Wednesday, February 1, 2012

First John Chapter Two, Part Eleven

2:24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. Before we go too deeply into this passage let us hear a couple of similar statements made by our Lord and the Apostle Peter.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you,” John 15:5-7.

Jesus had just finished telling His disciples that they were clean because of the word He had spoken to them, John 15:3. In other words Jesus was letting the apostles know that they were saved men; they were justified. He goes on now to deeper teachings by compelling them to “abide in Him,” verse 4. He warns them that to produce spiritual fruit one must abide in the true vine, which is Christ Jesus our Lord. Here we have from the context the meaning then of the concept of abiding, when used in this portion of John’s Gospel. It is not justification Jesus refers to, but sanctification. If a Christians wants to live a life of personal holiness empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives in us he must abide in Christ.

I know there are many teachers who attempt to force the text to imply that one can lose his salvation through infidelity, but that is clearly not what is being taught presently. Otherwise Jesus’ confirmation in verse 3 was a pointless comment; there was delineation from one topic (you are already saved men) to another (here is how you will produce righteous works befitting your new life). We are to have Christ’s words abiding in us. We are to contemplate, meditate and act upon God’s word as we understand it; when light is given we walk forward, which permits God to shed fresh light for our advancing walk. The Psalmist extols his audience in the same language: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word,” Psalm 119:9.

Jesus gives a staunch warning about the consequences of failing to abide in Him. We are cast out as a branch and burned, a symbol of the flames of Christ’s judgment seat that will devour the works done in the flesh, 1st Corinthians 3:15. In Christ we can do all things, Philippians 4:13; without Him we can do nothing. At least, we can do nothing of any spiritual value, Titus 1:16; 1st Corinthians 3:12, 15. If we abide in Christ, if we are living a life devoted to our Lord and His word is the principle that governs our lives as Christians we may pray the Father in confidence that our prayers are heard and granted, 1st John 3:21-22.

For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2nd Peter 1:8.

Peter uses similar language to that of our Lord, speaking of fruitfulness. And how does one become fruitful and avoid the barrenness that marks too many Christian lives? The things Peter mentions prior to verse 8 must be in us and abound (thrive, flourish or proliferate). What things are these? Peter’s thought truly begins with verse 3 when he writes, “as [God’s] divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to glory and virtue.” To clarify the nature of what Peter refers to in this verse he continues under inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature,” verse 4.

A little later Peter refers again to this source of promise and comfort when he writes “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” 2nd Peter 1:19. The “prophetic word” that boasts “exceedingly great and precious promises” and delivers to Christians “all things that pertain to life and godliness” is, of course, the Bible.

The canon of Scripture was coming to a close when Peter was writing his second and final epistle; only a handful of works remained in the form of John’s gospel, epistles, and the Revelation. Some would also argue for Jude and Hebrews. Peter was confident that Scripture provided a light that shone in a dark place that could competently guide those who trusted its wisdom and authority. In Scripture the saint finds all things that pertain to life and godliness. A firm grounding in Scripture—that which we have heard from the beginning and should have abiding in us—fosters spiritual growth.

Peter neglects to tell his audience that faith ought to be the foundation of our approach to God’s word, verse 5. I would imagine the apostle only assumes that this is a given since without faith it is impossible to please God, and one must approach our God in faith, Hebrews 11:6. Besides faith a Christian should also possess virtue (personal holiness), knowledge, self-control (the only good selfism in the Bible), perseverance, godliness (a reflection of our God’s character in our thoughts, actions and words), brotherly kindness, and love. We are not meant to move from one to another like graduating grades in school; no, we are supposed to have all such qualities, and they ought to abound (thrive, flourish or proliferate). A maturing Christian possesses such qualities in increasing amounts as a natural outgrowth of his constant, faithful study of the Bible coupled with a faithful, humble reliance on the One who inspired its pages.

As Peter concludes in the following verse: “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins,” 2nd Peter 1:9. The Christian who fails to produce these signs of spiritual maturity, according to Peter, has forgotten that God has forgiven us the sins committed while we were unsaved for Christ’s sake, Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; 1st John 2:12. Such shortsightedness can become a massive hindrance breeding a spirit of contention and judgment, Matthew 7:1-5; we too conveniently forget that we are sinners saved by God’s grace the same as every other Christian, Acts 15:11.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.