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  • Archive for November, 2011

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 1 continued

    Saturday, November 26th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 12: Nov 27, 2011

    This week we had a lot of discussion before continuing 1 John 1:1

    Study

    1:1 – What existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we observed and touched with our own hands—this is the[1] Word of life!

    existed from the beginning

    - Last week we saw that the “What” at the start of the verse referred to the totality of Jesus, and the message he brought concerning eternal life. This brings us to the next question. When was the beginning that is being referred to here? Again there are several possibilities.

    1 From all eternity as in John 1:1. One question however, is that this is from (ἀπ) the beginning whereas John 1:1 was in (ἐν) the beginning. It would also seem to be in contrast from the other three clauses that will follow this one.

    2 From the beginning of the world. This is certainly possible but seems a bit arbitrary. Why pick this point as the point to begin. It also has the problem of possibly, but necessarily, implying that Jesus only existed from the creation. So it add little to our understanding of the verse, but introduces a possible problem

    3 From Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is consistent with the other three clauses and since the “What” includes both the message and eternal life, this would make sense as this was the point at which the message of eternal life began to be spread.

    4 From the beginning of the apostles teachings. This is also largely consistent with the time frame of the three clauses yet to come. However it would shift the focus from the totality of Jesus and the message of life that he embodied, to more of an emphasis on the message, i.e., this is the message we have taught from the beginning. And while this is consistent with the timeframe, it would conflict with the see and touch aspects of the “What” discussed in the next verse.

    Given all of this it would seem that it is close between the 1st and 3rd options. The lack of explanation by John, and clear allusion to John 1:1 would seem to argue for the first option. Yet the third option seems to fit a little better. One thing to consider is that they may have been conflated in John’s mind. The main point being stressed here is the lack of change. Whether one sees this as from the beginning of Jesus’ Ministry or from all eternity ultimately matters little, and it may not have mattered to John as he wrote.

    Questions and Discussion.

    The class began with a question concerning the judgment seat of Christ: Since none of us are perfect and all have sinned and fallen short, even as Christians, will this be a judgment that we should fear? This developed into a long discussion on the balance between love and judgment and the nature of forgiveness that would be impossible to recreate here, however it does foreshadow some issues that we will be covering later in the study. In the end I argued that while our life will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ, this will not be a time of fear. I am not sure we have the words for the emotions what we will be feeling, it will be a time of sadness for all the times that we failed our savior, but it will be a time when we experience true forgiveness and as such our sense of failure will be, I believe, overwhelmed by the love of Christ and at that point we will understand both his sacrifice and his forgiveness in ways that we can’t now. So while I do not believe it will be a time of fear, like most of the afterlife, we cannot really say what it will be, for now we see through a glass darkly. (1 Cor 13:12)

    Next week we will continue in 1 John 1

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


    Footnotes:
    1 v1:1 Lit. about the

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 1a

    Saturday, November 19th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week Eleven: Nov 20, 2011

    This week we finish 2 John, and then started 1 John. I finished 2 John in previous post.

    Study

    1 John

    Outline

    While there is very large agreement when it comes to the outline of 2nd and 3rd John, the reverse is true when it comes to 1st John as there is very little agreement. As Marshall described the problem “It is… extremely difficult to find a pattern in the author’s thinking, and many different suggestions have been offered.”(p 22)  As I reviewed the many suggested outlines none stuck me being correct as they seemed to be imposed upon instead of derived from the letter.  So I looked at the text of 1 John and, right and wrong, came up with my own.  You will need to decide if I have taken a step in the right direction, or just added to the confusion.

    My approach was to look for distinctive features in the text that would define the structure, and I noticed two.  While there is wide disagreement over the outline there is a general agreement that the first 4 verses of chapter one serves as a prologue to the rest of the letter, and I agree with this assessment. There is also general agreement that the letter has two main sections with the division occurring somewhere around the end of chapter 2 or the beginning of chapter 3. Commentators differ as to exactly where.

    As such, the body of the letter begins in verse 5 with “This is the message that we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness—none at all!”    I noticed that a very similar phrase occurs in 3:11, “This is the message that you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”  These are the only two places where such a phrase occurs in 1 John and so I took them as marking off the two main portions of the letter.  Verse 5:13 begins “I have written these things to you who believe…”  While similar phrases do occur elsewhere, most notably in chapter 2, here they seem to have the tone of summation, and thus begin the final portion of the letter.   So based on this we have 4 main parts,  a prologue, two major sections and a conclusion.

