1 John 2:9-11

The one who keeps saying that he is in the light yet keeps hating his brother is in darkness until now. The one who keeps loving his brother remains in the light and there is no offence in him. The one who keeps hating his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

There are practical things that flow from trusting Jesus. One important thing is that we love our fellow Christians.

This is good indication that we are in the light. If we are Christians, we will love our fellow Christian.

Why is this a good indicator?

If anyone is regarded as a brother, that person says they trust Jesus Christ.

If someone trusts Jesus, that person has been

  • reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • loved by God with an everlasting love.
  • brought into the true light, and the work of Christ is true in him.

To be a Christian is to be in the light. To be in the light is to be in Christ.

Christians have fellowship with the Father and the Son simply because of God’s mercy to them.

If we keep on hating a person who has received the very same love from God as we claim, how can we really be in the light ourselves? How can people keep saying that they are Christians and still keep hating someone whom God loves for Jesus sake?

John says that if anyone hates his brother — fellow Christian — they are in darkness until now.

This means that such a person is not really a Christian and has all the basic motivations of a non-Christian. Such a person needs to be changed by God’s love in Christ. Such a person can be changed, and this is implied by the words “until now” or “up to this point in time”.

Haters of Christians are in darkness until now, but they might yet be brought to repentance and truly trust Jesus alone for salvation.

Remember what the risen Lord Jesus said to Saul as he travelled to Damascus? “Why are you persecuting me?”

Saul thought he was serving God, but he hated those whom God loved. He was in darkness. He thought that he was better than they, but God showed him his sin, converted him and brought him to trust Jesus Christ.

If one hates those whom God loves, such a person can be said to hate God. If any hate God, they are still in darkness. They are still in their sins and lost. They do not know where they are going.

John says a little later in this letter, (1 John 4:20) “If we do not love our brother whom we can see, how can we love God whom we cannot see?”

A sign that we are in Christ, that we are really Christians, is that we love Christians.

Our love for our brother ought not be in words only but also in the things we do. Such an attitude is free of offence.

This is where the 10 Commandments flow out from the gospel.

The 10 commandment show us love in action:

  • respecting the person and authority of people
  • preserving and seeking to improve the lives of people
  • maintaining the boundaries of marriage
  • promoting the prosperity of others
  • respecting the reputation of others
  • being happy for others who have good things that we don’t have.

Why should we do these things? Because God in Christ has done everything for sinners like us. In him alone can we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins.

To put it another way, as Jesus replied to Paul. “My grace is sufficient for you.”

God’s mercy to us in Christ is the reason why we are to love our fellow Christian.

Christ loved unlovely people like us, not only in words but in actions.

By his good life, his death in our place and his rising from the dead, he has saved sinners from condemnation. We also should love our brother in words and deeds

Are you in the light? Are you in Christ by faith, or do you still demonstrate your hatred of God by hating his children?

If you find that you have been walking in darkness until now, the gospel of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness.

Repent and come to the light. Understand that it is Christ alone who makes anyone acceptable to God.

If anyone is acceptable to God — loved by God — that person should be acceptable to and be loved by every other Christian:

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.

1 John 2:7-8

John emphasised the written word. “I write to you.” In fact, John writes “I write to you,” twice in verses 7-11, and six times in verses 12-14.

This emphasis is throughout the Bible.

Christians are essentially people of a book, or a collection of books. It is from the Bible alone that we now receive the Gospel. John, Peter, Matthew, Paul and the others are in the presence of their Lord. We know truth about Jesus because of the things that they have written down.

The teachings of the early apostles and prophets come to us only in their writings. We are not to rely for information about Jesus on voices that we might hear in our heads. We are not to rely on oral traditions that are not already written down for us in the Bible. We are not to receive anything from people claiming to be new apostles with new revelations of the Spirit. We are not to submit blindly to mere human authority of any kind. We have God’s word written. This alone is our standard of faith and practice — from it alone do we learn what we are to believe and do as God’s people.

These thoughts prepare us to consider verses 7-8, where we are given something to believe.

