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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible
  • The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 4:11-21

    Monday, December 31st, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Study

    John now begins a summary starting with a summary of the key points in this section but then moving into a summary of the letter. Such summaries are very helpful in making sure that our understanding of the key points in this letter, line up with John’s intent.

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

    i. The significance of God’s Love (4:11-12)

    11 – Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love one another.

    - John now begins his summary where he started this section – love one another. He starts by taking God’s example of love and applies it to us. This is more than just an example, it is an obligation. Note that this is not a command to love God, but to love others.

     

    12 – No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

    - It is likely that some of those who left, were claiming visions of God. Here John is pointing out that this is not possible, and that if we really want to experience God we do so, not through mystical visions, but by serving others.

    his love is perfected in us.

    - Lit: the love of him (ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτοῦ ) It is not completely clear what John means here. This could refer to: Our love of God; God’s Love for us; or the type of love God has. The context here would seem to support either 1 or 3.

    - True Christianity is not to be found in retreating from the world in prayer, but working in the world through love and service.

     

    ii. How we know we abide in him (4:13-15)

    13 – This is how we know that we abide in him and he in us: he has given us his Spirit.

    - This here refers to in the living out of our faith in the service of others. There is a dual point being made here. First, that we can know our personal relationship to God. Second, we can test the relationship of others. Do they live the love of Christ?

    - The spirit also reveals himself in our service to others.

    14 – We have seen for ourselves and can testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

    - John return to the opening of the letter: as statement of his personal witness.

    - Here the focus is on Jesus as the savior of the world. God’s love was not limited to Christians. Our love is, likewise for the world. Gnostic had secret teachings for the few, We have service to all.

    - Given the context, it is likely that the “We” refers to the Church as a whole, rather than just the apostles, as in the opening.

    - Can we say this today? Have you seen the work of Christ in your life? It is the Holy Spirit that testifies to us.

     

    15 – God abides in the one who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, and he abides in God.

    - John again return to the concept of abiding, and thus these three verses are in the form of a chiasmus, the focus of which is on our testimony.

    Abide – v13

    Testify – v14

    Abide – v15

    that Jesus is the Son of God

    - An emphasis on the human side of Jesus.

     

    The results of abiding in God (4:16-18)

    16 – We have come to know and rely on[1] the love that God has for us. God is love, and the person who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

    And rely on (πεπιστεύκαμεν)

    - Believe – trust – perfect tense indicates lasting conviction

    the love that God has for us

    - Lit the love which has the God in us. (τὴν ἀγάπην ἣν ἔχει ὁ θεὸς ἐν ἡμῖν) This would seem to indicate that the love here includes the love of the Cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit

    God is love

    - John is giving us a logical argument here. Since God is Love (also v 8) therefore to abide in love is to abide in God. Abiding in love is a result of abiding in God. Scholars debate whether or not this is Love of God, or love for one another. John makes no real distinction, to do one is to do the other. It is a demonstration and source of comfort for relationship with Christ

     

    17 – This is how love has been perfected among us: we will have confidence on the day of judgment because, during our time in this world, we are just like him.

    - The perfection of God’s love leads to confidence. Do you have confidence about Judgment day?

    during our time in this world, we are just like him

    - Some claim a contradiction with 3:2. While a superficial reading can lead to a contradiction, as usual context is very important. The context here is Judgment Day. What is critical to judgment? Sin. Give this, how are we like him? We are sinless because of his love, and that is why we can have confidence.

     

    18 – There is no fear where love exists[2]. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.

    - Because of this, there is no fear. After all, what do we have to fear of Judgment day? Nothing! We have been washed clean but the blood of the lamb. We abide in the perfect love of God. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

    - How does this line up with verse like Phil 2:12

    And so, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I am absent, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling

    That we do not fear judgment day does not mean we lose our respect for God position.

    has not been perfected in love

    - This is not necessarily referring to those who are lost. It means that God’s love needs to be perfected in them.

     

    To love God is to Love one another (4:19-21)

    19 – We love[3] because God[4] first loved us.

    - Our love for God is not grounded in a threat of punishment. It is a response to the love that God has already shown us. It is grounded in gratitude, not fear.

     

    20 – Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates his brother is a liar. The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love the God whom he has not seen.

    - John returns again to the claims of those who left, but here he is making a larger point. We cannot see God, but we can see our brother. So while we might not really be able to tell if someone loves God, we can tell if someone loves his brother.

