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This is a summary of each of the four main sections of the Book of 1 John. It 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 questions to foster one's own reflection and meditation.
Summaries of 1 John
B.) THE CONFIRMATION THAT WE ARE GOD’S PEOPLE (1 John 2:3-2:17)
We have clearly seen that there is such a thing as being saved and brought into the fellowship of God and other Christians. We have a common faith and a common life. One would think that everything would be clearly settled, but this is not the case, at least for many who profess to be a Christian, especially new Christians. Let’s admit the confusion around us and see what the scriptures say about it.
A. Crisis of Confidence: Assurance (1 John 2:3-11)
With all the confusion around us, it is actually good to see these verses address our confidence of salvation. I’d like to speak on three things our assurance is not to be primarily based upon. Our assurance should be based upon our changed life from meeting with God. Our assurance should have all these things to be good but without a changed life, they become empty.
1. The Profession Based on Confession (2:4-5)
At times, bringing assurance of salvation to someone seems to have become as important or more important than in communicating the truths of salvation to someone. I can appreciate the concern these people have, but I must confess it sometimes alarms me. Why is it that we have to so strongly emphasize someone’s salvation? Oh, they explain that they are often not sure. If a Christian is not sure, then he can easily fall back. So it is important for a person to know he really belongs. Now we must admit that John certainly wants us to join this fellowship. There is nothing like it in this world or the next. He has clearly gone through the process of “knowing God.” But Elder John has seen that what is true can be misused and slightly distorted. There is on the one hand what “we know.” But we also see that there are some who would claim to “know Him” but really don’t. This is what I call the crisis of confidence. And at once, in a most important place after he has just stated some of the most grandeur truths of God’s Word, two important truths about assurance of salvation.
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1) Some who don’t doubt their salvation should question it.
2) Some who question their assurance of salvation should not doubt.
John is the one who has chosen to go on to this topic. It is not the inadequacy of salvation, for each of the above truths are etched into the fabric of the world. Let’s first look at those who shouldn’t doubt their salvation.
John, being consistent with what he has already said, argues with this lack of confidence in some Christians. He believes their doubts are inconsistent with their salvation. Salvation is something you can “know!” After all, if he has met God, is he not aware of God’s unsullied purity?! Has he not found peace in a peace sacrifice on the altar that only God could provide?! I believe there are those that would want to distract them from these basic truths and give cause to doubt. There were false teachers who were planting lies and said we could have this salvation in another way. John reassures them simply by telling them all is okay when we see ourselves keeping the Lord’s commands. This must be one of the important outcomes of those who come into the fellowship. They like what the Lord likes. If they see such desires and tendency to keep the Lord’s ways, then we can be sure we met our God.
Many of us allow ourselves to get tied up in vague statements. We are afraid of being ‘sure’ for it appears to be arrogant. I know there are many socalled Christians who get mad when they hear someone say, “I have eternal life” or “I’m going to heaven.” But I tell you God’s point is to clarify your relationship with Him, not to make it vague. What would happen if the airport controllers were roughly right. No one would be happy if the white lines on the road were only sometimes right.
These doubts are not because of our meeting with God but due to a philosophical attack on truth. Most of those around you don’t believe in absolutes. They haven’t met God. God is the Absolute, and anyone who has met Him had better understand He is their reference point for now on. Our confidence simply comes from living as if we have been in God’s presence.
Some of you no doubt might start wondering whether you are indeed genuine Christians. That is okay, you see, for this is the right perspective in understanding these issues. For if you doubt because of sin in your life, then you will either meet with God and run for cover in Christ’s atonement or you will avoid God to continue in your ways.
But John is equally dogmatic about others who say they know but don’t know. There is a false confidence which he chips against. He doesn’t want certain people to have such confidence as well as having the Christians questioning the salvation of some. If a professor of the faith says he is a Christian but doesn’t live it, then we can be confident he is not of the Lord. This is for him to know but it probably won’t help much. But it also is for the Christian fellowship to know so they can maintain their fellowship.
