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Archive for the 'The Epistles of John' Category

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

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

Saturday, January 14th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week 16:  Jan  8, 2012

We return to the study of First John. Having refuted the second claim, John now turns to the correct teaching.

Study

ii.            Three Proposition Refuted (1:6-10)

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.

–          confess here is present active, which indicates an ongoing process. Confession is not just something we do when we are saved; it is something that we continually do as we seek forgiveness for sin.

in his faithful righteousness

–          The forgiveness that follows confession stems from both the faithfulness of God and his righteousness.   He is faithful, and so forgives us because he said he would.   That he is righteous shows that he can, as Jesus paid the price for our sins.

he forgives us for those sins

–          Some see a significance in the word Forgives (ἀφῇ).  It basically means “to leave” but takes on a variety of meaning depending on the context.   In terms of locations such as a city, it means to leave that location.   But when used of an object such as a book, it means to leave it in place.  In reference to people it means to send them way or to let them go.  For financial transactions it refers to canceling, or forgiving a debt.   In terms of sin, it means simply to pardon or forgive.  But his range of meaning does show why context is so important when determining the meaning of a word.  One certainly would not want to use the meaning for objects, i.e., to leave in place, in this context.

cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

–          The passage says that God not only forgives us, but that He also cleanses us.   Most commentators see cleanse and forgive as the same.   If so then the use of both in this passage is a form of emphasis

I, however, think there is a distinction here. John’s key premise is that God is Light and can have no darkness.  God not only forgives us, he cleanses us and it is this cleansing that allows us to have fellowship with him.  This is why confession of sin is so important.

I also think there is an implied argument here:

Since the opponents did not think that they had sin, there was no confession

Since there was no confession, there was no forgiveness

Since there was no forgiveness, they were still in darkness

Since they were still in darkness, they had no fellowship with God.

How does the teaching of Light and darkness line up with the modern Churches view of sin? This is one of those balancing acts.  Sin is a serious matter, yet the ability to confess and be forgiven has lead some to the false belief that it is no big deal.  Yet if we focus too much on sin, we miss the blessings of forgiveness.  Only though constant pray can we keep the correct balance.

1:10 –  If we say that we have never sinned, we make him a liar and his word has no place in us.

–          John now moves on to the Claim #3 : we have never sinned

With this claim, it is unclear whether this is an actual claim made by John’s opponents, or if this is a summary of the other two claims.  In support of it being a summary, the claim we have never sinned is very close to Claim #2 that we do not have any sin. On the other hand, it could be a response to the implied argument;  I need no forgiveness because I have never sinned.  While the distinction would have been important to the people to which John wrote,  it is largely irrelevant to us.  We are not caught up that particular controversy, and instead are looking for the universal applications that apply to us and this is the same for both understandings.

–          Refutation #3: we make him a liar

The him here is God.  To say that we have never sinned is to call God a liar.

1 Kings 8:46   When they sin against you—because there isn’t a single human being who doesn’t sin…

Isa 53:6  All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, each of us, to his own way;

Rom 3:23  since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God’s glory

his word has no place in us.

–          One cannot be in fellowship with God and deny his word.   To deny sin is to deny the need for forgiveness and to deny the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross.   For someone to do this, it is no wonder that John would say that his word (λόγος)  has no place in them.

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

i.            Jesus the Messiah is our advocate (2:1-2)
2:1 – My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you might not sin. Yet if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus, the Messiah[1], one who is righteous.

My little children

–          John seems to mark transition/emphasis with such phrases, as he does here.   Before going on to give the third counter teaching, he wants to make sure that he is being clear about the nature of forgiveness.

I’m writing these things to you

–          Note the change from 1:4 – We are writing these things. While 1 John 1:4 referred to the writings of the eyewitness, i.e., the New Testament, here these things, is referring to what he has just written.

so that you might not sin.

