Thursday, June 30, 2011


Confident Prayer, 1 John 5:13-17, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meeting on June 26-July 3, 2011. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 5:13-17 and discusses the idea that Christians should have boldness in their prayers because of the confidence they have in Christ. In fact, confident prayer starts with assurance, is built on a confident relationship, and results in life. We have to remember that the life God has given us in Christ is not for us alone, it is a gift to be shared with others. One means of doing that is through prayer for those who have fallen into sin. This lesson looks at that issue and even considers an answer to the question of the sin unto death. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Confident Prayer
1 John 5:13-17
Theology Matters Series

Let me start with a confession
I have never been what you might call a prayer warrior
In fact, my batting average at getting positive answers from God is not very high
Truth be told, I know I could do more in prayer

No doubt we all share a similar view
We are pretty sure that we don’t pray enough
Maybe when we do pray we aren’t real sure that we know what we are doing or that God will hear us

We lack confidence

Our passage today addresses that issue

In 1 John 5:13-17, John gives us three parts of confident prayer
1. It starts with assurance
2. It continues with a confident relationship
3. It results in restoration and life

Confident prayer is a desperate need for the body of Christ today

1. Confident Prayer Starts with Assurance

1 John 5:13—John ends his letter by letting his readers know his purpose.

In the Gospel of John 20:30-31, John says that he wrote so that people may believe in Jesus the Messiah/the Son of God (i.e., the Incarnation) and that by believing receive eternal life in his name.

In the letter, John’s purpose is to assure those who have put faith in the Incarnation. His purpose is to give them confidence in their salvation. Verse 13 states this purpose clearly.

John begins this section with a statement of assurance
He says that faith in the name of Jesus leads to confidence in salvation

He speaks of knowing our relationship to God
John uses some form of the word “know” in his short letter over 40 times
At least 8 of those uses are found in chapter 5

John seems to be saying that our confidence begins with our salvation and our salvation is something we can know

Throughout his book, John has given us indications of how we know we belong to God

In our passage from a couple of weeks ago (1 John 5:6-12), John tells us that we have an internal and an eternal witness by God’s Spirit in us, but we also have a historical and a supernatural witness to salvation in the testimonies of God’s people and God himself

We also saw that we can be confident of knowing God when we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3-5), when we love as God loves (1 John 3:14-16, 4:7-16), when we have the witness of the Spirit in our confession of Christ (1 John 4:13-16) and when we love God and love his children (1 John 4:19-5:3).

Assurance of salvation is based primarily on what Christ has done for us
We have confidence because God has provided salvation
God manifested his love for us in Christ, and that love is our assurance

Confident prayer begins with assurance in salvation/eternal life

Has your life been transformed by the salvation that only comes through a knowledge of Jesus?
If so, then you have assurance that the God who saved is the God who will hear

This is good news: Our Father hears us

2. Confident Prayer Continues with Confident Relationship

1 John 5:14-15—John continues his conclusion by reminding his readers of their intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:1 reminds us that faith in Christ has resulted in our becoming children of God
This means that we have a family and a familiar relationship with God
As a child has special privileges with his or her parent, so we have the privilege of confidence as children of God

“Confidence”—remember that we defined this word as meaning in some sense “freedom of speech” (cf. 1 John 2:28; 4:17 both regarding judgment)
1 Jon 3:21-24 is almost a parallel passage here regarding prayer

John is saying that because of our relationship with God as children, we can come into his presence to make our requests with boldness—we have confidence and freedom to speak directly to our Father

Ray Stedman says that God delights in bold praying and in bold people—our prayer to God should be confident, bold, and certain because he loves us

This confidence arises from two principles given in these verses: the certainty of being heard (a promise) and the certainty of receiving (a qualification)

The promise: When we pray, God hears us and responds
a. We ask confidently (Hebrews 4:16)
b. We come into his presence (the words “in him” in verse 14 could be rendered “before him”). We come confidently into our Father’s presence to speak freely with him
c. We must ask for him to respond
d. We have an audience, so we must talk to our Father and we must listen for and anticipate his response

Remember as Andrew Murray says, “Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. Gods voice in response to mine is its most essential part.”