    - This works both ways. Sometimes is it easier to love God, because we do not see him. Sometimes it is easier to love people because we do see them. True love covers both.

     

    21 – And this is the commandment that we have from him: the person who loves God must also love his brother.

    - This is more than just a guideline, this is a commandment. In John 13:34 Jesus said,

    I’m giving you a new commandment…to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

    - John started his summary with how we should Love, which was one the key errors of those who left. Why do you think John has stressed this point so often?

     

    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] 4:16 Lit. believe in
    [2] 4:18 Lit. in love
    [3] 4:19 Other mss. read love him; still other mss. read love God
    [4] 4:19 Lit. he

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 4:4-10

    Saturday, December 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

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

    i. You have overcome them (4:4)

    4 – Little children, you belong to God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

    - John assures them of their victory. They have resisted the temptation though the power of the Holy Spirit. There is possibly a hint of persecution here. Also note the contrast between “in you” and “in the world.” While we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, non-believers are not indwelt by Satan.

    ii. Belonging to World vs. Belonging to God (4:5-6)

    5 – These people belong to the world. That is why they speak from the world’s perspective,[1] and the world listens to them.

    - Then, as now, there was the way the world looks at things, and the way God looks at things. Those who left were of the world and they speak that way. Today we see this in the use of, and battle over, labels such as Pro-Life – Pro-choice. We must remember we are not in a popularity contest. God’s message will is not to be judged by numbers. The world judges by how big and how popular something is. But for God, what matters is truth and love.

    6 – We belong to God. The person who knows God listens to us. Whoever does not belong to God does not listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.

    - Note the change to plural. John is speaking of all Christians. Those who know God will accept the teachings of God, while those who do not know God will not. We are not in a battle of logic and reason. That someone does not accept the Gospel is not a failure on our part. That the experts disagree is not relevant.

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

    i. Love one another (4:7a)

    7 – Dear friends, let us continually love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God.

    - Having just talked about the importance of truth, John now turns to the other test: Love. Here John adds a reason: because love comes from God. He is continuing his argument that those who know God accept the truth of his message, and they reflect his actions: i.e., they love.

    Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God

    - This can be a difficult verse and context is important to avoid misunderstanding. Here the context is of loving others. John is not talking about the love of a parent for a child, or love of a spouse. The context is loving people.

    - To really love, require that we love in truth. We are to love as God Loves. To know God is to obey God; to Obey is to Love; to Love is to know God – John closes the circle. This is a goal that few and probably none actually achieve. It is something we strive for.

    ii. Loving one another = knowing God (4:7b-8)

    8 – The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

    - Again having stated the positive, John now emphasizes this with the negative.

    because God is love

    - This is one of John definitional statements, such as God is Light (1:7), God is Spirit (Jn 4:24) This statement is quite popular in the modern Church but note that it does not say God is only Love. John’s argument here is that God is Love, how can we claim to be followers of God if we do not love?

    iii. God’s Love demonstrated (4:9-10)

    9 – This is how God’s love was revealed among us: God sent his unique Son into the world so that we might live through him.

    - If we are to love as God loves, then how does God love? John gives us the greatest example in a fashion very reminiscent of John 3:16. This example has both of the major components of godly love: A true compassion that works itself out in action.

    10 – This is love: not that we have loved[2] God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

    - John expands on his definition of love

    Not that we have loved God but that he loved us

    - As we seek to understand real love, we cannot look to how we love God or how we love others. True love is to be found in how God loved us.

    sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sin

    - Rom 5:8 – But God demonstrates his love for us by the fact that the Messiah died for us while we were still sinners.

    - God’s love was demonstrated while we were in rebellion against him. What does that say about our love? What does it say about how we treat others?

    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] 4:5 Lit. from the world
    [2] 4:10 Other mss. read we loved

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 4:2-3

    Thursday, October 4th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 35: Sept 30, 2012

    Study

    i. How to test (4:2-3)

    2 – This is how you can recognize God’s Spirit: Every spirit who acknowledges that Jesus the Messiah[1] has become human—and remains so—is from God.

    - Having said that we should test, John now gives us a means for testing.

    Jesus the Messiah has become human—and remains so

    - The Greek is somewhat ambiguous here. This could be translated as Has become (NIV) or is come (KJV) The ISV translation encompasses both views. Those who left seem to have drawn a distinction between physical and spiritual and as such they would have denied this. So what John has done is go straight to the core issue: the nature and person of Jesus.