Summary Assurance of our relationship comes not through writing our name down signifying that we have met God. This might be a good thing to do, but our confidence comes from the change issuing from meeting God. If we are talking about a real meeting with God, there is no way we can leave unchanged. The first thing we do is to look for protection in Christ; the second is to conform to His holiness. Those who profess a meeting with God but have unchanged lives are fooling nobody but themselves.
2. A Profession based on Relationship (2:6-8)
We have talked about the first one, that is, a profession based on confession. Sometimes this is okay but oftentimes it is inadequate and can lead us astray. We must combine our confession with our lifestyle (2:3-5). Here the person is focusing on the relationship they have with God. How many times have you heard people say, “Jesus is my Savior; I know where I’m going.” Now this is good. They think right about an association with Christ, and its impact in a relationship with God. But sometimes like the caution John gives them, they ought to not get caught up say in formalism or tradition where all the ceremonies seem to say the right thing, but they don’t really know the Lord. They might have never met God. The key is to live as Christ lived. (eg. love-sex relationship.) You can say you abide in Him but if you don’t live like it, then you should have no confidence in your salvation.
3. A Profession Based on Knowing the Truth (2:9-11)
Notice how verse 9 emphasizes “he is in the light.” Can you guess where his confidence lay? He has the truth but not the love. He has all his doctrine right but not his teaching on love. He says his relationship with God is fine, but it is evident that it is not. The genuine Christian needs to have enough confidence that the same thing happens to every Christian so that we should be able to make ourselves accountable.
Summary We shouldn’t doubt our salvation because imperfections in our testimony before God, but because we insist on living in a way that does not please God.
B. The Growth of Faith (1 John 2:12-14)
In speaking about assurance, it is critical to remember what occurred on that day of salvation. It is easy to focus on our works and whether we are good enough to be accepted by God. The real question is if we knew ourselves to be “bad enough” like the first beatitude suggests in “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” When we came to know God, a formal relationship was initiated. Later on, this work is further discussed in I John. But for now, it is suffice to know a sure Father-son relationship has developed between God and man and a family of brothers and sisters between those who claim God as their Father. John comforts the children; confirms the fathers and calms the young men. For the instable, he brings security. For those who have some mature questions, he provides solutions. For those facing temptations, he challenges them to be overcomers.
John is not trying to destroy trust in an intimate relationship, but he wants us to be wary of those claiming sonship but without any true effect on their lives. He does not state here that Christians do not have any problems, but consistently and repeatedly points us as to how to maintain this good relationship with our heavenly Father. One might wonder how John can criticize some at one point and then speak so confidently with the others the next. The reason is the same. Our life is more important than our confession. And with this he leads us into the two paths people might take. Those who have met the Light, walk in the light and those who have never met the light still walk in the darkness. Don’t question your confidence of your Christian heritage on the basis of adequacy of forgiveness or upon your goodness to receive it, but only if your walk betrays your confession. You are growing and not perfect. But if you stop growing, maybe it indicates you never had life. This is what we see in this next point.
C. Choosing between Two Loves (1 John 2:15-17)
Again, the greatest confirmation of our Christian lives is that we love what God loves and our lives are affected by our new life. He points to the diametrically opposite lifestyle that gives in to the cravings of the flesh and pressures of the world. John helps us to know where we are coming from by pointing out the ends of the two lifestyles. Sooner or later our lifestyles will be clearly distinguished either by the world or by the word of God. If we were honest with ourselves, this understanding of our motivation would be clearly seen. But the pride in our life confuses these issues.
So we can find assurance by our nonattachment to the world. The world is that whole force which revolts at God’s authority. This is the reason why those who regard themselves as beyond reproof scare me. In the end we need to apply the test whose will we are caught up in doing. John is making a profound statement. He says that our heart’s deepest affection can be discovered by taking a close look at our lives. Again, if we are very concerned on ascertaining our salvation, we just need to look at our lives. The visible reveals the invisible; the fruit tells the tree.