Prayer isn’t a magic lamp or a secret code by which we obtain all our wishes, but rather as Ray Stedman says, “Prayer is a means of obtaining the will of God, and is limited always by the will and purpose of God.”

That brings us to the Qualification—we must ask according to God’s will (cf. Matthew 6:10; John 14:13)

John is not saying that we can get God to do whatever we want by adding the magic words “in Jesus’ name”
a. Prayer is not asking God to move towards us, but for God to move us towards him
b. Pastor E. Stanley Jones: "If I throw out a boat hook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. "

Remember, James 4:3 reminds us that we can pray and ask improperly
In fact, James acknowledges that we often fail to receive answers to our prayers because we ask for selfish reasons

John says that if we know we have eternal life through our relationship with God by faith in Christ, then we can be confident that our Father God will hear us when we pray

If God hears us, it then follows that like a good Father he will respond to us

But John goes a step further—not only does God hear us, but “we know that we have obtained the request made of him”
This sounds like we can be assured of a favorable response
So, does God answer all your prayers with “Yes”?
Yeah, me neither!

The problem goes back to that little phrase: “according to his will”
a. This means we must line up with God—like Jesus in Gethsemane, we must make sure our hearts cry out “Not my will, God, but yours”—our focus must be on the best interests of God and his kingdom and not our selfish desires
b. We must not harbor un-confessed or habitual sin (Psalm 66:13)
c. We must trust God for the answer (Matthew 21:22)—he will respond, but not always in the way we desire or expect!
d. We must be sure to seek what God wants, for in doing so we will pray for what he longs to accomplish—we can only do this by spending time with God in his Word and in prayer (remember the Sears catalog—Ray Stedman)

Confident prayer keeps a relationship with God fresh
This kind of prayer also has amazing results

3. Confident Prayer Results in Restoration/Life

1 John 5:16-17—John now gives application to his lesson on praying according to God’s will by giving an example to his readers

Praying isn’t just about us, praying is for our brothers and sisters
We should pray confidently for each other
We should pray for restoration and life

Again, John gives a promise and a qualification here
a. The promise—if we pray for a brother or sister who is not committing a sin unto death, then God will give them life
b. The qualification—the promise does not apply to the one committing a sin unto death

A quick disclaimer: We tend to get tangled up in a discussion of what a “sin unto death” may be, but John assumes his readers know this already. The point John seems to make here is that praying according to the will of God means that we should pray for each other, that we should pray for restoration and life for those committing sin
a. We have a responsibility to each other
b. Part of loving God’s children is to pray for them

John doesn’t say, “If you see your brother or sister sinning, quickly get on the phone and talk to others about it!” He doesn’t say, “Let the pastor know so that he can deal with it!” No! John says, “Pray for your brothers and sisters and God will give them life.”
a. We are brothers and sisters, not competitors
b. All sin is serious
c. You can’t be indifferent to sin if you love others

If our prayers are for children of God who sin, then in what sense do they need “life”? John says our prayers will result in life from God for those who commit sins not unto death

To answer that question is to continue on to the qualification—What is the sin unto death?

Take a few minutes, get into groups of two or three, and scan through 1 John. Find places where the words “sin,” “death,” and “life” show up.

What did you find?

There are typically three responses to what the “sin unto death” may be
a. Some specific sin that causes the person to die physically (cf. Moses, Achan, Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira, the folks in 1 Corinthians 11)
b. The unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit or rejecting Jesus
c. The sin of the false teachers who denied the Incarnation and lived immoral and unloving lives

It seems likely that the background for John’s comments here is to be found in 1 John 3:11-18 and the contrast between the children of God and the children of the devil
1 John 3:14—”We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brothers. He who does not love abides in death.”
The sin unto death, at least in part, seems to be a persistent and intentional disobedience of Jesus’ command to love one another. It is denying the love of Jesus and following the unloving example of the false teachers

1 John 3:23—disregarding this command leads to death

Regardless of the view one takes on this issue, John expects his readers to pray for one another especially when they fall into sin

So, when should we not pray?
That is difficult to say, isn’t it?
Apparently there is a time in which prayer is no longer useful—note that John does not command us not to pray, but he seems to suggest that when a person reaches the point of “sin unto death” prayer will not help
We should respond, then, by continuing to pray unless we get some indication from the Spirit to cease praying

If all wrongdoing is sin, then praying for restoration of our brothers and sisters is the best starting point

Confident prayer results in restoration and life for those who sin
We cannot ignore the sin of others
We should pray for God to work in their lives


How do we respond to this difficult passage?