    - This is also the dividing line when we look at those who attend other churches. What do they say about Jesus? We may disagree on a lot of side issues, but the key question is what do they say about Jesus.

    3 – But every spirit who does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist. You have heard that he is coming, and now he is already in the world.

    - This is so important that John expresses it both in a positive and a negative fashion as a way of emphasizing it.

    not acknowledge Jesus

    - There is a textual issue here as some manuscripts have Jesus is come in the flesh or similar variations. These are almost certainly later addition by scribes who were attempting to make this verse match verse the wording in verse 2.

    - Note that the focus here on Jesus (as opposed to saying that we should acknowledge the Messiah) and thus it serves as a perfect summary. First, it focuses the issue on the key point denied by those who left. Second by just mentioning Jesus, and it serves as a generalization, i.e., the nature and person of Jesus.

    spirit of the antichrist

    - Again this is a term that has taken on a lot of meaning since the first century. John usage here is not focused on the end times, but on those who claim to be followers of Christ, when in reality they are against or opposed to Christ; i.e., antichrists. ( See comments on 2:18)

    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] 4:2 Or Christ

    [1] 4:2 Or Christ


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

    Thursday, October 4th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    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

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:19-22

    Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 33: Sept 16 2012

    Having contrasted sin with abiding in Christ, John now gives two positive examples to show what abiding in Christ and love really mean.

    Study

    i. Two Benefits (3:19-3:20)

    *19-20 – This is how we will know that we are from[1] the truth and how we will be able to keep our hearts[2] at rest[3] in his presence, 20whenever[4] our hearts condemn us because[5] God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.

    – Having stated the principle, John now gives us two reasons that we should do this. The first reason is the service of other is a sign of our devotion to the truth – That we are from (i.e., that we are grounded in) the true teaching of Christ. The second is that this should set our hearts as ease. If we are too busy “giving our lives” to others, there is no need to worry about our relationship with Christ.

    – If our hearts condemn us

    – This is a difficult verse because it is not clear exactly what John means. One possibility is that if our hearts condemns us we can take comfort in our service to others. The another is that whenever our heart condemns us, we can take comfort knowing we are from God. The word condemn (καταγινώσκῃ) here refers to knowing something against someone. But John is quick to point out that God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. He knows more than our heart does, he is the judge, not our heart. He sees everything we do. Yes he sees our failures, but he sees all the times we are faithful that we followed the leading of the Holy Spirit but did not even realize it.

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

    i. The Confidence (3:21-3:22)

    21 – Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in the presence of God.

    - John transitions by taking the point from the previous verse, i.e., that we put our heart at rest and moves his argument forward. If our heart is at rest, we can be confident before God. Do you feel confident? If not, why not?

    22 – Whatever we request we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

    - This is another difficult statement. One that in many ways, seems too good to be true. But as Marshall put it, “though we are encouraged to have faith that will move mountains, a prayer that an awkward mound in my garden will smooth itself out is unlikely to be answered by some kind of miraculous bulldozing operation.” (p 200) But as always context is important, and here it is in the context of keeping His commandments, and doing His will. This is not a grant of power to ourselves, but an expression of God’s willingness to work through us. He will give us whatever we need to do His will.

    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] 3:19 ISV belong to
    [2] 3:19 ISV: keep ourselves 3:19 Lit. keep our hearts
    [3] 3:19 ISV: Strong
    [4] 3:20 ISV: if
    [5] 3:20 ISV: lacks because

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:16-18

    Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 31: May 20, 2012 / Sept 9 2012

    Having contrasted sin with abiding in Christ, John now gives two positive examples to show what abiding in Christ and love really mean.

    Study

    16 – This is how we have come to know love: the Messiah[1] gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers.

    - John started this section by saying we are to love one another. Now he gives us some examples of what he means by Love. The greatest example is that Christ died for us, he gave (laid down) his life for us. Notice that John says, For us… This is key for he did not just die to show love in some general abstract sense, he died for us.

    - We, too, ought to give our lives

    As the Gospel of John taught, Jesus is our example in all things, even this. Does this mean that we should go find someone to die for? No. This should not be seen as our sole duty; this is the limit of our duty. We should be willing to give of ourselves up to and including our very lives. This is not just what we can “afford” nor is it to give of our excess. After all could Jesus “afford” to give his life?

