “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

 

    He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

    Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

    “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

 

    I will tell of the decree:

    The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

    Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

        and the ends of the earth your possession.

    You shall break them with a rod of iron and

    dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

    Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.

    Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

    Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

        for his wrath is quickly kindled.

    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

 

 

 

Daniel 7:13-14     “I saw in the night visions,

        and behold, with the clouds of heaven

            there came one like a son of man,

        and he came to the Ancient of Days

            and was presented before him.

    And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,

        that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;

    his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,

        and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

 

Numbers 24:17    I see him, but not now;

        I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob,

    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab

        and break down all the sons of Sheth.

These    and other Scriptures were familiar to the Jewish believers.  And the Gentile believers were being catechized in the Scriptures as well as the Gospel.  The teachings of the apostles cast a bright light in the otherwise murky darkness (hell) of the pagans.  The day that dawns is the eschatological age that will come with the Parousia.  Then the light of prophecy will no longer be needed, because the real will be completely visible in the new dawn, and darkness will be dispelled.

 

Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

        because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives,

        and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;

        to comfort all who mourn;

 

Romans 13:12-14     The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

 

Matthew 4:16 the people dwelling in darknesshave seen a great light,

         and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,

            on them a light has dawned.”

 

Peter’s own testimony and the Old Testament Scriptures confirm the validity and reality of the Gospel message that they learned from Peter.  Their salvation is real and their hope for Christ’s return is based on the certainty of Scripture.  Therefore, pay no heed to the false teachers that are denying the resurrection, the Parousia, and the veracity of the Gospel message.  

The believers are not trusting inGreek or Roman myths, but in the true God of creation, of redemption and of resurrection.

2 Peter 2:1-11                             September 26, 2016

Last week Peter told his readers that his days were numbered, but he wanted them to remain firm in the ‘faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  He assured them of the veracity of the faith both by his own testimony and by the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures.

The second generation of believers was becoming a bit disillusioned in the faith because of the persecutions they were suffering and b because the expected Parousia was slow in coming.  This left them vulnerable to false teachers who were creeping into the churches.  In today’s lesson Peter begins to address this issue.

The Apostle Paul addressed the church in Ephesus in a similar way when he was taking his final leave.

Acts 20:28-32 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  

There are parallels through the remainder of this chapter with the Book of Jude.  Peter may have copied Jude, or vice versa, or both were writing from an unknown independent source.  In any case, both letters address the same issues.

The Greek word for heresy, airesis, means a school of thought, or a sect.  Peter here refers to heresies that lead to destruction for the teachers and their followers.  The false teachers can arise from the church membership itself,, and not necessarily from outside.        

Jude 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago             were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert             the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and             Lord, Jesus Christ.

2:2-3 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.  Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

No generation of God’s people is free of false prophets and teachers.  The teachers of Peter’s day were denying the return of Christ.  They also denied his divinity, his redemption, and his resurrection.  They denied Christ also by their practices of sensual indulgences and immorality.  

If a person ‘loses the faith’ he has usually lost something else first, such as chastity, or patience, or sobriety.  Heresy, that is to say, is normally a cover for some deeper vice.  This is one of the reasons that the Bible takes such a dim view of false teachers.  (Patrick Henry Reardon)

Additionally the false teachers found ways to profit from their teachings.  The name of Christ was scandalized among the pagan neighbors by the immoral behavior of their followers.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 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.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

 

Jeremiah had to face false prophets in his day.

Jeremiah 14:14 And the LORD said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.

Jeremiah 23:9-15 Concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake;

I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine,

    because of the LORD and because of his holy words.

For the land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land mourns,

and the pastures of the wilderness are dried up.

    Their course is evil, and their might is not right.

“Both prophet and priest are ungodly;even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD.

Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness,

        into which they shall be driven and fall,

for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment,

            declares the LORD.                                                                    

In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing:

they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray.

 

But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing:

        they commit adultery and walk in lies;

        they strengthen the hands of evildoers,

        so that no one turns from his evil;

all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”

Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:

    “Behold, I will feed them with bitter food

    and give them poisoned water to drink,

    for from the prophets of Jerusalem

    ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”

 

 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 

 

    Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of         authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under     gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

This refers to some teachings in the Jewish Apocrypha that can be found in 1 Enoch.  Apparently this was a common teaching in Peter’s day.  It refers to Genesis 6:4 that says: …when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them.  

When we studied this part of Genesis, I suggested that the sons of God were the progeny of Seth and the daughters of man were the progeny of Cain.  However, there has always ben a school of thought that considered the sons of God to be fallen angels known as the Watchers.

 

The Book of Enoch

Watchers

Chapter 1

1 The word of the blessing of Enoch, how he blessed the elect and the righteous, who were to exist in the time of trouble; rejecting all the wicked and ungodly. Enoch, a righteous man, who was with God, answered and spoke, while his eyes were open, and while he saw a holy vision in the heavens. This the angels showed me.

2 From them I heard all things, and understood what I saw; that which will not take place in this generation, but in a generation which is to succeed at a distant period, on account of the elect.

3 Upon their account I spoke and conversed with him, who will go forth from his habitation, the Holy and Mighty One, the God of the world:

4 Who will hereafter tread upon Mount Sinai; appear with his hosts; and be manifested in the strength of his power from heaven.

5 All shall be afraid, and the Watchers be terrified.

6 Great fear and trembling shall seize them, even to the ends of the earth. The lofty mountains shall be troubled, and the exalted hills depressed, melting like a honeycomb in the flame. The earth shall be immerged, and all things which are in it perish; while judgment shall come upon all, even upon all the righteous:

7 But to them shall he give peace: he shall preserve the elect, and towards them exercise clemency.

8 Then shall all belong to God; be happy and blessed; and the splendour of the Godhead shall illuminate them

Chapter 2

1 Behold, he comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done, and committed against him. 

Chapter 7

1 It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful.

2 And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.

3 Then their leader Samyaza said to them; I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise;

4 And that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime.

5 But they answered him and said; We all swear;

6 And bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.

7 Then they swore all together, and all bound themselves by mutual execrations. Their whole number was two hundred, who descended upon Ardis, which is the top of Mount Armon.

8 That mountain therefore was called Armon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual execrations.

 

(Mt. Armon, or Mt. Hermon, derives its name from the Hebrew word herem, a curse.)

 

9These are the names of their chiefs: Samyaza, who was their leader, Urakabarameel, Akibeel, Tamiel, Ramuel, Danel, Azkeel, Saraknyal, Asael, Armers, Batraal, Anane, Zavebe, Samsaveel, Ertael, Turel, Yomyael, Arazyal. These were the prefects of the two hundred angels, and the remainder were all with them. 

10 Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.

11 And the women conceiving brought forth giants,

12 Whose stature was each three hundred cubits. These devoured all which the labor of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them;

13 When they turned themselves against men, in order to devour them;

14 And began to injure birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, to eat their flesh one after another, and to drink their blood.

15 Then the earth reproved the unrighteous.

 

Chapter 8

1 Moreover Azazyel taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors, and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered.

2 Impiety increased; fornication multiplied; and they transgressed and corrupted all their ways.

3 Amazarak taught all the sorcerers, and dividers of roots:

4 Armers taught the solution of sorcery;

5 Barkayal taught the observers of the stars;

6 Akibeel taught signs;

7 Tamiel taught astronomy;

8 And Asaradel taught the motion of the moon,

9 And men, being destroyed, cried out; and their voice reached to heaven.

 

Chapter 9

1 Then Michael and Gabriel, Raphael, Suryal, and Uriel, looked down from heaven, and saw the quantity of blood which was shed on earth, and all the iniquity which was done upon it, and said one to another, It is the voice of their cries;

2 The earth deprived of her children has cried even to the gate of heaven.

3 And now to you, O you holy one of heaven, the souls of men complain, saying, Obtain Justice for us with the Most High. Then they said to their Lord, the King, You are Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings. The throne of your glory is for ever and ever, and for ever and ever is your name sanctified and glorified. You are blessed and glorified.

4 You have made all things; you possess power over all things; and all things are open and manifest before you. You behold all things, and nothing can be concealed from you.

5 You have seen what Azazyel has done, how he has taught every species of iniquity upon earth, and has disclosed to the world all the secret things which are done in the heavens.

6 Samyaza also has taught sorcery, to whom you have given authority over those who are associated with him. They have gone together to the daughters of men; have lain with them; have become polluted;

7 And have discovered crimes to them.

8 The women likewise have brought forth giants.

9 Thus has the whole earth been filled with blood and with iniquity.

10 And now behold the souls of those who are dead, cry out.

11 And complain even to the gate of heaven.

12 Their groaning ascends; nor can they escape from the unrighteousness which is committed on earth. You know all things, before they exist.

13 You know these things, and what has been done by them; yet you do not speak to us.

14 What on account of these things ought we to do to them?

 

2:5 …if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;  

The flood in Noah’s day represents an eschatological judgment.  Noah was the eighth person saved.  Wight represents the new creation.  Sunday is the eighth day, the day of Christ’s resurrection.  Therefore the faithful believers will be preserved through the end times.

2:6 …if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 

Jude 1:7 …just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah represents another eschatological judgment.  The first judgment was by water.  This one is by fire.

The five Cities of the Plain (the Pentapolis) were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar.  Zoar was spared destruction because Lot escaped to there (Gen 19; Deut 29:23).

2:7-9 …and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, 

The Bible does not portray Lot as a blameless man (Gen 19:1-11)But Abraham considered him a righteous man in Genesis 18:16-33.  Therefore, this picture of Lot must have to do with election and not works.  For instance, if things were so bad in Sodom, Lot could have left on his own.  But Lot was a rich man, and probably highly respected in the community because of his uncle’s rescue of the city (Gen 14:11-6).  Yet the Lord rescued Lot from the judgment coming on his hometown.