There seems to me to be only one response, we must become a people of prayer, and not just any prayer, but a confident prayer that comes from an assurance of our relationship with our Father through his Son, Jesus Christ

As E. M. Bounds says, “"What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but people whom the Holy Ghost can use – people of prayer, people mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through people. He does not come on machinery, but on people. He does not anoint plans, but people, people of prayer."

How does this look in every day life?

First, we must be diligent in keeping our relationship with God current. That requires time with God, with his Word, and with his people

Second, we must pray. We need to carve out time to meet with God in prayer. This week set aside at least 10 minutes a day where you simply get with God to pray for others.

Finally, we must avoid sin. We need to live accountable lives with each other so that we can honor God. Remember, everything we do reflects on the character of God. Our lives are the best (or worst) witness for the grace of God in Jesus Christ. How are we doing?

Confident prayer begins with salvation, continues with a confident relationship, and results in restoration

Will we practice it?

Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, June 26, 2011


Father's Day Sermon: "Act Like Men, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14"

A friend of mine asked me to fill his pulpit on Fathers' Day (June 19, 2011), so I pondered what to share. Almost a year ago I presented a lesson to men at Thomas Road Baptist Church's Wildfire Conference. The lesson was entitled "Act Like Men: Strong Advice for Tough Times." I reworked portions of the lesson for my sermon at Gospel Community Church. The notes are posted below. Comments or questions are welcome!

Act Like Men
Strong Advice for Tough Times

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Happy Fathers’ Day to all you Dads out there

When I realized that I’d be speaking at Gospel Community on Fathers’ Day, I decided to focus my thoughts on men in general instead of only on dads

Of course, what I have to say today will be applicable to all Christians, so I expect the ladies to pay attention as well, okay?

There is a severe lack in our society today of what may be called “mature” people—Just look at the news
Yet another member of Congress behaving badly
Celebrities are acting like children
Even the church is not immune to immaturity

There seems to be a real shortage of mature men

The movie “Second Hand Lions” and the “how to be a man speech”
Our passage today is Paul’s version of “how to be a man” or “how to be mature”

It is strong advice for tough times

All of the statements that Paul uses are commands, they are not options

What do you know about the church in Corinth?

These people were a mess
1. They had divided on doctrinal issues
2. They had split into factions determined by slogans and political posturing
3. They had forgotten what they were taught and become lazy in their spiritual growth/wisdom
4. They had ceased to serve one another and passed judgment on each other to the point of lawsuits
5. They had immoral activity in their church
6. Their marriages were on the rocks
7. They abused their spiritual liberty and hurt one another with it
8. They had no spiritual discipline and had become disorderly in their use of God’s gifts
9. They lost love for one another
10. They had forgotten the power of God’s love and Christ’s resurrection

They needed some mature people to lead them

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

1. Act Like Men/Be Mature

Andrizesthe—Greek term (present tense)
To behave like a man as opposed to acting like a juvenile
Exhibit positive masculine properties
Be mature and be brave

Three characteristics to note here:
a. Spiritual maturity—1 John 2:12-14—John encourages his readers to progress on to a mature position, to leave behind childish things (1 Cor. 13:11-12)—cf. Ephesians 4:13
This maturity comes from the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 John 2:12-14—young men are strong in the Word of God)—this Word of God refers of course to both the written Word (the Bible) and the Incarnate Word (Jesus)—to be spiritually mature requires us to be adept in both (1 Cor. 14:20—the Corinthians need to grow up)

What about us? Where do we need to grow up? Where do we need to stop acting juvenile? What relationships and situations need maturity instead of juvenile selfishness?

b. Courage—John Wesley: “Give me 100 men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world: I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; and such alone will overthrow the kingdom of Satan and build up the Kingdom of God on earth.”
“Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne

c. Consistency—a constant process of growth that builds Christ-like characteristics in our lives

The rest of this passage reveals for us what it means to “act like men” or to “be mature” according to Paul

