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Elgin’s Books


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  • The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:23-4:1

    Week 34: Sept 23, 2012

    Study

    i. The Commandment (3:23-3:24)

    23 – And this is his commandment: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus the Messiah,[1] and to love one another as he commanded us.

    - John spells out what is expected of us: Believe in the name (On name see notes on 2:12). The concept of Name refers to the power and the authority. This stems from who Jesus is. Note that John includes Jesus. This is another indication that those who left were a form of proto-Gnostics who would have rejected that the physical Jesus was anything more than just a container for the Messiah. The other part of the command is to Love one another. These are the two tests of a true Christian. On a side note, just think of all the things the church has at times added to this list. John’s list is much better.

    24 – The person who keeps his commandments abides in God,[2] and God abides in him.[3] This is how we can be sure that he remains in us: he has given us his Spirit.

    - John once again returns to equating obedience with abiding in God, We in him, and He in us. Marshall points out that obedience here is not so much a condition but an expression of abiding in God.

    This how we can be sure

    - While obedience equates to abiding, John give us a further test: The Holy Spirit. John does not specify how will manifest itself, probably because it is different for different believers. But his does raise the question, how do we know that what we think is the spirit is the Holy Spirit? This is a question to which, John will now turn.

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

    i. Test (4:1)

    1 – Dear friends, stop believing[4] every spirit. Instead, test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

    - Having just told them that the Spirit confirms that we abide in God, John adds a caution: Not every spirit is from God, it is important not to be deceived. Mormons, for example, base their faith on “their Testimony” which they believe to be a message directly from the Holy Spirit. My faith is based on a message I believe came from the Holy Spirit. We both cannot be correct. So how can we tell?

    test the spirits

    - Faith is not simply a belief and nowhere are we told to just blindly accept. Christianity is not just an abstract theological system to be believed. It is a faith based grounded in historical events that can and should be tested. For example:

    1 John 10 – The claim of who Jesus is in 10:30 is challenged. Note how Jesus basis his claim on evidence in 10:30-37

    If I am not doing my Father’s works, do not believe me. But if I am doing them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works,

    2 John 14:11 – Jesus told his disciples to believe him, or at least believe the works (i.e., the evidence) that he has been doing.

    3 Acts 17:11 – the Bereans tested everything Paul said

    4 1 Thess 5:21 – Test everything

    - many false prophets have gone out into the world

    - Not only are there false spirits, but people are deceived by these spirits have gone out into the world. How we are to deal with these false prophets was a key message of 2nd John. Given the context here, it is most likely, those who left also claimed to be led by the Spirit.

    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] 3:23 Or Christ
    [2] 3:24 Lit. in him
    [3] 3:24 Lit. and he in him
    [4] 4:1 Or do not believe

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