2015 03 22 pm 1 John 2:3-39 Lord’s Day 12 – Communion With Jesus Christ

John writes to believers who were having their faith in Jesus Christ challenged. He reveals 3 tests that help us know that we are God’s children. The sum of all this enriches our communion with Jesus who is the Christ.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
A couple of weeks ago, one of my catechism students was somewhat aghast to learn that many in her Christian school class believed that the earth was billions of years old. For her this came as quite a shock because the truth of creation is so plainly taught in the Bible.

And perhaps you can remember times when others have criticized truths you hold dear or have suggested bizarre interpretations of things which seem to you to be so plain and obvious to anyone who can read the Bible!?

Well, it is a similar kind of situation that led John to write this letter. In v19, John speaks about those “who went out from us.” Now, we don’t know exactly which congregation John wrote to, but he wrote this letter to encourage the believers there because some people had left that congregation to establish a church of their own. And they had done so having challenged some very key beliefs of the congregation they left. But in the end, they left their ‘simple-minded’ brothers and sisters, with their ignorant views, because they knew better and were convinced that it was time for a new and superior fellowship to be set up.

And from our study of John’s Epistle and other material of this time, we know that these people were GNOSTICS.
And Gnosticism was and is a heresy. The word gnostic means ‘the knowing ones.’ It stressed the intellect and a kind of mystical and superior knowledge. It held that the spirit was good while matter was inherently evil.
And there were two major consequences of this philosophy:
1. The first was that the idea that Jesus of Nazareth was not God born in the flesh because God could not take a body, made up of matter, upon Himself. So according to them, Jesus was an ordinary man. He was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism but the Spirit then left Him at His crucifixion.
i. And this is what John has in view in v22 where he describes such people as liars and antichrists.
2. And the second idea was that even though these gnostics did things that the Bible described as sinful, they saw themselves as sinless because their spirits were pure. It didn’t matter, you see, what you did with your body, because your spirit was sinless.
i. And this is what John addresses in ch.1 where he says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar, and His word has no place in our lives.”

Now, Gnosticism was attractive to the SUPER-INTELLIGENT OF SOCIETY. It really appealed to the Greek way of thinking. So you had these very clever people telling you that Jesus was not the Christ and that what you did with your body didn’t matter, so they were off to set up a new fellowship of those who ‘saw the light’ on these matters, and then there was you and the other Joe-ordinary, everyday, average Christians, who only had the OT and the teaching of John, which was that Jesus is the Christ and that you must not lie or commit adultery or steal, or lose your temper, etc.

So these were shocking times; times of questioning and uncertainty. And that is why John wrote this letter. And there are three things that he especially stresses in his letter.
1. Flip over to CH. 5:13 for the first of these which John makes explicit. He says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” John wanted believers TO ENJOY THE ASSURANCE OF FAITH. In the midst of all the uncertainty that these Gnostics – the self-described ‘knowing ones,’ had caused, John wanted believers to KNOW, for certain, that they were children of God.
2. But secondly, there is an emphasis in this letter about the HISTORICAL ORIGINS OF CHRISTIANITY. Christianity is not a set of ideas or theories that changes from time to time. Christianity is something that God has done in history in the person and work of Jesus Christ, that is true. That’s why John begins the letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched– this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
3. And thirdly, there is an emphasis in John’s letter on LOVE. An obvious implication of Gnostic philosophy was that the practical love that believers ought to show to other believers and to non-believers was not essential. So this needed to be countered by John because it was a key message of Jesus. Boys and girls, do you remember the new commandment that Jesus gave? He said, “A new commandment I give you, that you (?) LOVE one another.”
And it is the first of these three main emphases – the assurance of faith – that John is concentrating on in ch. 2. Now, as we shall see, he touches also on the other two, but he does that to serve his larger purpose of assuring believers of their faith.

Congregation, someone once said that DIAMONDS are a girl’s best friend. There have been, however, some ratbag men who try and pass off fake diamonds as the real thing. But you can work out whether or not a diamond is ‘the real deal’ with certain tests (Dani and Anna)
– For example, if you blow on it and if it stays foggy for a couple of seconds, it’s probably fake.
– And also, if you hold the jewel over a newspaper and you can read the print through it, bad news! It’s fake. Real diamonds bend the light so much that you cannot do this.
– Now, there was another test involving a cigarette lighter and a hammer but Julius and Abel are big guys so I don’t want to risk their wrath  But these are some of the tests that will tell you whether or not your diamond is real.

