LORD’S DAY 29, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 29 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. This morning’s devotional addresses the subject of The Lord’s Supper or Communion.

Q. Do the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ?

A. No. Just as the water of baptism is not changed into Christ’s blood and does not itself wash away sins but is simply a divine sign and assurance1of these things, so too the holy bread of the Lord’s Supper does not become the actual body of Christ,2 even though it is called the body of Christ3 in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.4

1 Eph. 5:26Tit. 3:5.
2 Matt. 26:26-29.
3 1 Cor. 10:16-1711:26-28.
4 Gen. 17:10-11Ex. 12:11, 131 Cor. 10:1-4.

 

Q. Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood, and Paul use the words, a sharing in Christ’s body and blood?

A. Christ has good reason for these words. He wants to teach us that just as bread and wine nourish the temporal life, so too his crucified body and poured-out blood are the true food and drink of our souls for eternal life.1 But more important, he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge, that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in his true body and blood as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance,2 and that all of his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and made satisfaction for our sins.3

1 John 6:51, 55.
2 1 Cor. 10:16-1711:26.
3 Rom. 6:5-11.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: The Believer’s Growth in Christ.

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (I John 2:12-14)

In what areas of your life in Christ are you like a little child? I have five grandchildren: four on earth and one in heaven. Of the four here on earth, it has been a joy to see them grow from infancy to childhood and for the eldest, to the brink of adolescence. There is an abandon in their displays of affection. The same can be said about when they get frustrated or angry when they do not receive what they want.

Our walk with Christ can often be described as a relationship of a heavenly father to His children. John remarks that he wrote to those in the church who were like little children. John expressed an endearment to those to whom he was writing.

He also confirmed that for those who are infants in Christ, the main and often singular truth they know is that God is their Father and He has forgiven them of their sins. What a wonderful truth to know that we, as God’s children, no longer have to bear our guilt.

In what areas of your life in Christ are you like a young man or woman? This is an individual who is beyond the age of puberty. They are in throngs of intense growth spurts and growing pains. At times, this period of a person’s life can be exciting, challenging and frightening as you are no longer a child, but not quite an adult. Awkward moments may abound. Confidence in one’s abilities may be lacking because you may not be sure what are your talents and inherent abilities.

Our walk with Christ can often be like this. As John writes, these are they who are continuing to overcome the evil one because of the strength within them due to the Word of God. Once a child, they are not maturing into spiritual and godly adulthood.

Our walk with Christ is also like being a father or mother. This is a person who is an elder or older person and a spiritual mentor to those who are younger in the faith: whether those mentored are like children or young adults. We have had those people in our lives when we were younger. Who are we mentoring now that we are older?

The church to whom John wrote was filled with people who were either children, younger adults or older adults in Christ. He also may have been referring to the various stages presently existing within each believer? In other words, in what ways in your walk with Christ are you like a little child, while at the same time you are like a young adult or a mature, elder adult?

The theme verse for this daily blog is 2 Peter 3:18 which says, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Let us resolve to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. May we continue to grow in Christ from childhood to maturity.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: Actions Speak Louder than Words.

9 “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (I John 2:9-11)

Matthew 22:34-40 records a conversation Jesus once had with the Pharisees. The text says, 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

In I John 2:7-8, the Apostle John wrote that the commandments of God are not new but have been with God’s people for centuries. On the other hand, for the recently converted, the commandments take on new significance and meaning when a believer in Christ is regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God brings illumination and understanding to the child of God as they read and meditate upon the Word of God.

Jesus said that all of the commandments of God are fulfilled by loving God and loving one’s neighbor. Upon these two commandments depend all of the Law and Prophets. In the context, He meant the entire Old Testament or the Scriptures.

The Apostle John provided an example of what loving one’s neighbor, and loving God, looks like. “9 “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” What we say must be confirmed by what we do. If an individual says that they are a believer in Christ but at the same time they hate their brother, they give evidence that they remain unconverted. Their actions speak louder than their words.

However, John goes on to say that “10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” Self-sacrificial love is an evidence of a sinner’s conversion by grace alone, through faith alone the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. There will be no cause for this person to stumble or to cause an offense.

However, John goes on to say that, “11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” John describes the status of the unconverted rather than a so-called carnal Christian.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The original language conveys the idea of someone who habitually hates or is marked by a lifestyle of hate. Those who profess to be Christians, yet are characterized by hate, demonstrate by such action that they have never been born again. The false teachers made claims to enlightenment, transcendent knowledge of God, and salvation, but their actions, especially the lack of love, proved all such claims false.”

There are times when people hurt us, even fellow believers in Christ. However, our response is never to habitually hate those who hurt us but rather to demonstrate self-sacrificial love of the will. This is the evidence that we are truly converted.

May each of us demonstrate self-sacrificial love towards everyone we encounter today.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

I John: No New Commandment.

