The Sixth in a Series of Sermons on John's Epistles
The Apostle John makes a direct connection between Jesus as God manifest in the flesh and the fact that Jesus died to take away the guilt of our sins. But there were some, John says, “who went out from us, but who were not of us” and who were doing everything in their power to deny this essential connection. As John has set out in the opening chapters of this epistle, those who are Christ’s will live in the blessedness of the knowledge that their sins are forgiven. Those who are Christ’s have the benefit of knowing that Jesus Christ is presently in heaven interceding for them as their advocate before the Father. And those who are Christ’s, will not be characterized by sin–something John describes as “practicing sin.” Why? Because God’ people walk in the light. Those who walk in the light wage will war upon their sins as well as strive to mirror that righteousness which is found in Christ. The behavior of God’s children stands in sharp contrast to those whom John will now characterize as children of the Devil, who practice “sinning.”
As we continue our series on the Epistles of John, we now make our way into the third chapter of John’s first epistle, which includes the second main section of this letter. Throughout this portion of his epistle, John will repeat–for the sake of emphasis–a number of themes he’s already set out in chapter two. In 1 John 2:28-3:10, John once again addresses the importance of obeying the commandments of the Lord (our topic this morning). As John will put it, Christians are people who are characterized by the “practice of righteousness” and not by the “practice of sin.” Then, in verses 11-18, John reminds his readers of the necessity of loving their brothers and sisters in Christ, while in verses 19-24, John speaks of the assurance of our salvation in light of our own sinful hearts. And then in the first six verses of chapter 4, John returns to the theme of discerning truth from error. Although in many ways this section of 1 John is a repetition of the first section–something which was often done in letters of this period–John now tweaks each of these points to emphasize their importance in light of the challenges then facing the churches to which John is writing.
Throughout our time in these epistles, we have seen that historical context is everything. If we don’t understand why John writes these letters as well as have knowledge of the errors he is refuting, we’ll make a mess of things–as many have done, especially with the section we are covering this morning. The Apostle John writes these three epistles at some point toward the end of the first century. While at many points in these epistles John alludes to his gospel–likely written a short time earlier–John is writing to both state and defend the doctrine that Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh. The incarnation of Christ–that Jesus is fully God and fully man–is the very foundation of the Christian faith. To deny the incarnation is to deny Christianity. To deny the incarnation is to embrace the spirit of antichrist.
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