–          One possible conclusion of the teaching John has just given is that it is ok to sin; after all we can always seek forgiveness.  Paul realized this as well after giving similar teaching to the church at Rome.  Thus in Romans 6:1-2 Paul rhetorically asks,  What should we say, then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Of course not! Likewise, here, John points out that forgiveness of sin is not a license to sin, and this would run counter to the teaching of God’s Word.  We do not have forgiveness so that we can sin.  We have forgiveness of sin, so we can have relationship with God.

Having clarified that this is not a license to sin, John proceeds on to Counter – Teaching #3 :

Yet if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus, the Messiah

–          The word for advocate (παράκλητον) here is the same word as in John 14:16 referring to the Holy Spirit.  It literally means to call alongside, to encourage, to exhort.  It is one of those words for which there is no single English word.  It can refer to a lawyer, but the concept here is far more than just legal counsel.  It refers to someone who really cared for you well-being.   It can refer to a counselor, or a comforter, or helper, but these are likewise too limited.  You can think of this a as dear friend who is your lawyer, who counsels, comforts and helps you. In the context here, the lawyer/advocate part has the primary the focus.  As Jesus will argue for our forgiveness before the Father

one who is righteous

–          Jesus can take this role because he is righteous. We are unrighteous and have no basis upon which to ask forgiveness, but Jesus can ask on our behalf.   Jesus died for our sins, and yet remains righteous because he is infinite.  Regardless of how many people will have ever lived, or how much sin they have committed, it will in the end be finite amount.  When heaven and earth pass away, there will have been a certain number of people who committed a certain number of sins.  However big it will be, it will be finite, but Jesus is infinite.  However big humanities sin, his righteousness will overwhelm it as drop of black ink, dropping in a white ocean the size of the universe.  Thus he can bear our sins and still be righteous.  It is on this basis that he will ask for our forgiveness and we can be assured that we will be forgiven.

Next week will pick up with 1 John 2:2.

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 2:1 Or Christ

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

Saturday, December 17th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week 15: Dec 18, 2011

This week we continued to unpack John’s arguments. While his teaching were largely aimed at addressing those who had broken away from the church, they have a lot to say about how we live our life today.

Study

ii. Three Proposition Refuted (1:6-10)

1:7 But if we keep living in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

– Having refuted the first claim, John now gives the counter teaching.

But if we keep living in the light as he himself is in the light

– Note the contrast between “If we say…” and “But if we keep living.” While those who had left were making claims about a relationship, it is what we do that is most important. In this case, we must live in the light. As was made clear in the Gospel of John, Jesus is our example of how we are to live. We should seek to follow him and do his will.

we have fellowship with one another

– The first result of right living is fellowship. It is the fellowship of believers that is in focus here, but all fellowship depends on “living in the light.” This is because sin damages our ability to have real fellowship with one another. This can most easily be seen in the bonds between a husband and a wife. The sin of adultery seriously damages that that relationship such that, even if forgiven, it can take a long time to heal. But the sin does not need to be as significant as adultery to cause damage. Lots of “little things” that seemingly could be brushed off can still have a cumulative effect and can keep a deeper relationship from ever forming in the first place.

It can seem strange that numerous studies have clearly demonstrated that the more and deeper the relationships that a person has, the more joy they will have in their lives. And yet in recent years such relationships have been harder to form and harder to maintain. But it is only strange until one realizes that over the same period society as a whole has devalued and even ridiculed the notion of “living in the light.”

the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin

– The idea that we should be living in the light does not mean we will never sin. John realizes that we will fail, but that we can be cleansed of our sins. One question is why does John refer to being cleansed here rather than forgiven? While some see the concepts as synonymous, I believe they are different and that here John has a particular reason for referring to cleansing. The reason goes back to his starting premise: God is light, and in him there is no darkness. We cannot be in fellowship with God while we have the stain, or darkness, of sin. Thus, the fact that we are cleansed is key to John’s claim that we have fellowship. This is also a repudiation of those who left, for they were claiming that sin did not matter. In short, they were claiming that darkness could be in God.

1:8 – If we say that we do not have any sin, we are deceiving ourselves and we’re not being truthful to ourselves.

