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  • Archive for February, 2012

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:13-2:15

    Saturday, February 18th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 20: Feb 12, 2012

    Last time we saw how John, after pointing out the inconsistency between the claims and the actions of his opponents, switched to talking about his readers, talking first about “children” i.e., about all Christians. Now he continues talking to “Father” i.e., church leaders, and then “Young men” which could be members in general, but might be deacons.

    Study

    d. Our Position (2:12-17)

    i. Our position in Christ (2:12-14)

    13a – I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you have known the one who
    has existed from the beginning.

    - Clause 1.2

    Fathers – πατέρες

    - This was a common term that could be used to refer to

    • General Ancestors (i.e., those who came before us) : Act 7:44 Our ancestors had the Tent of Testimony in the wilderness constructed
    • Mentors or Spiritual Father: 1Cor 4:15 You may have 10,000 mentors who work for the Messiah, but not many fathers. For in the Messiah Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
    • Natural Fathers : Heb 12:9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them for it.
    • Parents : Heb 11:23 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after he was born,
    • Patriarchs : Rom 9:5 To the Israelis belong the patriarchs, and from them, the Messiah descended,
    • Elders : Acts 7:2; 22:1 Stephen replied, “Listen, brothers and fathers!”

    - Given the context here, I believe that the meaning of leaders is probably what John intended.

    because you have known the one who has existed from the beginning.

    - This passage ties back to verse 2:3 This is how we can be sure that we have come to know him. Like forgiven in the previous verse, known here is in the perfect tense, and refers to a completed action. Unlike verse 2:3, here John adds who has existed from the beginning. This is a statement of consistency and lack of change. A primary role of church leaders is to keep the members on track.

    13b – I am writing to you, young people,
    because you have overcome the evil one.

    - Clause 1.3

    Young people – νεανίσκοι

    - Today it is easy to see this phase as referring to older children or perhaps teenagers. But the Bible does not really have these concepts, is has only children, adults and the elderly. In John’s day this term often referred to young adults between puberty and marriage, but could also be used to refer to a man in the prime of life. In the context here, it refers to those who are not “fathers.”

    because you have overcome the evil one

    - The Greek word translated overcome (νενικήκατε) means victorious, overcome, conquer. Like Forgiven and Known, it is in the perfect tense. This is something they already had done. The phase, the evil one (τὸν πονηρόν) is masculine singular, and thus points to a particular individual: Satan.

    - As believers we already have overcome. Satan’s primary goal is to keep us from a saving relationship with Christ. By the very fact that we have entered into a saving relationship means that we have overcome Satan. Through the power of Christ we are victorious. Do we live as a victor?

    14a – I have written to you, little children,
    because you have known the Father.

    - Clause 2.1

    I have written – ἔγραψα

    - As John begins the second half of the section he switches to aorist tense. For a discussion of the possible reasons for this, see the comments prior to verse 12 in last week’s post.

    Little children – παιδία

    - John also switches from τεκνία to παιδία. He elsewhere he uses the words interchangeably so change here is probably insignificant and just a stylistic change.

    because you have known the Father.

    - Again this is a completed action. In clause 1.1 John pointed out that their sins had been forgiven, here he reminds them that they have known the father. Together these two points encapsulates the teaching to this point. Those who confess their sins are forgiven and know God.

    14b – I have written to you, fathers,
    because you have known the one who
    has existed from the beginning.

    - Clause 2.2

    - With the exception of the change from “I write” to “I have written” this is unchanged from Clause 1.2. As such it emphasizes the role of Fathers in providing consistency and lack of change.

    14c – I have written to you, young people,
    because you are strong
    and because God’s word remains in you
    and you have overcome the evil one.

    - Clause 2.3

    - This final clause repeats you have overcome the evil one found in the clause 1:3. But now precedes it with two additional descriptions. The first is that you are strong. We are strong in Christ and this is the reason we have overcome Satan. The second point is that God’s word remains in you. God’s word here could refer to several things. It could of course be a reference to the Bible. But it could also be a reference to Jesus as in John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word… Another option is that it could be a more general reference to the God speaking to us, not only through the Bible, but through prayer. This latter view is probably what John intended. But this could be a case of deliberate ambiguity, as none of these meanings is really wrong.

