< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Thoughts from 1st John Part Two

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thoughts from 1st John Part Two

What do we believe anymore? How many people have ever looked up anything on Wiki Pedia? Do you know that regular people write that? And many do it so they can link to their own websites for their own promotional gain.

How many look up medical questions on line? Do you know which sites you can believe and which ones you can’t?

We are bombarded by the written word. And we are bombarded by false prophets. God knew this would happen and provided us with His Word to use as our plumbline.

I once read something in a study of the Gospel of John, that I wrote down to save,

“The awful responsibility for rejection is proportionate to the light received. It is God, the Creator, who deigns to speak to men in the person of His Son.To be given light and to refuse it by ignoring His Words, by showing indifference to those words, by refusing to give time to reading them or by rejecting those words – is to be judged by those words.”

In the early days after the ascension of Jesus, the Gospel, or Good News of the gift of salvation and eternal life through faith in Jesus, was conveyed to the world through the preaching of the apostles. Men that Jesus had officially appointed as witnesses to Himself.

In John 14:26 Jesus told them that the Holy Spirit would “remind you of everything I have said to you.” In John 16:13 and 15 He promised them that the Holy Spirit would “guide you into all truth” and would “take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

Basically the same thing is said in Matthew 16:17-19 and 28:19. In a unique way the Holy Spirit would bring Christ’s words back to the remembrance of the apostles so that they could be recorded with divine authority as God’s truth. Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the church is built upon this foundation of apostles and prophets.

As time passed and the apostles spread out over the world – many people were so fascinated with Jesus they attempted to write about Him. (Luke 1:1)

As these other writings began to appear it was clear that a distinction had to be made as to what was merely the product of imagination and what was truly authoritative. The criterion of authority was that the true Gospels must conform completely to the oral teaching of the apostles themselves. By the end of the 1st century every book of the New Testament had been written, but not yet assembled into one book. The process of assembly was almost complete by the end of the 2nd century. Whenever it was certain that an apostle had written a book or authorized it’s writing that book was deemed indispensable and included in Scripture.

The apostles had lived with Jesus; they had first hand knowledge of Him. They were men of impeccable authority who would consider it blasphemy to relate anything not thoroughly investigated or received directly from Him.

The next most authoritative writers were the men who knew the apostles well and were approved by them as reliable witnesses. Luke is an example.

Each of the 4 Gospels was written either to a different group of people or for a different purpose, which is why certain things might have been emphasized or pointed out in 1 but not another. For instance – John was the last of the 4 written. By then a lot of pagan philosophies had arisen. Paul talked about these in some of his letters. We talked about the Gnostics when we studied the book of Colossians. They believed everything material was evil and everything spiritual was good, so that God, who was wholly good wouldn’t have any contact with earth or man –THEY said. Seemists, another group, had trouble believing Jesus’ divine nature. They thought it descended on Him at His baptism and left Him just before His death on the cross. They inferred that His sufferings were only seeming and not real. They also denied the reality of the incarnation. Hellenistic Christians, in their desire to appear intellectual attempted to relate Christ to current philosophical ideas. This threatened to undermine true faith in Christ: as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

All these groups back then claimed to be Christian and also claimed that they had a higher enlightenment, a closer, mystic fellowship with God, clearer knowledge and truth and freedom from sin. Both their spiritual pretensions and fantastic view of Christ made them a bad influence on the Asian churches and caused more than one Christian writer to dispute their claims. 1st John was written because of the Seemists. And John says in that book that they weren’t true Christians.

The groups were educated people and they wanted Christianity to be intellectual, fit to stand beside the other great philosophies of the day. But, the effect of their teaching was to destroy the incarnation, to eliminate the Christian ethic and to make fellowship within the church impossible because of their elitism.

The claim of knowing Christ is meaningless apart from obedience to His commands. Living as He lived – by His example – is the evidence of our faith and union with Him.

John wrote his gospel to correct these tendencies and to show Christ was/IS the unique Son of God. John 20:31 says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Matthew, written about AD 60, gives special emphasis to Christ’s person – in view of past prophecies. He was writing mainly to the Jews who of course knew the Old Testament. He showed Jesus as King. Mark was full of action and anecdotes. He was the first gospel, written about AD 58 and the shortest. He wrote down Jesus’ words and the things He did. He showed Jesus as the obedient servant. Luke linked events with the names of governors and places – kind of putting Jesus into the part of history when He lived. He showed Jesus as the Ideal Son of Man and he interviewed many people including Jesus’ Mother, and carefully documented it all.

The book of John was written about AD 98 after a lifetime of meditative reflection on Christ by the man who was known to be a thinker and loved by Jesus.

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