The Wisdom of Solomon10:6-8

Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing: he escape the fire that descended on the Five Cities.  Evidence of their wickedness still remains: a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul.

For because they passed wisdom by, they not only were hindered from recognizing the good, but also left for humankind a reminder of their folly, so that their failures could never go unnoticed.

 

 

 

2:9b-11 …and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.  

    Jude 1:8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams,         defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

In this section Peter is addressing the false teachers who deny the return of Christ and the eschatological judgment.  Peter shows that final judgment has happened in the past and is sure to happen again.  This is one of the core teachings of the church, and anyone who denies it is leading the people astray.  However the church also aches that the salvation of the righteous is as certain as the punishment of the wrong doers.  By denying a final judgment, the false teachers open the door to the sensuality and immorality practiced openly in the pagan culture around the church.  

In fact, we can ask today, Can man be good without God?

 

 

If a person ‘loses the faith’ he has usually lost something else first, such as chastity, or patience, or sobriety.  Heresy, that is to say, is normally a cover for some deeper vice.  This is one of the reasons that the Bible takes such a dim view of false teachers.  (Patrick Henry Reardon)

 Peter 2:12-22     False Teachers, Continued             October 3, 2016

Last we finished by asking if man could be good without God.  The churches Peter was addressing were only a decade, or a little more, old.  Yet teachers were rising up from within the churches, and coming from outside, who were perverting the Gospel message.  They were challenging the teachings of Christ’s eschatological return, and were offering libertarianism and antinomianism in its place.

The libertarianism was usually sexual in nature.  The reference to Sodom and Gomorrah suggests homosexuality.  The reference to irrational animals in verse 12 suggests the indiscriminate coupling we see in our society today.  In verse 14 he addresses adultery and the insatiability of sin.  If Christ was not returning, why remain straight-laced.

Peter is writing to ‘re-mind’ the believers, in the sense of renewal of the mind, of the teachings of Peter and the power of their conversion to the faith.  They are to ‘re-member’, in the sense of putting the members back together again, the faith afresh.  We all need continual reminding and remembering to remain faithful.  Therefore we meet together on Sundays, and study the scriptures during the week.

 

2:12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 

    Jude 1:10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and         they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand         instinctively.

 

“In their confident immorality the false teachers were contemptuous of the demonic powers.  When they were rebuked for their immoral behavior and warned of the danger of falling into the power of the devil and sharing his condemnation, they laughed at the idea, denying that the devil could have any power over them and speaking of the powers of evil in skeptical, mocking terms.”  WBC Vol 50/p. 262

We tend to take the devil lightly today.  He is commonly found in jokes.  We dress up like him on Halloween.  He is a red suit with horns and tale, not a real being.  We think of demonic possession as something from the past, but recently there a many news articles of renewal of devil worship, of increasing numbers of exorcisms, especially in the Catholic Church, and of actual churches being established for the worship of Satan.

 

 

:13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.  They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 

    Jude 1:12-13 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with         you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept         along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild         waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars,         for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

 

They think that the wages of iniquity is pleasure.  The Bible tells us the wages of sin is death.  They join in the fellowship dinners, but have ulterior motives.  They may talk the talk, but their walk shows the profligates that they are.  Christ wants to present us to the Father as spotless and unblemished.

    Philippians 2:14-1 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you         may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the         midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights        in the world…

    2 Peter 3:14    Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent     to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

 

In Leviticus one could not offer a blemished or spotted animal for sacrifice (Lev 1:3).  A man with a blemish could not perform priestly duties (Lev 21:16-24).  Since we are all spotted and blemished, we can only approach God when cover by Christ’s righteousness.

    1 Cor 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us         wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

 

2:14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.  They entice unsteady souls.  They have hearts trained in greed.  Accursed children!  

Their eyes are always looking for a woman with whom to commit fornication.  A common play on words in Peter’s day spoke of the shameless man who does not have pronas (pupils or maidens) in his eyes, but pornas (harlots).

 

2:15-16 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.  They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

    Jude 1:11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned     themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's     rebellion.

The story of Balaam can be found in Numbers 22-25, 31.  Balaam seems to be speaking the oracles of God when he blesses Israel.  But Jewish tradition sees him as avaricious and foolish in agreeing to curse Israel.  The false teachers in Peter’s day are also avaricious and foolish, both in the denial of the Parousia, and in thinking that they can sin with impunity.

Reference to Balaam is also found in Joshua 24:9-10, Micah 6:5; Deuteronomy 23:3-6 and Joshua 13:22.

 

2:17-18 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.  For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.  For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  

    Jude 1:18-19 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers,     following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions,     worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

Water is the source of life for the sellers in arid lands.  A spring without water means certain death.  If the eschatological judgment is removed, the people will return to the their lax pagan ways.  Is that what we find in our churches todaywhere the preaching of judgment and hell is rarely heard?

2:19They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.  

There is a difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘license’.  Freedom requires accountability and responsibility.  Jesus offers the ultimate freedom.

    John 8:31-32, 36 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you         abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth,         and the truth will set you free.”  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free         indeed. 

To have freedom without accountability leads to moral license, then to anarchy, and then to death; for an individual and for society as a whole.

2:20-21For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.  

    2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to         life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own         glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very         great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the         divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world         because of sinful desire.

    Matt 12:43-45 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes         through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will         return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house     empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven             other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the         last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this         evil generation.”

 

    Hebrews 10:26-27, 31 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving         the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but         a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the         adversaries…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

 

2:22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

It is important to remember that the Jews had a very low opinion of both dogs and pigs.  They are both unclean animals.  The enemies of Israel would often label them as one or the other of these.  The Jews would see themselves as lambs under the care of a Good Shepherd.  

 

            Carry over from last week

2:5 …if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;  

The flood in Noah’s day represents an eschatological judgment.  Noah was the eighth person saved.  Wight represents the new creation.  Sunday is the eighth day, the day of Christ’s resurrection.  Therefore the faithful believers will be preserved through the end times.

2:6 …if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 

    Jude 1:7 …just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which     likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve     as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

 

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah represents another eschatological judgment.  The first judgment was by water.  This one is by fire.

The five Cities of the Plain (the Pentapolis) were Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar.  Zoar was spared destruction because Lot escaped to there (Gen 19; Deut 29:23).

2:7-9 …and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, 

The Bible does not portray Lot as a blameless man (Gen 19:1-11)But Abraham considered him a righteous man in Genesis 18:16-33.  Therefore, this picture of Lot must have to do with election and not works.  For instance, if things were so bad in Sodom, Lot could have left on his own.  But Lot was a rich man, and probably highly respected in the community because of his uncle’s rescue of the city (Gen 14:11-6).  Yet the Lord rescued Lot from the judgment coming on his hometown.

    The Wisdom of Solomon10:6-8

    Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing: he     escape the fire that descended on the Five Cities.  Evidence of their     wickedness still remains: a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing     fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an     unbelieving soul.

    For because they passed wisdom by, they not only were hindered from     recognizing the good, but also left for humankind a reminder of their folly, so     that their failures could never go unnoticed.

2:9b-11 …and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.  

    Jude 1:8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams,         defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

In this section Peter is addressing the false teachers who deny the return of Christ and the eschatological judgment.  Peter shows that final judgment has happened in the past and is sure to happen again.  This is one of the core teachings of the church, and anyone who denies it is leading the people astray.  However the church also aches that the salvation of the righteous is as certain as the punishment of the wrong doers.  By denying a final judgment, the false teachers open the door to the sensuality and immorality practiced openly in the pagan culture around the church.  

In fact, we can ask today, Can man be good without God?

 

If a person ‘loses the faith’ he has usually lost something else first, such as chastity, or patience, or sobriety.  Heresy, that is to say, is normally a cover for some deeper vice.  This is one of the reasons that the Bible takes such a dim view of false teachers.  (Patrick Henry Reardon)

2 Peter 3 1-18      The Day of the Lord Will Come      October 24, 2016

 

Last week we noted that false teachings were coming into the church almost immediately after the churches were founded.  They were certainly present within the first generation.  There are many reasons that false teachings appear.  The gospel message itself is morally challenging and people do not care for too strict moral restraints.  The teaching that Jesus is the only way of salvation sounded, in today’s terms, too exclusive.  The belief that Jesus could raise the dead and that he actually rose bodily from the dead was difficult to comprehend.  And the state and pagan religious forces often persecuted believers.

 

In spite of all this, the Christ that was proclaimed by the apostles and the first Christians was so attractive and so compelling that large numbers of the people who heard the gospel came to know him as lord and savior and confess him to be God, co-equal with the Father.

 

We have already discussed the Arian heresy that denied the Godhood of Jesus.  For Arius he was a special creation of God, but not co-equal with God.  The Nicaean Council was gathered to address this error.

 

Another of the false teachings came from Nicholaus, a deacon appointed in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1-6).  He was a Greek proselyte from Antioch.  There are two Antioch’s, one just north of Israel in Syria and the other in southern Turkey.  I am not sure which he was from.  Paul and Barnabas were sent on their first missionary journey from the one in Syria.  He strayed from the early teachings he learned and denied the second return of the Christ.  Once the second coming was removed from the people’s minds he was able to entice them into sexual immorality, and to return to the some of the local pagan practices (Rev. 2:6, 15).  In today’s lesson Peter addresses the importance of Christ’s return in the gospel message.

 

3:1-2 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,

 

Although there are scholars who question the Petrine composition of this letter on linguistic grounds, I would argue that the Holy Spirit would not allow pseudographic deception in the final canon. This letter sounds like it comes from Peter’s heart and it is definitely written by Peter.