    - That God’s word remains in us is the reason for our strength and our ability to overcome the evil one. It is the power of the message and truth of God and the relationship we have with him that gives us the strength to overcome. If we do not feel strong perhaps it is that we are not spending enough time with God’s Word or spending enough time with God in prayer.

    Looking back over these six clauses, we can summarize the points that John uses to describe Christians as:

    1. We are forgiven. In the context of this letter this implies confession v 1:9.
    2. We know God. In the context of this letter this implies that we obey God v 2:3.
    3. We are strong.
    4. We remain in God’s word.
    5. We have overcome Satan.

    ii. Warning: Do not love the world (2:15-17

    15* – Don’t love[1] the world and the things that are in the world. If anyone persists in loving the world, the Father’s love is not in him.

    - Having established his reader’s position in contrast to that of his opponents John now starts instructing them with a command.

    Don’t love the world and the things that are in the world.

    In context John has just set them apart from his opponents, so this is more of a warning (Don’t love), rather than a condemnation (Stop loving). But this warning immediately raises the question: What does John mean by “the world and the things that are in the world?” Some have taken this to mean that we should ignore the physical world and focus only on the spiritual. But there is a danger in this approach for it tends to lead to legalism, and in fact a lot of legalism has been grounded in verses such as this. After all, one simply needs to declare _______ to be “of the world” and they now have a “biblical” command against it!

    A better approach would be to look at how John uses the term world (κόσμον). Here are some of the ways that John uses this term.

    1. 1:9-10 (In Darkness) He was the true light that enlightens every person by his coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him. Yet the world did not recognize him.
    2. 1:29 (in Sin) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
    3. 3:16 (Loved By God) “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his unique Son so that everyone who believes in him might not be lost but have eternal life.”
    4. 3:19 (This Realm) And this is the basis for judgment: The light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light because their actions were evil. — note difference between world and people (men)
    5. 7:7 (Evil and Hates Jesus) The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil.
    6. 12:31 (ruled by Satan) Now is the time for the judgment of this world to begin. Now will the ruler of this world be thrown out.
    7. 14:17 (cannot receive the Holy Spirit) He is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. But you recognize him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

    It is also important to remember that John, following Jesus’ example, normally speaks in spiritual terms, not material terms and as a result misunderstanding over this distinction plays a large role in the Gospel. As an example, consider John 2:19-20 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will rebuild it.” 20The Jews said, “This sanctuary has been under construction for 46 years, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?”

    Thus, the world in John is that part of reality that is in rebellion to God. It is in darkness and hates Jesus, and therefore cannot receive the Holy Spirit. It is ruled by Satan. Yet God loves the world and seeks to redeem the world, sending his son. He has redeemed us from the world, such that we are no longer a part of the world. Thus in John 15:19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as one of its own. But because you do not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.

    If anyone persists in loving the world, the Father’s love is not in him.

    - From the description above it is pretty clear that the love of God, and the love of the world are incompatible.

    To fully understand this verse, it is important to consider what John says in verse 16. Unfortunately we ran out of time so this discussion will continue next week.

    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] 2:15 ISV Stop Loving..

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:9-2:12

    Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 19:  Feb 5, 2012

    Last time we saw how John was expanding on the commandments, in particular that we are to love one another. John now demonstrates his point with another claim from his opponents. This is not really a new claim; it is similar to those he has already dealt (see 1:6-10), but here he focuses the claim a bit more, in light of the commandment to love one other and he uses it to sum up his argument so far.

    Study

    i. To be in the light is to love (2:9-11)

    1. Claim (2:9)

    a. Counter-Claim (2:10)

    2. Restatement (2:11)

    9 – The person who says that he is in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

    The person who says that he is in the light

    - John returns to Claim/Refutation/Counter teaching pattern. Here the claim to be in the light was a key claim made by his opponents.

    but hates his brother

    - While they claim to be in the light, their actions tell a far different story. But just what does John mean by Hate? At first this might lead some people into a false sense of complacency. After all, they may claim, I don’t hate anyone. But this would miss John’s point. It must be remembered that John normally writes in stark terms with no middle ground. Thus he speaks of Light/darkness, Life/Death, Truth/Lie, and here Love/Hate. For John there is a sense that there is no middle ground. Yet this is more than mere black and white thinking. If we will help someone we love, but not others, then there is no real difference with being neutral and hating. Either way we don’t help. Given the importance of the commandment to love one another (2:7-8) one cannot ignore the commandment and still walk in the light.

