Subject — Affirmations
Theme — The final affirmations of John
Proposition – The final affirmations of John reminds of three basic fundamentals to the Christian faith he has been laboring to teach in his Epistle
Purpose — Therefore having considered these final affirmations let us take to heart these matters so that we might find ourselves ever more exulting in our Christian faith
Re-cap of Chapter 5
The subject of this Chapter has been that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This theme is teased out in Chapter 5 when he begins by stressing the unity that exists between God and the believer as engendered by faith in Christ. Believers in Jesus Christ overcome the world and they reveal their love for God — a love engendered by faith in Christ — by their love for the Brethren, by their obedience to God’s commands.
John has told us that Jesus Christ came with the authority of Baptism (water) and shedding of blood (Cross). These were both events given the imprimatur of God’s voice. Not only do we have the testimony of Spirit, water and blood but we have the testimony of heaven. All this testimony confirms that Jesus is the Christ and has need to be received by men. Some men reject this testimony, thus making God out to be a liar, and some accept the testimony and are filled personally with the content of that testimony which is eternal life, so that the testimony of God is in them.
We have the assurance that God hears our prayers as we ask according to his will. Part of our prayer life includes asking for the Brother who has fallen into sin, though John tells us that there are those who are beyond the effectiveness of our prayers for them. John closes the chapter with a series of Affirmations and one vital admonition.
In his closing remarks John summarizes three facts that he has covered. He begins each of these summary statements with the phrase, “We know,”
It is interesting that he thus casts the Christian faith in terms of the understanding. By recapitulating what he has said he brings them back to a kind of Catechism. The Christian life is the life of the mind, of knowing. If we have no interest in knowing God, knowing the great truths of our Christian faith then we would be better served by calling ourselves something besides “Christian.”
I.) Affirmation #1 — The Christian Life Is Not Characterized By Habitual Determined Sinfulness (18, cmp. 3:6, 9)
As we have learned this affirmation may have need to be repeated by John because of the immorality of the Gnostics who, because of their belief system, were not concerned with the sins characterized by satiating lust and fleshly desires.
That John does not mean that the Christian never sins is seen by his reminder that if we sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin. John is not dealing with the Christian who realizes he sins every day in word, thought, or deed, but he is warning against the kind of Christianity that is unconcerned about sin.
What John says here, is parallel w/ what Paul says when in Romans 6 he talks about being raised to newness of life.
A.) Hallmark of the Christian Community is that having been saved from Sin by Christ it distinguishes itself by its increasing, though never arrived at, Christ-likeness
It is interesting that more and more I see Churches selling themselves by advertising that their gathering is safe because it is a haven for sinners. And it is true that the Church should be a safe haven for sinners. However, the sense I often get from some who go by the name of “New Calvinists” that sinning is not something we should sweat about since we are righteous in Christ.
These folks take offense at Christians that articulate that the Christian life looks like something that resembles the ever increasing obedience of and respect for God’s commands. These new Calvinists have so redefined sanctification that if it exists it becomes largely immeasurable, unknowable, and unseen. I can not help but think that they would be put off with John’s call to not sin and to keep God’s commands.
This New Calvinism focuses hard on Christ’s work for us emphasizing that all our obedience will arise from that and there is truth in that idea but obedience can’t flow from Christ’s work if the believer isn’t told from God’s word what obedience looks like. And this is where new Calvinism falls down rather definitively. New Calvinism doesn’t want to explain to people what the Christian life looks like so that John’s affirmation “the believer does not habitually sin” looks like something concrete.
The Church ought to be a safe haven — a hospital — for sinners. A safe haven and hospital for recovering sinners where the elixir of eternal life is given in word and sacrament. But, as we’ve seen in 1st John it is a place where God’s people are instructed that they are to love the Brethren and they are to keep God’s commands and where they are told that Christians do not involve themselves in habitual . It is a place where God’s people are to be encouraged to put off the old man and put on the new man. It is a place where the foundation of doctrine (indicative) is laid and the path of duty (imperative is pointed towards).