 

Last week we reviewed the words re-mind and re-member. Peter is writing to ‘re-mind’ the believers, in the sense of renewal of the mind, of the teachings of Peter and the power of their conversion to the faith.  They are to ‘re-member’, in the sense of putting the members back together again, the faith afresh.  We all need continual reminding and remembering to remain faithful.  Therefore we meet together on Sundays, and study the scriptures during the week.

 

 

3:3-5 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”   

 

There were many letters and pamphlets written in the days of the early church that were attributed to the apostles and well known Christians, but the church recognized the false documents early on, and by the time of the council of Nicaea they were readily discarded.   A new stash of them was found in Egypt in 1945, called the Nag Hammadi library.  These were teachings of Gnostic Christianity.  They include the Apocrophon of John, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Acts of John.

 

    Colossians 2:8-9 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and     empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits     of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity     dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and     authority.

 

The scoffers scorn and despise God’s revelation, both moral and prophetic, so that they can follow their own evil desires.  Their problem is not intellectual concerns about the Parousia, but merely an excuse to avoid accountability to the moral law.  Many intellectuals espouse Darwinism for the same reason.

Can we have ‘good desires’ outside of faith and the influence of the Holy Spirit?

Does our ‘total depravity’ prevent even our good desires from being ‘good’?

 

Where is the promise?  This question has been asked throughout history.  Malachi 2:17 is one example: 

    You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we     wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the     LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”

Jeremiah 17:15

    Behold, they say to me,

        “Where is the word of the LORD?

        Let it come!”

 

 

3:5-7 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

 

Peter appeals to the creation story for support of his case.  Aristotelian cosmology taught that the earth and the universe were eternal.  This held sway in western civilization until the 1960’s when the big bang theory was proposed.

Eastern cosmology is cyclical.  We are recycled through various forms of existence until we reach Nirvana.

The word nirvāṇa, states Steven Collins, is from the verbal root √ "blow" in the form of past participle vāna "blown", prefixed with the preverb nis meaning "out". Hence the original meaning of the word is "blown out, extinguished". Sandhi changes the spelling: the v of vānacauses nis to become nir, and then the r of nir causes retroflexion of the following nnis+vāna > nirvāṇa.[15]

The term nirvana in the soteriological sense of "blown out, extinguished" state of liberation does not appear in the Vedas nor in the pre-Buddhist Upanishads. According to Collins, "the Buddhists seem to have been the first to call it nirvana."[16] However, the ideas of spiritual liberation using different terminology, with the concept of soul and Brahman, appears in pre-Buddhist Vedic texts and Upanishads, such as in verse 4.4.6 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.[17] This may have been deliberate use of words in early Buddhism, suggests Collins, since Atman and Brahman were described in pre-Buddhist Vedic texts and Upanishads with the imagery of fire, as something good, desirable and liberating

 

Biblical cosmology is linear, with creation, the flood, re-creation, fire, and then a new heaven and a new earth.  God created the universe with a purpose that will be fully revealed in the new heaven and earth.  It began with a word by God and will end with chosen mankind forever in his presence.  I believe life will be much like life on earth today, but with all influences of sin taken away.  There will be housing, travel, commerce, rulers, subjects, love without hate, joy without pain, life without death, no more mourning or crying or pain, and there will be music and more music and still more music.  I also can guarantee that it won’t be boring.

 

3:8-9 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise vas some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  

    Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is     past, or as a watch in the night.

Jewish teaching says that after 6000 years there will be a thousand year Sabbath.  This is in keeping with our understanding of the beginning of civilization, as we know it, around 4000 years BC.  When we add the 2000 years since the Christ came we are brought to the threshold of the Sabbatical millennium.

    Habakkuk 2:2-3

    “Write the vision;

        make it plain on tablets,

        so he may run who reads it.

    For still the vision awaits its appointed time;

        it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

    If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

3:10-12 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

    Ezekiel 7:5-7 “Thus says the Lord God: Disaster after disaster!  Behold, it     comes.  An end has come; the end has come; it has awakened against you.      Behold, it comes.  Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land.  The     time has come; the day is near, a day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting on     the mountains.

    Revelation 6:15-17 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the     generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid     themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the     mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated     on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath     has come, and who can stand?”

    Isaiah 66:15-16

     “For behold, the LORD will come in fire,

        and his chariots like the whirlwind,

    to render his anger in fury,

        and his rebuke with flames of fire.

    For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment,

        and by his sword, with all flesh;

        and those slain by the LORD shall be many.

    1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with     a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the     trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive,     who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the     Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage     one another with these words.

 

3:11-13 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

 

    1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the     Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please     God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what     instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your     sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you     know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of     lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong     his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as     we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for     impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not     man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

3:14-16 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.  

 

The new heavens and new earth will be a place of righteousness.

How would you define righteousness?  Will it make heaven boring?

 

If righteousness is not our pursuit now, how will we tolerate it in heaven?  You might like to read C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce for insight into this.

 

Note that Peter here equates Paul’s writings to scripture.  Paul’s teaching on grace vs. law, and freedom vs. libertarianism, are being distorted by the false teachers.

 

3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

    Be on your guard.

    Grow in grace and knowledge.

    Jesus is indeed our Lord and Savior.

    Peter ends this letter with a doxology: 

To him be the glory both now and to the days of eternity.  Amen.

The First Letter of John

 

We have just finished the two letters by the Apostle Peter to the churches in northern and central Turkey, the regions of Bithynia and Pontus and Cappadocia.  The first letter went to new believers from the Jewish and Greek citizens of the towns and cities.  They responded with great enthusiasm, and the churches grew rapidly.  The second letter was sent about 5-10 years after the first and was reaching the second generation of believers.  By this time false teachings were infiltrating the churches, both from within the churches and from the outside.  The issues include questions of Jesus divinity and his humanity, and also questions concerning end times, Jesus return (the Parousia) and the end of the earth as we know it to be replaced with a new heavens and a new earth.

 

Today we begin the study of the First Epistle of John.  Peter’s letters were written around 65 AD, + or – 5 years.  John’s epistle is being written close to 100 AD, + or – 10 years.  He is writing to the church at Ephesus and the churches located in Asia, southern Turkey today.  His letter would have reached Colossae, Laodicea, Antioch in Pisidia, Smyrna, Sardis, Thyatira, Pergamum, Philadelphia, and many other villages, towns and cities where churches were formed.  The churches are theologically more sophisticated by this time, but false teachings are found in these churches and John must address them.  The false teachings are more sophisticated as well.  John must keep the churches aware of the false teachings and remind them of the true Gospel they were first taught.

 

There were two major groups of people in the church communities.  There were Jewish-Christians who professed commitment to Jesus, but still felt a loyalty to Judaism.  They may have found it difficult to accept the Messiahship of Jesus.   They would emphasize the importance of Jewish Law as well.  Paul addressed this in his letter to the Galatians.  They probably had a theology similar to the Ebionites who were living in Qumran.

 

The term Ebionites derives from the common adjective for "poor" in Hebrew (singular: אֶבְיוֹן ev·yōn, plural: אביונים ev·yōn·im),[10][11][12] which occurs fifteen times in the Psalms and was the self-given term of some pious Jewish circles (e.g. Psalm 69:33 ("For the LORD heareth the poor") and 1 QpHab XII, 3.6.10).[13] The term "Ebionim" was also a self description given by the people who were living in Qumran, as shown in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The term "the poor" was at first a common designation for all Christians - a reference to their material and voluntary poverty.[11][14][15]

The hellenized Hebrew term "Ebionite" (Ebionai) was first applied by Irenaeus in the 2nd century without making mention of Nazarenes (c.180 CE).[16][17] Origen wrote "for Ebion signifies 'poor' among the Jews, and those Jews who have received Jesus as Christ are called by the name of Ebionites."[18][19] Tertullian was the first to write against a heresiarch called Ebion; scholars believe he derived this name from a literal reading of Ebionaioi as "followers of Ebion", a derivation now considered mistaken for lack of any more substantial references to such a figure.[11][13] The term "the poor" (Greek ptōkhoí) was still used in its original, more general sense.[11][13] Modern Hebrew still uses the Biblical Hebrew term "the needy" both in histories of Christianity for "Ebionites" (אביונים) and for almsgiving to the needy at Purim.[20]

 

The second large group of believers were Hellenistic Christians who had come from the pagan background and were still influenced by the dualistic beliefs of the Greeks and were easily enticed by Gnostic teachings.  They would find it hard to accept the full humanity of Jesus and moved toward the heresy of Docetism.   They taught that Jesus only appeared to be truly human , but he remained God really.

 

Docetism, (from Greek dokein, “to seem”), Christian heresy and one of the earliest Christian sectarian doctrines, affirming that Christ did not have a real or natural body during his life on earth but only an apparent or phantom one. Though its incipient forms are alluded to in the New Testament, such as in the Letters of John (e.g., 1 John 4:1–3; 2 John 7), Deceits became more fully developed as an important doctrinal position of Gnosticism, a religious dualist system of belief arising in the 2nd century ad which held that matter was evil and the spirit good and claimed that salvation was attained only through esoteric knowledge, or gnosis. The heresy developed from speculations about the imperfection or essential impurity of matter. More thoroughgoing Docetists asserted that Christ was born without any participation of matter and that all the acts and sufferings of his life, including the Crucifixion, were mere appearances. They consequently denied Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. Milder Docetists attributed to Christ an ethereal and heavenly body but disagreed on the degree to which it shared the real actions and sufferings of Christ. Docetism was attacked by all opponents of Gnosticism, especially by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch in the 2nd century.