    The second feature I noticed is, as I noted in 2 and 3 John,  John seems to use phrases such as “Dear Friend”  (3 John 2, 5 & 11)  and “Dear Lady” (2 John 5)  to mark changes in thought, and the same appears to be true here as the transition at 2:1 is marked by “My little Children…”  Looking through the letter, this and similar phrases occur periodically “My little Children…” (2:1), “Dear Friends…” (2:7 & 18), “Little Children…” (2:18, 2:28  & 3:7), etc., so I took these as marking transition.   Using this as my framework I started my detailed analysis of the letter to see if this would work out.  I am currently up to Chapter 3 and for the most part it is working very well.

    The major diversion from this pattern has been in the middle of Chapter 2.  While verse 12 does begin a section with “I am writing to you, little children…”  it is the beginning of an almost poetic section of two groups of three phrases, were each phrase beginning with either “little children”, “fathers” or “young people” and clearly not all of them are meant to be transitions, rather the entire passage is a unit.

    The other major break with this pattern occurs in verse 20, where John switches from talking about those who left in verse 19, to his readers with “You have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things.” This also seems to beginning a new section. Internally, most of these subsections consist of two part, and opening statement which often serves as a premise, and then a expansion or discussion.

    At this point I have only worked through the beginning of chapter 3 and here is what I have so far. I will update this when I have finished my notes.

    I.            Prologue – Our Testimony: the Word of Life (1:1-4)

    II.            Part I – Light and Darkness (1:5 -310)

    a.      The Message – Living in the Light (1:5-1:10)

    i.      God Is Light – Establishing Common Ground (1:5)
    ii.      Three Proposition Refuted (1:6-10)

    b.      Expansion:  Keep His Commandments (2:1-6)

    i.      Jesus the Messiah is our advocate (2:1-2)
    ii.      To know him is to obey him (2:3-6)

    1 Statement (2:3)

    a Claim (2:4)

    b Counter-Claim (2:5)

    2 Restatement (2:6)

    c.       Expansion: Love One Another (2:7-11)

    i.            The commandment to Love (2:7-8)
    ii.            To be in the light is to love (2:9-11)

    1  Claim (2:9)

    a  Counter-Claim (2:10)

    2  Restatement of Claim(2:11)

    d.      Our Position (2:12-17)

    i.            Our position in Christ (2:12-14)
    ii.            Warning: Do not love the world  (2:15-17)

    e.       Their Position (2:18-27)

    i.            Antichrists a sign of the time (2:18)
    ii.            They Left us (2:19-20)

    f.        Why John Writes (2:21-27)

    i.      Premise: You Know all things (2:20-1)

    1  You know lies are not in the truth

    ii.      Those who deny are the liars (2:22-23)

    1  Those who confess have the son and the father.

    iii.      You remain in him (2:24-25)

    1 You have the promise of eternal life

    iv.       Summary (2:26-27)

    g.      Expansion:  Abide in the Father (2:28-3:1)

    i.      To abide is to be Prepared (2:28)
    ii.      The righteous are God’s Children (2:29-30)

    h.      Expansion:  We are God’s Children Live accordingly (3:2-3:6)

    i.      Premise:   We will be like him (3:2)
    ii.      Live accordingly (3:29-30)

    i.        Don’t be Deceived (3:7 – 3:10)

    i.      Premise:   Don’t be Deceived (3:7a)
    ii.      Distinguishing between Righteous and Unrighteous (3:7b-3:10)

    III.            Part II  –  Love One Another (3:11-5:14)

    a.      The Message  – Love One Another(3:11-17)

    b.      True Love Acts (3:18-20)

    c.       Love answer prayer (3:21-24)

    d.      Test what People Say (4:1-3)

    e.       We overcome the World (4:4-6)

    f.        Love comes from God (4:7-10)

    g.      Love leads to perfection (4:11-5:12)

    IV.            Epilogue – These things have I written unto you (5:13-21)

    a.      Conclusion (5:13-20)

    b.      4:21 – Final warning (5:20)

    Notes

    I.            Prologue – Our Testimony: the Word of Life (1:1-4)

    The first four verses of this letter are one sentence in the Greek text and most consider this sentence to be the most complicated in the writings of John, with phrases such as “bordering on incoherence,” “grammatical impossibilities” and “unclear.”  (Harris)  The train of thought is interrupted 3 times and the main verb does not occur until the end of verse 3.  However the thoughts here are not random but appear to have the following structure.

