Abide in the Truth You Know – 1 John 2:18-29

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. (1 John 1:21 ESV)

We bemoan the decay of truth in our society, and we should. What is worse than the world redefining and denying the existence of any absolute truth, however, is when truth is denied in the church. We are well aware of the manifold heresies that plague the professing church today. None of this is new, however.

In the first century, deceivers and false brethren plotted to steal the sheep away from the Shepherd. These were antichrists, whom John’s audience heard “is coming” and “now many antichrists have come” (v18). In fact, the very existence of these men proved that it was “the last hour” (v18). The antichrists were denying the Father by denying the Son (v22-23) and trying to deceive believers (v26). Add to those charges the tragedy that they came not from without, but from within the very fold they were trying to deceive (v19), and we can relate to the fears and anxieties of first century Christians.

But John, by the inspiration of the Spirit, is not aiming to leave his readers in despondency. In fact, even as he warns of antichrists, John’s disposition is not one of doom and gloom but of hope and encouragement. He refers to his recipients as “children”, writing from a pastor’s heart. He writes of a sharp contrast between those antichrists and the true believers: they have denied the faith, but you know the truth. He encourages them by reminding them of who they are and what they have in Christ: “you have been anointed by the Holy One” (v20), “you have all knowledge” (v20), “you know [the truth]” (v21), you have the “promise that he made to us – eternal life”, and the anointing “abides in you” and “teaches you about everything” and “is true” (27).

What, then, shall we do when it seems truth is crumbling all around us? Abide. Remain. Stay the course. “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.” (v24) It’s not the coming of the antichrist that should grab our attention, but the coming of the Son of God. He is the one we aim to please, looking for him with joyful expectation and confidence. How do we have this confidence? Abide. Remain. Stay the course. “Abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (v28)

 

Do Not Love the World – 1 John 2:15-17

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. (1 John 2:15 ESV)

Christians enjoy a unique status in this life. On one hand they “have passed from death to life” (John 5:24) and are already “seated in heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:6), belonging to a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36); on the other hand, believers are sent “into all the world” (Matthew 28:18) and still deal with the reality of “this present time” (Romans 8:18). Someone has suggested that Christians are “people of the future living in the present.” While our true home is in heaven with Christ, our present time holds us in the tension between the already and the not yet.

Throughout his epistle, John exhorts his readers about the importance of love. As we’ve seen, God is love and love comes from God (1 John 4:8). The one who does not love does not know God. Clearly, love is a priority and the first evidence of one’s salvation. In our text, 1 John 2:15-17, however, John says “do not love.” What are Christians not to love? The world.

The supernatural love that we receive from God is to be first directed back toward him in a personal relationship; it then flows out to other believers who are our true brothers and sisters in Christ. That love, though, is not to be given to this word. This does not mean we are not to have godly compassion on the world as God does. If we keep in mind John’s definition of love (based on the love of Christ), then Christians are exhorted to not sacrifice their precious time on worldly things, namely, “the desires of the flesh, and the desires of the eyes, and pride in possessions” (1 John 2:16).

Many a sermon has used this text as a springboard against worldliness, and indeed it is a strong admonition against such. However, we must keep in mind that our terms must be defined by scripture, not cultural trends. What is considered “worldly” by one Christian may not be considered such by another. Our time in this text does not seek to provide a list of what behaviors are worldly. We will instead focus on the heart. A heart that is wrapped up in the things of this world cannot also be filled with the Father’s love. Rather than discuss choices in dress and music and entertainment we will be challenged to take inventory of our hearts and ask whether or not we truly love this world.

As Christians, we walk the line between heaven and earth. The things of this world will try to capitvate your heart. But remember, “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17)

Love One Another – 1 John 2:7-14; 3:11-18

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” 1 John 3:11 ESV

The First Epistle of John is filled with imperatives for Christians to love one another. The Apostle John, by the Spirit’s inspiration, is carrying through and expounding upon Christ’s own words as recorded in John’s gospel as, “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” (John 13:34). Jesus spoke these words directly to his disciples, one of whom, John, expands that command to all believers. Just as Jesus’ original twelve would be known “by their love for one another” (John 13:35), so all those who profess to be followers of Christ throughout all the ages would also be known by their love for one another.

