1 John 5

1j5.jpgGreetings!

When teaching some Bible study tips to an adult Sunday School class I had them pick a chapter at random.  Then we performed the following exercise I had picked up from a sermon by James MacDonald on Walk in the Word.  The chapter was 1 John 5, and it was a perfect example.

  • Read 1-3 chapters at a time (less for doctrinal passages, more for history)
  • Question it 
    • What portion stands out to me? Why?
    • Is there an example for me to follow?
    • Is there an error for me to avoid?
    • Is there a duty for me to perform?
    • Is there a promise for me to claim?
    • Is there a sin for me to confess?
  • Plan it – make a plan for how you will use it
  • Pray it – pray scripture back to God
  • Share it – helps others, and helps us to remember it

There are lots of ways to study the Bible, but when in doubt try the plan above.  No matter how well you know the Bible you can get a lot out of this exercise.  Sometimes we focus too much on the things we don’t understand and not enough on the things we do understand and can work on today.

Whenever I addressed one of the items above I noted it in bold.

Faith in the Son of God

5     Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

This is just one of the many passages noting that Jesus is the only way.  Those who truly love God will love Jesus.  If you believe Jesus is the Messiah then you are born of God.  Otherwise, you are not.  That stood out to me, and it highlights an error to avoid: the type of religious pluralism that says all paths to God are equally valid.

 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

This was another passage that stood out to me showing the exclusivity of Jesus.  And note how we show love for God: By obeying his commands.  This is our duty.  Do we do it perfectly?  No.  But it is much easier when we don’t quench or grieve the Holy Spirit.  We aren’t saved because of our obedience, but we aim for obedience because we are saved.

6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Again, notice how direct the teaching is: If you have the Son you have life.  if you do not have the Son you do not have life.  It is carefully written to note both possibilities, so we can’t read it as, “Well, if you have the Son you have life but you can get that life other ways as well . . .”  And if we don’t believe God we make him out to be a liar!  That is certainly an error to avoid.

Concluding Remarks

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Consider the wonderful promises of assurance and access noted in verses 13-15.  How much better does it get than that?  We have assurance of eternal life and that God hears us.  We can hear from him whenever we open his word.

16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also 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—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

This book seems to end abruptly.  It might have had more literal meaning to the original readers who lived in cultures where literal idols were worshiped – or those who live in cultures like that today – whereas our idols are more figurative but no less destructive (money, fame, etc.).  Putting anything before God is an error to avoid and we should confess our sins of doing that daily.

John is often considered the “love” Apostle but he certainly isn’t soft on sin.  He is a great example to follow, because he risked everything for his faith and lived it out authentically.  In fact, in reading 1 John he comes across much more strongly on sin than even Paul seems to.  It is useful to read the whole book so you get the proper context.  John seems to make some broad and strong statements that must be considered together to get the full meaning. 

So how do I plan to use this?  To remind myself of the importance of obeying God’s commands to love him and my neighbors.

I prayed it back to God, thanking him for his salvation, promises and access. 

And I shared it with you!

Blessings to you on your study and enjoyment of God’s word.

1 John 4

1j4.jpgGreetings!

Test the Spirits

4     Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

John gives a simple way to determine false religions.  Those that deny Jesus are false.

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

That is important to remember.  Sometimes I get frustrated with atheists who are so determined to ignore the most basic logic and truth.  Yet I must remember that I was like them until God opened my eyes to the truth of his word.

God’s Love and Ours

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is an important “first things first” passage.  Yes, Jesus calls us to do good things.  But first and foremost we can love because He loved us first and atoned for our sins. 

13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

Again, this shows that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We may start by rightly fearing God, but as we come to know him more his love can drive out that fear.  It is a lot like parenting.  Of course you love your children, but at some point they need to have a proper fear of the consequences of misbehavior.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

These commands to love are very convicting.  Love isn’t just a feeling, it is a commitment of the will to the other person’s true long-term good. 