“Brothers, I do not write to you a new commandment, but an old one, which you have possessed from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard from the beginning. Again, I do write to you a new commandment which (neuter) is true in him and in you.”

The commandment that John seeks to enforce here is not the 10 commandments. John had been referring to the 10 commandments in the previous verses, but now he is writing about something else.

An old commandment and a new commandment are one commandment. The commandment is the Gospel message. This is the word or message that John says Christians have heard from the beginning. 1 John 1:1-3 and John:12:50 — his commandment is eternal life.

Gospel is an imperative — a command. It reveals God’s will for our salvation in Christ Jesus.  In another place, Peter said:

“There is salvation in no other, neither is there any other name under heaven that is given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The gospel is a command to repent — to stop resisting God and to trust Christ.

  • Mark 1:14 — The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel.
  • Acts 2:38 — Repent and be baptised
  • Acts 16:30-31 — Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved
  • Acts 17:30 — Now God commands all people everywhere to repent (and believe gospel)

The gospel is old, in so far as it is not new to these people. They have heard it from the beginning. It is old in so far as it did not originate with them, but had long been declared to the world since Genesis 3:15.

  • Gen 3:15 – one will be born to put right what Adam made wrong
  • Gen 12 – one will be born who will bless every nation
  • Ps 32 – the blessing will be the forgiveness of sins
  • Isa 53 – the death of the one who is born to bless will bring forgiveness into effect. He will die for others.
  • Ps 16 – the one who died for our sins will rise again from the dead
  • Jer 31:33 – the forgiveness will be applied to sinners by a new birth

It is new, in so far as it can never go out of date, and must never be thought of as yesterday’s news. It must always be refreshed in our thinking and affections

  • 1 Cor. 15:1-4
  • 2 Peter 1:12-15
  • 1 John 1 and 2

Jesus Christ is the true light. This light shines in the Gospel message. “He is the true light” John 1:9 “The darkness is passing and the true light already shines”. 1 John 2:8.

This Gospel is true in him.

  • The Lord Jesus Christ made the gospel of forgiveness of sins true by bringing it into effect. By his good life and his death in our place he has himself made propitiation for our sins.
  • He has dealt decisively with our darkness — our rebellion, our lawlessness, our ignorance, our selfishness. By his death on the cross and by his resurrection, he has defeated sin, death and Satan.
  • He who is truth guarantees the truth of the good news of forgiveness and our reconciliation with God.

The Gospel is true in us

  • if we are born again by the holy spirit, that is
  • If we have turned from the darkness of our sinful rebellion and have come to the light (john 3:19-21), that is,
  • if we trust Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel, and
  • if we remain in him — persevere in the faith. If we keep on trusting in spite of circumstances.

This, in brief, is what we are to believe. We are to trust ourselves to this gospel and rely on Jesus Christ. This is walking in the light, as Jesus himself said (John 12:35-36).

1 John 2:3-6

Having identified all people as sinners, and having shown us that Jesus alone is the hope of sinners, John now presses home a self-test to help us see whether we are really trusting Jesus.

“By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. The one who says that he knows him but does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him. But if one keeps his word, truly the love of God is completed in him.”

To know Jesus is to be a Christian. What should the Christian’s response be to Christ? They keep the Law of God.

This passage is not intended to send Christians into a dead panic. It is meant to give Christians — those who really do trust Jesus and him alone for salvation — good reason for assurance.

John has given us a way to test our attitude to God and his law. Are we still at war with God, or do we now trust him. Do we see the law of God as good, holy, just and spiritual, or do we still hate it? This test of attitude assures Christians that they really do know God.

The word translated in our bible as ‘keep’ has a variety of uses in God’s word.

It can mean to watch closely in a positive or negative sense. In John’s gospel (15:20), Jesus warned his disciples that, just as the religious leaders had watched closely, or kept (a record of), Jesus’ words in order to accuse him, these religious leaders would do the same to them.

The word ‘keep’ has been used in reference to guarding, such was the shepherds who kept their watch on the night Jesus was born, or the guards who were appointed to keep watch over Peter when Herod arrested him.

