How’s your memorization coming? Are you partnering with a friend in real life to rehearse your progress? I find it so helpful to recite to my prayer partner, because she catches the little mistakes and slips that might otherwise become habitual errors. And we agree that 1 John is more difficult than others that we have memorized, with his returning to the same theme and using the same words and phrases over and over again. It is worth the effort though, so don’t give up! Just last week I had occasion to draw from my memory some needed assurance as I prayed with a friend over a difficult providence laid on her family by our loving Lord, and it was precious to examine the circumstance through the lens of what we know to be true in Christ.
Speaking of truth, in this week’s passage, John moves to a new contrast: truth vs. lie. We have learned the difference between light and darkness, love and hate, and now we will explore the distinction between those who know the truth and those who peddle lies. John will also introduce to us the antichrist, who, because he is fundamentally opposed to Christ, denies that Jesus is the Christ. And in this we learn the third assurance for faith, the Test of Doctrine: what do you believe about Jesus, the Son of the Father?
John couples what we believe to be true about Jesus to what we believe about the Father. If we hold to the truth that Jesus is the Christ—the eternal Son of God, eternally sent to secure for us the promise of eternal life—then we are confirmed in holding to the truth about the Father who sent him. If, however, we say that we believe in the Father, but not the Son—Jesus who is the Christ—then we don’t understand, nor can we believe the truth about, the Father. Our faith in the Father is inextricably tied to our belief about the Son. This is no small matter. To deny that Jesus is the Christ is to deny the very core doctrine of Christianity. To confess that Jesus is the Christ—a believing, in faith, confession—is to possess both the Father and the Son.
And finally, we have the exhortation from John to abide in the gospel: the confession that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior. We need this confession to abide in us, and if it is our abiding confession, it is there because the Holy Spirit put it there, and we therefore also abide in the Father and in the Son. Mutual abiding is the product of God’s gracious gift of faith, not our confession. Blessed assurance, indeed.
And so, on to our memory aids.
Last week’s passage ended with ‘knowledge,” and from that we leap straight to another purpose statement John gives for writing this epistle:
21 I write to you, not because you do not know the
truth, but because you know it, and because no lie
is of the truth.
This is classic John. He gives us both sides of the coin and the contrast. Look for 3 because statements and 3 occurrences of the truth. He writes to us (on the one side) not because you do not know the truth, but (on the other side) because you know it, and (by way of contrast) because no lie is of the truth. It’s so obvious, but he is closing every loophole with this concise statement. (Paul would have taken three paragraphs…)
22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is
the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the
Father and the Son.
Speaking of truth and lies, he now tells us who tells the lies: (ask and answer yourself these questions) Who is the liar (?) but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? (Elaborate the answer) This is the antichrist (restate for emphasis), he who denies the Father and the Son. We run through this twice:
Who is-he who denies/This is-he who denies.
23 No one who denies the Son has the Father.
Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
As if that wasn’t simple enough, John boils it down to two clear, concise, and contrasting statements. Also note that he is answering an unwritten, but surely asked question; “But what about those who confess belief in the Father—if I only deny the Son, what has that to do with the Father?” John makes it clear that the Son and the Father are a package deal, there is no separating them, no `a la carte Christianity. Silently ask yourself that question after verse 22 and 23 is the answer.
24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in
you. If what you heard from the beginning abides
in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in
This one is both difficult and simple. For me it’s difficult to remember that it goes right here, and simple in that it is a threefold repetition of the same idea, almost verbatim. To remember that it goes here, remember that our confession of the Son and the Father is a confession of what we heard in the beginning, This may not look like a simple memory aid, but for me, understanding the meaning is key to the memory sticking. Here are some hooks— Let, If, then—simple formula. Let (what you heard…), If (what you heard…), then (result: you too will abide in the Son and in the Father—still a package deal).
25 And this is the promise that he made to us—
We end our passage the result of the abiding that John has just exhorted us to seek—abiding in the Son and in the Father is the fulfillment of the promise that God has made to his people throughout history, and its result is eternal life. To “abide in” eternal beings—the Son and the Father—is to have eternal life.
I pray that you find deeper encouragement in the gospel through this week’s memorization. May this word of Christ dwell in you richly and reap its intended harvest of encouragement and assurance, strengthening your faith and emboldening your walk with him.