    1a (imperfect) What was from the beginning
    1b (perfect) What we have heard
    1c (perfect) What we have seen with our own eyes
    1d (aorist) What we have observed and our hands have touched
    1e Concerning the word of Life
    2a (aorist) And the life was revealed
    2b (perfect) And we saw
    2c (present) And we testified and proclaim to you
    2d The  life eternal
    2e Which was with the father
    2f (aorist) And was revealed to us
    3a (perfect) What we have seen and have heard (summary of 1&2)
    3b (present – main) We proclaim to also you
    3c (present) So you also many have fellowship with us
    3d And this fellowship of ours is with the father
    3e And with his son Jesus Christ
    4a (present) And these things we write
    4b (present, perfect) So that our joy may be full.

    1a – 2d are in the form of a chiasmus, centered on 1e, “Concerning the word of Life,” with 2e and f begin a further description of “The life eternal.” 3a quickly summarizes the chiasmus before getting to the main verb “We proclaim” in 3b. The remainder of the passage (3c-4b) then explains the reasons for the proclamation.

    The reason for all this complexity is that John is doing many things.  He is making an allusion to the Gospel of John, which also opens with a chiasmus.  He is stressing the eyewitness nature of his testimony and that it results in both eternal life and fellowship with the father.

    1:1 – What existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we observed and touched with our own hands—this is the[1] Word of life!

    -          There is a pretty clear  allusion to John 1:1 here:  In the beginning was the Word…

    -          This is the first of 4 “what” phrases, and instantly raises the question of just what is being referred to here?  As is often the case there are several possibilities that have been suggested.

    1 Jesus as the Word (λόγος) as in John 1:1.  There does seem to be a clear allusion to the opening of John’s gospel and the word (λόγου) is mention here at the end of the verse, “The word of life (τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς).  There is, however, a problem.  The passage says “What” (neuter), not “The one” (masculine).  It is not impossible for a person to be referred to using a neuter.  Paul does this in 1 Cor 15:10 saying about himself that, “By the grace of God I am WHAT I am.” But it is unusual.

    2 Life is another possibility, as this is also mentioned at the end of the verse. It is also supported by 1:2 which begins “This life…”  However this option has the same problem as understanding this as Jesus for the Greek word for life (ζωῆς)  is feminine.

    3 I believe the best way to understand this is to see Word of Life as embodying both the incarnation and message of God.  Thus the reason John uses “What” (neuter) is because the reference is not just personal but is inclusive of the message of salvation that Jesus proclaimed.  John is stressing the inseparability between the message of Christ and the person of Jesus, which as we will see early in the letter is very important to his overall message.

    Next week we will continue in 1 John 1

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


    Footnotes:

    1 v1:1 Lit. about the

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 2 John 12,13

    Saturday, November 19th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week Eleven: Nov 20, 2011

    This week we finished 2 John, and then started 1 John. I will start 1 John in a separate post.

    Study

    II.Conclusion

    b. Final words (12)

    12 – Although I have a great deal to write to you,1 I would prefer not to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

    - This is a serious matter and there is a lot to do, but John does not want to write. The ending her is very similar to the closing of 3 John

    c. Greeting (13)

    13 – The children of your2 chosen sister greet you.3

    - John closes the letter closes in the standard way. The reference to “Children” most likely refers to the members of John’s Church.

    In the next post I will start 1 John

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


    Footnotes:

    1 v12 Lit. you (plural)
    2 v13 Lit. you (singular)
    3 v13 Other mss. read you. Amen

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 2 John 8-11

    Friday, November 11th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week Ten:  Nov 13, 2011

    This week we finish the bulk of 2 John.

    Study

    II. Body

    a.      Reject False Teachers (7-11)

    8 – See1 to it that you2 don’t destroy what we have3 worked for, but that you4 receive your5 full reward.