Again Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’

Now, the word ‘keep’ in itself does not imply perfect success in keeping anything. For example, the guards’ best efforts at keeping Peter in prison failed. But it does imply a purposeful attempt to keep the charge given.

More than this, it speak to the natural consequence of being a Christian.

  • shepherds keep sheep
  • prison guards keep prisoners
  • religious leaders keep words
  • Christians keep God’s law

By virtue of who they were, they all intended to keep their trust.

Both John and Jesus link this “keeping” to a right attitude toward God and his law.

John clearly indicates that Christians will fail in their purposeful efforts to keep the commandments of God. But, John and Jesus see the desire and the endeavour to keep God’s law as an indication that a person is a Christian.

Such a person will not have a relaxed attitude toward their sin. When people are brought to faith in Jesus Christ, they will aim to do what God requires. They will do this, not to be saved but because they already have been saved (Exodus 20:1).

They now love God and his son, Jesus Christ. The love of God was completed in them when they trusted Jesus (Jer. 31:33). These people will aim to keep God’s commandments because they know him and his law is written in their hearts.  David said to God, “Oh how I love your law.”

If a person has a bad attitude toward God’s law, if that person thinks it an unnecessary imposition upon personal freedom, if a person is untroubled by failure to keep God’s law, there is a real danger that this person does not really trust Jesus Christ for salvation.

If a person with such a bad attitude were to say that “I know Jesus”, John says such a person is a liar.

The good news of Jesus is to bring people back to God. Jesus did this by his own good life, his death as our substitute, and his rising again from the dead.

When the Holy Spirit effectively applies this work of Christ to anyone, that person is justified before God. That person is also given new attitudes toward God and his law. Christians want to obey the one whom they love and trust. They will follow in his footsteps.

They are grieved when they fail, but they do not despair or give up. Why?

Because they “have an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous, who is himself the propitiation of our sin, and not only of ours but of the whole world.”

 

Relief for troubled hearts

John 14:1-11

Our Lord Jesus Christ  does not want people to be troubled. He wants us to be free from trouble.

There are many different things that trouble different people. Some people are troubled by clutter (the random stuff that we collect over the years), other people can’t live without clutter and they are troubled by the thought of losing it. Some people are troubled my cats, others are troubled if there are no cats around.

This passage is not about those sorts of troubles. As serious as those other troubles might be, they tend to be individual troubles affecting different people differently.

The trouble that Jesus is talking about is the trouble that we experience because of unbelief, particularly because we do not trust Jesus Christ as he is offered in the gospel.

The Lord Jesus wants people to be free of this most serious of troubles.

These disciples of Jesus had a serious faith problem. They had been called to follow Jesus, they had followed him through three years of his teaching ministry, they professed their loyalty to him, but they did not yet trust him as they needed to trust.

When our Lord Jesus said to them, “Do not let your heart be troubled, believe (trust) in God and trust in me,” he was addressing a serious lack of faith in these men.

As yet, they did not trust his words, they did not know Jesus as they should have known him, and they were most uncomfortable about the message of his impending death and resurrection.

These words were spoken to the disciples during or just after the last supper, where Jesus had spoken explicitly of his imminent betrayal and death. These coming events, he told them, were necessary so that human sin could be forgiven.

He had said at that last meal that the bread represented his body broken for them, and that the cup represented his blood shed for them – this indicated that his death was essential for their salvation. His death was to deal with their sins.

This was at least the fourth recorded occasion when Jesus spoke to his disciples about the necessity of his death. How did his disciples react to this message?

Each time they became troubled and they quickly changed the subject.

Most often, they changed the subject to a discussion as to which of them would be the greatest in the coming kingdom of God. They wanted to skip the cross and go straight to the glory.

In this they agreed with the Devil, who suggested the very some policy to Jesus in his temptation.

Jesus’ reply to Satan and to Peter was the same — get behind me Satan, that is, get out of my way. In Matthew 18, Jesus told these disciples that unless they were converted — changed — there was no way that they could enter the kingdom of God.

Again the disciples did not believe Jesus when he pointed out the desperate natured of their sinfulness.