To act like men/to be mature requires us to be on the alert

2. Be on the Alert

“Be watchful” or “be on the alert”—a military term with a strategy in mind that means to be vigilant
It is the opposite of indifference or apathy
It is an active concern to be aware

What happens when those on guard duty fail their watch?
The enemy sneaks in
Others may suffer loss
Someone may die

In the spiritual life of a Christian, watchfulness must be combined with prayer (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2)

What are the objects of our watching?
a. The enemy (1 Peter 5:8)
b. Temptation (Mark 14:38)
c. False Teaching (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1)
d. Opportunities to share God’s good news or to do God’s works (Titus 3:1; 2 Timothy 4:5)
e. The return of Christ (Matthew 24:42-44)

To act like men/to be mature means to watch out for each other
Watching out for each other requires a solid foundation in Christ

3. Stand Firm in the Faith

Another “militant” term—Paul is calling on the Corinthians to make a stand, to be recognized, to hold their ground (cf. Ephesians 6:10-11)

1 Corinthians 15:58

There is a connection between being watchful and standing firm
An army on the watch is an army ready to stand
An army caught off guard is an army soon defeated

How do we “stand firm”?
a. Be a disciple/learner—spend time learning the great truths of God from the Bible—search the Scripture to find God’s plan

b. Know what you believe (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

c. Know why you believe it and be ready to offer a reason (1 Peter 3:15)

d. Once you know what and why, act on it—do the truth

Standing firm is like a tree planted with deep roots—it is solid because it has a strong foundation—our foundation is what God accomplished through Jesus and the revelation of his truth in the Bible

Our faith (belief and action) should be an anchor for us (2 Timothy 2:15)

To act like men/to be mature means to make a stand in what God has done
Standing in God’s work requires and results in strength

4. Be Strong

Krataio—refers to a strength in action rather than simply strength in possession
It isn’t how much you bench press, it is how you act when strength needed
The biggest muscles will freeze up if there is no strong character

Ephesians 6:10—”be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might”
Three kinds of strength here—empowerment (be endued with the Lord’s power), strength (a similar word as used in 1 Corinthians), and power (might or muscle)

We must gain power from God, act on what he gives us, and use it to accomplish his purposes

2 Corinthians 10:3-6—we pull down fortresses

What does this strength look like in action? Philippians 2:3-4
God’s power properly applied usually acts on behalf of others

Which brings us to our final point
We have all these “militant” terms, then Paul calls us to love
How do militant ideas fit with a concept of love?

To act like men/to be mature we must be strong—but strength must be always be tempered with love

5. Do All in Love

What’s love got to do with it?
Only everything

God at his most powerful is also God at his most vulnerable
John 1:1-3, 14—God who created all things revealed his glory, grace, and truth by becoming one of us and revealing God among us (i.e., “Immanuel”)

Philippians 2:5-8--Jesus' kind of love
a. Equal with God, but didn’t take advantage
b. Emptied himself, and became a servant
c. Incarnated as a human, he humbly obeyed even to the point of dying for our sins on a cross

How did Jesus love? He gave himself so others could live
That’s the love Paul refers to here

To act like men/to be mature requires us to do all things in love

The Corinthians certainly needed this kind of love (Paul even discussed it in chapter 13 of this book)

Their divisions had caused factions and fighting
They had become rivals instead of brothers
They were engaging in lawsuits instead of love
They were acting like children
They were not watching out for each other
They were not standing firm in the truth Paul had taught them
They were giving in to weakness

Where do we need love? Where do we need to show love?

To act like men, we must learn to do all things in love
That little three letter word “all” is difficult isn’t it?
“All” things—even my marriage? My kids? My job? My business relationships? Even with those who don’t “love” me? Even in situations where showing love could result in a loss for me?
What do you think?

Acting like men/being mature is not easy
No one said growing up would be simple
Paul’s advice here is tough

What Does Love Do?

In our world today, love is not only an important element, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT element.

Without love, watchfulness can deteriorate into a judgmental spirit.
Without love Paul’s commands could lead us to be militant but hardhearted.
Love keeps our firmness from becoming hardness and our strength from becoming authoritarian domination. It keeps our maturity gentle and considerate. It keeps our right doctrine from becoming obstinate dogmatism and our right living from becoming smug self-righteousness. It makes us like Christ.

