Saturday, December 31, 2011

First John Chapter Two, Part Four

2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. If our boast is in Christ—that we walk with Him—then John informs us that our spiritual walk should be congruent to our Lord’s while He was on earth. Totally congruent? Of course not, because Jesus was a sinless Man and we are sinners saved by the grace He provided on the cross. But a walk that slowly mirrors our Savior’s more and more as time elapses? Without a doubt.

It is even said of our Lord that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man,” Luke 2:52. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him,” Hebrews 5:8-9. Christ learned obedience through His walk with the Father in the days of His life on this earth. Likewise Christians will learn obedience by walking with the Son and suffering for His sake. Make no mistake, this is how Christ walked, suffering many things at the hands of those who hated Him merely because of who He was. If Christians are to grow in our dependence on the Lord and to trust Him our faith must be tried and our patience tested. An idle Christian who avoids conflict, avoids hardship, seeks only the light and easy path is a Christian who will never grow in grace, mature in faith, or bear spiritual fruit.

Jesus spoke of such. “And some (seed) fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture,” Luke 8:6. Contrary to some expositors, I am firmly convinced that our Lord is not referring presently to the unsaved but to genuine believers who receive the good news of the gospel and never live out in practice and reality what they believe. Our Lord extrapolates the point: “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away,” Luke 8:13. Christ commanded believers to abide in Him; only in this fashion can a Christian bear fruit to God, John 15:4. The falling away is not a loss of salvation, or even proof that the believer was a false professor; it demonstrates the difference and necessity of abiding in Christ verses walking in the flesh. A carnal Christian can “walk the walk” when things go well and the sun is shining; what happens when the storm comes? They fall away, like Demas did when he forsook Paul, 2nd Timothy 4:10. Again, we do not and cannot know if Demas was truly saved. The issue isn’t his salvation but his stand in Christ. Paul was deeply rooted in his Lord and confidently declared “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13.

Paul did not mouth mere lip service, and his manner of life stands the test John just presented us. The verse again is, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Paul’s life was a constant example of the sufficiency Jesus gives His disciples…if we are willing to receive Him. Paul abounded in times of leisure, sorrow, travail and joy. He walked as his Lord walked. The apostle echoes something of the same idea when he was inspired to say “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” 1st Corinthians 11:1.

2:7-8 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.
John continues sharing his inspired counsel with his fellow Christians and spiritual children; many of whom converted to faith in Christ via John’s testimony were likely reading this letter. It is edifying and a good reminder to take note that John (and all of the apostles) writes his letter to believers. Brethren, or little children, he writes frequently. Some of the “hard passages” that create so much debate and strife might be far less strenuous to exegete if we kept this in mind. Passages such as 1st John 5:16-17 or James 5:19-20 were written to those eternally saved. In light of this very fact that Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe on Him (John 5:24; 6:37) we know beyond doubt that the references to death in both aforementioned passages must not be—cannot be—spiritual death. It is physical death the apostles refer to as a result of sin’s habitual presence in our lives.

Recall the passage when David was bringing the ark into Jerusalem? Uzzah was beside the ark when the cart stumbled and the ark risked toppling. By reflex or deliberation Uzzah put forth his hand to steady it, and for his disobedience God killed him, 2nd Samuel 6:6-7. God is a holy God and has exacting standards for His children. This is why we are cautioned on more than one occasion to walk worthy of the calling wherewith we have been called, Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10. God, as a wise Father, disciplines His children as He sees fit. A child receiving such discipline is legitimate, according to the word of God, Hebrews 12:8.

We wonder, what is this old commandment we have heard from the beginning? There are several beginnings we can consider. We are concerned here with the beginning of the church and the theology which undergirds it. Trail back to the beginning of John’s epistle. We read: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; For the life was manifested,” 1st John 1:1-2. It is our Lord John refers to and His earthly incarnation, and the Spirit which founded our church and gave to us the light of the New Testament. This “old commandment” is one that John heard from his Master’s lips, and one that he reminds his audience of very frequently. It is the command to love one another, and thereby abide in God’s light, 1st John 3:11; John 13:34.

If this audience John was presently addressing was in fact a body of his disciples they certainly had heard this “from the beginning.” John spends much of this epistle alone attempting to express the vital importance of a God-centered love in a believer’s life. A strong love for God expresses itself in a visible interest in the things of God. God is intensely interested in bringing many sons to glory. He seeks the lost to give them light, love and life. His love demands much but gives more. The world’s love demands nothing and consequently that is what it will leave you with. It is not for ourselves that we burn with a loving interest for fellow saints and the safety of the lost. It is because we are ambassadors for Christ and know the terror of the Lord, seeking to persuade men, 2nd Corinthians 5:11.

This old commandment (to love one another) of course antedates the New Testament. In Leviticus 19:18 we read: “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” Christ our Lord made this commandment new by adding to it a very personal dimension. Jesus lived out this commandment in His earthly life as a testimony of how a man of God ought to conduct themselves. He laid it down as a principle, a measuring stick for the world to judge the genuineness of Christ’s redemptive mission, John 17:21. The commandment as John writes is “new” because the darkness is passing and the new light shineth. Christ is the Light that lights all men, John 1:9. If the Old Testament was a strong house laid down, then the New Testament provides the windows to that house so we may see within and the light of God’s glory may shine out more clearly. The shadow has passed; the substance is here to stay, Colossians 2:17.

1 comment:

  1. As John 13:35 states, our love is the one thing that clearly identifies us as Christians. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." The world's standard of love is far different.

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