– Here we come to the second claim: we do not have any sin. In this claim it is easy to see a rebuttal to John’s refutation of their first claim. John countered their claim to fellowship by pointing out that those who had left were walking in darkness. So you can almost hear them respond, “I am not walking in darkness because I do not have any sin.” In later Gnostic writing there were different views of this, both of which could be covered by the Greek construction here. Some argued that sin had no hold over them. Others argued that sin was just physical and that only the spiritual mattered. But either way they were arguing that the way they lived was no a barrier to fellowship with God.

– John refutes this second claim by pointing out that if we make such a claim, we are deceiving ourselves. We, after all, know ourselves better than anyone else, so to think that we have no sin is first and foremost to lie to ourselves.
The idea that we can lie to yourselves is at first blush a seeming contradiction. To lie, is to say anything with the intent of deceiving; but how could we deceive ourselves without knowing that we are deceiving ourselves? Yet while intellectually a problem, in reality the concept is so common place that it is not that strange at all. We deceive ourselves all the time. This is one of the key aspects of coming into a deeper relationship with God. A true relationship cannot be built on lies, so the first step in a deeper relationship is being honest with ourselves and with God about who we really are. Before we can really know God, we must first know ourselves. We must break through all the rationalization and self-justifications and see ourselves as God sees us. This can be a very difficult and even painful process, but it is important to remember that we can seek forgiveness and with God’s help become the person God wants us to be, a person who does not need to hide behind lies and rationalizations.

Questions and Discussion.

A lot of the discussion this week centered on the concept and value of true fellowship. True fellowship is a deep and abiding relationship, a relationship where one can be open about their lives, their struggles and their failures. While the amount of true fellowship in a person’s life is perhaps the clearest indicator of a truly joyful life, it is also difficult obtain and once obtained is easily damaged. True fellowship requires openness, and openness requires trust. At its core sin damages relationships, both with God and with each other. We also spent time taking about how societal pressures push toward casual swallow relationship, rather than true fellowship.

The class is taking a break for Christmas and the New Year, and will resume on Sunday January 8th 2012 where we will continue in 1 John 9

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 6

Thursday, December 8th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week 14:  Dec 11, 2011

This week we began to unpack John arguments and saw that 1 Century Gnosticism shared some key characteristic with modern 21 Century thought.

Study

ii.            Three Proposition Refuted (1:6-10)

Having establish his premise (that God is light) John now begins to address the claims of the group that left.  But rather than doing this specifically, John shows their inconsistency by stating their claims by as universal principles; principles that they were not living up to. He starts with three claims and formats his arguments in the following fashion.

Claim/Refutation:                    If we claim that…/ we are… – v 6
Counter-Teaching        :           But if we – v 7

Claim/ Refutation:                   If we claim that…/we are… – v 8
Counter- Teaching       :           (But) if we – v 9

Claim/ Refutation:                   If we claim that…/we make… – v 10
Counter- Teaching       : …But if anyone – v 2:1 – Expansion in next section.

These were almost certainly claims that were made by the splinter group. But since John is phrasing these as universal principles, these claims can be troubling for Christians if taken out of context. Thus it is important to remember that John is combating heresy and his readers knew the people to which he was referring. They used to all be members of the same local church. Thus, as John is contrasting the behavior of the heretics with the lives of his readers, he does not need to provide a lot of details to show his readers that they had the truth, not the heretics that left.

1:6 – If we claim that we have fellowship with him but keep living in darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth.

If we claim

–          The construction of the Greek (if + subjunctive) shows that this and the claims that follow are said as a hypothetical.   By stating the claims in this way John is including himself and his readers. He is making it clear that these are universal rules, and not just rationales created to attack his opponents. There is something fundamentally wrong with their claims.  Their inconsistency meant that they cannot possibly be right no matter how good what they say may sound.