    10 – The person who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no reason for him to stumble.

    - The Counter teaching

    - To love one another is to live (μένει: to remain ) in the light.

    and there is no reason for him to stumble.

    - John expanses on the light/dark metaphor. If you are walking darkness, you are in danger of stumbling. The Greek here is somewhat ambiguous and could refer to having nothing that would cause brother to stumble. But since the context is focused on the person and not brother I think the translation, for him to stumble is best. The best way to avoid sin, is to remain in the light.

    11 – But the person who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks[1] in the darkness. He does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

    - Having laid out the true teaching John now recaps and expanse on the position of his opponents. There is a sense of conclusion here as he ties the various themes together as he continues the metaphor to emphasize the danger. It is one thing to be in the dark, it is another to try and walk in the darkness. It is hard in this not to see John asking “Why would you follow these people?”

    because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

    - This is a key point. Sin not only separates us from God, it blinds us to the truth. While his opponents may claim to have the truth, they are in darkness.

    d. Our Position (2:12-17)

    i. Our position in Christ (2:12-14)

    - This section marks a stark change, not only in content but in style. This section is divided up into two sets of three statement with the following characteristics:

    • o The first 3 statements start with “I write to you… because” (γράφω ὑμῖν,…, ὅτι – present active indicative
    • o The second 3 statements start with “I wrote to you… because” (ἔγραψα ὑμῖν…, ὅτι – aorist active indicative)
    • o Each section has a line written to Children (τεκνία/παιδία), to Fathers (πατέρες) and to young men (νεανίσκοι) in that order.

    – This raises the following questions about this section:

    • Why is this section here?
      • There are some clear links to what has been discussed so far. Thus for example, verse 2:12 – because your sins have been forgiven is very close to verse 1:9 – he forgives us for those sins. But there is also some new material (verse 13b – you have overcome the evil one) as well, which foreshadows themes that will be taken up later in the epistle.
      • There are no immediate grammatical links to what has just been discussed, except possibly that John often begins transition with “Little Children” or similar phrases.
      • Each of these statements can be seen as contrasting with John’s opponents. Each statement could be read equally as well by inserting “unlike them” just after the word because. e.g., V 12 – because [unlike them] your sins have been forgiven
      • Thus I believe that since John has written about his opponents so far in stark black and white terms he is doing two things here. First he is marking a transition from a focus on his opponents to a focus on believers, while at the same time he is making it clear that he does not see his critical statements until this point as referring to his readers.
    • o Why are the two sections here so similar? / Why the change from “I write” in section 1 to “I wrote” in section 2?
      • Option 1 – Since Greek often uses repetition for emphasis, this could just be for emphasis. If this is the case, then there is no real significant change in meaning from “I write” to “I wrote.” In defense of this, both phrases are found in Greek letters referring to the letter in which they appear. So this could just be stylistic change to avoid repetition.
      • Option 2 – Some argue that this refers to different parts of the current letter. “I write” refers to the letter from that point forward, whereas “I wrote” refers to the earlier part of the letter. The main problem with this theory is that the content of these sections do not match this division of the letter.
      • Option 3 – Others argue that these sections refer to different letters. “I write” refers to this letter. “I wrote” would then refer to an earlier letter, possibly 2 John or the Gospel of John. One problem here is that 2 John and Gospel don’t seem to fit the statements. This is not fatal to this theory, as it could refer to a letter that has been lost. This is not impossible. 1 Cor 5:9, 11 seems to refer to an earlier letter and 2 Cor 2:4’s reference to “The sorrowful letter” most likely is not referring to 1 Corinthians. So it is possible that “I wrote” refers to a letter that we no longer have. However, more problematic for this theory is that much of the material in the section “I wrote” is also in this letter.
      • Option 4 – The finally possibility we will consider is that the first section was a common statement or liturgical saying that his readers knew, while the second was his re-statement of it, modified to emphasize that this this was his view. Like possibility 3, the main problem here is that we do not know of any such statement. There is also the problem of why such a common statement would start with “I write…” One possibility is that the actual statement may have said something like “the apostles write…”
      • I think that the answer is most likely either 1 or 4. I would I lean a little towards 4, since the repetition strikes me as modifying something that they already knew, but the problems with this view do trouble me. This would not have been an issue for the original recipients, but is not lost with the passage of time. However, since with both 1 and 4 the overall purpose is for emphasis, the actual answer is not all that important to understanding the intent of the passage.
    • What is the significance of the Children, Fathers, and Young men?
      • The first question we need to answer is whether this refers to just three distinct groups or one overall group with two subgroups. Three distinct groups would at first seem the most-straight forward. In this view the three groups are either age groups, or they are metaphorical groups. If age groups they could refer to physical age, or spiritual age, i.e., how long they have been in the faith. Others however think they may be metaphorical in that they refer to the qualities of the stages of life that all Christians should have. The main problem with all of these views is that children, fathers, young men, is a very unusual; one would expect either fathers, young men, children; or children, young men fathers.
      • Because of the unusual order, some have suggested that this is really one overall group with two subgroups. The overall group is children, and thus refers to all believers. Within this group there are two subgroups: Fathers and Young men. As with 3 distinct age groups, the two subgroups could be either actual or spiritual age. The advantage is that this would address the problem of order. Other suggest that, rather than age groups, this is a reference to leadership where Father = elders and Young men = deacons. Still other suggest that Fathers = Leaders while young men = rest of the church.
      • I believe that children refers to all Christians, while Fathers = Leaders and young men = rest of the church.