 

A third group of people in the church we can call the Johannine Christians.  John had been a pastor in the church in Ephesus until he was exiled to the island of Patmos.  He taught the true gospel to the believers in his church, and this teaching spread throughout the countryside.  He is teaching a balanced understanding of the person of Jesus, both fully man and in some sense fully God. He is addressing those who thought of Jesus as less than God, and to remind them of his divinity; and those who thought of Jesus as other than man, to remind them of his humanity.

 

A fourth group can be noted, the secessionists.  These are believers who clashed with John and his teachings.  They drifted away from John’s orthodox teachings for a number of reasons and became false teachers.  They were inclined toward one or another of the many heresies attacking the true church and could no longer remain comfortable in the Johannine churches.  Cerinthus was one of the false teachers who was contemporary with John.

 

Cerinthus (Greek: Κήρινθος; fl. c. 100 CE) was a Gnostic and to some, an early Christian, who was prominent as a heresiarch in the view of the early Church Fathers.[1] Contrary to proto-orthodox Christianity, used the Gospel of Cerinthus, and denied that the Supreme God made the physical world.[1] In Cerinthus' interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism,[2] guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion.[2]

He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of sensuous pleasure after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea. Cerinthus used a version of the gospel of Matthew as scripture.

Cerinthus taught at a time when Christianity's relation to Judaism and to Greek philosophy had not yet been clearly defined. In his association with the Jewish law and his modest assessment of Jesus, he was similar to the Ebionites and to other Jewish Christians. In defining the world's creator as the demiurge, he emulated Platonic philosophy and anticipated the Gnostics.

Early Christian tradition describes Cerinthus as a contemporary to and opponent of John the Evangelist, who may have written the First Epistle of John and the Second Epistle of John to warn the less mature in faith and doctrine about the changes Cerinthus was making to the original gospel.[3][4] All that is known about Cerinthus comes from the writing of his theological opponents.

 

And Dionysius, who was bishop of the parish of Alexandria in our day, in the second book of his work On the Promises, where he says some things concerning the Apocalypse of John which he draws from tradition, mentions this same man in the following words:  “But (they say that) Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called, after him, the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name. For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one.  And as he was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature, he dreamed that that kingdom would consist in those things which he desired, namely, in the delights of the belly and of sexual passion, that is to say, in eating and drinking and marrying, and in festivals and sacrifices and the slaying of victims, under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace.”  These are the words of Dionysius.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Apostle John
  •  

John was the brother of the apostle James; he was also the son of Zebedee (a fisherman of Galilee.)  His mother's name was Salome who is believed to be a sister of Jesus' mother Mary.

John, his brother James and the apostles Peter and Andrew were all partners in a fishing business prior to their calls by Jesus to follow Him (Zebedee was also a partner.)

It is said that John owned a home in Jerusalem and that it is possible that the interview Nicodemus had with Jesus was held there.

The apostle John rose to a position of influence within worldwide Christianity and shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, he moved to Ephesus (in modern day, Turkey.)  He became the pastor of the church in Ephesus and had a special relationship with other churches in the area (as we know from the letters to the Seven Churches in Asia, in the book of Revelation.)

John's brother, James, was the first of the apostles to die; on the other hand, John was the last.  All of the apostles met a violent death, however, John died peacefully in Ephesus (at an advanced age, around the year 100 AD.)

There is a church tradition, which says, that while John was living in Ephesus, John had with him Mary, the mother of Jesus, for a few years.

While in Ephesus, by order of the Roman emperor Domitian, John was exiled to an island called Patmos.  In what is known as the cave of the Apocalypse (located on this island), the sacred text of the book of Revelation was given to the apostle John by Jesus (it is here that John recorded what is written in the New Testament book of Revelation.)

Other New Testament books accredited to John are the Gospel of John, along with 1st, 2nd and 3rd John.

When he was released from exile, he returned to Ephesus and lived till the time of the Roman emperor Trajan. 

It is said that John, "Founded and built churches throughout all Asia, and worn out by old age, died in the sixty-eight year after our Lord's passion and was buried near the same city (Ephesus)."

There is a church tradition, which says, that when John was evidently an old man in Ephesus, he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples.  At these meetings, he was accustomed to say no more than, "Little children, love one another!"  After a time, the disciples wearied at always hearing the same words, asked, "Master, why do you always say this?" "It is the Lord's command," was his reply. "And if this alone be done, it is enough!" 

There is, also, a Church tradition, which says that John was in Rome for a time.  

 

 

 

 

1 John 1:1-4            The Word of Life            October 31, 2016        

 

1:1-4 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. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

 

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

 

John 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.

 

Acts 4:20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

 

John 19:35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.

 

John 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.

 

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

Luke 24:39 Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 

 

John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 

 

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

 

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. 

 

 

Romans 16:26-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 

 

1 Timothy 3:16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: 

    He was manifested in the flesh,

     vindicated by the Spirit,

    seen by angels,

    proclaimed among the nations,

    believed on in the world,

    taken up in glory.

 

John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

 

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 

 

John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

 

John is wanting to provide a balanced Christology, between the Jewish converts who see him as a real man, but not divine, and the Hellenists that see the Christ as a spiritual force, but not really a human being.  The Johannine gospel is flexible and is a living alternative to a fossilized Judaism and an intellectualized Hellenism.

 

Theologically John proclaims that true life is found in the Christ, that he was truly a physical man like we are, and that he is the path to eternal life with the Father.  Although Jesus was a real man when he was on earth, his origins were from the beginning.  John wants to be clear that the Christ was also one with God.  And he can testify to this because he spent three years continually in Jesus presence.

 

John’s opening words in his gospel reflected the opening words of the Old Testament, In the beginning.  He repeats that theme here.  The gospel message is a unique conjunction of the timeless and the historical.  He is challenging the teachings of the Docetist who deny the humanity of the Christ.  He is challenging the teachings of the Judaizers and others who denied the divinity of the Christ.  The church always has to walk the fine line between these two views.  It took 300 years for Jesus to be finally affirmed by the church as fully God and fully Man.

Just as John was teaching this from the beginning, there has always been a thread of orthodoxy in the church in spite of the heresies that keep cropping up.  

Nicene Creed I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand Modern Creed I believe in God, whose spirit is in everyone and everything. I believe in Jesus, who was a son of God. He taught us the ways of God, and they killed him because of what he taught. He has an honored place in heaven again, with God. of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.  I believe in one, holy catholic and apostolic Church.  I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

 

Filioque (Ecclesiastical Latin: [filiˈɔkwe], literally "and [from] the Son"[1][discuss]) is a Latin term added to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (NCC) which is not in the original version. It has been the subject of great controversy between Eastern and Western Christianity. The Latin termFilioque describes the double procession of the Holy Spirit and is translated into the English clause "and the Son" in that creed:    We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

Whether that term, Filioque, is included, and how it is translated and understood, can have important implications for how one understands the central Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. For some, the term implies a serious underestimation of the Father's role in the Trinity; for others, denial of what it expresses implies a serious underestimation of the role of the Son in the Trinity. Over time, the term became a symbol of conflict between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity, although there have been attempts at resolving the conflict. Among the early attempts at harmonization are the works of Maximus the Confessor, who notably was sainted independently by both Eastern and Western churches.

The Filioque is included in the form of the NCC used in most Western Christian churches, first appearing in the 6th century.[2][contradictory] It was accepted by the popes only in 1014, and is rejected by the Eastern Orthodox ChurchOriental Orthodox Churches and Church of the East. It is not in the original text of this Creed, attributed to the second ecumenical council, Constantinople I (381), which says that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father", without additions of any kind, such as "and the Son" or "alone";[3] the Latin text now in use in most Western Churches speaks of the Holy Spirit as proceeding "from the Father and the Son".

Differences over this doctrine and the question of papal primacy have been and remain primary causes of schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Western churches.[4][5] The term has been an ongoing source of conflict between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity, contributing, in major part, to the East–West Schism of 1054 and proving to be an obstacle to attempts to reunify the two sides.[6]

The controversy referring to the term Filioque involves four separate disagreements:

  • about the term itself
  • about the orthodoxy of the doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit to which the term refers
  • about the legitimacy of inserting the term into the NCC
  • about the authority of the pope to define the orthodoxy of the doctrine or to insert the term into the NCC

Although the disagreement about the doctrine preceded the disagreement about the insertion into the creed, the two disagreements became linked to the third when the pope approved insertion of the term into the NCC in the 11th century. Siecienski writes that "[u]ltimately what was at stake was not only God's trinitarian nature, but also the nature of the Church, its teaching authority and the distribution of power among its leaders."[7]

Hubert Cunliffe-Jones identifies two opposing Eastern Orthodox opinions about the Filioque: a "liberal" view and a "rigorist" view. The "liberal" view sees the controversy as being largely a matter of mutual miscommunication and misunderstanding. In this view, both East and West are at fault for failing to allow for a "plurality of theologies". Each side went astray in considering their theological framework as the only one that was doctrinally valid and applicable. Thus, neither side would accept that the dispute was not so much about conflicting dogmas as it was about different theologoumena or theological perspectives. While all Christians must be in agreement on questions of dogma, there is room for diversity in theological approaches.[8]