Claim #1 : we have fellowship with him

–          This was a key claim of his opponents.  They had fellowship with God.  Gnosticism stressed that a true relationship could only be had by initiates who had the secret knowledge that Gnosticism provided.

but keep living in darkness

–          Lit: Keep walking. In context this refers to continuous walk that differs from the teaching of God.  This passage has concerned some Christians because they realize they fail on a daily basis to live as God wants. As such, they see themselves as living in darkness. But, as we will see shortly, John is not asking for perfection.  The issue here is not one of perfection, but rather that for Gnostics such things did not really matter. It was the unseen spiritual not the physical that was important.  Thus it was not that they tried and failed, but that they saw no reason to try, which is not the case with most Christians.  As one Pastor I had put it, if you are worried about this verse, then most likely it is not referring to you.

With his mention of “darkness” John ties this back to his starting premise, a premise that his critics would have accepted. As John will make clear shortly, some of this “darkness” was that those who left do not have fellowship with one another (v7) and they “hates his brother.” (v 2:9) But while we do not know the exact specifics of how his opponents were living in the darkness, his readers would have understood the argument.

A key difference between Christianity and (proto) Gnosticism is that Gnosticism saw salvation, not as freedom from sin, but from ignorance.  Ethics and morality were seen as just systems of rules, and as such to be resisted. Right conduct results, not from following external rules, but from inner integrity with the in-dwelling spark.

In some respects Gnosticism has a lot in common with modern thought.  Today we also see “salvation” in knowledge.    In fact the solution to most problems is seen as education.  Have a problem with anger?  This really does not have anything to do with sin. Rather it is a lack of knowledge and therefore the solution is to go to anger management classes.   It would be as if, instead of telling the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more” a modern Jesus said, “go and take a remedial class.”

In addition, while the terminology is a little different, the modern view of morality held in the culture at large would be pretty consistent with the Gnostic view of morality, except rather than that saying they are guided by an inner spark as with Gnosticism, today we would phrase it as that we should be guided by our heart.   

Refutation #1: we are lying and not practicing the truth.

–          Yet while they claim they have fellowship, John shows that their lives are in contradiction with the truth they claim to have.  God is light.  Those who walk in darkness cannot be in fellowship with God.   Note that again, as in 2 & 3 John, the key standard here is Truth.   This is a very important standard for proto-Gnostics as their big claim was that they had the secret truth that no one else had.  So to show that they are lying and don’t have the truth goes to the very core of their claims.

Questions and Discussion.

Much of the discussion this week centered on the nature of Gnosticism, its view of the importance of knowledge and its view of morality, and how they are similar to modern views.  There are differences to be sure, but there is broad similarity as well. Thus as John is talking about those who left the church to which he is writing, he is also saying a great deal about the modern world as well.

Next week we will continue in 1 John 7

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 1b-5

Sunday, December 4th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week 13: Dec 4, 2011

This week we finished the prologue and got a brief start into the main part of the letter.

Study

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

what we

John continues with the 2nd of the 4 “whats”, and we immediately come to yet another question. Just who are the “we” mentioned here? One option is that John is using the so called royal we and referring to himself in the plural. While possible, one problem is that elsewhere in the letter John refers to himself saying “I’m writing these things…

Another possibility is that “we” refers to the church at large. While this is consistent with some the later usage, (e.g. 1:6) this would seem to negate the importance of the eyewitness aspect of the testimony since by the time the letter was written, most Christians were not eyewitnesses.

With the stress on eyewitnesses, another possibility is that “we” refers to those who like John were eyewitnesses. While this is consistent with the stress on eyewitness, I believe there is better possibility: The apostles. This is similar to the previous option but is focused on the authority and consistency of message. This is not just John, but all the Apostles who heard the message. He is being sure to point out that he is not special, but that he was an eyewitness, just as other apostles were eyewitnesses.

have heard

The verb here is perfect tense indicating that this was a completed action and not one that was continuing. The message was complete and was not new was the case with his opponents teaching. This emphasis on hearing would stress the message more than the person.

what we have seen with our eyes

This is the third “What.” That it was something that that could be seen, shows that this is more than just a message, this a person, but could also include the miracles. Again, note the emphasis here. This was not just something that was seen; this was something that they saw with their own eyes.

