This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday Sept. 15th, 2019.
Today we are beginning an 11-week series that will take us through the book of first John. This is the first of three Epistles written by the Apostle John (He is also the author of the Gospel of John, and Revelation). If you were to read through this first epistle, you would find that love is the central theme, so naturally love will be the theme of this series, hence the title “Love Letter”. Throughout the next couple of months we will look at God’s love shown to us through Jesus Christ; at ways we can love God; how we are called to love one another; loving the truth; Gods love; and having confidence that we are loved because God has given us assurance of eternal life. My prayer for this series is for you is grasp and understand the importance of love in the Christian community (which is local church and the body of Christ at large). I pray that we can all know that when we show love to one another not only are we building community, but we are fulfilling Jesus’ great command to love.
BACKGROUND TO 1 JOHN
Before we get into our message for today, I would like to give some background information for this letter and why it was written. Since the overall picture of John is love, we can better understand how this letter can be applied to our lives today.
After the ascension of Jesus Christ and the disciples disbanded to go their way to fulfill the Great Commission, the Apostle John planted churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). This letter is probably directed to these churches or a specific church in general. We are not sure what happened with the church He is writing, but it is assumed that this once very healthy church (or Churches) were experiencing some troubling times. It is believed this church(es) he is writing to recently had a significant split and eventually divided. It is commonly believed that they were divided over bad doctrine. Some theologians believe a very early form of Gnosticism had begun to take root in this church and was the cause of this great uproar.
Gnosticism was a religious movement in early church history that plagiarized Christian themes by spreading false ideas of salvation. Gnostics taught salvation was attained through acquiring knowledge and not through faith in Jesus Christ. They also taught that salvation was attained through acknowledging or affirming the divine light that is already present in the human soul. (If you are interested in learning a little more about Gnosticism you can Google the topic and there are scores of articles written about the Gnostics.). The Gnostic movement was not popularized until the late second century (well after the Apostles were gone) but John was probably facing an early form of Gnosticism that was beginning to surface and take root.
John’s purpose in writing this letter was to set his readers/the church straight on the basics of Christianity, Christian love and unity. According to the notes in the ESV Study Bible, “(1 John) is not a letter of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. It is rather a manifesto of ‘DONE’… (It) highlights what God the Father has ‘done’ in sending Christ the Son.”
John was an eyewitness to the accounts, words and works of Jesus Christ. He was present with Jesus when he was alive and after his death and resurrection thus this establishes him as an authority of the Gospel which had been so badly misinterpreted or changed. One of the churched John planted in Ephesus was made up of men and women who lived alongside Greeks and knew little to nothing about the O.T. or the ways of Judaism. They were not a group of believers who were caught up in rules and regulations, but instead had a firm dedication to Jesus Christ first and foremost. The church(es) had experienced great fellowship and community in its early stages. In the latter years they began to experience divisions and were being torn apart. Dissenters or rebellious individuals began to emerge in leadership who were very familiar with John’s Gospel account; however, they claimed to have a greater knowledge of God. They claimed to be inspired by God and challenged John’s Gospel message. A modern-day example would be synonymous to someone claiming, “The Gospel is no longer relevant for today. The message of sin, hell, crucifixion, and redemption is archaic. We are living in 2019 and nobody wants to hear this message anymore. People want to be encouraged, lifted up and assured eternal life because they are ultimately good at the core and do good things for in society.” Whenever the Gospel message is changed or perverted, we start seeing heretical teachings or bad theology proclaimed. These leaders in Asia Minor were basically saying, regardless of John’s eyewitness account and life spent with Jesus, his message is not really the message God wanted proclaimed or is not relevant for today. The leaders said, “regardless of what John said God spoke to us and told us that His message is wrong, irrelevant and outdated. What we have to say is actually the truth.” These people caused a great raucous in the church. People began to listen to these leaders while others declared them heretics and thus the fellowship was broken.
In response to this division John writes a letter in hopes of setting the church straight (doctrinally), and promoting love, unity and fellowship. His letter places great emphasis on Christian community and fellowship. The essential message is… “If you understand God’s love (through the teaching of Christ) then you will love God, you will love your brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, and you will love the truth.” Love originates from God and we can love the way He loves because He has given us His Spirit. Gary M. Burge writes in his commentary on the Letters of John, “God loves us, we love Him, and this love spills over to those near us.”
1 JOHN 1:1 – 10
John begins with a very complex and sometimes confusing opening paragraph. According to many commentaries this opening paragraph is a grammatical mess. It appears John had a lot on his mind that he wanted to say, and he just poured everything out on the paper in this first paragraph. He puts everything out there and decides to work out what he has just written throughout the letter. So basically, there is no outline, structure or organization to his letter.
Verse 1: This first verse refers to Jesus. The Word of Life = Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of His ministry John has been with Jesus. He was an eyewitness to all Jesus had said and done. He heard Jesus’ words with his own ears. He saw Jesus with his own eyes. He physically touched Jesus, ate with him, walked with him and he even rested on the chest of Jesus.
Verse 2 & 3: All John saw and heard from Jesus (his teachings) was for the distinct purpose of fellowship. He had fellowship with the Father, with the Apostles and the Apostles with the Father. The purpose of God’s incarnation through Jesus Christ was to reveal Himself to humanity. The revelation of himself to humanity was intended so we could have true fellowship with Him. We can have a relationship with God ONLY because He made himself available to us through Jesus Christ.