Love is not easy. In fact, love cost Jesus his life. We need to remember, however, that sometimes the toughest task produces the sweetest results. Look at how God’s love redeemed you!

As Phillips Brooks said, “Never pray for an easier life—pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers—pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then doing your work will be no miracle—you will be the miracle!”


So what do we do? How do we respond to this passage?

Our circumstances are not so different from the church in Corinth
We live in a divided society, live in divided families, even attend divided churches
We have people around us acting like juveniles—blaming others for their problems or only looking out for themselves—we have a lack of “grown ups”—we need some mature men
We have problems creeping in, temptations attacking, people falling, we need someone to be on the watch

Our society and our churches seem at times to be slipping into all kinds of problems or errors or sin. Nothing seems to be solid or firm. We need folks who are on a solid foundation

We need strength tempered by love

We need mature men and women who will
a. Watch out for the church and for others
b. Take a stand for God’s truth and be bold
c. Be strong in God’s power to accomplish God sized tasks
d. Love God and love others as Christ commanded

Our response to this passage is simple
We must act like men, we must be mature and brave
We must go to our homes, our churches, our neighborhoods, our jobs, and embody the principles Paul has described here
We must be willing to be a solid foundation, a trustworthy people, a group of men and women who love each other as Christ loves each of us

This will require us to be creative, to reach out to those others have deemed “unreachable” or “untouchable”

We will need to imitate the life of Jesus in our everyday lives

We must be humble servants looking to bless others with God’s grace

Will we risk it?
If we don’t, who will?
What will our families, our churches, and our world look like if we do?

I’d like to see that!

Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, June 16, 2011


Can I Get A Witness? 1 John 5:6-12, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meeting on June 5, 2011. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 5:6-12 and discusses the idea that Christians should live in response to the testimony and evidence God offers in the Incarnation. In fact, if we take the Incarnation seriously, we will realize that God is calling us to a life of humble service to others just as Christ came among us. His life is not merely an example for us, it is a call for us to take God at His Word and live as he has called us. In this lesson, I put the audience in the jury box and ask them to consider several pieces of evidence and some testimony. Then I ask them to make a decision based on that evidence. The decision will reveal itself in our own testimony to what God has done. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Can I Get a Witness?
1 John 5:6-12
Theology Matters Series

Jury duty
These words usually do not make people happy
When you receive a notice of jury duty, it doesn’t usually bless you
I served on juries before—two in Waco and a grand jury in Campbell County
We heard testimony, observed evidence, and rendered a verdict

Our passage today, 1 John 5:6-12, makes me think of a courtroom

Twelve times in 1 John our author uses the Greek word for witness, testify, or testimony
Ten of them show up in our passage today

I am going to ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to be a jury today

I am going to present to you some testimony and some evidence, and I will be asking you to render a verdict

Are you ready?

The Evidence
In chapter 4, John reminds his readers of the importance of faith in the Incarnation. Now he addresses the issue: How can we be assured that the Incarnation is a fact? In these verses John lays out the evidence for the Incarnation.

We live in an age where uncertainty and a lack of “dogmaticism” is enshrined as a valuable virtue.
We are told the no one can be certain and that truth is relative
We are often reminded that things are subjective and truth is a personal decision or opinion
I even saw a letter to the editor that declared that faith in the resurrection of Christ is based on “blind faith” and cannot be known by “fact” or historical data

That is the world WE live in

John would say that such a view of the world is foolish

I would agree with John

John gives us three pieces of evidence and a contrast to say to us, “You can be bulldogmatic on the topic of the incarnation”

In 1 John 5:6-9, he lists his three witnesses as follows: the Spirit, the water and the blood

Verse 6 tells us that Jesus Christ came by the water and the blood and not by water only

What in the world does John mean by this?
To what do the words “water” and “blood” refer?