This part conflicts with proto-gnostic teaching. Gnostics believed that outwardly you would only see Jesus. The Christ was within and unseen. Because of this, it is easy to understand why John would choose to emphasizes this point.

what we observed

The 4th and Last of the 4 “whats” is yet a further emphasis on visible nature of the “What.” This verb differs from the previous “have seen” in that it stresses continuity and attention. It often has the implication that what is being observed is unusual or out of the ordinary. Gnostics saw nothing unusual in Jesus. For them, it was the Christ within him that was special.

and touched with our own hands

Not a separate “what,” but linked to the previous one. Not only did they see the “what,” they touched it with their own hands. Again note the emphasis, this was not just something one could touch, but something they did touch. While a miracle could be seen, touching stresses the physical person of Christ.

this is the Word of life!

Having gone through the four “Whats” we come to the center of the chiasmus, and the focus of the “whats.” The Greek phrase could be translated several different ways:

1 this is word of life
2 concerning the word of life
3 the message concerning life
4 the message which is life
5 the life giving message

It all depends on how the passage is understood in the syntax. Given the Chiastic structure, I support the first view – Both the message and the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself the physical manifestation of the Word of God, a message that is focused on eternal life.

1:2 – This life was revealed to us, and we have seen it and testify about it. We declare to you this eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.

Verse one, with it allusions to John 1:1 and ending with The Word focused readers on the message, the logos. But unlike John 1:1 it was not just the Word, but the Word of Life. Here John begins to focuses on the life as he backs out of the chiasmus. (The ↑ ­ mark is to indicate the corresponding phrase in the beginning of the chiasmus.

was revealed to us ↑ observed and touched with our own hands

and we have seen it ↑ what we have seen with our eyes

and testify about it and declare to you ↑ what we have heard

Again note the emphasis on this point with both Testify and Declare. This was not some secret (Gnostic) teaching, but one that was to be testified about and proclaimed.

this eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. ↑ What existed from the beginning

At the beginning we have the Person (Word) but with a strong focus on message. Here at the end we have the result: eternal life. Yet there remains a strong focus on the person of Jesus, i.e. that was with the Father. This is similar to John 1:2 he was in the beginning with God.

In this passage we have the same teaching as John 14:6, Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the embodiment of eternal life in the same way he is the embodiment of the Word of God. It is the whole: Jesus as the embodiment of the message and life that is John’s focus.

This is one of the reasons for the complexity found in this verse. John is tying all of this together with yet another emphasis on the fact that this is not just something that he teaches, but that something to which he and others were eyewitness.

1:3 – What we have seen and heard we declare to you so that you, too, can have fellowship with us. Now this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus, the Messiah.2

Having established his main theme, John returns his reader back to where he left off with a short summary before moving on to the main verb in the sentence.

we declare to you so that you, too, can have fellowship with us

The point of all this is not just abstract theology, but our fellowship (κοινωνίαν). This is an association involving close mutual relations and involvement. (Louw-Nida) There is a unity and oneness to fellowship and this sets it apart from proto-Gnostics who had recent split off, who had broken fellowship.

Now this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus, the Messiah

This is not just a fellowship of other Christians but a fellowship that includes the Father, and also includes his Son, Jesus Christ. This again may be stressing a difference with John’s proto-Gnostic opponents. They had separated and thus were not in fellowship with eyewitnesses. More importantly their theological views put a difference between Jesus and the Christ. Finally, Gnosticism was more individualistic, stressing secret knowledge held by a few, whereas Christian is more communal offering a fellowship to be shared with all true believers.

1:4 – We are writing these things3 so that our4 joy may be full.