    -          This is not talking about losing one’s salvation for John is talking about a reward that we work for (εἰργασάμεθα – eirgasametha).  The background here is that God has set aside a reward for us, but our unfaithfulness could destroy it.  This refers to loss of rewards that are earned, rather than loss of salvation which is by grace.

    -          First and foremost when dealing with heresy, we must be careful that we don’t fall into the deception.   We should look to our own walk first.   As Jesus says in Luke 6:42, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?”

    9a – Everyone who does not remain true to the teaching of the Messiah,6 but goes beyond it, does not have God.

    -          Literally this says “stay in the teaching” where teaching is singular.  Teaching here is synonymous with the truth referred to earlier.   It is the teaching of the Lord, transmitted by the apostles down to us.

    but goes beyond it

    -          Literally but goes ahead of it. The picture here is that God has given us a place to be and we are not to go wandering off.  God has given us what we need to know.  Trying to go beyond this can lead to error.  For example, the heresies surrounding the Trinity all stem from trying to make sense of the statements of scripture, to force them into something we can understand, instead of just taking them for what they say.

    -          This may also be a sarcastic statement against the deceivers mentioned in verse 8.   Again a key aspect about Gnosticism and proto-Gnosticism was the belief in secret knowledge.  Christianity is knowledge for everyone. Gnosticism is the secret knowledge only for the Gnostics.  Therefore, Gnostics could easily be seen as not remaining with the teaching of Jesus but going “going ahead” to the secret knowledge.

    does not have God.

    -          Is not in a personal relationship with God.   However, the focus here is not really on salvation, either having it or losing it.  The focus is on whom you should trust for teaching.  If a person does not have God, we should not be looking to them for teachings.

    9b – The person who remains true to the teaching of the Messiah7 has both the Father and the Son.

    -          The one who stays with the teaching of Jesus, rather than going ahead of the teachings is the person that has the Father and the Son.  To have one is to have the other.  This is the person you can trust.

    10*-11 – If anyone comes to you8 but does not present this teachings,9 do not receive10 him into your house or even welcome11 him, because the one who welcomes him shares in his evil deeds

    -          Verse 9 was the test we should use; now John gives us the application.

    do not receive him into your house or even welcome him

    -          Does this mean only Christians should enter our homes?  Here is a case where the historical context is important.   3 John 5-7 makes it clear the gospel was being spread through the efforts traveling missionaries.  These missionaries depended upon the support and hospitality of fellow Christians to do their work.  The core meaning here is that we should not to give aid and support to those spreading false teaching.  When applying this verse, this is the key question we should ask.  Are we giving aid and support?

    Based on this, I do not believe this applies to non-Christians in a non-religious role.  As Walter Martin once pointed out, it is ok to have a non-Christian plumber enter your house if your basement is flooding.

    How does this apply to missionaries such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who come to your house, should you invite them into your home?  Again the key question applies; are you supporting their efforts by your actions?   I do not believe you are for two reasons.  First you can challenge them in truth and love and in the process share the Gospel with them.  Secondly, while they are with you, they are no out spreading their errors to others.  So by inviting them in, you are actually inhibiting their efforts to get converts.  This, of course, assumes, you are grounded enough in the teaching of the Bible not to be deceived yourselves.

    -          Another question is what about Christians who have different beliefs than we do?  What are the core teachings on which we should break fellowship? Different views of the millennium? Different views of rapture? Different views of Salvation? Election? Can you lose salvation? Different understandings of Genesis?  Inerrancy?  Where do we draw the line?

    This is where John’s test is important.  What do they say about Jesus and how is their walk with the Lord?  With all of the issues just listed, there are Christians on both sides of the issue who would still agree about Jesus and whose walk with Lord is good.  This should be our primary focus.

    because the one who welcomes him shares in his evil deeds

    -          Literally:  the one speaking a greeting to him.  The concept here is of giving encouragement. To support evil is to do evil.  The concept here is the flip side of the point made in 3 John 8 “Therefore, we ought to support such people so that we can become fellow workers with them.”

    -          The key point here is that we must be careful whom we support.  In a modern time this will largely be concerned with what charities do we give money to?  What do they do with that money?

    Questions and Discussion.