Well, what the Holy Spirit through John wants us to know is that there are THREE TESTS that reveal whether or not a person is a real Christian. And borrowing from James Montgomery Boice and others, we call them the moral test, the social test, and the doctrinal test. And they are all found here in ch. 2.
And we do so in order to deepen our communion with Jesus Christ.

The first test, in vv3-6, is the MORAL test – “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands.”
1. Now, in many respects, what we read here is quite plain. The Gnostics are in view here in the sense that they claimed knowledge of God but did not do the things God commanded. Thus, they could not be real Christians. Real Christians obeys the commands of Jesus Christ. But let’s ponder this a for a few more minutes in terms of our communion with Jesus Christ.
a. If you look down at v20, you will see that as a believer, “You have an anointing from the Holy One.”
i. As we saw in our earlier Exodus reading, in the OT, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed to their office. Anointing oil was poured on them symbolizing their appointment to special office and the empowering of God for that office.
ii. Well, every believer has an anointing from the Holy One. God anoints every believer, not with oil but with the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts.”
iii. When we learn that we are miserable sinners who deserve the hell we spoke of this morning, and that in Jesus Christ we have a most beautiful Saviour, in whom there is the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and we believe in Him, we receive the Holy Spirit who anoints us as believers.
A. And if the Holy Spirit lives in a person, He produces fruit. And you boys and gils know the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces – Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
1) And these are things that have to with commandment keeping, not commandment breaking.
iv. But another way of thinking about what the Spirit of Christ produces within us is what the preacher and theologian, John Owen, delightfully calls the ‘THE HABIT OF GRACE.’
A. And that description is so good because it helps us to see that what is in view here is not box-ticking or simply sticking to the rules. No, the ‘habit of grace’ is “a new, gracious, spiritual life, or principle, created, and bestowed upon the soul, whereby it is changed in all its faculties and affections, fitted and enabled to go forth in the way of obedience unto every divine object that is proposed unto it, according to the mind of God.” (That quote is in the bulletin for your later reflection)
1) The Holy Spirit transforms every part of us so that out of a deep thankfulness to God, we eagerly and gladly obey His commands.
2) And this comes through again and again in the Bible. Cadets and Gems, what did Jesus say would motivate you to keep His commands? “If you (?) LOVE ME you will keep my commands.” Obedience flows out of love for Christ.
3) And what is the typical structure or the flow of the epistles? By God’s grace through Jesus Christ, you are a saved one.
a) Then you get Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship.”
b) Then you get Ephesians 4:1, Therefore, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
4) It is as you come to know God’s grace in Jesus Christ that you are filled with an eagerness to obey Him. And it is as you come to know the height and the breadth and the length and the depth of God’s grace to you in Jesus Christ that your eagerness to obey Him deepens.

Well, that’s just test one – the MORAL test! Do you obey the commands of Jesus? As you look back over the days and months and years of your walk with the Lord, can you say, Yes, I see the habit of grace at work within me? But secondly, from vv7-11, we see the SOCIAL test.

And the heart of this test is seen in 1 John 2:9-10, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light.

1. Now, you cannot help but read these words and be reminded of Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
2. But John wants to add ONE MORE ‘ANGLE,’ if you will, to what Jesus said. That’s why he says in v7 that he is not writing a new command but an old one,” and in v8, “Yet I am writing you a new command.” Jesus, you see, said, If you love others, THE WORLD will know that you are Christians. But John’s ‘angle is that if you love others, YOU will know that you are a Christian!
a. If you want to know if you are a real Christian, examine yourself to see if you love your brother. Your brother, or your sister, is one who God chose in Jesus Christ to adopt as His child. He or she is one who Jesus left heaven’s glory to hang on the cross for. He or she is one whom the Spirit has chosen to live in, permanently. So if you hate your brother or sister, you hate Christ!
i. And let’s not beat around the bush here. John is not talking about some idealistic Christian brother or sister that we love in our minds, he is talking about _______ (name several individuals). Do you love him and her?
A. And people of God, did you know that the love spoken of here has a shape? It’s not a square and its not a circle, it is cross-shaped.
B. When Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” what had He just done? He had just washed the disciples’ feet. Do you stoop down to wash the feet of these your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you gladly serve them expecting nothing in return?
C. And as Jesus loved those who misunderstood Him and didn’t listen to Him and denied Him and falsely accused Him and betrayed Him and spat on Him, do you love those brothers or sisters who hurt you or disappoint you or disagree with you?
D. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Do you love these your brothers and sisters like this?
E. And if you have failed to love your brother or sister like this? Well, love leads you to that brother or sister to apologize. And when others have failed to love you like this and have come to apologize to you, love leads you to forgive them and to not hold that sin against them.