However, this "liberal" view is vehemently opposed by those Eastern Orthodox whom Cunliffe-Jones identifies as holding a "rigorist" view. According to standard Eastern Orthodox position, as pronounced by Photius, Mark of Ephesus and 20th century Orthodox theologians such asVladimir Lossky, the Filioque question hinges on fundamental issues of dogma and cannot be dismissed as simply one of differenttheologoumena. Many in the "rigorist" camp consider the Filioque to have resulted in the role of the Holy Spirit being underestimated by the Western Church and thus leading to serious doctrinal error. In a similar vein, Siecienski comments that, although it was common in the 20th century to view the Filioque as just another weapon in the power struggle between Rome and Constantinople and although this was occasionally the case, for many involved in the dispute the theological issues outweighed by far the ecclesiological concerns. According to Siecienski, the deeper question was perhaps whether Eastern and Western Christianity had wound up developing "differing and ultimately incompatible teachings about the nature of God." Moreover, Siecienski asserts that the question of whether the teachings of East and West were truly incompatible became almost secondary to the fact that, starting around the 8th or 9th century, Christians on both sides of the dispute began to believe that the differences were irreconcilable. ]From the view of the West, the Eastern rejection of the Filioque denied the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son and was thus a form of crypto-Arianism. In the East, the interpolation of the Filioque seemed to many to be an indication that the West was teaching a "substantially different faith". Siecienski asserts that, as much as power and authority were central issues in the debate, the strength of emotion rising even to the level of hatred can be ascribed to a belief that the other side had "destroyed the purity of the faith and refused to accept the clear teachings of the fathers on the Spirit's

1 John 1:3 – 1 John 2:3        Walking in the Light    November 7, 2016

 

Last week we noted that the Apostle John was writing this letter to his congregations in Ephesus and surrounding towns to warn them of the risks they faced from false teachers in their midst.  The two main false teachings centered on the person of Jesus.  Was he really God, was he really man, or was he truly God and man, consubstantial yet separate, as the Nicene Creed confirmed.  Many forms of Christianity today still struggle with the proper understanding of the person of the Christ.  In this letter John will develop three main themes:

    1. Life in Christ     1:2, 5:11-13, 5:20

    2. The historical reality of God’s revelation in Christ   4:2, 5:6

    3. ‘Seeing’ in association with witness.     1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 4:14, 5:6-12

 

Additional heresies emphasized asceticism or more popularly, hedonism.  Each drew the faithful away from the true faith.  This week we will deal further with heresies as John contrasts light with darkness.  We will also explore the significance of ‘fellowship’ as an integral part of the Christian faith.  Christianity does have a well-defined set of doctrines that separate the true faith from false teachings.  But it is not a faith of intellectual facts alone, but Christianity is a relational faith between God and God, man and God, and man and man.

 

 

1:3-4 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. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE FELLOWSHIP?

 

In today’s language we think of it as a gathering of friend for a specific purpose.  We have fellowship dinners in the church.  In town there may be an Odd Fellow’s hall, where men gather together for social and charitable purposes.  It usually happens in a group, but it certainly occurs between individuals, but usually without the name ‘fellowship’.

 

However, ‘Fellowship’ is a richly significant theological term.  The Greek term (koinonia) literally means ‘joint ownership’, or ‘partnership’.  In the New Testament it implies ‘mutual sharing’ of material goods (Rom 15:26), or in spiritual benefits such as sharing the blessings of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:23), or enjoying the ‘fellowship of the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13).

 

In the church there is a fellowship of believers on a human level that is rooted in the mutual indwelling of Christ.  Therefore Christian fellowship has divine origins and divine empowerment.  John extends his fellowship to the church because of his fellowship with the Father and the Son.  Jesus prays in his high priestly prayer that his followers may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory you have given to me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me(John 17:21-13).

 

The Communion Service is a reminder of the fellowship that the church has with it’s Lord and with each other.  Jesus is present with us through the Holy Spirit as we partake of his body and blood, and remember once again that we belong to Him because He purchased us with his life and blood.  As Chuck Schleich repeatedly told us, ‘We are blood bought, Spirit filled, children of God’.  We have the privilege of inviting others into this holy fellowship.

 

God is Light

1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

 

Many scholars suggest that John’s use of light and darkness here sounds like language of the Gnostics and Hellenists.  However, this contrast is used throughout the Old Testament and is very familiar language to his Jewish audience.  For the Gnostics, such as the Manicheans, light and darkness were competing powers in their dualistic theology.  In the Old Testament light represents truth in an intellectual sense and righteousness in a moral sense.

 

Isaiah 5:20

    Woe to those who call evil good

        and good evil,

    who put darkness for light

        and light for darkness,

    who put bitter for sweet

        and sweet for bitter!

 

That God is light means that he is absolute in his glory, in his truth, and in his holiness, that is in his physical being, in his intellectual being, and in his moral being.  His light reveals the works of darkness.  

 

John 3:19-21

    And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved     the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone     who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his     works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so     that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 

 

 

1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

 

John now addresses the implications of God being light.  God has disclosed himself to mankind through the physical person of Jesus.  He was no apparition (Docetists), but he was not human alone (Judaizers).  He demonstrated how one is to walk in the truth, and then he empowers his followers to do so.

 

The meaning of ‘walking’ here implies a continuous attitude of mind.  To walk in darkness is to choose a dark path.  To walk in the light is to make a purposeful and sustained effort to live in conformity with the revelation of God.  God has made himself known to us through his Son who revealed Gods glory, truth and holiness.  The believer is joined with Jesus and God in an eternal fellowship, and should walk even as Jesus walked.

 

1 Peter 2:21-22  

    For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving     you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin,     neither was deceit found in his mouth.

 

Some teachers in the church had a false view of man and therefore a wrong view of redemption.  If one denies original sin, then there would be no need for redemption by the sacrifice of Jesus.  However, the sin of Adam is congenitally passed on to his offspring and man must be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.  This is the basis of true Christian fellowship, and is accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus.   The prevailing theology/philosophy of man in our present age is that we are basically good and only in need of occasional tweaking.  We are not in a kingdom of darkness.  We all deserve to go to heaven, except maybe a few glaring examples.

 

… and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

In the Old Testament the blood, that is the life, (Lev.17: 11) of the sacrificial animal atoned for the sins of the worshiper.  This sacrifice had to be repeated continually because the children of Israel sinned continually.  Now Jesus blood atones for our sin repeatedly and effectively.  The word ‘cleanses’ implies a continuing process.  With this John teaches that sin is not only forgiven, but the believer is purified.  The promise is that the purified in heart will see God (Matt 5:8).

 

Ephesians 5:25-27

    Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for     her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water     with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor,     without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without     blemish.

 

 

 

Hebrews 9:11-12, 15, 27-28

    But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,     then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is,     not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of     the blood of goats and calves but my means of his own blood, thus securing an     eternal redemption.

 

    Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called     may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that     redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

 

    And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,     so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a     second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for     him.

 

1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

 

The Gnostics could make this claim.  Theirs was a dualistic universe with the material world evil and the spiritual world good.  Therefore the spirit was not responsible for any ‘sins’ done by the body.  Thus the teachings of Cerinthus:

 

“But (they say that) Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called, after him, the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name. For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one.  And as he was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature, he dreamed that that kingdom would consist in those things which he desired, namely, in the delights of the belly and of sexual passion, that is to say, in eating and drinking and marrying, and in festivals and sacrifices and the slaying of victims, under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace.”

 

 

Do we make a similar claim?

We do not say we do not, or have not sinned.  But do we take it too lightly.  We whisper a quick prayer calling for forgiveness, but as quickly forget our prayer and continue doing the wrong things.  Do we not understand that our smallest sins are an affront to the God of the Universe, and that God paid an incredibly high price to free us from the consequences of our sins?

 

Romans 6:23     

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ     Jesus our Lord.

 

 

 

1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

The heretics denied that they sinned altogether, or they considered sin of minor importance.  Charles Price tells of a man who confronted him after a church service and said he hadn’t sinned in the past five years.  Charles then asked him if he was married.  Was his wife here today?  He answered that Charles should not speak with his wife because she was not of the same opinion.

The Gnostics would not define sin as John and the Bible did.  Islam also has a limited definition of sin.  It is ok to rape infidel women and to steal from the unbelievers because they are an inferior class of beings and are not protected by Sharia law.

Our society today has a very restricted definition of sin if it considers the word at all.

 

But Jesus died to make it possible for God to forgive our sin, and in his love he wants to do it.  His forgiveness implies total cleansing so that our sins are a separated from us as the East is from the West.

 

God’s faithfulness is defined in his covenantal relationship with his people.  This also includes his justice and his righteousness.

Palm 89:1-4

    I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;

        with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

    For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;

        in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”

    You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

        I have sworn to David my servant:

    ‘I will establish your offspring forever,

        and build your throne for all generations.’”

Hebrews 10:23

    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who     promised is faithful.

 

Romans 3:21-26

    But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,     although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of     God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:     for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his     grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put     forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show     God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over     former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he     might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 

 

1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

To say we have not sinned has double consequences.  First it suggests falsehood on God’s part.  It makes God a liar.  It denies God’s mercy and his forgiving nature.  The second consequence is that God’s Word has no place in us.  The heretics have changed God’s word so completely that the message of a personal Logos is lost.  Jesus is not the Word in the Gospel of John.  

 

John 1:1-5

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was     God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and     without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the     life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has     not overcome it.

 

 

2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 

 

John is pleading for his congregations to renounce their disposition toward sinfulness, which issues in specific acts of wrongdoing.  .  The first condition for living in the light is to renounce sin in principle.  The second condition is to acknowledge the reality of sin in their lives.  The third condition is to turn to Jesus as our advocate before the Father.  Jesus is the propitiation for our sins and for the sins of all who call upon him.  The word ‘propitiation’ is hilasmos in the Greek.  It implies placation of the gods who they have displeased.  Jesus sacrificial death does placate God’s demand for righteousness. 

 

It can also be translated ‘expiation’., as found in the RSV.  It refers to God’s mercy and forgiveness, rather than his displeasure with sin.  Propitiation is the stronger and more accurate translation.   