Verse 4: The purpose of this letter is intended for encouragement so the readers could experience the full joy of Christ.
Verse 5: The central message of Jesus was to proclaim God is essence of all that is good. He is perfect, pure and complete in all ways. His power, wisdom, mercy, judgment, love, grace & etc. are all perfect and complete. He is lacking nothing in any of these areas. God is the only one who is perfect and without sin. He has nothing to do with darkness or sin whatsoever.
Verse 6: Since we are followers of Jesus Christ, we have fellowship with God. Our lives should be modeled around our commitment to Him. If we have fellowship with God, then we should not pursue or walk in sin/darkness. Christian living = The pursuit holiness through the empowering of the Spirit. We determine to live a life that is distanced from sin. Sin should repulse us, and we should desire to cling to all that is good (God). In a Christians life light and darkness cannot coexist.
Verse 7: When we walk in the light of Jesus Christ, we can then truly experience fellowship with other believers. True Christian fellowship can be attained by walking in the light of Christ. When we walk in Jesus, we experience the ongoing joy of forgiveness of sin. When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ you have been washed in the blood of Jesus. The shed blood of Jesus is what cleanses us from sin and puts us in a right relationship with God.
(What is sin?) Verse 8 & 9: However, for you to become cleansed from sin, you must confess your sins and God is faithful to forgive you of your sins. The first step to living in the light of Christ is coming to terms with the fact that you are a sinner. It is imperative for all of us to know and accept that we are sinners. Since we are sinful, we are out of relation with God, so we must confess and repent from this state of being and seek the forgiveness of God. Without Jesus we cannot be cleansed and without being cleansed we cannot walk in the light.
If one believes he has no sin in his life and is at the core of his being a good person, then he is being fooled and is fed a lie. This lie is where the Gnostic teachings are taken head on. The Gnostic tell an individual she is a good person and has a divine aspect to them thus the issue of sin need not be acknowledged. I know some people are tired of hearing they are sinful and wish to only hear about the good things of Christianity. My friends, there are no good things to Christianity if you are unwilling to admit you are a sinner, we need to come to terms with this reality and seek the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ.
Verse 1 – John affectionately refers to his readers as “My little children” and this reference exemplifies the deep love he has for the people of this church. This love and affection is equivalent a father’s love shown to his own children and it is a term generally used by teachers as they address their disciples. So, John is lovingly writing this letter to his disciples (who are like children to him) so they do not sin.
The word sin means to miss the mark, to be led astray or wander from the path of truth and go the wrong direction. It means to violate God’s law. John knew the impact these heretical leaders had on some of the reader’s faith and he was encouraging them to remain faithful to the true Gospel. He is writing so they would keep themselves from being led astray or wandering down the path of destruction. John was also reminding them that contrary to the false teachings of these leaders God still desires the believer to live a holy life.
He gives assurance to them that if they have already sinned or if they do sin that they do an advocate with God, who is Jesus Christ. The word “advocate” means one who pleads another’s cause with a judge. One who is a legal assistant. Interestingly this is the same word used to translate the word Jesus used when he talked about God sending another “Helper” when He was gone. We come to know this “helper” to be the Holy Spirit. We see this advocate is also Jesus Christ (this can show that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one in the same) who is perfect, upright, faultless, guiltless, approved of God and acceptable by God.
Verse 2 – Not only is Jesus our advocate but he is also the propitiation for our sins. This means Jesus is the appeasement, the source of our forgiveness before God; thus, His life and sacrifice is the new covenant. God’s anger with humanity has been appeased through Jesus giving his life for all humanity. Now some read this end verse to mean that Jesus’ sacrifice was universal and that everybody regardless of the life they live will have eternal life. I think it certainly means eternal life is available to all who accept it or who have “confessed their sins”. However, in chapter one John clearly notes that not everyone in the world will have eternal life. Salvation is only available to those who confess their sins and believe in their heart.
Some of you may have heard or even said yourself that you don’t really care about theology or doctrine; you only care about serving and loving Jesus. I say amen to that. However, I do think right or proper theology (the study of God) and good doctrine are important to the Christian faith. I do not think it is imperative to have a deep intellectual understanding of God we just need a proper understanding of God. As Christians we need to hold firmly to the truth of the Gospel, and we need to hold on to good theology. God loves us. We know this is true because He sent Jesus to die on the cross for you and me. Why did he do this? Because we are all sinful and at one time were separate from God. We can be made right with God when we believe in Jesus, confess our sins and devote our lives to living for His glory and honor.
As we see in the case of John and the church(es) of Asia Minor humans have the tendency to change and pervert the truth of God. In the remainder of this series I pray we can know, grasp and understand the true Gospel message (which I briefly shared with you a moment ago) and gain a better understanding of God through Jesus Christ. May we be on guard to preserve the Gospel message and hold it in our hearts so that we do not become like many who have chosen to believe a false message of Jesus Christ and ultimately miss out on the truth of Jesus Christ.
 The Holy Bible: ESV Study Bible. 2008. Wheaton: Crossway Bibles p. 2426
 Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: The Letters of John. Zondervan Books, Grand Rapids. 1996. Page 37
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