So that is test number two – the SOCIAL test. Jesus loved me, sacrificially. Do I love my brothers and sisters, sacrificially? Well, we will come back to vv12-17 as we close, but let’s look thirdly at the DOCTRINAL test of vv18-29.

1. Those Gnostics who had left the congregation to form a new fellowship John calls ANTICHRISTS. And as the word suggests, they are anti-Christ; they are against Christ; they deny Christ. Look at v22, “[They deny] that Jesus is the Christ … [they deny] the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father.”
a. Well, the opposite of the antichrist is the one spoken of in v20 – “But you have an anointing from the Holy One.”
i. And we spoke about this ANOINTING earlier. The Greek word translated as anointing is Chrisma – it shares a root with the title Christ. And so, in English, we have Christ and we have Christians. I am to be a Christ; I am to think as Christ would have thought and talk as Christ would have talked and behave as Christ would have behaved.
b. But John continues, “and all of you know the truth.” And the truth, which is the opposite of what the Gnostics deny, is that Jesus is the Christ.
i. Now, this is not just believing that Jesus is the Messiah that the OT spoke of. The context is plain that what is in view here is a full confession of the divinity and historicity of Jesus.
A. And to explain what this means, think about the Nicene Creed.
1) It teaches us that Jesus was truly human – born of the virgin Mary, that He was truly God, “the only begotten Son of God … God of God … being of one substance with the Father,” and that He existed and did His work at a defined time in history, “crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.”
2) Jesus is the God – this is true and this is historical fact.
c. So this, you see, is the doctrinal test – if you believe that Jesus truly is God and man and that He lived and died and rose again, 200 years ago, you may know that you are a child of God.

2. Now, note the words of V26: John says, “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.” The Gnostics of that time tried to teach these believers that these things were not true in relation to Jesus.
a. And there will always be those who do the same, even today; who try and lead God’s people away from believing that Jesus is the Christ.
b. But we will recognize them as false, because, as it says in v20, we have “an anointing from the Holy One.”
i. But look what else is said in the closing words of the chapter:
A. V24, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you.”
B. V27, “But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in Him.”
C. V28 – And now, dear children, continue in Him.”
D. Jesus Christ reveals Himself in the Bible as the Holy Spirit works with the Word to give us knowledge and understanding and wisdom.
1) And so, in private and with other believers, we must be in this book! We remain in Christ; we continue in Christ as we apply ourselves to His Word.

Now, as we come back briefly to vv12-17, John gave these three tests, primarily, so that Gnostics would be easily recognizable: They do not keep the commands of Jesus, they hate their brothers and sisters in Christ, and they do not believe the truth about Jesus.
But he knew that sensitive believers would measure themselves against these tests and find much that is wanting. So he pauses and writes the pastoral and gentle words of vv12-14 to assure them that he has no doubt at all about their standing in Christ.
But having done that, he also doesn’t want believers to think that the tests he is giving them are meaningless. So in vv15-17, he points Christians to what the assurance of faith should lead to – a refusal to love the world and a love for the revealed will of God. If we flesh out the words of Jesus from John 13 that have been put into that well known children’s hymn – “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples – if you keep my commandments, if you love one another, and if you hold on to the truth of Jesus as the Christ, because these ones do not love the world but they do love my Word.

But now, having said all of this, let us remember that the name at the centre of Christianity is Christ. Lest we think that all of this is about what I must do, we must end by seeing that the heart of John’s words is what Christ has done. John Owen says, “The blood of Christ not only covers my bad works, it also adorns my good works (repeat).” Let me illustrate this in this way:

Each Sunday, various sisters of the congregation take it in turn to provide flower arrangements. Now, as could happen to any of us, occasionally whoever is on duty forgets. But that’s OK, because we have a dried flower arrangement that we can whip out so no one is any the wiser. Well, because God joins every believer to Jesus Christ, the blood of Jesus is such that it stands in the place of all that we lack and all that we fail to do.
But when our sisters do bring flowers, you would think that all they need to do is plonk some flowers in any old bowl and sit them up on the pedestal because flowers are beautiful. But they don’t. They arrange them and they do so in such a way that they adorn that which is already beautiful. And likewise, the blood of Jesus adorns all that we do in His name such that it becomes a fragrant offering in the eyes of the Lord.

And believer, one day all that you have done that in your eyes seems so defiled and deformed and defective will one day be paraded before you as you stand in front of the throne of God as brilliant and beautiful and breath-taking because of the person and work of Jesus Christ!

Praise God that we have an anointing in the Holy One. Amen.