    17 – Whoever has earthly possessions and notices a brother in need and yet withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God be present in him?

    - Since most of us will not be called upon to give our lives, John further expands on this with a more day to day example.

    - Whoever has earthly possessions

    When understood within the historical context in which Jesus spoke, that is the economic conditions of the time, when translated to today, this would include virtually every American.

    - withholds his compassion from him (κλείω ὁ σπλάγχνον αὐτός ἀπό αὐτός)

    - The picture here is of locking up (κλείω) our natural feelings, in short of hardening our heart. It is important to note here that John does not say withhold our goods. Tithing or giving to the benevolent fund is not what John is talking about here. The focus here is more on how we feel, rather than what we do. What we may do in any given situation is complicated. How we should feel about it is not.

    - This is because if we have the right attitude, it is far more likely that the correct actions will follow and he will be dealing with actions shortly.

    - how can the love of God be present in him?

    If God has compassion for those in need, and we are filled by the love of God, how can we not also have compassion for those in need?

    a. Expansion: True Love Acts (3:18-20)

    i. True Love Acts (3:18)

    *18 – Little children, we must not express[2] love merely by our words and manner of speech; we must love[3] also in action[4] and in truth.

    - Little children

    Again we have a common marker of a transition. Here John will add actions to the feelings discussed in the previous verse.

    - we must love in action and in truth

    While our feelings are important, without action they are of little value. Why does John add Truth? Truly loving someone in need often takes a great deal of discernment. It involves a good understanding of the circumstances, and the actions we take must do more that alleviate our conscience, they must actually improve the situation. Giving money to a starving alcoholic on skid row, is likely to do nothing other than pay for more alcohol, and further their problem. We might walk away thinking that we have done a nice thing, but in truth all we have done is worsen the problem.

    Questions and Discussion

    The discussion this week centered on what constitutes a “good” action. As mentioned above, this is not always easy to determine. In addition truly helping can often take a lot more commitment than just giving some money. On the other hand there are far more worthy causes then we have the ability to support. We can’t do it all, and God does not expect us to. It will take a lot of prayer and consideration to determine which ones God may be calling you to support. Finally, we are to be good stewards of our money. We should check out those groups that we support, but this should be in proportion to the how much you are giving. The recommendation of a friend may be enough for small one-time gift, but a more serious ongoing financial support, should not be done haphazardly.

    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] 3:16 Lit. he
    [2] 3:18 ISV: we must stop expressing
    [3] 3:18 The Gk. lacks love
    [4] 3:18 Or work

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:14-15

    Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 30: May 13, 2012

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

    Study

    14 – We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love one another. The person who does not love[1] remains spiritually[2] dead.

    - As is his pattern, John, having given the negative teaching that hating your brother is from the evil one, now gives the positive side: Loving your brother is from God, the one who gives life. We were once dead, but because of Jesus, we have passed from death to life. The indication of this transition is a love for our brother. Without it, we remain spiritually dead.

    15 – Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life present in him.

    - As he so often does, John now sums up this teaching in very stark terms. While Cain was a murderer, John points out that his is not limited just to murders. His use of Hate (μισῶν) here raises some issues. It seems to be based on Jesus’ teaching in Matt 5:21-22.

    You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, ‘You must not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders will be subject to punishment. ‘But I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be subject to punishment. And whoever says to his brother ‘Raka!’ will be subject to the Council. And whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hell fire.

    That John speaks of hate instead of anger is easy to understand. Hate it fits context better and what would be true of anger would be true of hate. It also fits John practice of stark contrasts. In the context here, hate is contrasted with loving your brother. Again for John there is no middle ground. He has also just talked about how the world hates Christians (v 13). As such his comments here are aimed more at the world than us. For the world hates us without cause.

    - At first the equation of hate with murder may seem like an exaggeration, but it is not such a leap as it may at first seem. We, after all want to get rid of that which we hate. It is also very difficult to treat people that we hate as people. Instead they become labels, and we have in effect murdered there humanity. (See discussion below)

    - Murder is the ultimate rebellion against God. Jesus is the Life (John 14:6) and as such, to take life without just cause (i.e., the difference between murder and killing), is the ultimate rebellion against God. It is to ally oneself with the destroyer of life, i.e., Satan.