Here are some options:
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
The Incarnation (Jesus’ birth) and the Crucifixion
Some connection to blood and water coming from Christ at the crucifixion (John 19:34)
But none of these are satisfactory given the context

Let’s remember a bit of our history here
John is dealing with opponents to his teaching
These opponents apparently were teaching a doctrine that said that God is Spirit only and cannot be “flesh” or “human”

In fact, some of them even claimed that Jesus only “seemed” human, he was really a spirit being (Docetism)

Some even went so far as to separate the man Jesus from the Messianic Divine Spirit called “Chirst” (Cerenthus). This teaching claimed that the spirit of Christ came on the man Jesus at his baptism, but left him at the cross. That is, Jesus the man was endued with power at his baptism, but this divine power left him at the cross. The Spirit of “Christ” couldn’t suffer or die in this view

For these individuals, redemption is not important but enlightenment is needed. They have a baptized Jesus but a “bloodless” Christ. They are happy to be initiated into a “mystery,” but they shy away from suffering as a means of redemption

These are the people resisting John’s teaching

John is writing not only to reassure his people but to also resist the false teachings of his opponents

The language in verse 6 indicates a past historical kind of witness
With that in mind, it seems likely that water and blood refer to the baptism of Jesus and the crucifixion of Jesus

John says that it is not by “water only” but by the blood as well
John refers here to God’s testimony in Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion
These two historical events testify to the truth of the Incarnation

As if these two were not enough, John reminds his readers that there is also the testimony of the Spirit of Truth (verse 7)

The word “Spirit” here refers to the Holy Spirit of God.

Just as God testified of Jesus as the Christ at his baptism and at his crucifixion, so also the Holy Spirit continues to testify about Christ and his work of salvation (John 15:26)
This witness is the truth (John 14:6)

These three: The Spirit, the water, and the blood all agree (verse 8)—they are united in testimony
They agree about the witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Incarnate Word of God
Their testimony is God’s evidence of Jesus

John closes this section with verse 9, in which he contrasts human testimony with God’s testimony

Simply stated, John reminds us that we often receive the testimony of humans
We usually accept the word of human agents without asking for more
How would you respond if every time you spoke to a friend he said, “I just don’t know if I can believe you. Is your testimony true?”
Most of us expect to be believed in most cases, and we tend to believe other human witnesses in general

Parent, Authorities, Pharmacists, Doctors, even the people on TV or in the newspaper
We often accept their testimony without hesitation
If we can accept the testimony of humans, then we ought to recognize that God’s testimony is greater than human words

God’s testimony is pretty straightforward: He has testified/borne witness to his Son (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17)

In other words, the evidence for the Incarnation is historical and supernatural
The historical events speak of Jesus as the Messiah and God’s witness supports these facts/events

God has spoken his witness in history and in his Scripture, what is the effect of it?

The Effects
1 John 5:10-12 outline the effects of the witnesses John offers above

The evidence John presents brings the reader or hearer to the place of a decision

Just like a judge or jury must make a decision and respond to the witnesses and the evidence presented in a court of law, so also the hearers/readers of John’s letter must now respond

There are two possible responses

1. The negative (5:10)
One possible response to the testimony/witness John provides is to say, “It isn’t true. I will not act on it in faith. God lies.”

John depicts unbelief not as a position to be pitied, but as a sin of which to repent

The person who looks at God’s evidence and God’s testimony and says, “It is not true” is calling God a liar.

Remember, “faith” as we defined it last week is an action—it is acting on what we know and placing our trust in something bigger than us—it is total reliance on Jesus and what God has accomplished in him

John’s opponents did not accept the full testimony of God
They belittled the truth of Christ by making him less than the Incarnate Word of God
They tried to avoid the blood of the crucifixion and to rely only on a mysterious enlightenment that led one to a mystical experience
Such actions/faith claim that God lied in his Word

This position does not accept the truth of God’s full testimony regarding Jesus

2. The Positive (5:10-12)
The person that responds to God’s testimony with faith (i.e., that trusts completely in God’s works in Christ for salvation) receives as a result an internal testimony
This is the testimony of the Spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:15-17; Gal. 4:4-7)

All who place faith in God’s truthful witness will have an internal testimony of this Truth

The person that responds to God’s truthful testimony with faith also receives an eternal testimony and eternal life

This life is not just a heavenly reality in the future, it is a spiritual reality now—the believer in God’s truth lives a life full of God
His life is centered on God, directed by God, filled with God
That is abundant life—the certainty of that life is focused on Jesus as the perfect revelation of God (John 1:1-3; 14; Hebrews 1:1-3) and as the one who gives abundant life (John 1:11-12; 10:10)

John even says that eternal life is in Jesus, and those who have Jesus have that eternal life—those who deny the truth of Jesus do not have eternal life

Embracing Jesus equals life, while rejecting Jesus results in no life

So what is the verdict?
Will you reject the evidence and God’s testimony?
Will you accept the evidence and the witness and have life?