    12 – I am writing to you, little children,
    because your sins have been forgiven
    on account of his name.

    - Clause 1.1

    little children – τεκνία

    - This is John’s normal way of referring to believers. For example, in his gospel 1:12 says, He gave them authority to become God’s children. In his letters he writes …hear that my children are living according to the truth (3 John 1:4); (2 John 1:1) The chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; (1 John 2:1) My little children, I’m writing these things to …

    your sins have been forgiven

    - This is similar to 1:9 If we make it our habit to confess our sins, in his faithful righteousness he forgives us for those sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. But there is a key differences. forgives in 1:9 was presented as hypothetical because of the if/then construction of the statement. Here, however, there is nothing hypothetical about it. The word translated have been forgiven (ἀφέωνται) is in the perfect tense. It refers to a completed action with ongoing results.

    on account of his name (διὰ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ)

    - It is through the name of Jesus that we are saved. This is one of those phrases that Christians say but often do not think very much about. In the ancient world, the concept of Name equaled power and authority. For example, look at how name is used in Acts 4:7 They made Peter and John stand in front of them and began asking, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” We can know we have been forgiven because it rest on the power and authority of God.

    To further expand on the concept of name and how we often skip over well known verses, consider Matt 28:19-20, which says, Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. This is often seen as just a verse on missions, but in reality the command here is not to go, but to make disciples. Another issue here is the word Baptizing, which is a transliteration of the word βαπτίζοντες: to wash, purify, or immerse. Since it transliterated, most see this as the ritual of baptism. But is that what is intended here? Consider the verse if we translated it using the meaning of immersion:

    Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, immersing them in the power and authority of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.

    What could be a better description of making disciples than to immerse them in the power and authority of God while teaching them to obey his commandments?

    Questions and Discussion.

    The discussion this week centered on the question of loving and hating our brother. What does this really ask us to do? One interesting question was what about helping a brother or sister, when you really do not want to or when you still hold a grudge against them? While of course it would be better to always act with a pure heart, I think the question really comes down to why, in the end, did you act? Acting out of obedience to God, even a reluctant obedience, is still obedience. I think it is safe to say that obedience is always better than disobedience.

    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] ISV : lives

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:7-2:8

    Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 18:  Jan 29, 2012

    –          Last time we saw how John was emphasizing that to love God was to Obey God’s commandments.   This naturally raises the question which commandment are we to keep?   Starting in verse 2:7 John answers this question.

