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  • Archive for April, 2012

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:2-6

    Thursday, April 26th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 27:  Apr 22, 2012

    John continues building on the ideal that we are children of God, contrasting sin with abiding in him.

    Study

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

    i.      Premise:   We will be like him (3:2)

    2 – Dear friends, we are now God’s children, but what we will be like has not been revealed yet. We know that when the Messiah[1] is revealed, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is.

    -          John again emphasizes that we are God’s children now, itis not just some future hope.  But while we are God’s children now, God is not done with us and there is a future component to this, even if we do not know what it will be.  This is very similar to Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” Yet while we do not know what we will be like, we do know we will be like Jesus.

    because we will see him as he is.

    -          The Greek here is somewhat ambiguous. It could be that we Know… because we see or it could be, we will be like because we see. I think that the latter fits the context best.  Much of John’s message has been to see God has he truly is, is to obey him, to be like him.   This is similar to faith, the more faith we have the more we follow him.

    ii.      Live accordingly (3:3-6)

    3 – And everyone who has this hope based on him keeps himself pure, just as the Messiah[2] is pure.

    -          If we have this hope, we will strive to follow him now. How could it be otherwise?  Think about something in your life you really hoped for, and how much you did to make that hope a reality.   If we really have this hope in Christ, we will keep ourselves pure.  This also implies that those who do not have this hope don’t follow him, and after all why should they?

    -          pure (ἁγνός)

    -          The Greek work here means without defect or blemish.  It originally meant to withdraw from world to dedicate oneself to God, but overtime came to be seen in ethical terms, which is what it meant at the time John wrote.  As in all things, Jesus is to be our example.  We should strive to be like him.

    4 – Everyone who keeps living in sin also practices disobedience. In fact, sin is disobedience.

    -          While a reference to those who left, this is stated as a universal principle.  How can you be a follower of Christ and disobey Christ at the same time?

    Disobedience  (ἀνομία)

    -          The word means to disregard the law, Lawless.  For some this is simply breaking the rules set down by God.  Others see this as working in opposition to God.  The difference will depend on how one views God’s Law. This is a very complex question and one that has long been debated.   In fact it is at the heart of  Plato’s  Euthyphro and which asks the related question: What is Holiness?   Is something holy simply because God says it is? Or does God say it is holy because that is what it is?  Or, more to the point here, why did God establish any particular law such as the prohibition on murder?

    In a very brief fashion,  is murder wrong just because God said it is wrong?  If so could He have said it was right?  On the other hand if you say murder is wrong independent of God, then it does not come from God, and God is not supreme.

    While in Euthypro this seems to be an insoluble problem, there is a third option,  that what is holy, what is good, and thus the basis for God’s law is tied to the very nature and character of God.  Murder is wrong not just because said it is wrong, but because of who God is, because of his very nature.

    If this view is correct, it has some pretty significant ramifications, for to sin is to go against the very nature and character of God.  It is to be in conflict with the very nature and essence behind the universe, and this begins to give us some understanding of the impact of sin on nature.

    In this light it become easier to see why to know him, is to follow and obey him for to sin is to rebel against the very nature and character of God.

    5         – You know that the Messiah[3] was revealed to take away sins,[4] and there is not any sin in him.

    -          John follows this stark statement of sin with statement of comfort which is stated as a statement of common ground – a premise.   Jesus came to take away sins. Again John use take away rather than atone. The emphasis here is more on the removal than the process and follows this with there is not any sin in him which again is an emphasis on the absence of sin. This verse harkens back to the starting premise of this letter in 1:5 God is light, and in him there is no darkness—none at all!

    6 – No one who remains in union with him keeps on sinning. The one who keeps on sinning hasn’t seen him or known him.

    -          John finished this section with a forceful statement against sinning.  To drive his point home, he says it in both a positive and negative fashion.  To be in union with Christ is to stop sinning, and to continue sinning is to neither see him or know him.   This is a theme that John has mentioned before and will do so again, for a key aspect of a relationship with Christ is obedience.   (See verse 2:3-6)

    -          Out of context this statement can be very troubling to Christians. But John has also said in 1:8 that If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves and we’re not being truthful to ourselves. Given this, how are we to understand this passage?   As one might expect, there are many theories.