What does the Jury say?
We stand in a place of decision today. John has offered us testimony and evidence regarding the divine Messianic status of one Jesus of Nazareth

We must now make our decision, we must render our verdict

Is Jesus the Christ? Is he the perfect expression and reflection of God’s divine nature?
If so, what are the ramifications for us?
If not, what will happen?

The Verdict
If we reject the Word of God as presented today, we must acknowledge that we are labeling the testimony of the evidence and of God as false. We will call God a liar and we are spiritually dead

If we accept the testimony, then we must place our trust completely in Christ for the life that only God can bring. Our life will exhibit that quality of life that only Jesus offers

If we accept God’s testimony then, our lives will look like Jesus—we will be his witnesses, we will add to the evidence our own testimony

What is your decision?

Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, June 05, 2011


Counter Culture Christians, 1 John 5:1-5, Theology Matters Series

Hello all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline for our meeting on May 30, 2011. A while back we started a new series on 1 John entitled "Theology Matters." This lesson looks at 1 John 5:1-5 and discusses the idea that Christians should live a lifestyle that is counter to the values and desires of the world. This lifestyle manifests itself in a new birth, a radical faith, and an obedience that puts Christians at odds with the world. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Counter Culture Christians
1 John 5:1-5
Theology Matters

My childhood
When I was a kid, being counterculture usually meant being a “hippie” or resisting the “establishment”
In the 60s and 70s, that had a lot to do with drugs, rock and roll, and sex

What do you think of when you hear the words “Counter Culture”?

How about the words “Counter Culture Christians”?

1 John 5:1-5 speaks of Christians as being world beaters, those who overcome the world

John describes them (in a sense) as counter culture

To be born of God is to oppose the world’s culture

Let’s take a look at 1 John 5:1-5

I’m going to approach this passage in a different manner than I have in the past
I’m going to let you help me with the exegesis a bit

How many times do the following words (or their equivalents) appear and where?
1. Born of God (3 times)
2, Faith or believe (3 times)
3. Love (5 times)
4. Commandments (3 times)
5. Overcome (3 times)
6. Obey (2 times)

Here is a copy for you to consider

1 John 5:1-5
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

“Born of God”
“Born of God”, “born of him” appear in verses 1 and 4
In verse 1, those who are born of God are those who believe in Jesus as the Messiah
In verse 4, those who are born of God overcome the world

Verse 5 gives us further information: Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God (i.e., the one “born of him” mentioned in verse 1?) are also described as those who overcome the world

Faith in Jesus as Messiah/Son of God results in being born of God and being an overcomer

Born of God=overcoming the world
We’ll come back to this later

Before we unpack this further, let’s define faith

What is “faith”?
John uses the word “faith” or “believe” three times in verses, 1, 4-5

What is faith?
Hebrews 11:1-3
Romans 10:8-17
James 2:14-26

Faith is active—it acts on the object on which it relies—faith acts on the trustworthiness of its object and responds to that trustworthiness

“It is not the size of the miracle of faith that matters, but the size of our God.” Dr. Jerry Falwell

“Faith is putting everything in God’s hands and then letting Him tell us what to do. What’s the essence of faith? It’s doing what God wants us to do, not what we desire.” Dr. Jerry Falwell

Faith works—our faith that overcomes the world is something we do

The Result of Faith: Obedience

If faith is active, what kind of action does John expect as a result of faith?

