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This is a summary of each of the four main sections of the Book of 1 John. This article purposely does not interpret each verse but attempts to provide a good grasp of 1 John. This is especially important when trying to understand this book which again and again overlaps themes. By getting a good grasp of the whole book, then we can excitedly find how the particular passage we are studying fits into John's presentation. Each section has follow up study questions to foster one's own reflection and meditation.
Summaries of 1 John
A.) The Creation of God’s People (1 John 1:1-2:2) | Section Study Questions
B.) The Confirmation of God’s People (1 John 2:3-17) | Section Study Questions
C.) The Character of God’s People (1 John 2:18-3) | Section Study Questions
D.) The Charge to God’s People (1 John 4-5) | Section Study Questions
This title might sound a bit presumptuous. We have priests from every different religion including the Taoist priest, the Buddhist monk, the charismatic Protestant, the mystical Roman Catholic and the humanist - educators, who all have their views on what God is and how he can be found. But Jesus said something that we all need to know and understand, “If you know me, you know the Father.” He also said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” We are either going to be skeptics - not believing, or ‘tolerant’ - accepting other ways and thus rejecting Jesus’ claim, or we will become believers and become convinced what Jesus said is true.
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I believe that you also have like me met God. I would like to take you on a journey back and forward through the book of I John. I would like for us to think through our meeting with God in the past and the effect it has on our present and future lives.
There is a phrase that says, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The more you know someone, the more you take him for granted and despise him. This is not true with God nor with the relationship He has set out for us if we keep growing. The more we know Him the perfect One, the more it forces us to comprehend and accept His love and willingness to associate with such ones as we. Let’s begin this journey. This journey of knowing God starts from wherever we are.
A. The Possibility of Joining this Fellowship: The Incarnation (1 John 1:1-4)
If we introduced this book by modern methods, we would start with verse 4. We would point out to someone their felt need in their lives and then come to fill that need. This is the way we sell cars, stereos and perfume. I am not saying John is trying to sell God, but he is pointing us back to a point in our lives when for real we sensed a need for something. And God presented Himself as the solution to our dilemma.
John was writing it so that their joy would reach to the greatest heights. He wanted them to have access to pure unadulterated joy. Today we spend huge amounts of money on cheap rides that give us momentous thrills. But down deep we know these joys are finished along with the ride. These desires for excitement, fantasy, fascination, exhilaration all point to a greater joy, a full joy. We might look in many places to find this “joy,” but we will not find it until we become convinced that John the apostle knew what he was talking about. This is why he was writing. He wanted us to come to this joyous meeting with God which would not just at one point give us that sense of great delight but an ongoing fullness of delight. Let’s see what it is that brought that fantastic delight to John’s life as well as his persuasion that we like him can share in it.
The first thing we need to understand is that John was not dilly dallying with some lesser form of God but with the Word of Life itself. John had met God in the form of Jesus Christ. John refused to describe Jesus Christ. If He did, we just might put His picture on a Library and make millions. John stood defeated in trying to communicate God. There is basically one thing about God that we can grasp here, and it is a very important truth that we often overlook. God came in the form of man. Jesus was true man. Christ never had a beginning. He never got off to a good start; His glory could never get better. He was fully God from the beginning. John used his senses to emphasize that this was no dream or fascination, but an actual real down to life experience. Jesus spoke, and he heard. Jesus was in his presence, and so John saw him with his own eyes. John didn’t just see Jesus walk across a stage, but he beheld Jesus. He intensely focused on Christ. He even touched him with his own hands. John recognized that this experience didn’t make him an expert in describing God but a humble man who was defeated in attempting to describe God.
What he details here is a real, on earth, in the flesh, experience with the Word of Life. Notice how he even refuses to get into arguments of names at this point. God spoke and the world came into existence. God spoke and life formed. Who is this Word of Life? It is God Himself and yet John saw Him and held Him and ate with Him. How is this possible? A man meeting with God? Is John at all credible? Can mere man meet with the One who spoke the vast universe into creation? Man might claim such things but is it really true? John knows what he saw, and felt, and beheld and touched. He wasn’t fooled. He knew who Jesus Christ was.
