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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

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  • 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

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

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 26: Apr 15, 2012

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

    Study

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

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

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

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

    abide in him

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

    Then, when he appears.. when he comes

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Since you know that he is righteous

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

    everyone who practices righteousness

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

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

    has been fathered by God

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

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

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

    and that is what we are!

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

    For this reason the world

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

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

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

    See here for references and more background on the class.

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

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


    Footnotes:

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

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

    Wednesday, April 11th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 25: Mar 25, 2012

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

    Study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. You have the promise of eternal life

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

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

    – Confession – Having – Remaining – Eternal Life

    ii. Summary (2:26-27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    27 The anointing you received from Him abides in you

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

    and you do not need anyone to teach you.

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

    Instead… abide in him

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

    a. His anointing teaches you about everything

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

    b. and is true and not a lie

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

    c. as he taught you to do.

    This is what Jesus wants.

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

    See here for references and more background on the class.

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

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


    Footnotes:

    [1] 2:25 Lit. that he
    [2] 2:26 Lit. written these things
    [3] 2:27 ISV God
    [4] 2:27 ISV adds this
    [5] 2:27 ISV God’s
    [6] 2:27 The Gk. lacks to do

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

    Monday, April 2nd, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 24: Mar 18, 2012

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

    Study

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

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

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

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

    the person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah

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

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

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

    No one who denies the Son has the Father.

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

    Questions and Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

    See here for references and more background on the class.

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

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


    Footnotes:

    [1] 2:22 Or Christ

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:18b-19

    Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 22: Mar 4, 2012

    We left off last time in the middle of John’s discussion of his opponents and what was meant by his use of the term “the last hour.”

    Study

    e. Their Position (2:18-27)

    i. Antichrists a sign of the time (2:18-19)

    18 – Little children, it is the last hour. Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour.

    Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming,

    – The word Antichrist is a source of great confusion. The problem is not in translating from Greek to English as antichrist is simply a transliteration of ἀντίχριστος (antichristos). The problem is in translating from the 1st century to the 21st. John is the only one to use this term in the New Testament. Jesus warned about False Christs (ψευδόχριστοι – Mk 13:22; Mt 24:24) and he spoke of the abomination of desolation (Mk 13:14). Paul warned about the the man of lawlessness (ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας — 2 THess 2:3). It is also possible that the Book of Revelations had already been written with its references to the Beast and/or False Prophet (Rev 13:19-20). Whatever the reference, John is referring to an antichrist that will to come at some time in the future.

    so now many antichrists have appeared.

    – Just as there will be an Antichrist, now there are many antichrists. The view is that these will be lesser ones leading up to the real antichrist. They share the same spirit and these antichrists will be the precursor to the real thing. But this is where the problem begins. Over the last 2000 years we have added a lot of baggage to the term antichrist, particularly once Hollywood jumped and made movies like The Omen. But little if any of this was in John’s mind or the mind of his readers. So we must try to understand the term as John intended, which refers to those against or opposed to Christ.

    This is how we know it is the last hour.

    – It is the presences of the antichrists that tells us we are in the last hour. Returning to last week’s question about the meaning of “the last hour” we can note the following:

    • It cannot be the very last hour, because then it would be the real antichrist instead of the precursors.
    • The presents of the antichrists must be exclusive of the time period “the last hour.”

    Given this, what makes these unbelievers different from the unbelievers in other times? There have always been unbelievers that have denied and/or rebelled against God. But unlike others, these unbelievers claim to be followers of Christ, when in reality they oppose him and in that they corrupt the faith. The “last hour” then is that period of time where some unbelievers will cloak there unbelief by claiming to be true followers or Christ.

    Looking at the options from last week, John it would seem, meant either Option A (that age from the ministry of Christ to the Second Coming) or possibly C (referring more the quality of the age rather than the time period). It is important to note that John is not talking about WHEN the second coming will happen, he is talking about the period of deception leading up to it and he is point out that this period had already started.

    i. They Left us (2:19-20)

    19 – They left us, but they were not part of us, for if they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us. Their leaving made it clear that none of them was really part of us.

    They left us

    – John’s readers have known who he was talking about from the very beginning, now we find out. The Greek is ambiguous (ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν) . This could refer to origin – us being the place they were from, or it could refer to membership –they had belonged to us. But either way this was a church split. They were once a part of the church but they left.

    First century churches were normally small and close so the split certainly involved friends, and very likely family members. This was the event that sparked the letter, and it helps us to understand the context that stood behind the it. These people has been in the middle of this so there was no need for John to have mentioned this at the beginning of the letter. They already knew exactly what was going on.

    – It is important to note that they were not thrown out, they left. While disputes and disagreements were common in the early church people did not leave the faith. For example, in Gal 2:11 Paul wrote about his disagreement with Peter. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly wrong. In Act 15:39 the disagreement between Paul and Barnabus was so sharp that they parted ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Yet while they parted ways, neither left the faith. In Rom 14: 13 Paul gives the following instruction to those who were in disagreement Therefore, let’s no longer criticize each other. The disputes in Romans 14 were over questions that still arise in the church today such as what day to meet, and what you can eat and drink. It is interesting that Paul did not seek to settle these issues, but instead told us not to be critical of those who make different choice than we do.