    Study

    a.      Expansion: Love One Another (2:7:11)

    i.      The commandment to Love  (2:7-8)

    7 – Dear friends, I am not writing to you a new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning. This old commandment is the word you have heard.

    Dear friends,

    -          Marks another change of thought, this time an expansion on the commandments of God.

    new commandment…but an old commandment…

    Here John may be dealing with a charge from his opponents, i.e., that they had some new commandment or he may just be stressing that his message is grounded in the teachings of Jesus. Note change from verse 3 from plural(commandments) to singular(commandment) here. Commandment sums up the teaching of Jesus. Here it refers to    living in the light  as he himself is in the light (1:7) Which John is defining as living in truth and love. This is very similar to :

    2 John 5 Dear lady, I am now requesting of you that we all continue to love one another. It is not as though I am writing to give you a new commandment, but one that we have had from the beginning.

    John 13:34 I am giving you a new commandment to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

    from the beginning

    -          Commandment was new when Jesus gave it. But this could also refer to the teaching of OT as well.

    This old commandment is the word you have heard

    -          This is what they have been taught since they came to Christ. John is stressing the continuity of the faith.   This was the teaching of Jesus, handed down to the Apostles (see the prologue v 1:1-4) and taught to them.

    8 – On the other hand, I am writing to you a new commandment that is truly in him and in you. For the darkness is fading away, and the true light is already shining.

    -          Yet, while an old teaching there is a sense in which it is new.  It is new in the sense that it is in Jesus and in us.  While the teaching is nothing new, and in fact is old,  the way that the teaching works itself out in our lives is new.  As 1 Cor 5:17 puts it:   Therefore, if anyone is in the Messiah, he is a new creation. Old things have disappeared, and—look!—all things have become new!

    For the darkness is fading away, and the true light is already shining.

    -          This is more than a distant hope.  The transforming nature of Christ’s teaching can already be seen.  John is not arguing just from abstract theology, but from the real impact Jesus had on people’s lives, and the way that it transformed them, and us.   The message of the Jesus is nothing, if it has no effect.   This is why obedience is so important.  Jesus’ teachings are not some secret that is hidden away, as the Gnostics claim, it is to be proclaimed and demonstrated in our lives.

    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.

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:2-2:6

    Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:2-2:6

    Week 17: Jan 15, 2012

    I have fallen a little behind in posting the class, and will try to catch up in the next few days. When we finished from the last posted class John had interrupted is refutation of the claims of his opponents to clarify that his comments on forgiveness should not be misconstrued. We do not have forgiveness so that we can sin; we have forgiveness so that we can have fellowship with God. We also have an advocate or our behalf, Jesus. In verse two John continues this thought, giving the John giving the reason Jesus can serve so effectively as our advocate.

    Study

    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)

    2:2 – It is he who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world’s.

    It is he who is the atoning sacrifice for our sins

    atoning sacrifice

    The Greek word (ἱλασμός) occurs in NT only here and in 1 John 4:10, and there is some dispute over how to translate this word. In secular literature this word refers to a means of placating an offended person, which could be translated with the word Propitiation. Some scholars, however, argue that in the Septuagint, the early Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word has a somewhat different meaning. Instead of focusing on appeasing the offended person, these scholars argue that it focuses on the removal or cancelling of sin, and as such means expiation more than propitiation. Not too surprising, other scholars strongly disagree, arguing that it does have the meaning of propitiation in some places of the OT.

    So how should we settle? As always, we look to the context. Here the context is Jesus as our advocate before God and this would point to propitiation, the appeasing the offended person, more than expiation, the removal of sin. The meaning here is that Jesus’ death on the cross, renders God favorable to pardoning our sins. Yet this controversy may help explain the passage in 1:9 earlier and the meaning of Forgive and Cleanse. Forgive would point to propitiation, cleanse to expiation and like in 1:9, and in this light both meaning may be in view here. Thus the translation of atoning sacrifice

    atoning – for sin – expiation

    sacrifice – to God – propitiation

    Jesus is both or advocate and our atoning sacrifice. He pleads before the Father on our behalf based on what he has done. However, it is important not to push the metaphor of the court room too far. There is nothing here to say that God is reluctant to forgive our sins. On the contrary, in John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the father are one.” John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave is one and only son.”