    Some believe that John is referring to a certain type of sin, normally willful or deliberate sin.  This view however has two significant problems. As we all know from experience, not all of our sins are involuntary.  Even the best Christians not only sin but sin deliberately at times so this explanation does not really solve the problem.   The second problem is that the discussion of sin in this section does not lend itself in to such a neat division. John does later make a division among sins, but that is toward the end of the letter (1 John 5:16), and thus cannot be considered part of the context here.

    Another view is that John is speaking of continual sin and thus the translation keeps on sinning.  One problem here is that this could be seen as pushing the grammar farther than it supports. While the present active tense used here can refer to continuous action, it does not in and of itself do so.  This must be determined from the context.  But the context does not really demand this.  So the claim that this refers to continual sinning, is more a theological argument than a grammatical one.  This does not rule it out, but the neither is it very clear from the context of John’s discussion.

    A third view is that John is speaking of an ideal.   John frequently speaks in stark black and white terms, and is doing so here.  This is our goal, this is our ideal.  Our goal is not to be mostly free from sin, but to be completely free from sin.  This is more than just a goal, it is also our future. When Christ comes, we will be in union with him and will be free from sin.  Important to the support of this view is the fact that John started this section by pointing to what we will be like when the Messiah is revealed. (3:2)

    I think there may be something else going on here as well.  Building off of John’s statement about knowing God equals obedience to God, and that to love God means to obey him, I see the focus of the verse not on so much on sinning, but on remaining in him (πᾶς ὁ ἐν αὐτῷ μένων).  If we remain in him we will not sin.  For us to sin requires that we break our fellowship with him, that we cease to know him or see him.  When we sin, at that point for us, God does not exist.

    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]  3:2 Lit. he

    [2]  3:3 Lit. as he

    [3]  3:5 Lit. that he

    [4]  3:5 Other mss. read our sins

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:28-3:1

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 26: Apr 15, 2012

    John expands on the concept of abiding in God, to once again bring it back to the underlying purpose, which is our relationship with God.

    Study

    g. Expansion: Abide in him who loves you. (2:28-3:1)

    i. To abide is to be Prepared (2:28)

    28 – Even now, little children, abide in him. Then, when he appears, we will have confidence and will not turn away from him in shame when he comes.

    - The use of “little children” here marks another transition. This is not at all unexpected given the very clear ending of the last section that was marked by the double inclusio in the last two verses and then the “Even now” at the beginning of this verse. Just as there was a main or starting section followed by two expansions, leading into the central section, John now finishes the first major part of the letter with two more expansions, and a concluding exhortation.

    abide in him

    - Picking up on this from the last verse, John begins to expand on abiding in Christ. This is parallel to section c which expanded on loving one another.

    Then, when he appears.. when he comes

    - John’s reference to the second coming of Christ here uses two Greek words: φανερωθῇ – (phanerōthē) to be reveals or become visible, and παρουσίᾳ – (parousia) – coming

    we will have confidence and will not turn away from him in shame

    - After the second coming there will be the judgment seat of Christ and we must stand before him. When this happened will we stand there with confidence (παρρησίαν – parrēsian) the Greek word referring to boldness, openness, or courage, knowing we have been faithful servants? Or will we stand there in shame (αἰσχυνθῶμεν – aischunthōmen) the word is passive and means to be ashamed or embarrassed with the sense of disappointment or disillusioned?

    ii. The righteous are God’s Children(2:29-30)

    29 – Since you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been fathered by God.[1]

    - While some see a break at this verse (Barker) I see this as tying together the concepts of remaining in God to the primary theme of the letter, which is dealing with those who left.

    Since you know that he is righteous

    - John set forth his premise, that God is righteous, which is reminiscent of the starting premise of this section in 1:5 God is light, and in him there is no darkness—none at all!

    everyone who practices righteousness

    - The context here is very important to avoid misunderstanding. The context of this section has been a contrast between the faithful and those who left. What does it mean to “practices righteousness?” It means to love as John wrote in verse 2:10 (the parallel to this section) The person who loves his brother abides in the light.

    What about the atheist who loves his brother? First, for John, Love and Truth are inseparably linked. In addition a major part of loving someone is sharing the truth and not leading them astray. Finally, it should be mentioned that there are, in fact, a number of studies that show that religious people give more to charity than secular people.

    has been fathered by God

    - John now recasts “abiding in him” in terms of spiritual birth as he will develop this more shortly. So just as he did earlier in the letter, John continues to contrast those who left with his readers, while he builds up their faith by reminding them of their position.