This commandment of love is the first proof of salvation we will consider in this epistle, as it is the most prominent of the proofs. 1 John is written so Christians would have assurance of salvation. The means by which God provides this assurance fall into objective and subjective categories. We have noted those objective truths that give us confidence; now we turn to the subjective evidences – things we look for in our own lives that assure us that we indeed are in Christ. The very first thing on this list is love. Love permeates John’s epistle. Last week, our exposition focused on love as an attribute of God. Now we receive the first practical application of that love – love one another.

“Love one another” is not a suggestion. It is not an option for a Christian. It cannot be placed on a list of “gray areas.” Good Christians do not hold varying interpretations on this matter that are debated in public forums or book series. There are no good Christians who do not love one another; there are no Christians who do not love the brethren.

Few things can be more black-and-white than this. Just as belief in Christ is the necessary article of faith, loving the brethren is the first and necessary fruit of salvation. John’s terms cannot be more crystal clear: whoever loves his brother abides in the light (2:10), the one who does not love his brother is not of God (3:10), whoever does not love abides in death (3:14), whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (4:7) but the one who does not love does not know God (4:8), and, “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” (4:20).

Loving the brethren is a non-negotiable matter for the Christian. May Christ’s command to us expose sins which must be repented of, yet reveal to us the fruit that brings assurance.

God is Love – 1 John 4:7-21

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8, ESV)

The Apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, asserts plainly that “God is love.” Earlier in our study of 1 John, we noted that “God is Light” (1:15). These “God is. . .” statements are extremely important to consider for the Christian, especially as we think about the topic of assurance of salvation. Remember, 1 John contains both subjective proofs and objective realities that fortify our confidence. Before expounding on the proofs of salvation, we are taking a look at the unchanging, objective grounds of our assurance.

Meditating on God’s attributes is a major way to strengthen your assurance of salvation. God is love. This does not mean that love as we know it (the emotion, the affection, the action) is God, as if God is merely a force. Nor does this mean that God is only love. Carefully read the words of Robert Letham as he expounds on the cosmic nature of God’s love:

“The persons of the Trinity live in an indivisible union of love, seeking the glory of the other. When God seeks His glory, He is not pursuing self-interest like a celestial bully. It is not that He is more powerful than we and so His pursuit of His own glory wins out, come what may. His glory is the divine Trinitarian glory of self-giving love.

“According to John, this intra-Trinitarian love is the basis for our love for God and other people. Since God Himself is love (1 John 4:16), and since we have fellowship and communion with Him, love is the acid test of our discipleship. If we love others, we belong to Jesus Christ. If we lack love, we are not His at all. The reason for this is that God is a triune communion of persons. Love is intrinsic to who He is. Attributes like grace, mercy, justice, and even holiness are all relative to creatures. His holiness is His separation from His creation. It is relative to the creature. In turn, His wrath is relative to sinners, as the expression of His holiness in response to human sin. Love, however, belongs to who He is in Himself in the undivided communion of the three persons. That is why He is called love in such absolute terms.

“The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. The Father loves the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves the Father. The Son loves the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit loves the Son. This reciprocal love of the three persons exists in the unbreakable union of the undivided Trinity. Insofar as we are enabled to be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), “from one degree of glory to another” by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18), we are brought, in a creaturely way, into this communion of the love of God.”

God is Light – 1 John 1:5-10

“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.” (1 John 1:5 ESV)

“In describing God as light, John is referring to His absolute moral purity and omniscience. In other words, there is no moral defect, nor is there a lack of knowledge in God. John’s point seems to be that the person and work of Christ, which is what is announced in the gospel message, is the light that brings us into fellowship with God, who is the light.

“John’s description of God as light in whom there is no darkness at all undergirds the fact of His utter otherness and therefore His inaccessibility to fallen creatures who exist in darkness. The critical link for fellowship between creatures of darkness and a Creator who exists in absolute light is the incarnate Son of God. Without Christ, we remain in a state of darkness and alienation from the life of God.

“It is evident from 1 John 1:6–7 that John’s emphasis on the fact that God is light in whom there is no darkness at all is more than a theological abstraction. On the contrary, his concern is practical and pastoral — he admonishes his readers to ‘walk in the light as he is in the light.’ For John, embracing the gospel message brings us into fellowship with God the Father through and with Jesus Christ and with each other (1 John 1:3). The genuine nature of this fellowship is seen in a walk that reflects and responds to the truth that is revealed in Christ. Once again, we can see a correlation to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. These calls to walk in the light of the knowledge of Christ are not offered as a means of gaining fellowship with God; rather, it is because of the fellowship that we possess by faith in Christ that Paul exhorts his readers — and us — to walk in the light. Psalm 36:9 says, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” Both John and Paul make the point of full purity and knowledge in God revealed in Christ, received by believers and reflected in their thoughts and walk.