John is at once being doctrinal and experiential. He met God through Jesus Christ and invites each one of us to share in this knowledge and experience. God didn’t intend it to be just for a few but for many. The “they” who met Jesus Christ can become we. This is true for those who knew John but didn’t know Jesus Christ on earth; it is also true for us as we listen to His Word. We can look all around this world for joy, but we truthfully must come back here. John is trying to capture the experience in a few verses. Maybe we could describe Him better, maybe not. But this is inconsequential for it is not a past relationship or experience but an ongoing one. Our joy stems not from a one time experience but a lifetime of radical exposure to the One who creates life with a Word. We need to get the message out like John did. He proclaimed it so that some could hear and participate. We must likewise be firm and convinced that man can know the almighty creator God. It is this meeting with God that will bring meaning into their lives. For the first time they will understand how joy can be fulfilled in their lives. Let’s see how this happens.
B. The Process of Joining this Fellowship: 3 Firm Truths (1:5-2:2)
The obvious question is how are we, if we can, duplicate this experience. How is it that we mere human beings can dare to establish such a link with the Mighty God. Let’s observe three truths that will stand us well in meeting God as well as in encouraging others to meet God.
1. God is Light; let’s embrace His holiness (1:5)
If we dare to meet God, then we better do it on His terms. We better not think we can define Him, unless He so wishes to reveal Himself and seek this knowledge from Himself. What is the message that John passes on? He announces it in verse 5: “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” How profound! Instead of coming up with all the answers as religions and philosophies try to do, we are asked to understand God as light. I find it interesting that the truth “God is love” is not here spoken. This is because of our need of first knowing God as light before love.
We should understand that meeting God would differ from every other relationship and experience we could ever face. We might not survive since we could define ourselves opposite to God’s character - darkness and having no light. Romans 3 says we do not even have enough sense to go and look for God. We must say “No!” to all this religious search for God. It is common today to think God is evolving. Many people in the New Age movement actually think they are God. They haven’t met God for otherwise they couldn’t believe such falsehood.
God is of such intense holiness, of such complete absolute infinite purity, that meeting with God is not a trite experience. It is not just another relationship. John’s avoidance of detail in describing God should be obvious to us all. “The sum of all moral excellency is found in Him. He is absolute purity.” No flaws. No divisions. No slight imperfection. What fools we are to allow ourselves to be deceived to think God makes mistakes. We should know God sufficiently so that we would not dare impeach God because of our depraved viewpoint. Our Christian lives will never get out of the batter’s box if we keep having doubts about God. Instead, when we meet God, we quickly learn the second basic truth.
2. We are sinners. Let’s face the Facts of our Sin. (1:6-10)
What should immediately come to our senses as we approach God but our unworthiness. We are unfit and like Isaiah, we look for an escape. We don’t cover up our sin. This would be tantamount to striping God of His moral excellence. An excuse for our sin, whether from a seeker or a Christian, is a disgraceful comment upon God. We say that our illbehavior is good and imitative of the greater Good. But this is the reason we see such powerful forces at work when we approach God.
This is where you see our modern evangelism methods are awash. Instead of presenting God in His holiness so that the sinner might be convinced of His sin, we present man’s goodness and God’s love for him which somehow supposed to help them feel better about themselves. What should we expect happen when man meets God? Applause for man for his great decision? No. Man runs for his life. He hides. He runs. He tries to escape God’s holiness. God in His graciousness imparts a new nature to this sinner and that person finally sees himself in God’s light. He doesn’t like it, but he knows running is futile. He seeks a way to rid himself of this burden. Man naturally says three things about himself regarding his lifestyle:
- We don’t really care about sin and deny any true holiness
- We don’t even believe we have a sin nature and as a result are prideful.
