1 John P2R, Week 13

This week’s passage for memorization, 1 John 3:23-4:3, includes the end of one train of thought and the beginning of another. By now you may have noticed that the weekly passages aren’t arranged into tidy little segments of a single theological concept. Instead, they are tidy little segments that fit onto the pages of our moleskine journals. That said, they are still in the order which the Holy Spirit inspired John to write, and once memorized as a whole, the page segments will fade into the background and the units of thought will come to the fore.

Our first two verses this week wrap up the flow of thought which began in 3:11: John’s elaboration of the social test that we should love one another. In verse 23, John shows how loving one another goes hand-in-hand with believing in Jesus (the doctrine test), and both fulfill the keeping of God’s commandments (the moral test). In fact, loving one another and believing in Jesus are so mutually dependent that they are essentially a single commandment. John then states that “whoever keeps [these] commandments abides in God and God in him” (3:24). The way that we know that God abides in us is “by the Holy Spirit, whom [God] has given to us.”

From that point we take hold of “Spirit” and swing into John’s discussion of “the spirits” which we must test, “to see whether they are from God,” since “many false prophets have gone out into the world” (4:1). The word “spirit” then shows up twice in each of the verses from 4:1-3. John gives us the secret to decoding whether the spirits we are listening to are the Spirit of God or the spirit of the antichrist: what do they claim about Jesus? If we hear confession of the truth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, we know this is the Spirit of God. If, however, the spirits are not confessing Jesus, we may confidently identify this as the spirit of the antichrist. There is no third option.

And now, the memory aids:

 

23 And this is his commandment, that we believe

in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one

another, just as he has commanded us.

Last week ended with “keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” What are the commandments that we keep, the doing of which pleases God?

And this is his commandment (singular), that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ (the substance of our belief) and love one another (the objects of our love), just as he has commanded us.

 

24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in

God, and God in him. And by this we know that he

abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Absolute statement followed by the proof of abiding:

Whoever keeps (w/o distinction) his commandments abides in God, and God in him (this mutual abiding is the blessing of obedience). And by this we know ( how do we know) that he abides in us (? —>), by the Spirit whom he has given us.

 

4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test

the spirits to see whether they are from God, for

many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Swinging into testing the spirits with reason upon reason upon reason:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit (why?), but test  the spirits (why?) to see whether they are from God (WHY?), for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

 

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit

that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the

flesh is from God,

Here’s how the spirits pass the test:

By this (the confession) you know the Spirit of God: every spirit (w/o exception) that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (<— the whole confession) is from God,

 

3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not

from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which

you heard was coming and now is in the world

already.

And here’s how they fail the test:

and every spirit (w/o exception) that does not confess Jesus is not from God (don’t be fooled!). This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming (you were warned) and now is in the world already (so be alert!).

 

Jesus warned us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, because we are sent out as sheep among wolves (Matt. 10:16). John is giving us the same warning, with the key to unlocking the distinction between the sheep and the wolves: the confession of Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh from God. Those who make this confession are among the sheep, and we are therefore to love them as our brothers and sisters in the faith, even if we disagree over secondary issues of the faith. Those, however, who do not confess Jesus—a primary article of the faith—are not our brothers and sisters, but are confessing the lie of the spirit of the antichrist. Do not be fooled into following these, but continue speaking the truth to them with conviction and love. Who knows, but that the Lord may bring them into his sheepfold in the beloved?

1 John P2R, week 11

Coming off a long hiatus from memorizing makes for a bumpy re-entry. Restoring this discipline to its place in my daily routine has been easier than reminding my brain what we’re doing. However, my efforts at discipline and my rusty brain aren’t the only players in this scheme. The Holy Spirit is helping me, and he will help you as well, to hide God’s word in our hearts.

Week 10 ended with the reminder that loving one another is the message we have heard from the beginning, which gives us a solid tether to week 11 starting with an event that occurred way back at the beginning: Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel. John links murderous intent with hate for one another, just as Jesus equated murder with anger in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21-22). This is a deeper layer of the contrasts John has been using all through his epistle. Love for one another is life-giving; hate for one another is life-taking. Continuing the theme of children of God and children of the devil, John makes his case that children of the devil not only keep on sinning, but, like Cain, they hate those who are righteous with a murderous hatred.