 

Finally Jesus is our advocate with the Father.  The Greek word is parakleton from which we get the word Paraclete or intercessor.  We usually speak of the Holy Spirit as being our Paraclete, but here John says that Jesus Christ the righteous is our intercessor before the Father.  He can intercede on our behalf and on behalf of the whole world (kosmos).  Jesus as the righteous shares God’s nature as well as ours.  Jesus is supremely able to ask that his righteousness be extended to all God’s children.  John challenges the heretics with the affirmation that Jesus is fully God and fully man.  This is the essence of the Gospel as found in John’s Gospel and is now being taught clearly to John’s church and churches.  An inadequate Christology leads to a wrong ethic in practice, and a continuation in darkness rather than light.

1 John 2:3-17  Truth and the Lie  Love and Hate   November 21, 2016   

 

In the beginning of our study of 1 John we discussed the principle of fellowship.  Fellowship is a richly significant theological term.  Koinonia literally means joint ownership or partnership.  John emphasized that true fellowship is rooted first in one’s relationship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.  Once this relationship is established we can relate properly to each other.  The vertical relationship is powered by love and by forgiveness.  From this relationship with God we can properly love each other and can forgive each other as required.  If the vertical relationship is damaged or lost, the horizontal relationship with each other is weakened or completely disintegrated.

 

Last week we explored the meaning of light and darkness as described throughout the Old Testament and the New.  According to Gnostic teachings light and darkness are competing forces that never come to a resolution.  The physical world is dark, or evil, and cannot be redeemed.  The spiritual world is light and it you can attain light through the understanding of certain doctrines you have risen above the physical world and are on course to eternal life.

 

But the Bible has a very different understanding of light and darkness.  In the OT light represents truth in an intellectual sense and righteousness in a moral sense.  There is no separation of the physical and the spiritual as in the Gnostic teachings.

Jesus says he is the light of the world.  He is also the way, the truth and the life.  John says that men love darkness because of their evil ways and choose to avoid the light of Christ.  We are called to walk in light and not in darkness.  To ‘walk’ means to have a continuous attitude of mind.  For the believer who wanders into the realm of darkness, there is rescue through Jesus.  If we confess our sin God is able to forgive our sin through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.  He is the propitiation for our sins.  His blood continually atones for us in order to draw us back into his light.  If that were not so we would become bound for hell.

 

In today’s lesson we will study the issues of truth and the lie, of love and hate.  They are parallel to the issues of light and darkness, but John uses typical Hebrew parallelism to strengthen his argument.   

 

 

2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  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.

 

 

 

 

How is one to know if he is truly a believer?  Here is a practical test.  The Apostle James has a similar test:

 

    James 2:18-20 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show     me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.     You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and     shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from     works is useless?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he     offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with     his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled     that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as     righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is     justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also     Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and     sent them out by another way?  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so     also faith apart from works is dead.

 

This is the first characteristic of a true believer.  Common among the heretics was antinomianism, that is disregard for the law, especially the moral law.  They felt they were above the law and a law unto themselves.  In their spirit they considered themselves sinless and what their physical bodies did was irrelevant.  John uses some form of the word gnosis, knowledge, 25 times in this letter.  He contrasts the knowledge of the Gnostics from the knowledge that is true.  Knowledge of God in the Bible is not intellectual and speculative, but experiential and dynamic.  To claim that one knows God, but fails to keep his commandments is a liar.  The end results of the lie are found in Israel in Hosea’s day.

 

    Hosea 4:1-2 Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel,

        for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.

        There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,

        and no knowledge of God in the land;

        there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;

        they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

 

Wrong knowledge leads to wrong practice.  Obedience is not a condition for knowing God, but obeying his teachings should characterize one who possesses true knowledge.  

 

The way to know we are in him is to walk in the same way Jesus walked (imitatio Christi).

 

 

The New Commandment

 

2:7-12 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

 

Now is the second test of true faith.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.

John opens this section by calling his flock Beloved.  As he calls his congregation to love each other, he affirms his love for them.  The commandment to love is both old and new.  The 10 commandments are summarized by Jesus to require love for God and love of each other.

 

    Matthew 22:36-40

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,     “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and     with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is     like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments     depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

 

Although this commandment is new as taught by Jesus, it was already taught in the Pentateuch.  

 

    Leviticus 19:17-18 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you     shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.  You     shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people,     but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

 

 

    Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk     in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and     sacrifice to God.

 

    James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You     shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

 

Love is the essence of the Gospel as taught by Jesus.  It was the primary obligation he laid on his disciples.  It is the primary obligation he places on us his church.  As with fellowship, it first requires a vertical relationship between the believer and God, and then a horizontal relationship with in the church body and extending to the world outside.

 

We do not receive eternal life by being obedient rather, once we are Christians we want to be obedient.  As our love grows darkness fades away and true light appears.

One cannot hate his brother and remain in the light.  Darkness blinds his eyes.  The hater has lost his way.  He is in a spiritual downfall (Isa 6:10).

 

The Biblical concept of ‘love’ (agape) is distinctive, insofar as it is associated with a God who enters into a covenant relationship with his people and maintains it with undeserved ‘steadfast love’ (Deut 7:9).  God’s essential activity is saving love (although divine love cannot be separated from divine judgment); and in NT terms we find this activity centered in the person and work of Jesus.  God has loved us in Christ, and we are therefore called to love others in and through him (1 John 4:8, 16).  In John mutual love is clearly grounded in the love of God, and is a sure sign of faith (v. 10).  … The verb philein (to love or to be a friend) is not used in 1 John; but it is used in the Fourth Gospel, where it can refer to the love of God, of Jesus or of the Christian.  As a result we should not attempt to draw sharp distinctions in meaning between the two verbs agapan and philein.

 

 2:12 I am writing to you, little children,

 because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.

 

 I am writing to you, fathers,

 because you know him who is from the beginning.

 

 I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

 

 I write to you, children,

 because you know the Father.

 

 I write to you, fathers,

 because you know him who is from the beginning.

 

 I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

 and the word of God abides in you,

 and you have overcome the evil one.

 

John is writing to his church, but he cannot be there with them.  He is remembering the families in his congregation, from the youngest to the oldest.  Each has a role to play in the church community.  He began this section in v.7 calling the church his beloved.  He is now expressing his pastoral heart.

 

The last three couplets should begin ‘I have written to you…’  The verb has changed from present tense to past tense.  John is reminding them of his teachings in an earlier letter and is now encouraging them to continue strong in the faith.

 

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 of life—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.

He concludes this section with a stern warning concerning the teachings and practices of the heretics.

1 John 2:18 – 2:29  Warning Concerning Antichrists        November 28, 2016

 

We are living in a world with competing world-views.  We have espoused the Christian world-view as presented to us through the Bible.  To me this is the most satisfying position because it addresses the human condition most accurately.  It recognizes the sinfulness of man and our need for redemption.  It then presents a comprehensive plan for our redemption.  It also describes an understandable cosmology.  Logic and scientific findings support a creator god.  Some call it intelligent design.  We recognize that the creator is none other than Yahweh, the God of the Bible.

 

However the Christian world-view is challenged by other religious and a-religious views.  Islam professes allegiance to the god, Allah.  Almost 1/4th of all the peoples on earth follow his teachings through his prophet Mohammed.  Hindu’s, Buddhists, and many others have world-views that determine how they go through their daily lives.  In our country today the prevailing world-view is an amorphous amalgam of views that leans toward atheism and has no consistent rules that one can fall back on.  It is antinomian except for certain laws, like environmentalism and multiculturalism that are intermittently acknowledged. Most recently our Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren, said that the Constitution is unconstitutional.

 

The Apostle John was facing similar challenges in his day.  Mankind has not changed over the centuries.  In our country the view is ‘anything but Christianity’.  In John’s church teachers inside and out were twisting the true gospel to suit their own desires.

 

John is encouraging his churches to remain faithful to the gospel they received in the beginning, from the Apostle Paul and now from John.  He presents four conditions for ‘living in the light’.

    1. Renounce Sin   1:8-2:2

    2. Remain obedient   2:3-2:11

    3. Reject worldliness   2:12-1:17

Today he will address the fourth condition: Keep the faith   1:18-2:29

 

2:18-19 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.  Therefore we know that it is the last hour.  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.  

 

The apostles as a whole were expecting the imminent return of the Christ. Prior to his ascension Jesus told them that he would be returning.   But also he said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7).   The angels told them that he would return the same way he ascended.  

    Acts 1:10-11 Two men stood by them in white robes and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

 

The church will experience opposition in the time prior to his return.

 

    1 Tim 4:1 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,

 

    2 Tim 3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

 

    2 Peter 3:3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.

 

The antichrist will challenge the church.   In fact there will be many antichrists, and they are already around.  This happens regularly.  A glaring example is the transformation of the congregational church in the early 1800’s.  It was founded with Puritan roots, but then began to deny the deity of Christ and became Universalist, and then Unitarian.    The Universalists and Unitarians formally joined each other in 1961 to become the UUA.  They deny original sin, the deity of Christ, the existence of hell, and affirm heaven for all.  Harvard University was caught up in these heresies and has been unable to return to its orthodox founding.

 

    Matt 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

 

    1 John 4:3 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.

 

    Matt 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

 

The second coming has not yet occurred.  The church is still awaiting Christ’s return.  But the Christ did appear at the middle point of salvation history.  Salvation in the Old Testament was dependent on faith, but the role of the Law was primary as well.

With Jesus a new covenant is established in which the role of faith is predominant.  Christianity is a teleological religion and time is linear.  There is a beginning and an end, and the end we await is the return of Christ as King and ruler over all things.  John clearly has this eschatological outlook.