    3:1 – See what kind of love the Father has given us: We are called God’s children—and that is what we are![2] For this reason the world does not recognize us, because it did not recognize him, either.

    - John now continues encouraging them by stressing God’s love, and their position. God’s love not only removed our sin, it made us children of God. The mention of children here is important, for again John is pointing out that the purpose is not merely to follow the rules. Rather the purpose of all this is to have fellowship with God, the fellowship of a father and child.

    and that is what we are!

    - Note John’s changed to “we” in this verse. This is not just theology, this is reality! What does it mean to be a child of God? Is that how you think of yourself? Is it reflected in the way you live your life? If not, then perhaps the question to ask is, are you abiding in him, as verse 2:28 encourages us to do.

    For this reason the world

    - One effect of all of this is that the world does not recognize us. They not only will they not recognize us, they will hate us (John 15:18). It is very likely that this is a reference to the current situation that John’s readers found themselves in, and the church split also split friendships and families. There may even have been some persecution form the group that left.

    - But even today this is a difficult message. It is so much easier to be loved by the world that we live in. But while it may be easier, it is not a good thing. This is why gathering together for fellowship with other Christians is so important.

    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] 2:29 Lit. by him
    [2] 3:1 Other mss. lack And that is what we are!

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:23b-27

    Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 25: Mar 25, 2012

    Having defined who cannot be trusted, i.e. those who deny the person and work of Jesus, John now contrast them with those who confess.

    Study

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

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

    1. Those who confess have the son and the father.

    23b – The person who acknowledges the Son also has the Father.

    - This is said in contrast with the previous part of the verse. Where they were “The Denying” (ἀρνούμενος) Here is he refers to those who acknowledge or “the confessing” (ὁμολογῶν). The true Christians are those who acknowledge the person, nature and work of the Son.

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

    24 – What you have heard from the beginning must abide in you. If what you have heard from the beginning abides in you, you will also abide in the Son and in the Father.

    - John now switches to a focus on his reader. This is shown by the emphasis on the word “you” by fronting (moving it to the front of the sentence) and repetition. Literally this verse starts with “You what [you] have heard,” (ὑμεῖς ὁ ἠκούσατε) . The word you (ὑμεῖς) is not strictly needed because it is already indicated by the ending (-τε) of “have heard” (ἠκούσατε). With the “you” at the end of the sentence that makes 3 occurances – Two explicit and 1 as part of the “you have heard” This repetition is used to empathizes that John dealing with abstract concepts, but is now talking directly to is readers.

    - Since the focus in on them, the “What you have heard from the beginning” is almost certainly the teachings they have heard since becoming a Christian and which was stressed at the opening of the letters, i.e., the New Testament. This teaching must define our Christian walk, and this is what we must abide in. It is not coincidental that a large part of the New Testament is setting forth and defending doctrine. Later writers traced the origins of Gnosticism back to Simon Magnus in Acts 8:9-24 which records events that occurred in mid 30s.

    abides in you… abide in the Son and in the Father.

    - John emphasizes the importance of abiding in this teaching by equating this with being in the Son and Father. Again the purpose is not just to follow the rules, but to be in fellowship with God. Note the reversal of the normal order of father and son. The Son is being emphasized. This also is to identify the “he” in the next verse.

    1. You have the promise of eternal life

    25 – The message that the Son [1] himself declared to us is eternal life.

    - Many translations have promise for the word message (ἐπαγγελία). John only uses this word here. Elsewhere it is used to refer to OT prophecies that have already been fulfilled, or are certain to be fulfilled. So there is a sense that this is more than just a promise – it is a done deal. The message is eternal live. There is a sequence over the last 3 verses:

    - Confession – Having – Remaining – Eternal Life

    ii. Summary (2:26-27)

    26 – I have written[2] to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

    - This marks the end of an inclusio that started in verse 21. An inclusion is a literary device used to mark off sections, sort of like bookends. While verse 21 focused on his readers and how they knew the truth, this part contrasts the truth that they know with the falsehoods of those spreading false teachings.