Finally John ends the prologue with a statement of purpose. There is an issue here as to exactly what he is referring to when he writes “these things.” Does he mean this letter or something more? A key here is the use of We, which is emphatic. In Greek, pronouns such as ‘we’ are optional as they are already included at the end of the verb itself. The ending –μεν (-men) means ‘we,’ so the word γράφομεν (graphomen) already means “we write,” since it ends in μεν (men). Yet John does not write γράφομεν (graphomen), but γράφομεν ἡμεῖς (graphomen hemeis) where ἡμεῖς (hemeis) is the Greek word for we. Thus he is emphasizing that this is “We,” and not just him. Given the context, discussed above, i.e., of the eyewitness testimony of the apostles, I believe “these things” references to the written version of the testimony of the apostles; to the entire New Testament, or at least as much as had been written to that point.

so that our joy may be full.

This is the second reason clause in the sentence (the first was so we could have fellowship). The verse recalls Jesus words in John 15:11

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete (full).

The “our” here is inclusive. John’s joy would not be complete unless theirs was complete. Remaining in the truth, within the apostolic message, and having a fellowship with the Father, the son, and with other Christians is the way to be full of joy.

I. Part 1 – Light and Darkness (1:5 – 3:10)

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

i. God Is Light – Establishing Common Ground (1:5)

1:5 – This is the message that we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness—none at all!

This is the message

John begins the main part of his letter with the phrase “This is the message.” This basic phase occurs only here and then again in 3:11 which reads, “This is the message that you have heard from the beginning:” I believe phrases mark off the two major sections of the letter.

we have heard from him and declare to you

This message was not a deduction or a belief; it was a revelation from Jesus. John is still referring to the testimony of the apostles. The message was one they heard (perfect – complete), and it is one they declare (Present – ongoing). It remains ongoing even today in the New Testament.

God is light

This is not a statement that is found directly in the rest of the Bible, but some passage come close. John 1:4-5 says, “In him was life, and that life brought light to humanity. 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.” Psalm 104:2 says, “you are wrapped in light like a garment, stretching out the sky like a curtain.

More importantly, the Light and Darkness metaphor is common to many religious traditions during the first century. Itcan be found in Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, and even the Jews at Qumran, talked of “sons of light” and “sons of darkness.” So John is starting at a point of common ground upon which all would agree.

and in him there is no darkness—none at all!

John not only makes the point that God is light positively, but for emphasis he makes the same point negatively. Then for yet further emphasis he add, “none at all!” The metaphor of light includes revelation and salvation, knowledge and morality. So while John is starting with common ground, he is also drawing a clear standard. “God is good and evil can have no place beside him” (Marshall)

Next week we will continue in 1 John 6

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

See here for references and more background on the class.

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

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


Footnotes:

1 v1:1 Lit. about the
2 v1:3 Or Christ
3 v1:4 Other mss. read these things to you {B}
4 v1:4 Other mss. read your {A}


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

Saturday, November 26th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week 12: Nov 27, 2011

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

Study

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

existed from the beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions and Discussion.

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

Next week we will continue in 1 John 1

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

See here for references and more background on the class.

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

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


Footnotes:
1 v1:1 Lit. about the

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

Saturday, November 19th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

Week Eleven: Nov 20, 2011

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

Study

1 John

Outline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Statement (2:3)

a Claim (2:4)

b Counter-Claim (2:5)

2 Restatement (2:6)

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

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

1  Claim (2:9)

a  Counter-Claim (2:10)

2  Restatement of Claim(2:11)

d.      Our Position (2:12-17)

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

e.       Their Position (2:18-27)

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

f.        Why John Writes (2:21-27)

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

1  You know lies are not in the truth

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

1  Those who confess have the son and the father.

iii.      You remain in him (2:24-25)

1 You have the promise of eternal life

iv.       Summary (2:26-27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

b.      True Love Acts (3:18-20)

c.       Love answer prayer (3:21-24)

d.      Test what People Say (4:1-3)

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

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

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

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

a.      Conclusion (5:13-20)

b.      4:21 – Final warning (5:20)

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week we will continue in 1 John 1

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

See here for references and more background on the class.

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

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


Footnotes:

1 v1:1 Lit. about the