Saturday, April 20, 2024

Morning Message: For Fullness of Joy

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "For Fullness of Joy"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

After completing our study through the Book of Revelation, I thought of what the Angel of the Lord had directed the Apostle John to do in Revelation 1. John had just seen the vision of Jesus in His Spiritual Body in verses 12 through 15, and the Angel said to John in Verse 19, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.”

Many Bible teachers and commentaries take the angel at His word and begin the Book of Revelation right there with the vision of Jesus he had just seen. But what else had John seen?

It occurred to me that John had seen so much more! John has seen Jesus in His physical body too! John’s entire Gospel tells the story, and most scholars agree that his Gospel account was written between 85 and 90 A.D., a trusted source believes it is likely the latter, 90 A.D. This is where John’s first Epistle begins, and he describes not only what he had seen, but heard, looked upon, and touched!

My own personal thought is that when telling John to write what he had seen, the Angel of the Lord, was actually prompting John to start penning his account of the Gospel. And the Gospel of John stands apart from the other Gospels. They generally cover the same things as each other, with some variation by way of their individual experiences.

But John’s Gospel is a most personal account of Jesus’ ministry. The text reveals the close tie that John had with Jesus. John being seated next to Jesus at the Last Supper would reveal the bond that they both shared. Effectively, Jesus knew ahead of time what the role of young John was to be.

But just before Revelation, John also wrote three Epistles that give us further insight into the first century Church. First, Second, and Third John were written in sequence, probably in 90 A.D., based upon their historical content.

We learn about antichrist’s work in Revelation, but to see “antichrist” in print, in the Bible? It only appears in First and Second John. Antichrist was also at work in the Book of Daniel, but never mentioned by that term. In fact, antichrist and his works are everywhere in the Bible, undermining God’s every move.

John the Baptist, and John the Apostle 

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light…” - John 1:6,7

Bobservations Column: Audio Version

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:

1 John 1:1-9 - "For Fullness of Joy"

Summary/Additional Commentary and Definitions:  Audio message will be uploaded Sunday Afternoon.

First John is one of five New Testament books written by the apostle John. The others are the Gospel of John, 2 John, 3 John, and the book of Revelation. This is the first of his three letters in the New Testament. While no specific audience is mentioned, he is clearly writing to the churches he is overseeing, the churches in Asia Minor.

The parallelisms in 1 John are striking for their simplicity: Christ vs. antichrists, light vs. darkness, truth vs. falsehood, righteousness vs. sin, love of the Father vs. love of the world, and the Spirit of God vs. the spirit of the Antichrist. While this is not a complete list, it reveals a letter that presents the world in an uncomplicated way—there is right and there is wrong, period. This emphasis by John, while striking, is not without love. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. John recognized that love comes from God, and he encouraged the believers to love one another (1 John 4:7). John’s first epistle teaches that while it is important to recognize the lines between truth and error, it must always be done in a spirit of love.

The Book of 1 John seems to be a summary that assumes the readers' knowledge of the gospel as written by John and offers certainty for their faith in Christ. The first epistle indicates that the readers were confronted with the error of Gnosticism, which became a more serious problem in the second century.   Gnosticism was a pagan evolutionary philosophy which was in existence well before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But by the middle of the first century, however, many Christians were compromising with it.  There were many varieties of Gnostics, but all rejected the concept of special creation by the transcendent God of the bible, and either the true deity or true humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

As a philosophy of religion, it held that matter is evil, and spirit is good. The solution to the tension between these two was knowledge, or gnosis, through which man rose from the mundane to the spiritual. In the gospel message, this led to two false theories concerning the person of Christ, Docetism—regarding the human Jesus as a ghost—and Cerinthianism—making Jesus a dual personality, at times human and at times divine. The key purpose of 1 John is to set boundaries on the content of faith and to give believers assurance of their salvation.

Just like the apostle Paul prophesied, many false teachers had arisen within the church's own ranks. Their teachings had become saturated in philosophical trends infecting the church with false doctrine and perverting the fundamental teaching of the apostles, including the full deity and humanity of Jesus, and the atonement of Christ.

These false teachers were advocating "new ideas" from Greek philosophers which eventually became known as "Gnosticism." Basically, they were introducing "dualism" into the church. It is the belief that matter was inherently evil, but the spirit was good. Therefore, they attributed some form of deity to Christ, but denied His humanity in order to preserve Him from evil. The bible affirms Jesus' full deity as well as His full humanity (Philippians 2:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22; Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; Revelation 3:7.)