    A of lot of the discussion this week centered on verse 10-11, and was summarized in the verse above. The rest centered on what constitutes “going beyond” the teaching of Jesus.  Does, for example, liberation theology go beyond?   Liberation theology is a blend of the Gospel interpreted into Marxist ideology.   For example, the fact that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary is interpreted in term of class struggle with them being homeless, and exploited by wealth elites.  This is going beyond what the gospel teachings.  From this we started to discuss what our duty to the poor is. Finally we spend some time discussing how to deal with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Next week we will continue in 2 John 8

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


    Footnotes:

    1 v8 The Gk. verb is plural
    2 v8 Lit. you (plural)
    3 v8 Other mss. read you have
    4 v8 Lit. you (plural)
    5 v8 Lit. your (plural)
    6 v9 Or Christ
    7 v9 Or Christ
    8 v10 Lit. you (plural)
    9 v10 ISV:  his teaching
    10 v10 The Gk. verb is plural
    11 v10 The Gk. verb is plural

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 2 John 7b

    Saturday, November 5th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week Nine:  Nov 6, 2011

    This week we focused on the false teachers that are the subject of the letter.  As a result we spend all of our time on verse 7.  I will repeat the first part of this verse from last week.

    Study

    II. Body

    a.      Reject False Teachers (7-11)

    7* – For many deceivers have gone out into the world. They refuse to acknowledge Jesus the Messiah1 is coming in flesh2. Any such person is a deceiver and an antichrist.

    For (ὅτι -oti )

    -          While this verse marks a change in the letter from positive exhortation to warnings, it is connect to the previous verse.  In context, John was glad that they were living in the truth because…

    many deceivers have gone out into the world.

    -          Just as Christian missionaries that 3 John 5-6 says we should welcome have gone out
    so had their counterparts. It is these counter parts that John is now going to warn them about.

    refuse to acknowledge Jesus the Messiah is coming in flesh

    -          The word translated acknowledge (ὁμολογοῦντες – omologountes) is a legal term for contracts in terms of   someone agrees and therefore promises to do something.   It is not referring to a mere intellectual acceptance of doctrine, but implies action as well.   In this light we can better understand John’s stress on both Truth (intellectual acceptance) and Love (doing).  Both are inseparably linked. To really believe is to do.

    -          The phrase is coming is in the present tense, and is somewhat an unusual way of putting this.   Normally we would expect has come as in a reference to the incarnation, or will come, as a reference to the second coming.  But John puts this into the present tense.   We can see in this a clue concerning the identity of the false teachers.

    It is unlikely that John would be warning them about the common place dangers of which they all were aware.  As such these false teachers were probably not from any of the well known religious groups of the time.  For example, if he were referring to the Jews, he could have simply said that they denied that Jesus was the Christ.

    Therefore these false teachers were most likely people who claimed to be Christian, but who were not spreading the truth, but a lie.  Thus John’s use of the label “deceivers.”  Understood in this light, John’s reference to “Jesus the Messiah is coming in flesh “ makes a lot more sense as it point to a particular group, the Gnostics, or probably more accurately proto-Gnostics.  This is because full blown Gnosticism is a 2nd century movement.

    Gnosticism may have had it start with Simon Magnus in Acts 8:9-24, a magician who claimed to be a Christian, but who really wanted to buy from the apostles the ability to give the Holy Spirit.  It was built around a number of concepts borrowed from many beliefs.  But they did see Christ as an important figure, and thus could be mistake for more orthodox Christians.

    Another belief important in this discussion is that Gnostics drew a sharp distinction between the spiritual world which was good, and the material world which was corrupt.   In fact they drew the divide so sharply that it resulted in a major problem.  How could a spiritual god create a corrupt world?  They attempted to solve this by postulating a very complex series of layers and intermediate actors in an attempt to separate the spiritual creator, from the corrupt creation.

    This also caused a problem with Jesus and Christ for Gnostics made a division between the two.   In Gnosticism, the body is material and therefore corrupt.  But Christ is spiritual, and not corrupted. Gnosticism had several explanations for this, but they all centered on separating Jesus from the Christ.   Irenaeus described such a view in his discussion of the beliefs of person named Cerinthus .  In his book Against Heresies (Book 1.26.1)

    Christ descended upon [Jesus] in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.