    But in the chruch John was writting to, there was something far more fundamental than a dispute over which day we should worship on. These people departed over core doctrine—They had left the faith. But this immediately raises the question that if Christians can abandon their faith, what does that say about eternal security?

    they were not part of us

    – John address the issue by refuting the premise, they did none loose their salvation because never were in the faith. He does this by first making a claim, and then gives a logical argument to support it.

    – Technically his argument is a hypothetical syllogism of the form Modus Tollens. This is a deductive argument, which means if the premises are true, the conclusion is guaranteed. If we put it into classical form:

    If they had been part of us, then they would have stayed with us.
    They did not stay with us.�
    Therefore they were not part of us.

    Questions and Discussion

    The discussion this week centered a lot on the term antichrist and how applicable it is to groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Here we much be careful. As John intended the term, i.e., referring to those who claim to be follows of Christ when they really oppose him, the term would be accurate. However, that is not the common meaning of the term today. To say that Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses are antichrists would really be inaccurate without a lot of qualifications about exactly what is meant by the term. It may be accurate in the way that John used the term, but it would not be accurate given the modern understanding.

    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 2:16-2:18a

    Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 21: Feb 26, 2012

    We left off last time in the middle of John’s commandment to believers not to love the world. In verse 16 John expands on what he means with this commandment.

    Study

    d. Our Position (2:12-17)

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

    16 – For everything that is in the world—the desire for fleshly gratification,[1] the desire for possessions,[2] and worldly arrogance—is not from the Father but is from the world.

    John now goes on to explain what he means by not loving the world with three examples. The first two of these are marked by the word desire (επιθυμια), which refers to a strong impulse or desire (Freberg). The word is not inherently negative as it is used here, it is neutral. It can just as equally refer to a desire to do good as it does in Heb 6:11, But we want (επιθυμουμεν)each of you to continue to be diligent to the very end, in order to give full assurance to your hope.

    for fleshly gratification

    The first clause is literally: The desire of the flesh. It can refer to sexual desire, but could be anything the flesh desires. The Jewish sense of this concept was for desires that focused on the self. It is putting yourself and your wants first.

    As a side note: This is one of the reasons works cannot earn Salvation. Working to earn salvation is grounded in a desire for self, i.e., to earn salvation. You are working to earn benefits for yourself. Such works cannot please God. Works that are pleasing to God come from Love, love of God and Love of others, whereas working to earn salvation is grounded in love of self.

    for possessions

    The second clause is literally: of the eye. It refers to a desire caused by what one sees and is ultimately desire for things: See it – Want it. The problem is that it puts things ahead of people.

    worldly arrogance (η αλαζονεια του βιου)

    The third clause is literally: false pride of life. It refers to a false pride (αλαζονεια) or arrogance that is unfounded, taking a false or exaggerated sense of pride. This is not, for example, taking pride in your work. Here the pride refers to a false pride of life, or the things of life. It is a pride that forgets that everything we have comes from God. (1 Cor 11:12) If we are boasting about how good we are, how smart we are, how good our house is, or about just about anything, without recognizing that fact, we have a false pride of life.

    As noted last week, verses 15 and 16 need to be read together. The focus of these two verses is not so much on these things per se, but on the love of these things. We may have desire for fleshly gratification or possessions, or worldly arrogance, but what is our attitude about it? While this may at first seem strange, consider what Paul said in Rom 7:15 I don’t understand what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I want to do, but instead do what I hate. We might not be able to always control that we have improper desires, but we can control if we love them. We can choose to be like Paul, we can hate what we do, and strive to follow God, even if we fail from time to time.

    17 – And the world and its desires are fading away, but the person who does God’s will remains forever.

    John now gives another reason why we should not love the things of the world. This world is temporary, while God is forever. If we are going to love something, we should love that which will last.

    e. Their Position (2:18-27)

    i. Antichrists a sign of the time (2:18)

    18 – Little children, it is the last hour. Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour.

    Little children, here this phrase marks a change of thought. Having made our position clear, John now turns to the position of his opponents.

    it is the last hour

    This is the only place this phrase occurs in the NT and this raises the question of what does John mean by it is the last hour (εσχατη ωρα εστιν)

    Option A: This is the final period of History, i.e., from the ascension to the second coming. John 4:23a Yet the time is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. This phrase is thus similar to the phase “the last days” such as in Heb 1:2a has in these last days spoken to us by a Son

    Option B: This is the final part (hour) of the last days, i.e., John is saying that they are very near the tribulation. According to Marshall this is the position held by most commentators. It is hard, but not impossible, to reconcile this view with the fact that it is now 2011, and this “hour” has lasted over 2000 years. John’s view can be seen as expressing the idea that Christ could come at any time. Or it is possible that John had a different view of time, a view of time that any time after the ascension is the final hour.

    Option C: The phrase is referring to a quality of the current age as opposed to a time period. Along these lines it should be noted that there is no definite article (the) in the Greek text, and this could also be translated as: It is a last hour, an age marked by anticipation by Christians, and rebellion by the world.

    Before we can make a decision concerning what John meant we need to look at the how John expands on this in the latter part of the verse and that is where we will pick 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] 2:16 Lit. for the flesh

    [2] 2:16 Lit. of the eyes

     

    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..