Gnostics also claimed elevated knowledge of truth, even higher than Scripture. Instead of Divine Truth standing as judge over man's ideas, Gnostic ideas were judging God's Revelation. Because they denied Jesus' physical body was real (Docetism), the apostle John forcefully affirms Jesus physical reality (1 John 1:1 seen, heard, handled).

Their belief that matter was evil, but the spirit was good led to the idea that sin in the body had no connection or effect on one's spirit. Therefore, they taught that sin committed in the physical body did not matter, absolute indulgence and immorality was permissible, they could even deny that sin existed (1:8-10). They could disregard God's law with no consequence (3:4).  

Although these false teachers claimed to believe in Christ, their denial of the true nature of Christ demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation. 

One of the purposes of this Epistle was to stress the full though sinless humanity of Jesus and to assure believers of the certainty of their gift of salvation.  A further purpose was to refute those in the church who were seeking to accommodate Gnostic philosophies and practices into their Christian faith and life. 

Since this letter’s audience was clearly dealing with problems related to false teachers. John warns against them throughout this entire writing. John also develops themes of fellowship, Christ-like love, forgiveness of sins, and assurance of salvation. John focuses on specific needs related to the church.

At the time of this letter, John is the last apostle still alive. John is fully aware of the false doctrine infecting the church and opens the letter in a very straightforward way, jumping right into the issue at hand. John is writing from personal experience and sharing his eyewitness testimony. I saw Him. I heard Him. I handled Him.

As we read through John's epistles, we see the apostle respond to the crisis. First, he reassures the faithful and instructs them to combat the threat to the church. The letters were sent to the churches to stop the spreading of false doctrine and to encourage the faithful.

Key Words and Definitions with Reference:

That Which (1:1) - refers to the proclamation of the gospel that centers in the person, words and works of Jesus contained in the apostle's testimony.

We (1:1) - refers to the twelve apostles.

From the Beginning (1:1) - A similar text is used in John's gospel, "In the beginning."  But while John's gospel looks back before the beginning of time, His epistle, proceeds forward from that beginning of time to the incarnation of the eternal "Word," which became the Word of life," the manifestation of the Father in "his Son Jesus Christ."  It refers to the beginnings of gospel preaching when they first heard about Jesus.  "From the beginning" emphasizes the stability of the gospel message, it is unchanging no matter current worldly fads or philosophical thinking. 

We have Heard... We have Seen... We have Looked Upon... We have Handled (1:1) - This is John's personal eyewitness testimony of the person of Jesus Christ - his physical reality.

Manifested... Seen... Bear Witness... and Shew it Unto You (1:2) - John reemphasizing the authority of his own personal experience as an eyewitness of Jesus' life, powerfully refuting the false teachers wrongly portraying Christ.  

That Eternal Life... With the Father... Manifested to Us (1:2) - Jesus is eternal, and that eternal life was "manifested to us."  

Fellowship with Us (1:3) - Fellowship does not mean social relations.  Believers are to be partakers with John in possessing eternal life (Philippians 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:4).  The same word is translated "communion" (1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 6:14).  It means "joint participation in things held in common."  The fellowship we can have with the Father through the Son is the same fellowship we as believers can have with one another.  

That Your Joy May Be Full (1:4) - John's goal for this epistle is that the reader will have joy.  The truth of the gospel, the proclamation of the gospel produces life eternal, and true fellowship with God and with fellow believers. 

We Have Heard From Him (1:5) - The message that John and the other apostles preached came from God, not from men (Galatians 1:12).

God is Light (1:5) - 1 Timothy 6:16 tells us that God is light, and dwells in light.  God is the light of shining glory; He is the light of truth and the light of holiness.  He is also the light of life (John 1:4) and of true guidance (John 8:12).  In Scripture, light and darkness are familiar symbols.  Light refers to biblical truth, while darkness refers to error or falsehood (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; John 1:4; 8:12).  Morally, light refers to holiness and purity.  Darkness refers to sin and wrongdoing (Romans 13:11-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-7).  While the heretics claim to be truly enlightened and walking in the true light, John exposes that lie, for they do not even recognize their sin.

No Darkness at All (5:5) - John forcefully affirms that God is absolutely perfect, and nothing exists in God's character that impinges upon His truth and holiness (James 1:17).