When he told them that one would betray him and that the rest of them would abandon him, they did not believe him. Peter explicitly contradicted Jesus and declared that he instead would willingly die with him. We know how badly that turned out.

In this passage, Jesus speaks to his disciples in stunning ways. When Philip asks to be shown the Father, Jesus said, Have I been with you so long, and you do not know me?

“If you (plural) had known me, you would have also known the Father.” V.7

These men who had been with Jesus over three years did not really know Jesus. This is most significant. In chapter 17 of John’s gospel, Jesus said that eternal life was to know the Father and the one (Jesus) whom the Father had sent.

At this point in time, these disciples were not converted. They were not Christians. As yet, they were merely disciples — leaners — and pretty inattentive ones at that.

But they understood enough to be troubled by Jesus’ words regarding his betrayal and death. They were troubled that Jesus had pointed out their sin.

To alleviate this trouble of heart, this same trouble that they all felt, Jesus said:

“Let not your heart be troubled. Trust God and trust me. In my Father’s house there many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.”

What the disciples needed to do was to trust Jesus. To receive his words and believe that he knows best, that Jesus is both God and man, and that his death and resurrection are essential if they were to be reconciled to God.

“Trust God and trust me” — These are not two distinct statements, but the second particularises the first (v.7). Jesus is identifying himself as God. He reaffirms this in vs. 7ff.

In my Father’s household there are many mansions. This means the was lots of room in God’s household already!

“I go to prepare a place” — Jesus was not going somewhere to make more room. As Jesus says, there is already plenty of room. Rather, he was going to make disciples fit for one of those places. Remember Matt 18.

The preparation that Jesus was speaking of was the same death that Jesus had spoken of and which had troubled his disciples so much.

Jesus death was the issue. By it the innocence Jesus took legal responsibility for the wrong doing of all his people. In fact, without Jesus taking responsibility for our sin, there was no way he could have died. The word of God says “the soul that sins shall die.” Jesus died because he bore the sins of other people. He willingly became their substitute.

The principle of a substitute dying in the place of a sinner is reinforced throughout the Old Testament in the temple services.  Jesus would be the fulfilment of those temple sacrifices (John 2:19)

By his death, he finished condemnation for his people.

The fact that Jesus rose from the dead is the great confirmation of this truth. If even one sin of his people remained unpaid for, Jesus would not have risen from the dead. But Christ is risen (14:19).

So he could say that, if he goes (to the cross), he will come again and receive (take) them to himself. Here Jesus again speaks of his death and resurrection, but adds the effect that his death and resurrection will have on these men.

He will take them to himself. (Like prisoners taken in battle, like a husband taking a wife.)

Jesus takes his people to himself

  1. In regeneration by the Spirit of God – changing their minds, wills and attitudes by the new birth.
  2. At death they enter his immediate presence.
  3. In the last day he will take them to new heavens and new earth.

So that where Jesus is, those who trust him will be also.

In vs. 5 and 6, Thomas tells Jesus that he doesn’t know where Jesus is going, and he cannot know the way. Jesus answer shows that the “where” and the “way” are intimately related.

Where was Jesus going? To the cross. Remember, Jesus had spoken of this to the disciples at least four times.

What is the way? Only Jesus brings sinners to God. He is the way. He opened the way to God by his own actions.

“I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but by me.”

Jesus is the narrow way. “Narrow” because he is the only way back to good relations with our Creator.

Jesus is trustworthy because he not only tells the truth, but he is the one who establishes truth.

Jesus also gives life as the creator and sustainer of all things, but most particularly as saviour. By his resurrection from the dead he shows that sin (which brings death) has had its condemnation completed in him.

For this reason, Jesus has the right and ability to raise those who trust him from the dead.

Is your heart troubles by your own sin? Are you troubled by the message of the gospel, that Jesus had to die if sin and death were to be defeated? Are you afraid to die?

Jesus meant it when he said, “Do not let you heart be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me.”

Our Lord Jesus has made sinners fit for a place in His Father’s household by his good life, by his death in our place, and by his resurrection from the dead.