Two words to consider here: “Love” and “obey”
“Love” appears five times in verses 1-3
Some form of “obey” appears twice in verses 2-3 (i.e., “observe” and “keep”)

What do “love” and “obedience” have in common in 1 John 5:1-3?
Verse 3 tells us
Loving God equals keeping his commandments (“Commandments” used three times in verses 2 and 3, right along with the words for “obedience”)

What does John mean by “commandments”?
May be a reference to the whole Law or just the 10 commandments

According to Jesus, what are the two most important commandments?
Matthew 22:34-40—on these two commandments rest the whole Law and the Prophets
Love God with all you are, and love others as yourself

Active faith keeps God’s commands and loves

John’s Argument

John’s argument here seems to be something like this:
1. Those who believe in Jesus as Messiah are born of God, and that birth results in faithful activity in loving as God loves
2. Loving as God loves equals keeping God’s commandments
3. When we love, we are obeying
4. When we love, we are acting in faith

Those who believe that Jesus is Messiah/Son of God are born of God, love others, keep the commandments, and overcome the world. Being “born of God” equals “overcoming the world” in some sense, so loving as God loves is victory

So, those who believe that Jesus is Messiah/Son of God are born of God and by that birth of faith they overcome the world.

Those who act upon the truth of the Incarnation (i.e., the “our faith” of verse 4) are born of God and that birth results in victory

Now, let’s consider some questions before we come to our conclusion

Some Questions
1. According to 1 John 4:21 and 5:1-2, those born of God love, but what do they love?
They love what God loves

2. What does God love?
Those who are born of him—our brothers and sisters

3. According to 1 John 5:2-3, how do we love God?
We love God by observing and keeping his commandments
This means we must be reading and obeying his Word
This means we must be spending time in the Scripture in order to observe and obey it

4. What are the commandments we should keep?
Love God (by obeying his Word) and love others (as a result of obeying his commands)

5. According to 1 John 5:4, what overcomes the world?
Our faith

6. What does that look like?
It is a reliance on what God has accomplished in the Messiah, the Son of God, the Incarnation
Faith is active and obedient, not passive and mental

How does faith overcome the world?

Faith acts in opposition to the world’s values and that is our victory over the world. Jesus, the self-sacrificing Messiah/Son of God, God incarnate who comes to die for sins (two things God had never experienced—death and sin), set the standard for a love that the world does not understand and cannot comprehend (John 1)—love is sacrificial, it is active. 

Belief in the Incarnation makes us victorious.

John returns to his first chapter here with an emphasis on Incarnation and faith. In fact, 1 John 5:1-5 is almost a summary of the first four chapters of 1 John
Verses 1a and 5 represent chapter 1, verses 1b-3 represent chapters 2 and 4, verses 4-5 are chapter 3

John says here, “Faith that acts on what God has accomplished in Jesus is antithetical to and overcomes the world.”

Overcoming the world then is living in a way that is “counterculture” to the world’s approach

The world is that which is in opposition to God
It is selfish, vain, and arrogant

1 John 2:15-17
“lust of the flesh”—selfish and desiring its own gain
“lust of the eyes”—vain and focused on appearance
“boastful pride of life”—arrogant and self absorbed

Those who have been born of God and overcome the world by their faith will live in opposition to these
They will be selfless and sacrificial in their lives
They will not stake their lives on reputation or titles
They will not put themselves first (Phil 2:3-8)

Victory over the world comes by faithfully obeying God’s Word—there is no other means
Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

What do we do now?
If we are to overcome the world by our faith, then we must act on the trustworthiness of the object of our faith; namely, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God
To act on his trustworthiness requires us to know him and to spend time with him
The first step of application is to be born of God by placing our faith in what he has accomplished in Christ

For those of us who are Christ followers, there are things we can do (acting in faith) to live as victors over the world.

1. First, we need to know what we believe. If faith is acting on what we believe, then knowing what we believe is a starting point. This requires us to spend time with the One who saved us and reading the things he has told us in his Word. This week spend an extra 10 minutes a day with Christ reading his Word. In fact, use that time to read 1 John or the Gospel of John or even Psalm 119 (a praise of God’s Word)

2. We need to put our faith into action by obeying what God says in Scripture. We cannot claim to have faith if we do not act, so we must obey. This week set aside time to share the truth of God with a friend. Find someone who needs the love of God and be creative in sharing that love. Be exuberant, be extravagant in your obedience. God doesn’t need “secret Christians.”

3. Finally, we need to be intentional in living against the world’s purposes. We need to follow the sacrificial example of our Lord and put the needs of others before our own. We need to pray for those who mistreat us, we need to show Christian concern for those who do not reciprocate, we need to be “counterculture” to the world and its intentions. What can you do this week to show that you are “born of God” and not a part of this world’s culture?

Thanks for reading!

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