“God is indeed light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. By virtue of our fallen condition we are in a state of darkness and are thereby alienated from the life of God. But in Christ we are reconciled to God and are in fellowship with the light. The admonition is that we would reflect that light to the glory of the triune God.”                                                                                      ~ Ken Jones

This We Proclaim – 1 John 1:1-4

“. . .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.” (1 John 1:3 ESV)

What is the basis of your salvation?

If you answer that question with anything other than “The Lord Jesus Christ,” your heart may need to be recalibrated. Even if the answer seems obvious, we can all benefit from having our eyes adjusted so that we would focus less on ourselves and more on the One who finished the work of our salvation.

The First Epistle of John is primarily written to Christians so that they may know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). Assurance of salvation is the main theme. Many are familiar with the evidences that the Apostle John gives us in order that we may see God’s work in our lives and conclude with more certainty that we are indeed found in Christ. Some of those evidences include confessing the right doctrine, walking as Jesus walked, and loving the brethren. However, as with everything our sinful hands touch, we can still have a deficient view of assurance if we only focus on looking for the changes that salvation has brought into our lives. To avoid this abuse, we should start where the epistle divinely starts: with the person and work of Jesus Christ.

When you doubt, feel discouraged, or “don’t feel saved”, start from the beginning. Before looking to yourself, look to Christ. Let the Word of God written point you to the Word of God Living as you read the opening to John’s epistle and fix your eyes on the Son of God who “was from the beginning”, that is, eternal, and yet “made manifest” so that he can be “seen with our eyes” and “touched with our hands” and then proclaimed in the world!

Our study in First John will provide us assurance in both objective and subjective ways. First, our salvation is rooted in the objective reality that the Son of God became incarnate, performed miracles, obeyed the Father, died on the cross, and rose victorious from the grave. Then, our assurance is corroborated by the subjective witness of our growth in holiness. While we may flounder from time to time regarding our subjectivity, the objective reality will never change – and that is why we begin there!

Believer, thank God that our salvation isn’t dependent on us! John writes these things to bring about joy (verse 4). There is great joy in knowing that the Son of God is perfect and we’re saved by his death and resurrection. There is great joy in knowing that the message of the gospel has been proclaimed for 2,000 years and counting and nothing can stop it. There is great joy in knowing that our identity is first and foremost in the Lord Jesus Christ. May he receive the honor as we believe on him and proclaim him in this world.

That You May Know – 1 John 5:13

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. 1 John 5:13, ESV

Toward the end of his record of the Gospel, the Apostle John makes his purpose clear: that the hearer may “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Some years later, the same apostle would pen a few letters to Christian churches. In the first letter, he gives an equally clear purpose statement: “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.”

The similarity between the Gospel According to John and the First Epistle of John is found in the centering of each book on the person and work of Jesus Christ and a desire to connect Christ’s nature and work to the reception of eternal life in his name. The difference between the two books, while subtle, is found when considering John’s audience and how that audience relates to eternal life; in his Gospel, John writes primarily to an unregenerate audience so they may believe and have eternal life, and in his first epistle, John writes to a regenerate audience so they will know that they have eternal life.

This distinction tells us that it is possible to have eternal life yet struggle with assurance. Such was the case for John’s targeted audience for his first epistle. Many of these believers had given up much to follow Christ. During the short course of their journey, they witnessed apostasy: people whom they thought were fellow believers, with whom they fellowshipped and worshiped, fell away from the faith. To make things worth, some of these apostates were troubling the church, stirring division, and causing doubt. All this led to many questions. Did Christ really come in the flesh? Do we really have eternal life? Is this faith worth dying for?

John, through the Spirit’s inspiration, seeks to answer these questions in his first epistle. For us today, the topic of assurance is vital. We may have the blessing of standing on the shoulders of many who have gone before us to help biblically and systematically hone and unpack the doctrine of assurance, but many believers still wrestle with knowing they have eternal life. This Sunday we begin a new series in 1 John and the hope is that the Lord will strengthen our faith and assure us all that by believing in Jesus Christ, we have eternal life!