If you trust him as he is presented to you in the gospel, you can know that he has done this for you.

Jesus said of himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

The way to the Father is open through faith in Jesus Christ. Trust him.

Christ emptied himself

The word ‘kenosis’, which means ‘an emptying or depletion’, does not appear in the New Testament.

The related verb, ‘kenoo’ is found in Philippians 2:7. There it takes a reflective pronoun ‘heauton’ which is usually translated as ‘emptied himself’.

There are several other usages of the verb kenoo. One interesting one is to ‘empty out or pour away’, and other is to ‘expend’ (Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon, p. 938b).

Some people think that Jesus emptied himself of something, such as his divinity or his glory. This is not likely. Jesus did not stop being God when he became a man: Jesus, being in the [morphe] form of God (i.e. He still was God when he) … took on the form of a slave, Phil 2:6-7. For example, Jesus showed his divine glory, which he still possessed, to Peter, James and John on a mountain (Luke 9).

Phil 2:7 does not say Jesus emptied himself of something. It just says that He emptied or poured out or expended himself.

How did Jesus pour himself out? By taking the form of a servant, coming as a man and so humbled himself as to die on a cross. On the cross Jesus took responsibility for the sins of all his people so they might go free.

Two other random notes:

Matt 1:21 tells us that Jesus (Yahweh saves) will save his people from their sins. Yahweh-Jesus saves Yahweh-Jesus’ people from their sins. Jesus is God with us (Matt 1:23). Compare Isaiah 43:11( I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no Saviour.)

Luke 2:11 the shepherds were told that ‘Today, in the City of David, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the LORD.’ The Saviour is the LORD (Yaweh) who is born as a man.

Book Review — A short history of the church in scotland

A Short History of the Church in Scotland, AD 300 – 2015, New Melbourne Press, 2015.

In fewer than 130 pages, Rowland Ward has provided a very useful account of Scottish church history. The first thousand years are dealt with respectfully but briefly in two chapters in preparation for the main events of the post-reformation period. Since the days of John Knox and his fellow reformers, the struggle has been to establish and maintain in Scotland a protestant-reformed witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to assert and defend his sole right as king and head of the church.

As Ward points out, the reformers’ original intention was to establish one national church, built upon the principle that Christ rules the nations as well as the church, and that these two — the church and the state — were to act Christianly in their separate spheres. As it turned out, those who came to rule in Scotland had different agendas. Mary, Queen of Scots, was a convinced Roman Catholic and would not adopt the teaching or practice of the reformed church. Her son, James VI, preferred episcopacy to Presbyterianism and famously said, ‘No Bishop, No King’, and immediately began to provide the Scottish church with a cut-down version of bishops which the Presbyterians did not want. James’ son, Charles, issued a liturgy for the Scottish church, the use of which provoked a famous 1637 riot in Edinburgh. Charles II declared himself supreme over both the temporal and spiritual jurisdictions in his realm, and demanded all churchmen submit to him or lose his permission to preach. Things became grim as hundreds of ministers walked out of their churches and conducted unauthorised meetings in private homes and fields. These ministers faced large fines, imprisonment, and summary executions for resisting the royal will. Divisions between those Presbyterians who conformed and those who didn’t only added to the church’s troubles.

After the revolution of 1688, which replaced the catholic James II with protestant William and Mary, the Scottish church had a more peaceful relationship with the crown, but the hope of ‘one nation, one church’ was fading. The small Episcopal church in Scotland was to be tolerated, and discontent with doctrinal decline in the Established Church led to the formation of a number of rival Presbyterian communities. By the 1780s, a majority of ministers in the Established church were seemingly indifferent to the gospel and Biblical truth. From about 1811 onwards, revivals, divisions, reunions, and subsequent deflections from — and rediscoveries of — gospel truth, have been features of church life in Scotland. Rowland Ward has managed to compress these and other events into a conveniently small package, while aiming to dispel some historical myths and to give an objective rather than a partisan account. This book may be ordered from the author ($15.00 including postage within Australia) rowland dot ward at gmail dot com .