 

 

 

 

 

2:20-23 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.  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.  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.  No one who denies the Son has the Father.  Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 

 

The word for ‘anointed’ is ‘chrisma’.  This can refer to the anointing of a king or high official.  Psalm 133 refers to the anointing of Aaron, with the oil placed on his head running down his beard and onto his robe.  It represents the blessing of the Lord.   The anointing could refer to the baptism of the new believers.  Much of the church teaches baptismal regeneration.  But here it sounds more like the baptism of the Holy Spirit that enters the life and heart of the new believer.  It is the Holy Spirit that will lead the believer in to the truth.  He will bear witness about Jesus.  John the Baptist tells his followers that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.  He will guide the true believer in all truth.  (John 15-16).

 

The truth (aletheia) is fully found in Jesus and his words.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  For the believers in the church the truth is a living reality of God, not just an intellectual and abstract formulation.  It is supremely revealed in Jesus, the Christ, and is shared by every faithful Christian.

 

The heresies in John’s day had two wrong views of the Christ.  Either he was God only and not man, or he was really a man, but not divine.  But orthodoxy required that he be very God of very God, and very man as well.  This was the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  These same heresies motivate the Universalists and the Unitarians in our day.  It seems to me that all Christian heresies have their roots in a failure to acknowledge the Trinitarian doctrine of the church.  Once the Trinity is weakened, then the doctrine of original sin falls away, man is not in need of redemption any longer, and sin itself changes to bad behavior or bad upbringing, or ignorance, and except for these aberrations, man is basically good.

 

2:24-25 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.  And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

 

John begins this epistle with the words: That which was from the beginning…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you.  He now reminds his readers of that beginning and their response to it.   The gospel is true because it presents the true Messiah, sent by God to redeem his creation.  The church has responded to the message and is now called to abide in it.  If the gospel message of the true identity of Jesus has been accepted by the believer, and if this good news is allowed to control your theological understanding and control your moral practice, then the outcome is a deep fellowship with the Father and the Son, with the eschatological promise of eternal life.

 

Jesus had a similar conversation with the Jewish leaders in his day.

 

    John 8:31-38 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

 

    Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.  I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

 

2:26-27 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.  But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you.  But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

 

The heretics are teaching another gospel.  They are intent on drawing the true believers away from the true faith as taught by Paul and John.  Don’t you wonder why the heretics are so intent on drawing the true believers away from the faith?  Why can’t they just let the Christians be and go off on their own journey?  Is it because they want to justify themselves by bringing more people to their side?  Could they really believe they are right and they want to rescue the believers from their erroneous ways?  Is their heresy a product of supernatural forces at work on them and deceiving them (Eph 6:12)

 

    John 8:43-47 Why do you not understand what I say?  It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which one of you convicts me of sin?  If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

 

As I was looking through the Gospel of John for these quotes I thought that the churches John was addressing in the epistle could well have had the Gospel of John already, and were familiar with it.  They were probably the first recipients of the Gospel.  They probably had copies of the Gospel of Mark as well, because his was probably the first gospel written, probably around 65 AD.

 

2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

 

MONDAY MORNING NOTES - 1 JOHN 3

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1 John 3:1-24 Love as Primary Doctrine of the Christian Faith

December 5, 2016

Today we begin the study of the second division of the first Epistle of John. In the

first section of this letter John presented a true orthodox Christianity. He confirmed

its veracity because he was telling us what he learned directly from Jesus when he

was with him.

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.

He then proceeds to describe God as light, in whom is no darkness at all. The true

believers are privileged to live in God’s light. John opens his gospel with a similar

message, this time saying that Jesus, the Word, is the light that shines in darkness.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word

was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through

him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,

and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the

darkness has not overcome it.

Thus God and Jesus are equal, and the light that comes from them is one light, even

as God and Jesus are one. This challenges the heresies that are assaulting the

church with their wrong views of Jesus. In the first division of this letter John is

addressing his church, but also is addressing the teachers and followers of a

different way. There is only one source of light, and all else is darkness.

In the second section of the letter John is addressing the church primarily. He now

affirms that God is their father, and is a loving father. The reason to remain true to

the original faith is because the believers have been transformed into children of

God. The relationship is filial and not merely intellectual. It is the work of the Holy

Spirit in their lives, a supernatural work. The heretics may depart from the true way,

but John’s congregations are kept on the right path by the continuous work of the

Holy Spirit in their lives.

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2:28-29 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have

confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous,

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

This is a transitional verse that represents the change from the theological

arguments of the first section to the personal teachings of the second. God’s

children are to abide in him with the expectation that the Lord will return for his

own. In preparation for the Lord’s return the believers are to practice righteousness

as they try to imitate Jesus himself.

3:1- 3 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. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet

appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall

see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

In the first section the believers were encouraged to live in the light. The conditions

for living in the light are:

1. Renounce Sin 1:8-2:2

2. Remain Obedient 2:3-2:11

3. Reject Worldliness 2:12-1:17

4. Keep the Faith

Now they are being encouraged to live as children of God. A new condition now

appears. To live as children of God we are to:

1. Renounce Sin 1:8-2:2

2. Remain Obedient 2:3-2:11

3. Reject Worldliness 2:12-1:17

4. Keep the Faith

But also we are to: 5. Be Loving.

It is because of his love that the Father has called us. This opening verse is better

translated; consider ‘how lavish is the love which the Father has showered upon us!’

John’s excitement about the Fatherhood of God is evident. It is his love that

provided a way to escape from the death that is otherwise the fate of all mankind.

Out of love Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the cross. Our superficial

response to the teachings of the church is because of our superficial understanding

of the seriousness of sin. The reason tears often accompany repentance and

conversion is that the new believer recognizes the sinfulness of his sin.

In chapter 1 John tells us that Jesus himself is eternal life. In chapter 2 he warns us

that the last hour is upon us, but for those who put their faith in Jesus are promised

eternal life. We do not comprehend what eternal life encompasses, but we will see

Jesus on that day and all will be made clear. This eschatological hope should keep us

pure.

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The world does not understand the change that comes in the true believer.

Therefore it responds with hatred. The hatred is really a hatred of Jesus and God,

but it is taken out on the believer because he is physically present. There truly is a

division of humanity into those who belong to God and those who belong to ’the

world’. This accounts for the tension we see.

The hope (elpis) of the believer has two aspects. It has an aspect in this life, because

the believer is now a child of God. It is rooted in the knowledge of the truth and the

revelation that gives us light. We have been moved out of darkness into the light.

Col 1:9-14 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you,

asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual

wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully

pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the

knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious

might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father,

who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has

delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of

his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The second part of our hope is a future hope of Christ’s parousia, his return. He will

appear, we shall see him as he really is, and we shall be like him. At this moment we

will be totally transformed into the being God intended when he first created us.

This vision of heaven should reinforce our desire to walk today in ways pleasing to

God. So our salvation is not a future event, but an active process that is ongoing in

the present and is completed when Christ returns.

3:4-10 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is

lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is

no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has

either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever

practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of

sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason

the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 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. 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.

John continues to stress the ethical dualism between the believer and the world. He

has already discussed light and darkness. Now he differentiates righteousness and

sin, derivation from God and derivation from the devil. He compares sin with

lawlessness. Lawlessness is antinomianism, that is repudiation of the law. This was

a common teaching by the heretics. For them the spiritual was the only true state

and the law applied only to the physical. The physical was doomed to destruction

and so breaking the law had no spiritual consequences.

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Sin (amartia) and lawlessness (anomia) are often used as if they are synonymous.

However, lawlessness in the NT can serve as a description of the ‘Satan inspired

rejection of God and his law.’ The Apostle Paul speaks of the ‘man of lawlessness’. It

implies not merely breaking God’s law, but flagrantly opposing him (in Satanic

fashion) by so doing. It is the ultimate rebellion against God; it is taking sides with

Satan himself. It is not simply a synonym for ‘sin’ but a climactic definition of it.

Jesus appeared in order to abolish sin, to destroy the works of the devil. This was

planned before the earth was formed. John the Baptist said to his followers: ‘Behold

the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. Jesus death was the atoning

sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He came to abolish sin, not just bear it to

the cross. He is our redeemer and the redeemer of all mankind.

God’s opposition to human sin is demonstrated in Jesus appearing on earth with the

intent of destroying lawlessness. His life of righteousness and purity made him an

effective Savior for the world. We cannot understand why sin exists. We say it is

necessary do that we can have free will. But it existed before the creation and

continues now in heavenly realms. Revelation tells us of war in heaven (Rev 12:7).

Satan was the leader of the rebellion and he continues the rebellion here on earth.

His is a losing cause, but he remains powerful, especially when dealing with fragile

mankind (Isa 14:12-13)

The child of God, the person born again, cannot keep on sinning, because God’s seed

is implanted in him. If sinning is one’s settled habit he cannot be one who has been

born again, baptized by the Spirit and by fire. Sinning by habit separates the child of

God and the child of the devil. John is not teaching sinless perfection. Earlier he

makes provision for those who sin. But he emphasizes the objective of the born

again Christian is to mimic Jesus as closely as he can. If this is his studied habit, then

any deviance is corrected by confession to our faithful and just God.

Acting righteously is not simply a matter of performing actions that are right. There

must also be a righteous character from which the actions flow. This character is

God-given, not created by the believer. Many people perform good actions and do

good deeds. These are noteworthy, but if they do not come from a transformed

heart they have no eternal significance. John has in view through out this passage

that the Christian has a potential state of sinlessness (Ps 119:9-11).

John finishes this paragraph with an introduction to love as a principle of

righteousness.

Love One Another

3:11-15 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we

should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and

murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil

and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

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We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers

(adelphoi). Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother

(adelphoi) is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in

him.

In the first division of this letter obedience was emphasized. Now John addresses

his congregation more intimately and teaches that love of the brethren is the

primary attribute that confirms one’s true faith. The importance of love (agape) will

be emphasized for the rest of this letter.