- We don’t think we ever sinned and become hardened.
These things can’t occur when we meet God. Meeting God takes us to a place that unapologetically cripples our pride. We see our sin for what it is. Instead we desperately search for refuge. The person who really meets God finds that he does indeed begin to walk as God is. Secondly, we see he finds a place in his heart to confess his rebellious ways to God. He brings them up rather than hides them. The light has exposed them, and he only now wants them to have them taken away. He only wants to have every last sin and shame and bit of darkness stripped form his fragile sinful being. He only wants a covering for his sin. This takes us to the third important fact.
3. We can be saved. Let’s Rely upon Christ’s Provision (2:1-2)
The sequence of the discovery of these facts are as important as the facts themselves. The discovery of God’s holiness leads to the obvious fact of our sin. Our awareness of sin brings us straight to the only cure available. We will be satisfied with nothing less than the forgiveness of our sins.
Now there are some Christians who go about saying that they only care about practicing Christian life and can’t give a hoot about doctrine. I know we can be very turned off by the knowledge of some lead to hate rather than love. But this is only because of Satan’s distortion of what is good and truthful. Real truth can’t lead us to a bent existence. It is distortions of truth that lead to distorted lifestyles. What we see here in one of the simplest books in the Bible is doctrine. We can’t avoid it. Some would even say Christ’s deity or humanity is not worth lines of demarcation. I frankly don’t think this is up to us to decide on. Christ’s deity and humanity are both essential. His righteousness admits His heavenly nature; His death and sacrificial work requires His human nature. I am not saying it is easy for us to reconcile these facts, but the point is, without Jesus being human, He could not have died and become our Advocate nor our propitiation.
He has done this not just for Jews nor just for the group of Christians John was writing to. Jesus died for the sins of people all about the world. He is setting the basis for offering us entrance into the presence of God. It is here we discover Christ’s beautiful salvation as well as our balm, our healing that brings us into life. There is a sufficient and complete sacrifice for everyone who believes. We dare not think it sufficient for some and not for ourselves, if we indeed so hunger after such a forgiveness. The world dares minimize this only provision to pacify a great and angry God. We as His people, who have met God, who have seen our sin have instead stood in the shadow of the Advocate and have called upon Jesus Christ the righteous to forgive us of all of our sins. Because our confidence is not in ourselves - we saw what we were like, - we find that if we reject such an offer of God to mankind, that rejection of Jesus Christ or a denial of His person is a blatant rejection of God.
Summary Yes, we have many different experiences and backgrounds, but they all are as boats on an open sea until we have anchored our faith in God through Jesus Christ. God doesn’t become true when we know Him. When we meet God, you change. You make the necessary changes because there are no other alternatives. Just make sure you meet the true God and grasp the provision He has arranged for you in Jesus Christ. Let me close this first section with a question: How confident and joyous are you of your salvation that you share this opportunity with others?!
Bible Study Questions on 1 John 1:1-2:2
1. What are some common ways we accuse God of having some “darkness?” Do we have doubts? Why? Is it possible that we have not yet accepted one of the basic truths about God? Can we profess to be Christians if we still accuse God of wrong, injustice, etc.? If we refuse to bow our hearts to God’s “Lighthood”, then maybe we have never met God. Check out your heart and share your difficulties with each other.
2. God is light. This is the truth to approach God. Devise four spiritual truths that would more accurately portray how we are to encourage others to “meet” God.
3. How have we dealt with our sin and sin nature? Can you see the change in your perspective of your sin when you met God? If not, do you at least have a deep awareness of your sin and hate this old self? This awareness of sin is a result of meeting God.
4. When did you first come to understand and appreciate your need for salvation and Christ’s offer to take away all of your sins? How are they taken away?
5. Some people don’t think some sins can be forgiven because of their intensity. How would you counsel such a person from these verses?
OUR MEETING WITH GOD
John's Method of Detecting Error (1 John)
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Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988