    27* – The anointing you received from Him[3] abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.[4] Instead, because His[5] anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not a lie, abide in him, as he taught you to do.[6]

    - Just as the previous verse was an inclusio with verse 21, this verse is also an inclusio with verse 20. Thus we have:

    20 You have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things

    21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it

    26 I have written to you about those who are trying to deceive you.

    27 The anointing you received from Him abides in you

    Thus as John marks of the ending of this section he is again telling his readers that his criticisms of his opponents does not apply to them.

    and you do not need anyone to teach you.

    At first blush there is a bit of a paradox here: John is teaching them that they need no teachers. However the context helps us understand this. The context is of false teachers spreading what appears to be a proto-Gnosticism. Gnosticism was based on secret teachings revealed by a teacher and John is simply pointing out that he is teaching nothing new (or secret). This is what the Holy Spirit teaches everyone. So there is really no paradox, John is simply saying that there is no reason to look to false teachers.

    Instead… abide in him

    Instead of seeking after false teacher stay in the truth. John now backs this up with three reasons:

    a. His anointing teaches you about everything

    The anointing (Holy Spirit + word of God) will teach us. Not literally everything, but everything we need to walk in the truth.

    b. and is true and not a lie

    What the Holy Spirit teaches is the truth, the deceiver teaches lies.

    c. as he taught you to do.

    This is what Jesus wants.

    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] 2:25 Lit. that he
    [2] 2:26 Lit. written these things
    [3] 2:27 ISV God
    [4] 2:27 ISV adds this
    [5] 2:27 ISV God’s
    [6] 2:27 The Gk. lacks to do

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:22-3a

    Monday, April 2nd, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 24: Mar 18, 2012

    Having pointed out to his readers that they have an anointing and know all things, John defines who cannot be trusted.

    Study

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

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

    22-3a – Who is a liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah?[1] The person who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. No one who denies the Son has the Father.

    Who is a liar is a rhetorical question that draws out a key distinction between believers and those who left. John does this with three phrases centered around literally: “The denying” (ἀρνούμενος).

    the person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah

    - The first “denying” is key for it is what characteristic of a non-believer. This is more than just a matter of the words; it goes much deeper to the core meaning. Goes to the nature, person, and work of Jesus.

    The person who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist

    - The second “denying” functions as a restatement and amplification of the first. There are several things going on here. The first is that the Son and the Father are being equated. To deny one is to deny the other. Second Jesus is being linked to the Son. This may seem obvious, but it is important to remember that the heretics saw divisions between Jesus, the Christ, and the Father. This is what separates groups that are Christian from those who claim to be. I do not believe that this includes those in other religions, for the context here is those who left the church. Unlike Jews and pagans (or today, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, etc.), those who left claimed to be the true followers of Christ. Today this would include groups like the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. They claim to be true followers of Christ, but they deny the basic biblical teaching concerning the nature, person, and/or work of Jesus.

    No one who denies the Son has the Father.

    - The third “denying” is a summary of proto-Gnostic belief and here John is applying these statements to his critics.

    Questions and Discussion

    As can be seen from the shortness of the study, there was a lot of discussion this week and more than I can summarize here. Most of it centered on how and where we should draw the line between Christians and non-Christians in terms of teaching. From 1 John it is pretty clear the dividing line is the person of Jesus Christ. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses have a view of Jesus that differs significantly from that in the Bible.

    For example, while John 1 says that Jesus was “the word” and in verse one says “the word was God” the Jehovah Witnesses, attempt to avoid this by translating this as “the word was a god” and then goes on to try and diminish this even further by claiming that “a god” does not really mean what is says, but really means something lesser than a god.

    There was also a lot of discussion on how this applies to groups whose view of Jesus is ok, but where we have other disagreements. While many Christians are fairly tolerant of differences such as pre, mid, or post tribulation, many Christians have other beliefs they think are really important. For some differing views of creation are seen as disqualifying. Perhaps one of the most difficult such views centers on the questions about the Bible such as inerrancy. While I hold to inerrancy, I do not believe that those who question inerrancy are automatically not Christians. For example, I have a friend who does not accept inerrancy, but whose commitment and relationship to Christ are solid. In fact, I have asked him and he cannot give me any specific errors in the Bible, but he is just not willing to say that the Bible is inerrant.

    In short I am not as concerned about most theological views, as I am about two things: What do they say about Jesus, and how is there walk with the Lord.

    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] 2:22 Or Christ