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Day 346 – Thru the Bible
Today we start First John. Here’s the overview video for 1-3 John.
Video – Read Scripture: 1-3 John
How does this video help you understand 1-3 John better?
1 John 1 – John begins his letter by grounding his readers in the objective historical reality of the gospel. The Son, who existed with the Father, from the beginning, has entered human history as a real human being, the man Jesus. John attests to this as an “eye,” “ear,” and “hand” witness. This incarnation was essential to the eternal purpose of God so that the “life” that is in Christ Jesus might be “made manifest” and then “proclaimed”, so that it might be received. The essence of that life is to be in “fellowship” with God the Father and with Jesus. This fellowship is exactly what Jesus prayed for when He was on earth ( ).
Christianity is not a vague, abstract set of ideas or an ethical system. It is, above all, the Good News of what God has done in our space-and-time history in the real, tangible experience of sending His Son to rescue us from the destruction that our own sins are bringing upon us, apart from Him.
In verses 5-10 John introduces one of the great effects of the gospel, namely, the transformation of life that occurs in the genuine gospel-believer. John speaks of this transformation as one from “darkness” into “light.” To “walk in darkness” means to pursue a pattern of life apart from God, who is light. “Walking in the light” means both fellowship with God and fellowship with other Believers. It does not mean that we will never sin. After all, in this very passage John reminds us that when we do sin, God has provided a trustworthy ground of forgiveness: “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” When we base our confessions of sin on this fact, God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins” and also to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
How does it feel to know, as a Believer, you’ve been cleansed from your sin and been given real life?
1 John 2 – John refers here to both the “righteous” life of Jesus and His “propitiating” death, which together are the grounds of a Believer’s justification (Romans ; Corinthians ). It is on these grounds—His sinless life and substitutionary death—that Jesus stands as our “Advocate” before the Father.
The word “propitiation” appears only rarely in the New Testament, but at crucial points (example, Romans 3:25). Moreover, the reality expressed in the word “propitiation,” with its profound gospel significance, reverberates throughout the whole Bible. This key term refers to a sacrifice which satisfies the just wrath of God for sin.
As it is applied to Jesus, we learn that through His death Jesus absorbed the just wrath of God toward us for our sin and thereby opened the way for God’s full favor to be shown to all who believe. This profound change of our situation provided by Jesus’ propitiation for our sin produces in our hearts a deep gratitude, a note clearly sounded by John when he says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us” (1 John 3:1).
How Jesus’ propitiation applies to the “sins of the whole world” may be explained in three ways: (1) Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for all, though applicable only to those placing their faith in Him; (2) Jesus’ sacrifice is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise to bless all the nations of the earth through the Messiah; (3) Jesus’ sacrifice is able to save Believers from all the world, regardless of ethnicity or past loyalties. What is clear, however, is that John is clearly not arguing for some form of universalism (in which all persons will be saved regardless of their faith) because he says that “whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (5:12).
In verse 3 John explicitly introduces his main theme of assurance for the gospel-believer through his often repeated phrase “by this we know.” (Forms of this phrase appear some 15 times in this brief letter.) The ground of assurance John presents here is our obedience to Jesus’ commands. This is often spoken of as the “moral test” of genuine belief. Whoever obeys Jesus out of a genuine love for God finds, in that very obedience, the grounds for assurance that he is genuinely “in Him.”
John is not referring to faultless obedience, but to a new trajectory of life that springs from the radical transformation of having been born again. John is also not saying that our obedience merits or earns God’s love (he has already established Jesus’ propitiating sacrifice as the basis of our salvation; see 2:1–2), but rather that those who have God’s love show it, and this evidence of a life transformed by Him is critical assurance of being united to Him. Our obedience does not gain His love but evidences it.
Having introduced the “moral” test of keeping Jesus’ commands, John now proceeds to highlight a particular command of Jesus which genuine gospel-believers will follow. The specific command John speaks of is to love our “brothers”. This is often spoken of as the “love test” of genuine belief.
Note, by the transformational power of the Gospel, Believers are not just called to obey but are also enabled to obey it: we love one another “because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” We aren’t able to obey out of our own strength, but through the power only the gospel brings into our lives.
In a brief poetic interlude (Verses 12–14), John warmly relates to the various levels of spiritual maturity in his audience—“children,” “fathers,” “young men”—and provides a summary of the gospel realities they enjoy in Jesus: forgiveness, fellowship with God, and victory over the “evil one.”
John then returns again to the moral implications of gospel transformation verses 15–17. His direct appeal to turn away from worldliness (poignantly described in terms of sensuality, materialism, and pride) is based in part on a pragmatic realism but especially on our other-worldly love for God.
John has already laid out the “moral” (vv. 3–6) and “love” (vv. 1–11) tests of genuine belief; he now presents the third, the “doctrinal test.” If the truth about Jesus “abides” in us, we will “abide” in God and thus have full “confidence” that we are in a right relationship with Him when Jesus returns. The specific truth we are called to “abide” in is “that Jesus is the Christ” (John 15:4–7). There are, John warns, “antichrists” who deny this.
The word “antichrist” evokes John’s apocalyptic vision (in the book of Revelation) of the end times and the great enemies of God’s redemptive plan who appear there; and yet John says there are “antichrists” among us now. In one sense we are already in “the last hour” because the Jesus, to whom the Old Testament prophets pointed as Israel’s final hope, has already come (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20). In this context the false teachers against whom John cautions Believers are “antichrists.” They are against Christ because they deny that Jesus is the Christ. These false teachers, by denying “the Son,” also deny “the Father”, because of the full identity of life and purpose shared by the Father and Son. This “life,” shared by the Father and the Son, is the very life “manifested” to us in Jesus, “proclaimed” to us in the gospel, and “promised” to all who believe (2:25). It is precisely because Jesus is the Christ that our belief in Him assures us of eternal life (John 3:36; 5:24). As John will say later in this letter, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life” (5:11–12).
How does this chapter help you understand that your ability to obey and your actual obedience are both made possible by the Gospel?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheBibleProject.com.
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