He begins with the negative example of Cain. He was the first man born to Adam

and Eve. Yet he never sought God’s approval. He gave sacrifices, external religion,

but they did not come from a sacrificial heart. When he contemplated the murder of

his brother, Abel, God approached him face to face and begged him to change his

plan.

Genesis 4:3-7 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of

the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of

their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for

Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If

you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching

at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain is mentioned several times in the NT, but here John says that he was a tool of

the evil one. The driving force in his life was hate, not love. John then adds this non

sequitur, Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. It is true that the

world is vehemently opposed to the believers. The opposition, however, is not

against the individual believer or even the church, but is primarily against God

himself, and his Son, Jesus, the Christ. We see this anger seething in our own

country today, and it may at some time break out into generalized violence and

imprisonment of out spoken Christians (John 15:18).

We can know we have crossed over from death to life if we love our brothers. And if

we do not love, we remain in the land of darkness and death.

3:16-18 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay

down our lives for the brothers (adelphoi). 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? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

The reason we are to love is because God is Love. He demonstrated his love for us

by the sacrifice of his only begotten Son (John 3:16), and Jesus has become our

example to follow, even in the face of death (John 15:13).

Our love, and therefore our faith, is to be expressed by our deeds. See James 2:14ff.

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3:19-24 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before

him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows

everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do

what pleases him. 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. Whoever keeps his

commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in

us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

In these verses John summarizes his teachings so far. They can be listed as:

 

1. The practice of love is a guarantee of Christian sonship.

2. God knows who the true believer is.

3. A clear conscience lets us relate confidently to God.

4. Faith and love are the sum total of God’s demands.

5. Obedience to the commands of God is the basis of living the Christian life.

6. The gift of the Spirit assures the Christian of God’s presence in his daily life.

First Letter of John Email.docx

Open with

1 John 4                       Test the Spirits            December 12, 2016

 

In last week’s lesson John emphasized the relationship between love and faith.  We have been called by the Holy Spirit to receive Jesus by faith.  To receive him is to align ourselves with his life by first abiding in him and then in walking as he walked.  We should be obedient to his teachings and to the moral teachings in the Bible.  We are to renounce sin as a guiding principle in our lives.  We are to reject worldliness that is the domain of the devil.  And we are to respond to God’s love toward us by being loving in our familial and community relationships.  John asks us to consider ‘how lavish is the love which the Father has showered upon us’.  Because of his love toward us that God provided a way to escape the death that was our due.  The soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).  Out of love Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the cross.  Our superficial response to this teaching of the church is because of our superficial comprehension of the seriousness of sin. 

 

This week John reinforces this teaching in verses 7-21.  He reinforces the relationship between faith and love with increasing urgency through this chapter.  But he begins the chapter with a renewed warning about the heresies that are challenging the true believers in his church.  We have noted that the first division of this epistle was directed at the false teachings that were developing in the church.  Gnosticism was in its infancy still, but it was drawing some true believers away from the faith.  John encourages the believers to carefully evaluate their teachings concerning who Jesus truly was.  One group of false teachers taught that the Messiah was only God and not man.  Jesus only appeared to be a man.  He was never crucified, because God cannot die (Docetism, dokeo, in Greek, meaning seemed).  Others, especially the Jewish believers, taught the humanity of Jesus.  He was the promised Messiah, but was a man and not God.  Both false views of Jesus led to a false Christianity.

 

In the 5th chapter John returns to his emphasis on the central importance of faith.  We are saved by faith alone (sola fide).  However, the faith has ramifications and conditions that determine if the faith is true or false.  In the end the two primary characteristics of the true believer are faith in Jesus as both man and God, and expression of the faith through love of the brothers, the neighbor, and all mankind. 

 

4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 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. 

 

We have spent quite a bit of time in earlier lessons discussing the heresies that were challenging John’s churches in Ephesus and surrounding districts.  Reference is made to some of the heresies in the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation.  

The heresies tend to center on the nature and person of Jesus.  Any teaching that diminishes either the humanity or the deity of Christ leads to a cascade of false teachings and immoral practices.  Such teachings are brought about by false spiritual influences, that John calls the antichrist.  Contemporary versions of some of the heresies are Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, even Islam.  The true believer knows the true nature of the Christ because the Holy Spirit has revealed it to him.  No one can ascertain such truth without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.

 

4:4-6 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

 

A Christian is defined by one’s faith in Jesus, as Lord and Savior.  The first condition for living as a true Christian is to renounce sin (1:8-2:2).    The second condition is to remain obedient to Jesus’ teachings and to the Bible as a whole (2:3-2:11).  Now John presents the third condition, the rejection of worldliness. ‘Worldliness’ as seen by John is primarily a wrong attitude, a determination to be anchored to a society that does not know God (3:1).  John contrasts divine truth with worldly delusion.  The term ‘world (kosmos)’ here does not mean the physical world, but the false doctrinal views that are opposed to God, and rooted in Satan himself.  

 

4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  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. 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.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

 

John took a small detour in this discussion to review the heretical teachings that are challenging the church.  They all arise from spirits that are opposed to the Spirit of God.  He now returns to his review of the conditions of true discipleship.  Until now there have been four conditions.  He now adds a fifth.  The true believer is to be loving.

 

The commandment to love one another comes directly from Jesus.  On the day before Good Friday we celebrate Maundy Thursday.  ‘Maundy’ means commandment.  Here Jesus gave a new commandment, the commandment to love.

 

    John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:     just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will     know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

The source of Christian love is God himself.  The commandment comes from Jesus.  The empowerment comes through the Holy Spirit. (See John 14:15-24).

The demonstration of God’s love is Jesus, who came to be a propitiation for our sins.  We have discussed ‘propitiation’ in the past and compared it to ‘expiation’ which some translations use.  Propitiation implies placation of God’s wrath.  Expiation refers to God’s mercy and forgiveness, rather than his displeasure with sin.  Jesus’ death did placate God’s demand for righteousness.  Mercy alone cannot save us because God’s justice requires compensation for sin.  In the OT it was a lamb, and now for us it is the Lamb of God.

 

4:13-17 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 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. 

 

God has many characteristics enumerated in the Bible.  But of all his attributes the greatest is his love.  If we are to be his children, redeemed from the world system, then we should reflect his love to those around us.  

 

God sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Here ‘world (kosmos) does not carry the negative connotation we noted earlier.  This refers to place in creation that God set mankind to live and to work.  It has been invaded by Satan and his hosts and Jesus has entered it to destroy the works of the devil (3:8).

 

To ‘abide’ means to accept without objection, to sojourn, to remain stable in Christ.

We are to abide in Christ, but he in turn abides in us.  We abide in him by our confession of faith.  In John 15 Jesus likens us to branches on a vine that receive their sustenance from the vine itself.

 

    John 15:7-11 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.

 

4:18-21 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. 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. We love because he first loved us. 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. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

 

With John theology and ethics belong together.  The doctrine of God’s love must be demonstrated by us as love for our fellow man. 

 

 

1 John 5    Overcoming the World

 

5:1-4 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.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 

 

John keeps repeating the relationship between faith and love with increasing intensity.  He is working his way to an orchestral crescendo. The faith creed: ‘Jesus is the Christ’, is the basis of the Christian life.  It is the new birth.  It confirms one’s love for God and sets us on a path of obedience to the commandments.  It is best expressed by our love for the children of God, our fellow believers.  Faith, confirmed by our love of God and neighbor, is the victory that overcomes the world.   John has returned to the negative understanding of ‘world’ as all that is at enmity with God and his children.  

 

5:5-13 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.  And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree.  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.   Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.   And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   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.

 

This reference to water and blood and spirit is understandably confusing.  The great theologians have struggled over this.  Water and blood have been taken to mean the sacraments, baptism and communion.  Or the water could be Jesus baptism and the blood his death with the spear thrust into his side.   Some suggest that this is the language of initiation of early believers into the faith, with anointing with oil (Spirit), baptism (water), and finally receiving communion (blood).  A more natural understanding brings all three witnesses to the Christ together confirming that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the true Son of God.  The Spirit descended on Jesus at the time of his baptism.  Jesus promised his disciples that the Spirit would come upon them after his death.   The Spirit descended on the church after Jesus death and resurrection and remains with the church to this day.   All three witnesses together confirm that Jesus is truly God and truly man and the true savior of mankind. 

 

Eternal life is promised to all who truly believe that Jesus is the Messiah and believe the testimony of God himself.  “But ‘eternal’ life is qualitative, not quantitive.  It may refer to the highest kind of spiritual and moral life, irrespective of time, which God enables the believer to share in relationship with Jesus.”  “It is a spiritual quality of life, which God gives to every believer through Jesus his Son.  It is not to be thought of as life prolonged to infinity, but as a sharing of living fellowship with the Father, in which the category of time re cedes before that of moral quality.”  (WBC vol. 51, p. 10, 287).  I am not sure I agree with this, but I thought I would throw it in for your consideration.

 

5:14-21 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.  If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death.  There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.  All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 

 

This section is an appendix to the whole letter.  It’s intent is to give the believers confidence in relation to their spiritual life, especially concerning prayer, and of their intellectual knowledge and understanding of the faith.  The Christian life includes renouncing sin, obedience to the Lord, rejection of worldliness, love of the church family and all mankind, and keeping the faith as a continuing process finally leading to eternal life.  We are to deal with sin in a brother, not by confronting him, but by bringing it to God through prayer. We are to be fully aware that there are forces of evil around us ready to assault us, but God keeps a protective wall around his own.  Finally, we are assured that the Son of God we have committed our lives to is truly God and eternal life.

 

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.