    Questions and Discussion

    Verse 15 and its comments on hate generated a lot of discussion, not so much over the prohibition, but rather the related question, of is it ever right to hate? Contrary to a lot of people who quickly answer no, I think this is a very complex question. For many, 1 John 4:8’s statement that, “God is Love” precludes any possibility of hate. But the Bible says differently. In Exodus 18:21 Moses is told to pick “men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.” So here hating is a good thing. On the other hand we are also told in Leviticus 19:17 “Do not hate your brother in your heart.” This shows up in the common phase hate the sin, not the sinner. This is very true, but also very difficult.

    Then there is the issue of people whose very existence seems to be defined by evil. People such as Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and far too many others. Is it permissible to hate them? Again I do not think this is so clear cut, while in theory one could separate out the person from their evil, in these extreme cases this is very difficult if not impossible. The evil is an integral part of who they are. At this point it is important to note that many texts Jesus’ statement in Matthew have the qualifier, “without cause.” Even if “without cause” was not original, it is implied in the style which used hyperbole and stark black and white differences as a way of making a point. After all, no one would take Jesus’ statement that “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away” just a few verses later (Mt 5:29) to be to be a literal injunction to Christians. Then again Jesus says Mat 5:22 that “And whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be subject to hell fire.” In Matt 23:17 he says to the Pharisees, “You blind fools” again showing that Matthew 5 cannot be taken as an absolute prohibition which no exceptions.

    Likewise Jesus was at time angry. In Mark 3:5 Jesus in a dispute over healing on the Sabbath “looked around at them in anger, deeply hurt because of their hard hearts.” Then there was the cleansing of the temple. This division between a good anger (anger with a just cause) and bad anger used to be common place. In fact the good anger was called righteous indication.

    Finally it is also important to consider that he did not reach out to everyone. While he reached out to many, especially those shunned by the culture, such as the Samaritan woman at the well, when he was taken before Herod, “Jesus gave him no answer at all.” (Luke 23:9) No reaching out, no pleas to repent, just silence.

    A large part of this turns on what is meant by hate. If what we mean by hate is an emotion that will control us, then the answer is no. Such hatred in the heart will eat at a person and corrupt their sole. However, if we mean an intellectual attitude, that will depend on the circumstances. Luckily very few will ever have to deal with a person the likes of Herod or Hitler. The far more likely question for us is: Do we really hate evil. Do we have room in our theology for righteous indication? Or are we so busy loving the sinner, that we just ignore the sin?

    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] 3:14 Other mss. read doesn’t love his brother
    [2] 3:14 The Gk. lacks spiritually

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:8-13

    Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 29: May 6, 2012

    As he sums up this section, John, having warned his reader not to be deceived, says who can be trusted, (i.e., those who practice righteousness). He draws a distinguishing between the children of God and those who belong to the devil.

    Study

    h. Don’t be Deceived (3:7 – 3:10)

    ii Distinguishing between Righteous and Unrighteous (3:7b-3:10)

    8 – The person who practices sin belongs to the evil one, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason that the Son of God was revealed was to destroy what the devil has been doing.

    - In contrast to those who practice righteousness are those trying to deceive us. These practice sin and belong to the evil one. When John says, that “the devil has been sinning from the beginning” it is not clear if from the beginning refers to the beginning of human sin, i.e., the serpent in the garden, or since the becoming the devil, but it really does not affect the meaning for us. Those who follow God will be marked by righteousness. Those who lives are marked by sin, belong to Satan.

    The reason that the Son of God was revealed

    - Jesus came into the world to defeat sin. This is not just a throwaway line, but a key part of John’s argument. How can a true follow of Jesus be practicing what he came to destroy?

    9a – No one who has been born from God practices sin, because God’s[1] seed abides in him.

    - John continues the reasoning of verse 8 with a stark statement that is reminiscent of v6. No one who remains in union with him keeps on sinning. How could they? How can a true follower of Christ work against what he came to do? (See discussion below) After all, we have God’s seed. Some see God’s seed as the Holy Spirit, others as the word of God. It is probably a bit of both.

    9b – Indeed, he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born from God.

    - John is reaching a conclusion that started with his initial statement that began this section and his statement in 1 John 1:5 God is light, and in him there is no darkness—none at all! If God has no darkness, and God is in us, we can have no darkness. As for what John means by “cannot go on sinning” see discussion on v 6 and discussion below. Also it is important to see this in light of the seed metaphor that precedes it. When you plant a seed, it grows and develops. When a person is born-again, they are not fully grown spiritually but begin to grow. This is the real mark of a Christian, not sinlessness, but spiritual growth and development.