So, when we sell the Church as a “safe haven for sinners,” without also mentioning that we look for sinners to become progressively incrementally more healthy we are involved in false advertising for the Church.
Why do Churches do this?
No one can say for sure but it should be observed that such advertising and soft pedaling on sin makes it comparatively easier to build big churches and take in large offerings. If God’s law, as a guide to life for the Redeemed sinner, isn’t articulated, and if sin isn’t closely defined then people will have no reason to quit attending or quit giving.
B.) This Christian life is not one of habitual determined sin because Christ keeps His people (John 17:12, 15)
That Christ keeps His people doesn’t mean that His people don’t sin. That Christ keeps His people doesn’t mean that His people don’t struggle with besetting sins. That Christ keeps His people means that He gives them a regard for sanctification.
Text — “He who is born of God” (Does this refer to Christ who keeps us, or does this refer to the believer who keeps himself.
The word touch means to harm or injure a person
This text also reminds of the preserving power of God for His people. Being born of God we are sealed unto the day of redemption. We can be confident, not because of our holiness, or our ability (those would be very foolish things to place confidence in) but we can be confident because that God, of whom we are born, is the God who keeps us until the very end. (Perseverance of the saints).
II.) Affirmation #2 — We Know That There Is A Difference Between “Us,” & “Them” (19)
Mankind is divided into two great parties or special interest groups, those which belong to God and those which belong to the world (those in Adam).
Scripture teaches that God’s people are His portion and that he has made Jacob His inheritance (Dt. 32:9), while the rest seek to throw off his chains. Those opposed to God are not all equal in their depravity and so not all as epistemologically self-conscious in their hatred towards God (I John 5:10) and God’s people but there is this divide, this antithesis of which we must be constantly aware.
“whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”
This is another way of saying that those who are outside of Christ are under the dominion of Satan. It is not saying that the world belongs to Satan. Satan can not lay claim to creating and owning the Cosmos, though he can lay claim to holding sway over all those in Adam.
Yet, though the world lies in the sway of the wicked one we know that this same wicked one has been bound and despoiled of his goods (Matthew 12:29f) by virtue of the Lord Christ’s bringing of the Kingdom through His death on the Cross. Jesus has come to drive out the wicked one and Jesus claims the world now which rightfully belongs to God. We, who have been born of God, are the first fruits of those who have been delivered from this present evil age but we anticipate that the Kingdoms of this world becoming the Kingdoms of our Lord precisely because they are already His Kingdoms.
However, we must keep in mind that there is a antithesis between believer and unbeliever.
Further it would be wise to understand that with the passage of time the antithesis becomes more and more pronounced. Those in Christ go on in Christ-likeness and those outside of Christ become increasingly consistent in being under the sway of the wicked one.
III.) Affirmation #3 — The Son Has Come And Has Given Us Understanding
The idea of “Him who is true.” (True in opposition to what is fictitious)
Given us understanding — Christian doctrine of illumination
Given us understanding — Christianity as the life of the mind
Given us understanding — Eternal life is wrapped up, not in experience, not in emotion, but in knowing God
Dispute regarding text — How are the pronouns to be read
Application — Lack of emphasis on knowing God in the contemporary Church as seen in the despising of Catechisms and Confessions.
“In Him who is true” — Spiritual Union of Christ with the Body (Head & Members) Pneumatology / Christology
IV.) Exhortation — Idols
It may be that John’s reminding them of being given the understanding of the true God leads Him to the final Imperative.
False conceptions of God
Remember what he is fighting are those who are selling false conceptions of Jesus Christ (Gnostics) and so false conceptions of God.
Of course the temptation to idolatry has always been the bane of God’s people. Calvin could say that the human heart was an idol factory. We are forever prone to make God out of just about anything — even the best of things which are ruined because we turn them into idols, esteeming the gift more than the giver.
What are our Idols?
The encouraging matter of all this is that while we may be convicted of our idolatry tendencies that God promises His people that they will continue to look to Christ for forgiveness and will continue to be renewed so that we are more and more God centered and less and less self and idol centered.