We should therefore not be surprised that the world hates us. Just as love for the world is incompatible with love for the Father (2:15), hatred for our brothers and sisters in Christ is incompatible with being a child of God! In contrast, John tells us that love for the brothers is yet more assuring evidence that we have passed out of death into life. John reiterates his love test again, paired with the contrasting hate of the world. Murderers who do not love abide in death and do not have eternal life abiding in them. John is not making an absolute statement that those who commit murder are forever excluded from life in Christ. We know that the word of God assures us that everyone who believes in Christ—regardless of the sins they have committed or will commit—will be saved. Not saved because of their faith, but because they have been chosen before the foundation of the world by God, saved by his grace because of his lavish love, and given faith to believe (Eph. 1-2:9).

The point John is making is that it is absolutely uncharacteristic of a Christian to not love other Christians, and he will continue to build this case. John is contrasting the one-another love of those who are born of God with those who are from the world, and therefore hate Christians with murderous hatred because they are of the devil. Therefore, we who are of God, and have been loved with the love which was given its highest expression in Christ’s laying down his life for us in his sacrificial death, ought to also love our brothers and sisters in the faith and lay down our lives for them (16).

Now, to the memory aids:

12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil

one and murdered his brother. And why did he

murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and

his brother’s righteous.

We (John includes himself) should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one (because of who he belonged to) and murdered his brother (because of what he did). (Ask yourself-) And why did he murder him? (Answer- 2 reasons) Because his own deeds were evil and (in contrast) his brother’s righteous.

13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world

hates you.

Do not be surprised, (it’s too obvious- really!) brothers, that the world hates you.

14 We know that we have passed out of death into

life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does

not love abides in death.

We know (here’s the assurance) that we have passed out of death into life (why?) because we love the brothers. (in contrast) Whoever does not love abides in death. [Notice that once we also were abiding in death, but now we have passed out of death into life. We underwent a necessary transformation. Keep praying for those who have yet to pass out of death into life!]

15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,

and you know that no murderer has eternal life

abiding in him.

Everyone who hates his brother (no exceptions) is a murderer, and you know (certainty) that no murderer (no exceptions) has eternal life abiding in him. (paired with the previous verse, it is logically inconsistent for one to abide both in death and in life. Murderers cause death and abide in death/ they take life and therefore cannot abide in life.) [Again, no murderer, while abiding in death, has eternal life abiding in him, unless and until he is called out of death into life by the Life-Giving God]

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life

for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the

brothers.

 By this (pointing forward to the example) we know love (here’s the preeminent example of love- the highest definition), that he (Christ) laid down his life for us, and (therefore) we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (because Christ loved us sacrificially, so we ought to love one another sacrificially.)

1 John P2R, Week, ….what?

Well, hello…

My best-laid plans over the holidays for slowing the pace for our Partnering to Remember 1 John fell pretty flat pretty quickly. Sometime in early December I announced that I would post in two-week increments instead of weekly, and then,… crickets. My apologies. Clearly, I underestimated the activity level in my home for the holidays, and/or overestimated my ability to keep up! Continue reading “1 John P2R, Week, ….what?”

1 John P2R, Through the Holiday Season

Dear Ones, Last week I posted a week late for week 10’s memory work. After speaking with a friend who is memorizing with us about the busy-ness of the holidays and her concerns about falling behind, I decided to modify our schedule through December. We won’t “take a break” from memorizing, but we will slow down adding to what we have memorized, allowing us the opportunity to solidify what we have already covered, and time to catch up for those who may be lagging behind a bit.

So, instead of leaping ahead to week 11, dedicate your memorization efforts each day to rehearsing what you have already learned, driving it deeper in your heart for a more secure mastery of the passages. Next week I will post for week 11, and two weeks after that, week 12, … you get the idea. We will resume our weekly schedule mid-January, when our Bible study classes begin anew and our resolve to start the year with newly-strengthened disciplines is refreshed (and the Christmas decorations are packed away).

May your holidays be blessed!