    10 – This is how God’s children and the devil’s children are distinguished.[2] No person who fails to practice righteousness and to love his brother is from God.

    - John ends this section with statement that sums up the main points about his opponents. A major reason for this section was to distinguish those who left from those who stayed. Our primary way of doing this is to look people’s walk and to see how they “Love their brother.”

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

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

    i. Starting Premise

    11 – This is the message that you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

    - This is the message

    - This phrase occurs only here and 1:5, This is the message that we have heard from him and declare to you. 1:5 started the first section that focused on those who left (2:19) and how to tell who was telling the truth, who you should trust, and who you should follow. John uses the same phrase to begin this section. This section will focus more on how we should live. Again there is little consensus over the outline of John. One advantage of this approach is that it draws on literary feature within the letter itself.

    - We should love one another.

    - While this section will build on the themes developed in the previous section, the overriding message of this section will be to love another.

    ii. A Negative example – Cain

    12 – Do not be like Cain,[3] who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because what he was doing was evil and his brother’s actions[4] were righteous.

    - Not too surprisingly John begins with a contrast and, as he so often does, he puts his message into very stark terms. Cain not only did not love his brother, he murdered him.

    Because what he was doing was evil and his brother’s actions were righteous

    - At first this does not seem to make sense. But it is something born out in practice. Righteousness holds up a mirror to evil. It reminds the unrighteous of God’s Law, and their disobedience. It ultimately robs them of their excuses. So Cain had two choices, acknowledge his disobedience or get rid of the evidence, i.e., get rid of Abel.

    13 – So do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.

    - As Cain hated Abel, so will the world hate us and we should expect this. This raises three issues: First, if we do not face opposition from the world, what does that say about our walk? Second, it is important to keep in mind that just because we are facing opposition, that does not mean we are where God wants us to be. If we do not act in love, we should not be surprised if we get a negative reaction. So this is not a blank check to be obnoxious. Finally, we may not see “hatred” today, because in the current world the main problem it apathy. People, may simply not care.

    Questions and Discussion

    Verse 9 sparked a lot of discussion. Some theologians try to soften this verse by saying that this refers to continual or habitual sin. There is some truth to this, but I do not believe that it is really faithful to what John is arguing. Hebrew culture tended to express things in terms of stark contrast in a way that we in the 21st century are uncomfortable with.

    We live in a world governed by a view of precision that would be completely foreign to those in the first century. The easiest place to see this is with time. We commonly think of time in terms of hours, minutes, and seconds, and at times even smaller increments. We will worry if we are even a few minutes late. Yet in the first century, for the most part, even hours were too fine a division. Normally people were content with parts of a day.

    Thus when we read statements of John such as “No one who has been born from God practices sin” our innate sense of accuracy and precision causes us trouble. If that is literally accurate then no one could be a Christian. Yet we know that John could not mean that, for he has already said that anyone who claims to be without sin is a liar. (1 John 1:8). This conflict is what explains the attempts to soften the verse.

    But John was not governed by our modern sense of precision, particularly when drawing contrast such as he is doing here. This does not mean the statement is inaccurate, but rather we must seek to understand it has he wrote it; where this is true, but not yet fully realized; where we are Children of god, but what we will be had not yet been revealed. (3:2)

    This is, again, while I do not believe that statements about cleansing us of our sins are to be seen as mere restatements of forgiveness. There can be no darkness in God, and for us to be in fellowship with him requires that we not only be forgiven, but cleansed.

    To see this as habitual sin, etc., is to not only soften but to undermine John’s argument. God does not want us to be mostly free from sin or to just be free from habitual sin; he wants us completely free from sin. Sin is fundamentally a rebellion against God and we cannot be in fellowship with him, and rebelling against him at the same time. So while the discussion of habitual or continual sin is probably a valid way of understanding how this verse applies to our daily life, it is important to realize that this was not the argument that John was making.

    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] 3:9 Lit. his
    [2] 3:10 Lit. are revealed
    [3] 3:12 Lit. Not like Cain
    [4] 3:12 The Gk. lacks actions

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 3:7

    Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 28: Apr 29, 2012

    John closes this first major section with a final warning and instruction.

    Study

    h. Don’t be Deceived (3:7 – 3:10)

    i. Premise: Don’t be Deceived (3:7a)

    7 – Little children, don’t let anyone deceive you.