[1]

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1 John 3

1j3.jpgGreetings!

3     How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

God has adopted us as children.  Some people say that everyone is a “child of God,” but as I explored here that is not the case.  We should live in joy that God has adopted us and share that with others.

4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

That is a challenging passage at first glance, because it makes it appear that if we sin we aren’t Christians.  But that can’t be reconciled with many other passages.  There is a deeper meaning that appears to distinguish between our sinful nature and our new nature in Christ, such as in Romans 7:20 – Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Love One Another

11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.

We are often desperate to be liked, but the message of the Gospel will offend people.  We don’t want to add to the offense with ill manners and the like, but it is more important to make the truth about God known than to try to win the world’s approval.  In the end they won’t approve of you anyway.

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

We are commanded to believe in Jesus and to love one another. 

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1 John 2

1j2.jpgGreetings!

As always, it is important to read the context of Bible passages.  If you just take the first part of verse 1 you would have a false teaching that we might never sin again.  But reading on you see that sin is still going to be in our lives and we have Jesus in our defense when Satan accuses us. 

Also, while Jesus died for the sins of the “whole world,” one shouldn’t conclude that all are saved.  Countless other passages show that without faith in Christ we will still be accountable for our sins ourselves. 

2     My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

We can claim to love Jesus and be in the light, but it is so easy to hate others. 

12 I write to you, dear children,

because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.

13 I write to you, fathers,

because you have known him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, dear children,

because you have known the Father.

14 I write to you, fathers,

because you have known him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God lives in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

Do Not Love the World

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

V. 15-16 are great to memorize.  It is a constant challenge not to get pulled into the world’s perverted system of right and wrong. 

Warning Against Antichrists

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

People who deny Jesus are also denying God the Father.  This is one of the many passages (roughly 100) in the New Testament that demonstrate that Jesus is the only way to Salvation.

24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Children of God

28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

1 John 1

1j1.jpgGreetings!

This is a short but powerful chapter.  John jumps right into an apologetic (a defense of the faith) by noting how they heard, saw and touched Jesus.  He was fully human and fully divine.  Some false teachers held that Jesus wasn’t really human, because they thought material things were essentially evil and needed to be abandoned.  Others taught that Jesus was not God.

John heard the message “from him,” that is, Jesus (v. 5).

Why did John write this?  To “make our joy complete,” not to pile burdens on us.  Sometimes we share the “Good News” (the Gospel) as if it were bad news that needs to be apologized for.  Not at all!  The bad news is that we are sinners before a Holy God and rightly deserve punishment.  The Good News is that Jesus died for our sins and we can have salvation by trusting in what He did for us.

John expands on the “light” imagery he used in his Gospel (John 1:4-5 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.)

 Those who claim to be without sin lie to themselves and about God.  Praise God that He is faithful and just and will not only forgive us but purify us.  But John wasn’t saying that we can’t be obedient to God.  He also says that we should walk “in the light.”  One way to look at it, which I concede could be an oversimplification, would be to say that as authentic believers we won’t be sinless but that we will sin_less.  And if we have trusted in Christ then all our sins – past, present and future, are forgiven. 

We are forgiven not because of righteous things we have done, but because God is faithful to his promises.

1 John

The Word of Life

1     That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.

Walking in the Light

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 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, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

I John – III John introduction

1j.jpgGreetings!  The Bible includes three short letters that the Apostle John wrote (in addition to the Gospel of John).  The first has five chapters and the next two only have one chapter each.

They were written to encourage Christians everywhere in their faith and to combat false teachings.  The church wasn’t very old but was already fighting a two front battle: Externally, against the Romans and other persecutors, and internally against false teachers.  Depending on where you live in the world, those battles continue to this day.

Some people were teaching that Jesus was just a spirit.  John shows how Jesus had a real body.

John mentions love a lot, but he also teaches clear and important doctrines such as the exclusivity of Christ:

1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Read and enjoy these wonderful books!