    Irenaeus also tells us that Cerinthus was a contemporary of John, in the following amusing antidote  (Against Heresies,  Book III.3.4):

    There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.”

    John apparently new Cerinthus and is referring to him, or someone with similar beliefs.  Thus his phasing of the false teachers as denying that Jesus is coming in the flesh, i.e., Jesus and the Christ are the same, always have been, and always will be.

    Any such person is a deceiver and an antichrist.

    -          There is a translation issue here.  It is not so much in the Greek text, or with what the author wrote, but rather with what the modern reader hears.   We hear of the antichrist, and immediately think of the end times. But that is not what John is saying here.   Rather John is stressing the magnitude of the error. They are not just wrong, but 180 degrees wrong.

    -          So the false teachers were most likely a group of traveling messengers bringing a gospel of Christ, but it was not the true Gospel but a false one. This is why John felt it so important to warn this church so that they would not be taken in.

    Questions and Discussion.

    The questions and discussion this week centered on the false teachers and modern applications.   Did these teachers know they were spreading false doctrine, or did they really believe what they taught? My belief is that then, like now, one must draw a distinction between the founders of a religious movement, and the followers. Thus for example, it is very possible that Simon Magus was nothing more than a con-man.  But con men deceive people, and as a result many were taken in by his teaching.  By the time you get to the later part of the century when John is writing, it is very possible that the false teachers John was writing about were themselves deceived, and thought they were spreading the truth.

    In terms of a modern application, there is a pretty general agreement that, whatever one thinks of Joseph Smith,  Mormons as a group are wonderful people.  Yet there is little doubt that they have been deceived and are deceiving others. Many of their converts come from evangelical denominations.   For example, while Christians have historically taught, along with the Jews and Muslims, the belief in monotheism, that there is only one god,  Mormon are henotheists, they believe that there are many gods, but they only worship one God.  To justify this belief, one of the verses they cite is 1 Cor 8:5,  which does say “as there be gods many, and lords many” (KJV).

    Standing alone and out of context, this does seem to support the Mormon belief.  But read in context it cannot.  Paul here is addressing the issue of whether or not it was acceptable for Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols.   He argues that it is ok to eat the meat because, “We know that no idol is real in this world and that there is only one God.”  (1 Cor 8:4) He acknowledges, what was in the first century city of Corinth very true, that there are many things that are called gods.  Thus the ISV renders this as,

    4Now concerning eating food offered to idols: We know that no idol is real in this world and that there is only one God. 5For even if there are “gods” in heaven and on earth (as indeed there are many so-called “gods” and “lords”), 6yet for us
    there is only one God, the Father,
    from whom everything came into being
    and for whom we live.
    And there is only one Lord, Jesus the Messiah,
    through whom everything came into being
    and through whom we live.  (1 Cor 8:4-6)

    Not only does the passage in context not support the Mormon claim, it actually refutes it, for it starts with a strong statement of monotheism.  In addition to this the Mormon claim is further rendered impossible for it would completely undercut Paul’s argument.  Paul argument is that “no idol is real in this world.”  Since they do not exist, it is meaningless that the meat was sacrificed to them, so it is ok to eat.  Yet the Mormon claim is that this passages is saying that other gods do in fact exist, which would destroy Paul’s argument.  Thus the twisting of God’s word to teach doctrines antithetical to those historically accepted by Christians is not something that was only confined to John’s day, but rather continues today.

    So does this make Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses “antichrists?”  The answer here depends very heavily on the translational issue addressed above.  Again the word antichrist is for the modern mind strongly linked to the end-times, and in this sense I would say no, they are not.    But John was not referring to the end times, but rather to the type of error. He was referring to people who claimed to be bringing the truth, when what they were bringing was the opposite of the truth.  They were not bringing the truth of the real Christ, but of a false, or antichrist.  In this latter sense, they are antichrist’s, for the Jesus Christ preached by the Mormons, and by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is one that is significantly different from the Jesus Christ that has historically been taught by Christians down through the ages, and I would argue significantly different that the Jesus Christ taught in the Bible.  Yet given the modern understanding of the word “antichrist” the label does not apply.

    Next week we will continue in 2 John 8

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


    Footnotes:

    1 7 Or Christ
    2 ISV: having become human