    - John closes out this first major section by returning to his original message with a final warning: Don’t be deceived. John’s opponents were spreading false doctrine. A major purpose of the first section has been to point out the errors of the group who left, so it is very fitting that John finishes this section with a final warning and a summation of his points.

    - John does this by dividing the world into two camps: those that follow Jesus, and by implication the ones we can believe, and those who follow the devil and by implication are trying to deceive us.

    ii Distinguishing between Righteous and Unrighteous (3:7b-3:10)

    7b – The person who practices righteousness is righteous, just as the Messiah[1] isrighteous.

    - When looking at whom to believe (i.e., not be deceived) we must look to their actions. A follower of the Jesus must be righteous, because Jesus was. This is more than just moral purity it also includes a proper relationship with God.

    Questions and Discussion

    As can be seen by the shortness of the study, this week had a lot of discussion. The initial jumping off point concerned the question of how Mormons, who often are so smart, can believe the claims of Mormonism. After all, the evidence against Mormonism is very strong. Before we had proceed down that path very far someone pointed out that secularists often make the same charge against Christians; how can seemingly smart people believe in Christianity?

    First off, while the questions may at first seem similar, the answers are vastly different. This is because the levels and nature of the evidence for Mormonism and for Christianity are worlds apart. We know there was a Israel, a Judea, a Rome, an Assyria, and Egypt ruled by Pharaohs. We know that many of the cities mentioned such as Babylon, Jerusalem and Bethlehem existed. We know that people such as King David lived. We know that many of the events described occurred. In short we know that a large number of the things mentioned in the Bible are accurate.

    On the other hand, not a single person, place, or event, mention in the Book of Mormon about the New World can be confirmed to have existed or occurred, and many of the things we know about the New World, do not seem to match the descriptions in the Book of Mormon. In short, when it comes to Mormonism vs. Christianity as it has been understood and practiced for 2000 years, the evidence is strongly on the side of historic Christianity.

    How about the secularist? 50 years ago you could make a better case for the secularism, but not today. For example, 50 year ago all the classical arguments for the existent of God were seen as having been refuted and only of historical interest, to be studied only for what light they could shed on the thinking of earlier philosophers, but not to be taken serious today. Why? This was largely because of the philosophy of Kant. In extremely abbreviated form, Kant believed that our knowledge was limited by our ability to perceive, and that since we cannot perceive God, we cannot know anything about God. As a result the classical arguments can really tell us nothing.

    This all seemed well and good in a world governed by Newtonian physics. But as Quantum Mechanics came to be understood, Kant’s theories broke down. Again in very brief fashion, if Kant was correct, then the uncertainly principle should likewise have been a barrier to our understanding. But it wasn’t. Before long scientist developed and tested theories, that if Kant was correct, they should not have been able to do. As a result in the later part of the 20th century all the classical theories were revived and are once again under serious discussion. This is just one of many developments that have cast doubt on naturalism.

    In fact today it is the scientific naturalist, i.e., those that limit reality to the natural world, rejecting any possibility of a reality beyond the natural that has problems with the evidence. For example both major scientific theories for the origin of the universe require a beginning. Thus we have only two possibilities, either the universe, the natural world as we know it, came from nothing, or it came from something.

    Something from nothing is a logical impossibility and if anything a definition of magic. To accept it would either be special pleading if restricted only to the origin of the universe, or would completely undermine the concept of science if taken as a general principle. Either view would undermine scientific naturalism. That leaves that it came from something. But this would demonstrate an existence of something beyond the natural and would likewise undermine scientific naturalism. Thus the current state of the scientific evidence argues strongly against scientific naturalism.

    Nor does the evidence stop there. While miracles were difficult to account for in a world governed by Newtonian physics, they are not hard at all to account for in Quantum mechanics where everything is governed by probability. This is particularly true with the views of Quantum mechanics that claim that nothing actually happens until there is a mind that forces a resolution from an indeterminate state. In such a universe, why couldn’t the mind of God cause the quantum states in the dead body of Jesus, to resolved themselves into a state of life.

    Given the state of the evidence today, the better question is not how a can a smart person be a Christian, but why isn’t everyone a Christian? The answer lies in the fact that in the end, this is not a question of evidence. The evidence is on the side of the Christian. The real problem is not evidence, but sin. It is not a matter of logical arguments but spiritual rebellion.

    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] 3:7 Lit. as he

    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