Application of section
We might feel like this is too clear-cut for it might exclude those with socalled chemical imbalances, psychological disorders, abusive backgrounds, etc. But if we begin to use our words to make exceptions in our lives, I think it is quite clear that we have not gone according to God’s Word. This is very dangerous. Today Christians sometimes say we have a need for homosexuality, a need for illicit sexual relationships, a need to steal, a need to swear. If we need counseling and medicine to eliminate a problem rather than God, perhaps it reveals that we have not really met God at all.
Summary John is not knocking down what he has earlier established, but building upon it. Simply put, we should be affected by our meeting with God. If we have met the real and genuine holy God, then we would need to go through the door of confession and escape through the sacrifice of Christ. He expects a change in our lives. It is not that we will not be confused, because we are but children, nor that we won’t face temptations for we are young, nor even that we won’t have questions with answers. We shouldn’t be confused when we hit these things for this is part of our Christian lives. As His people, we will have a love for the things of God.
B.) THE CONFIRMATION THAT WE ARE GOD’S PEOPLE
Bible Study Questions on 1 John 2:3-17
1. Who shouldn’t have doubts about their salvation? On what basis?
2. When should we start having doubts about our salvation? How shall we talk to a new Christian about assurance? Why is this important? Why is it that some Christians think it important to assure people of your salvation through a profession of faith rather than through our changed life? What happens if we do that (2:4)?
3. How do we reconcile the truth of our sin (1:8,10) and the truth of our righteousness (3:10)? If we dare claim one, are we not transgressing upon the other one?
4. How much should we go looking at the lives of people around us so we can know if they are genuine Christians? We are not snoops. This is not John’s purpose. He is instead enabling us to see that some people are insisting in their ways over God’s ways. They do not want to obey.
5. How can we be sure that we are not living according to the world? How comfortable are we in the world? How much is your heart involved in His Word and promises?
6. “How close can we live to the world and not get burnt?” This is a question many people ask. If we are using this kind of question to get close to the world and yet retain our profession, does this not betray a love for the world? What happens to the one who loves the world?
OUR MEETING WITH GOD
John's Method of Detecting Error (1 John)
A.) The Creation of God’s People (1 John 1:1-2:2) | Study Questions
The Key to Life
1 John 1:5 What is God really like? Questions
1 John 1:6-10 what do we really believe? Questions
1 John 1:8-10 "Only a little won't matter"
1 John 2:1-2 How can I find help for my sin? Questions
B.) The Confirmation of God’s People (1 John 2:3-17) | Study Questions
Optimized for Growth (1 John 2:3-11)
1 John 2:3 Optimized for Growth (2:3-11: Part 1/4) Questions
1 John 2:4-5 Profession on Confession (Part 2/4) Questions
1 John 2:6-8 Profession on Relationship (Part 3/4) Questions
1 John 2:9-11 Profession on Spirituality (Part 4/4) Questions
1 John 2:12-14 Discipleship's Three Stages
C.) The Character of God’s People (1 John 2:18-3:24) | Study Questions
Growing in Confidence (1 John 2:28-3:10)
1 John 2:28 A. John’s Hope for a Christian
1 John 2:29-3:10 B. The Spheres of Life and Death
1 John 3:1-10 C. The Pathways to Death and Life
1 John 3:5,8 D. The Final BattleWhen Life destroys Death
Bible Study Questions on 1 John 2:28-3:10
D.) The Charge to God’s People (1 John 4-5) | Study Questions
1 John 4 God is Love: The Source of Love 4:7-21 Questions 1 John 5:14-15 Three Keys to Effective Prayer Questions
Qualifications for Prayer (1 John 5:13-14)
1. Ask for Anything (1 John 5:14)
2. Seek according to God's Will (1 John 5:14)
3. Knock Until He Hears (1 John 5:15)
1 John 5:21 Understanding Life's Problems Questions
A. The Source of Life’s Problems
B. Understanding Idolatry
C. Guard Yourselves: Being Delivered from Idols
D. Describing Our Idols
E. Making Room for the Lord
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Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
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