    – but also for the whole world’s

    Christ serves this role no just for John’ readers (i.e., Christian) but for the whole/complete (ὅλου) world (τοῦ κόσμου). This is one of the reasons I question the doctrine of Limited Atonement, which holds that Christ died only for the elect. But if Christ died for all, does this then teach universal salvation? No. This is in the context of 1:9 which said, “If we make it our habit to confess our sins.” Christ serves the role of advocate for the entire world. If anyone in the world seeks forgiveness through Christ, they will be forgiven. But we must seek forgiveness to be forgiven.

    What does this say about our duty to forgive? Are we required to forgive those who do not seek forgiveness? This may run counter to a lot of teaching on forgiveness, but I believe our duty to forgive is balanced by an offending parties duty to seek forgiveness. We have a duty to offer forgiveness, as Christ died for the whole world. But as with salvation, that forgiveness is not complete until it is truly sought.

    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)

    Having clarified the nature of forgiveness, John now returns to the claims of his opponents, in this case that they know God. Notice the emphasis that John’s structure gives this claim. This is a very key claim and central to John’s overall argument.

    To understand this claim, it is important to understand the discussion to this point, which has centered on the question: who is correct. It is important to remember that 1 John was written to a church that had undergone a church split where a heretical faction has broken away. Both sides claim to have the truth, and to know God. Individual members probably had friends in both camps, so how could they tell which side was correct?

    2:3 — This is how we can be sure that we have come to know him: if we continually keep his commandments.

    - John answers the implied question of which side is correct. Again, a key claim of the opponents was to know God (see the next verse) and this was a key claim of Gnosticism. Yet for John this is not just intellectual knowledge about God. To know God is to be in a relationship with Him.

    if we continually keep his commandments.

    - This is a common theme for John. In John 14:21-24 the theme is to love God is to obey him. We cannot be said to be in a relationship with God, if we do not obey him.

    2:4 – The person who says, “I have come to know him,” but does not continually keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth has no place in that person.

    - John now returns to the specific claims of his opponents, in this case the claim that they know him. At the core of agnosticism was the claim to have a secret knowledge of God.

    but does not continually keep his commandments is a liar

    - How can we claim to know Jesus if we do not follow him. This is a much more powerful argument than it may at first seem. How can we really truly believe that Jesus is God incarnate; that he died for our sins; that we are in a relationship with him, and yet then ignore what he says? Every time we sin, we in effect deny that we know Jesus.

    and the truth has no place in that person.

    - This is an emphasis of the previous point, but it is more than just an emphasis. In John 14:6 Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is the truth, and to have truth, secret truth, was a key claim of proto-Gnostics. So this is more than just a mere emphasis of the point. They have neither the truth nor Jesus.

    2:5 – But whoever continually keeps his commandments is the kind of person in whom God’s love has truly been perfected. This is how we can be sure that we are in union with God:[1]

    - Having dealt with the claim, John now turns to his counter claim. Note that John as changed from “If we” to “the kind of person” (ἐν τούτῳ) Lit: in this one. John is not talking about particular people but rather a goal that we should strive for. The person who is willing to be molded and shaped by the love of God; that person is the one who will follow his commandments.

    has truly been perfected.

    - The word for perfected (τετελείωται) means to finish, to reach a goal, to perfect. God’s work in us will be completed when we continually follow his commandment. John is not saying that we will reach this perfection. In fact John has already made it clear that we will not. Earlier in he wrote, “If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves (1:7) But this is the goal we should strive for; the kind of person, we should strive to be.

    This is how we can be sure that we are in union with God

    - John is not saying that we must reach perfection, to be sure. Rather that God is working in us. That we are striving to follow his commandments.

    2:6 – The one who says that he abides in him must live the same way he himself lived.

    John now returns to a restatement of his starting principle stated in verse 3, though here it is a summary statement and serves as an emphasis of this point. This was also one of the key messages of the Gospel of 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:

    2:5 Lit. him