John I:6 No Darkness at all
It may be remembered that we observed from the gospel according to John a general
theme prominent throughout. That subject may be expressed in one word, life! Here in a follow-up John continues the same theme and a great one it is indeed. In the gospel John speaks of our Lord Jesus as THE WORD in Whom is life, here He is the Word of life Whom John says, we who are bearing witness have seen with our own eyes and our hands have touched.
We have often spoken of the fact that from the beginning God desired that man would share His life, that is, have the very same life that He our Creator God Himself has. What a stupendous revelation! The life that God has is eternal and for us it will be never ending. God's life is perfect and there is not one dark thread in the entire tapestry (v.5). Talk about joy! What a life He has designed for us and nothing can go wrong. Jesus has come from the Father to manifest the whole plan and John is excitably telling us that he has firsthand knowledge of it all.
The reason John felt the need to write further on this subject is probably due to the opposition that Satan stirred up in the days of the early church. Heresy abounded and needed to be resisted. "Jesus was a phantom." "Oh no," says John, "we know, we touched Him." Some professed to be his disciples but were not living right. John says that those who say (a key phrase in the book) they are the children of light must walk the walk. Conversely, those who deny the sin nature are deceived.
Out of his dealing with these issues of the day come some wonderful principles. As we walk in fellowship with the Lord of life and light His blood keeps on cleansing us from all sin so, in effect, it must not be allowed to hinder our walk with Him even though we recognize it's reality. All we must do is confess sin when we do wrong and He faithfully washes it away. He can continue to do this because His blood was shed to forever pay for them once and for all.
I John 2:2 Our Propitiation
I checked back to see if I discussed the word propitiation when it appeared in Romans three and noted that I did not, so it is either here or in chapter four (4:10) that it should be done. Let's have a go at it now for how do we know if we will ever get to chapter four? One thing for certain, if the Lord comes before we get there you will have some great commentators to listen to like Spurgeon, Ironsides etc. But in case He doesn't come, right at the moment, you have me and I will be happy to share with you what I know about this word. It comes from the Latin and basically means sacrifice. The exciting fact, however, is that this word is the equivalent of the Hebrew word "mercy seat" so in effect we are being told here that the Lord Jesus is the mercy seat for our sins. Now this is the term for the cover on the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies where, once a year, the Jewish high priest sprinkled the blood of atonement on that special day they call Yom Kippur.
When we relate what Christ did for us on the cross to the fulfillment of the Old Testament types we realize that He is seen in three portraits, that of the High Priest representing Him bringing the blood of the sacrificial lamb (which also represents Him), and carrying it to Heaven and into God's presence where it was sprinkled on the mercy seat which, according to our text also represents Him, for "He is the propitiation"(mercy seat). Inside of the Ark of the Covenant rested the tablets of stone, the law which reflected the judgement of a Holy God who must, in keeping with His character, judge us all on the basis of His law by which we would all be found guilty and stand condemned. But here comes Jesus bearing His own blood and sprinkling it on the covering under the watchful eyes of the cherubim. He is in His very Person the Place where Holiness and mercy can meet together and it is here and here alone where Righteousness and Peace kiss each other ( Ps.85:10) (kiss and make up), and we are declared forgiven! What a word!
I John 3:6 Sin and the Abiding One
Admittedly verse six and following presents, on casual reading, a problem. Can the Christian reach a state where he never sins and does this passage teach such a sinless perfection? Those who consistently interpret Scripture adhering to the rule that the Bible never contradicts itself must, of necessity, say no. In fact John has declared empathically the very opposite in the first chapter. In 1:7 we read of the one who "walks in the light" and of whom it is said, "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (that is, according to the Greek keeps on cleansing us, etc.) In the very next verse he says "if we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." It is very clear that John believed that the Christian who walks in fellowship with God needs constant cleansing from sin and to say that one does not have sin is to be self deceived! Why the need for the instruction in verse nine? And this is followed by a further declaration, "if we say we have not sinned" etc.
How do we interpret our present passage then when we know John cannot possibly be contradicting himself? I refer to the words of Barnes in his New Testament Notes. " He who is born again does not sin habitually" he goes on to say "he does not do wrong deliberately and of design. He means to do right and is not wilfully a sinner." So Doddridge, " who habitually and avowedly sinneth." (On the words "whosoever sinneth").
Note in verse nine John speaks of his seed (God's) remaining in us. This is spoken of the new nature which we have, even Christ Himself, who is in us. Compare this thought with that in Romans 7:20. The new nature, Christ in us, cannot sin and the old nature is positionally dead so the abiding believer can't live like a child of the devil. Professing Christians that do show their true colors.
I John 4:7 "Let us love one another"
Where does one begin to write on such a subject as this verse and the rest of the chapter embraces? Over and over again John finds a different way to tell us that God is love and if we say we love Him (which implies that we love what He loves) then we'd best be loving one another. Let's go back for a moment to the previous chapter where we have an interesting coincidence. We all know John 3:16 "For God so loved......" but note how I John 3:16 follows up on that theme. We perceive God's love by the fact that He laid down His life for us. He, God, did this to demonstrate His love. You will notice that it just does not refer here to our Lord Jesus laying down His life, that is significant enough in itself, but to emphasize His great love it says that God died for us! But it is the conclusion of this verse that John is writing about in chapter four, i.e. that we should lay down our lives for the brethren.
Apparently, there is no greater evidence that we truly know God than that we love as He loved and those whom He loved. In another place we read "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35).
When we can see so clearly that God's love is unconditional, that is, He loves us though we are unworthy, how can we justify being selective?
Then too, there is that all encompassing statement of love written by Paul to the Corinthians (13) which includes the words "love never faileth," but rather bears all things in its relationship to the brethren, endures all things, even to the point of dying, always believe the best about brethren and has hope when everyone else has given up. This must be what is meant by laying down our lives.
I wonder if what is meant by hating one's brother (v.20) is to be lacking in these qualities?
Amy Carmichael, when meeting someone she didn't like, would silently pray "Thy love Lord."
I John 5:16 Sin unto Death
I choose to speak to you on this subject because like me you probably are prone to ask
the question, "what is a sin unto death?" First, let me say that I do not know but then we are in good company for so say the prophets who were before us. Most commentators admit the difficulty of this passage and that alone should be of some comfort. There is some encouragement, however, towards the following possibility.
The sin unto death may be somewhat of the nature of that committed by Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5 or in the O.T. like that of Uzzah in II Sam.6 (3-8). In both cases the Lord sought to make a spectacular lesson through their being immediately judged and taken home. I say "home" because there is little doubt but that this was only physical death and that they were not losing their salvation, so to speak. We remember also that Paul warned of death as a possibility of abuse at the Lord's table using the term "sleep" in place of "have died." (I Cor. 11:30).
J.N. Darby illustrates this verse through a personal experience involving a man who expected to die physically as a result of sin that he committed and was entirely reconciled to it if he could expect nothing different at that point.
I, too, have a story. It concerns Gary, a young alcoholic who received Christ through our ministry and went away to Bible School where, having almost completed a full year of study, he suddenly switched to a school where false doctrine was taught. Soon he had lapsed back into grievous
sin where upon his previously outspoken testimony was now being greatly derided. After persisting in his waywardness for some months, perhaps a few years, he was driving toward Bangor one morning, was hit by a freight train and killed. I expect to see Gary in heaven and I do not know that he sinned a sin unto death, but I have often thought it quite possible.