Do Not the Truth (5:6) - Our greatest reality is that we possess Divine truth.  That is, the testimony of ALL SCRIPTURE.  There is nothing more important, more valuable, more powerful, more necessary that God's truth. Whatever God has said is truth, and His word is something that all believers should believe, abide in, teach, obey, protect and proclaim. Those who do not the truth are simply liars, they are not believers.

Walk in the Light (1:7) - There are two distinct groups in Scripture, those who Walk in the Light, and those who Walk in Darkness They are the Saved and the Unsaved. It is the separation of believers from non-believers.  1 Thessalonians 5 succinctly describes this contrast:  Believers Walk in Light, not Darkness; we are Children of the Day, not Night; Believers are Alert, not Asleep; they are Sober, Not Drunk.  To walk in the light, is to follow Jesus.  We are no more children of darkness.  Ephesians 5:8 says, "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."  To “walk” is, in short, to live one’s life. One’s lifestyle or way of life can be considered a “walk.” The word also indicates progress. Walking is related to growth; it is taking steps toward maturity. “Light” in the Bible can be a metaphor for life, happiness, righteousness, or understanding. The Bible is clear that light comes from the Lord God, the “Father of the lights” (James 1:17). He is the opposite of evil. Putting it all together, walking in the light means growing in holiness and maturing in the faith as we follow Jesus.

All Sin (1:7) - The Greek word for "sin" is Hamartia - (1 John 1:7, 8; 3:4, 5, 8, 9; 5:16, 17).  It literally means "to miss the mark."  Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). Sin had its beginning with Lucifer, probably the most beautiful and powerful of the angels. Not content with his position, he desired to be higher than God, and that was his downfall, the beginning of sin (Isaiah 14:12-15). Renamed Satan, he brought sin to the human race in the Garden of Eden, where he tempted Adam and Eve with the same enticement, “you shall be like God.” Genesis 3 describes Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God and against His command. Since that time, sin has been passed down through all the generations of mankind and we, Adam’s descendants, have inherited sin from him. Romans 5:12 tells us that through Adam sin entered the world, and so death was passed on to all men because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  All sin, whether known or unknown, is cleansed by the blood of Jesus as we walk in fellowship with Him.   A genuine Christine walks habitually in the light (truth and holiness), not in darkness (falsehood and sin). 

Deceive Ourselves (1:8) - Self-deception. We live in a world full of lies, and deceit comes from many sources. There are lying spirits who lead astray (1 Timothy 4:1); there are “evildoers and impostors” looking for dupes (2 Timothy 3:13); and, perhaps most insidious, we have ourselves to deal with. Self-deception is common in our fallen world. Our own hearts are deceitful—so much so that we easily fool ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9). Not only did the false teachers of John's day walk in darkness (sin) but went so far as to deny the existence of a sin nature in their lives. If someone cannot admit to being a sinner, salvation is not possible (Matthew 19:16-22). There is only One who was sinless, that was Jesus Christ.

Confess Our Sins (1:9) - The term confess means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge His perspective about sin.  Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. God wants us to live with a clear conscience and a pure heart (Matthew 5:8; Psalm 24:4). This is only possible when we regularly confess and forsake our sins, keeping the model of Jesus ever before us (1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1). He never had to confess His sins because He never committed any (Hebrews 4:15). Since we have inherited a sin nature, and are prone to sin, we need to learn how to confess our sins regularly both to God and to other people so that we can live free of guilt and shame (Colossians 2:14).

Cleanse Us (1:9) - "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  (1:5). He calls us to walk in that Light, not in darkness of our sin, the sin that separates us from Him.  The Bible makes it clear that every human being is born into this world as a sinner (Romans 3:23). That sin makes us ceremonially unclean and unfit to enter into the presence of God. The blood of Christ is what washes our sins away (1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:19). The way to deal with sin is to repent and confess it as soon as we recognize it. Otherwise, guilt will weigh heavily on us. We must be willing to admit our sins to ourselves. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me,” said David in Psalm 51:3. We injure ourselves and hamper our relationship with God if we try to hide or deny our sins: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). But if we are honest with ourselves, we can repent and confess our sins to God and experience His forgiveness and cleansing (Acts 3:19). God continually cleanses those who are confessing sin.

Have Not Sinned (1:10) - To say that we "have no sin" (1:8) or "have not sinned" (1:10) is a lie.  Since God has said that all people are sinners (Psalm 14:3; 51:5; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 17:5, 6; Romans 3:10-19, 23; 6:23).  to deny that fact is to blaspheme God with slander that defames His name.

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