True Faith in a Relative World

1 John 1:1-4

Live in culture/society of people desperately trying to be autonomous rulers. Mindset goes something like this:

there is no metanarrative – no story that describes where we came from, why we’re here, where we’re going

that means there’s no universal set of principles or rules that apply to all people everywhere except for things relating to math or science

so each group of people gets to decide what is true and right and wrong for their group

each group can be as small as one person

since there are no universal moral absolutes, no absolute truth, no one can rightly criticize me, tell me I’m wrong

there are way more questions than answers; the best we can hope for is do what feels right at the time

Trite one-liners abound: don’t judge me; that’s your interpretation; those things apply to stone-age people, we’re in the 21st century; our society has progressed beyond those primitive ideas. Thinking applies to matters of faith, too: all roads lead to heaven; we all worship the same God, just by different names; no religion is better than any other; I have my faith. Could spend weeks, even decades identifying all inconsistences, logical fallacies, unsubstantiated claims, just plain ridiculous ideas that make up these ways of thinking.

Apostle John could have done that in epistles, too. Enemies of the church very active in 1st century – promoting idea that “Christ only appeared to be human, so that there was no real incarnation, and no divine Savior who was able to die for sinners; Christ only seemed to die.” New Geneva Some believed that “flesh and spirit were at war with each other, the flesh …being evil and counterproductive to the soul” Dictionary of Cults and hope of salvation is permanent release of soul from flesh. Still others claimed to have secret knowledge about Christ and salvation that made them superior to other Christians. John could have, argument by argument, refuted views that would lead people away from the truth – he didn’t do that. He left it for others in following centuries to write against heresies (Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.).

Instead, John wrote to different audience, had truth and not error primarily in view. Not just any truth, truth that leads to eternal life. Epistles just as helpful, pertinent today as 19 centuries ago: still face the same enemy (Satan) using same devices (deception) against Christ’s church.

A. to whom he wrote

my little children (7x) – τεκνία (1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21)

great tenderness, concern for well-being; writing as long-time pastor, greatly loved and respected by flock.

Intention is to encourage, not rebuke, to guard from harm.

who are beloved (1 John 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11)

“…our apostle was known by the title of that disciple whom Jesus loved. He was a high favourite with our Lord Jesus Christ. He was admitted to lay in his bosom; and like as Christ lay in the bosom of his Father before all time, and drew out all the love of his Father’s heart into his own, and shines in the full splendour of it, and reflects the glorious shine of it on his church; so this apostle, being admitted to such free and intimate converse with our Lord, drew out the very heart of Christ into his own.” Samuel Eyles Pierce

who know God and the truth (1 John 2:13, 21)

genuine Christians, born-again believers.

have an accurate understanding of true God and his truth.

knowledge may be limited in scope or depth, but is true saving knowledge.

same knowledge and truth of which Jesus spoke: “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) = knowledge of truth as revealed in written and living Word.

believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13) and

presupposes knowledge of truths contained in Gospel.

Summarized John 20:31: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

name is not a label, stands in place of individual. To believe, have life in his name = believe in him, have life in him, Jesus himself

have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20, 27)

evidence: know the truth, believe the truth, have overcome the wicked one.

only possible because of active work of Holy Spirit to give spiritual understanding

yet are in danger of being deceived (1 John 2:19, 26)

drawn away by former church members

looked like the real deal for a while, said and did right things; not from the heart, though

were able to still influence, and trying to do so

B. why he wrote

that their joy might be full (1 John 1:4)

John knew wandering / falling away from truth would “steal their joy” and consequently John’s

Jesus’ intention that his followers’ joy be full (John 15:11; 16:24; 17:13), that no one would take it from them (John 16:22)

would only work out that way if they were “in Christ” – joined to him by faith, following him in faith

because they did not make sin a habit (1 John 2:1)

joy and closeness to Christ and the Father requires distance from sin

God and sin like opposite poles of magnet – one draws away from the other

affinity for sin draws away from God; love for God draws away from sin

that they might continue in the truth (1 John 2:26)

truth a big deal for John – more than 1/3 NT references in his writings

knowledge of, understanding of, persistent holding onto truth essential for life

must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)

truth shall make you free (John 8:32)

Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)

Holy Spirit is “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)

God’s truth makes us holy (sanctifies) (John 17:17)

God’s word is truth (John 17:17)

Jesus came in flesh to “testify to the truth” (John 18:37)

can know the truth (John 8:32; 1 John 2:21; 2 John 1:1)

and have assurance of eternal life (1 John 5:13)

genuine confidence based on something outside the individual

only certain people can possess it

These things I have written to you, namely, to the ones who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know.”

confidence of what???

that those who genuinely meet the condition (belief in Christ) genuinely have what God promised

that you genuinely meet the condition – 5 chapters written so you can examine yourself, determine if you are the real deal, you do possess true faith

that you personally have eternal life

personal assurance of salvation is proper – John says we can know, Peter says we should be “diligent to make our call and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10)

must be established on right foundation – God’s truth

C. how he wrote


presented as absolutes by John, no middle ground, not open to much interpretation

light and darkness (1 John 1:5)

God is light and contains no darkness – nothing mars his perfections, his purity

people either walk in light or in darkness – pursue holiness or practice wickedness

truth and falsehood (1 John 1:6, 8; 2:4, 21)

in John’s view with regard to ultimate issues (Gospel, eternal life) no such thing as half-truth

any amount of error/falsehood disqualifies from being the truth

love and hate (1 John 2:9-10; 3:14)

no neutral territory on issue of relationship with believers

same distinction between love / hate as life / death

the world and the Father (1 John 2:15)

love of world and God mutually exclusive – it’s either/or

John doesn’t give measurements – you can love the one this much and still love the other

children of God and children of the devil (1 John 3:10)

same concept as Paul, Col. 1:13He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love”

true child of God wants nothing to do with the devil

spirit of truth and spirit of error (1 John 4:6)

fully embracing the truth requires correcting and avoiding error

D. how we should profit

fuller joy

“that grace of joy which is implanted in the soul, by the Spirit of God in regeneration, and arises from, and is increased by discoveries of the person, grace, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ; and is “full of glory”, 1Pe 1:8; upon a clear sight of him in this life, and will be entirely full, completely perfected in the other world, when he will be seen as he is” John Gill

built on better knowledge and recognition of truth

fuller understanding of Biblical Christianity

how Bible and not culture defines what it means to be a Christian

leading to greater assurance

better foundation for our own faith

stronger position from which to share our faith

May the one who is “the way, the truth and the life” teach us by his Spirit as we study this book of 1 John; may he fill us full to overflowing with his joy, renew our minds to more firmly grasp the truth, increase our assurance that we are indeed children of God.


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