7 “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (I John 2:7-8)

Sometimes when we read the Scriptures, we may read a particular text which seems contradictory on the surface. A case in point is I John 2:7-8. John writes about a commandment which is not new but rather old. At the same time, it is new even though we have previously heard it in the past. What does John mean?

Within the context that obedience to God’s commandments is a biblical test for authentic faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (I John 2:3-6), John wrote that this principle for the believer was not a new commandment. It was a biblical doctrine which was not recent, fresh, or unprecedented.

On the contrary, this commandment to love God and keep His commandments was an ancient commandment (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). In fact, believers in Christ possess this directive from the moment they are converted by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

However, at the same time it is a new commandment because as the believer in Christ grows in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18), they begin to realize the various areas of their life in which they are disobedient to God. Therefore, they confess such sin and resolve to become increasingly obedient to God in another area of their Christian walk.

In harmony with 2 Corinthians 5:17, the darkness of sin, wickedness and evil increasingly departs from the believer. At the same time, the light of God’s holiness increasingly takes hold upon the believer’s mind, emotions and will.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “John makes a significant word play here. Though he doesn’t state here what the command is, he does in 2 John 5–6. It is to love. Both of these phrases refer to the same commandment of love. The commandment of love was “new” because Jesus personified love in a fresh, new way and it was shed abroad in believers’ hearts (Rom. 5:5) and energized by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:221 Thess. 4:9). He raised love to a higher standard for the church and commanded his disciples to imitate his love (“as I have loved you”; cf. 1 John 3:16John 13:34). The command was also “old” because the OT commanded love (Lev. 19:18Deut. 6:5) and the readers of John’s epistle had heard about Jesus’ command to love when they first heard the gospel.”

Have you ever found yourself reading a familiar portion of Scripture only to have an “aha” moment?  “Aha” is an exclamation used to express satisfaction, triumph, or surprise. Regarding today’s text, a biblical text you have read many times possesses a meaning you never previously grasped. While an old commandment, it has new relevance and application due to the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in your heart. The illumination does not change the meaning of the text but rather provides new significance and application within your life.

As you read the Bible today, ask God the Holy Spirit to illuminate the text you are reading in order to show you how it may accurately be applied in your life. Ask Him to grant you an insight into the text which you have not previously realized while others have.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!  

I John: Keeping God’s Commandments.

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (I John 2:3-6)

The Apostle John addressed the basic issues and content of authentic Christianity in black and white terms. There are very little, if any, grey areas with John in describing the authentic Christian life and experience. That is why the Gospel of John and John’s Epistles are so basic for new or young believers in the faith. They all contain the fundamentals of an individual’s trust, commitment, dependence and worship of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

John provided one of the basic perspectives and disciplines for each and every believer in Christ in today’s text. In a word, the theme is obedience. A little known Gospel chorus says, “Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe. Doing exactly what the Lord commands, doing it naturally. Action is the key, do it immediately, joy you will receive. Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.”

I John 2:3 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.John used his common cause and effect argument and sentence structure. He said that the believer in Christ truly and presently knows they have come to know Jesus Christ at a particular point in time in the past by personal experience and understanding if, since and when the believer presently and actively keeps, observes, guards and obeys the commandments which solely originate and belong to God. This is a simple but significant and basic understanding of Christian sanctification.

I John 2:4 continues this thought by saying, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” John used the same cause and effect structure but in the negative. He contended that whoever continually says that they have come to experience a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at a particular point in time in the past, but do not presently and actively keep, guard, observe and obey the commandments which solely originate and belong to God, this person is a liar and is speaking falsehood.

I John 2:5-6 says, “…but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” To abide means to remain and to persevere in Christ.

The apostle placed great emphasis upon obedience to the commandments of God. Why? It is because Jesus did.

John 14:15 says, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”

John 14:21 says, Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

These are but two statements Jesus made to His disciples during His Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). This basic understanding of biblical obedience as an evidence of true conversion is as applicable for Christians today as it was then.

What is your response? Is your understanding of basic Christianity one of high energy worship services which provide a spiritual high each week? Is your Christianity based on your experience as a determiner of truth? Or, is biblical Christianity based upon an obedience to God’s Word as an evidence of true conversion regardless of how you feel?

The biblical evidence from I John 2:3-6 is clear. Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

I John: Jesus, Our Advocate.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2)

Salvation from the Lord is not only deliverance from the penalty of sin. It is also continued deliverance from the power of sin and eventually deliverance from the very presence of sin upon one’s home going to heaven. John’s focus in today’s text is upon the believer’s sanctification and the continual deliverance from the power of sin.

What happens when we sin as believers in Christ? Our fellowship with God is affected and intimacy with God is damaged. While our eternal position with God as our Savior and Deliver is never in question, our harmonious relationship with Him is negatively impacted.

Think of when you disobeyed your parents, or if you are a parent, when your children disobeyed you. While the status of you being their parent and they your children was never in doubt, the strain on the relationship could be felt. Cold stairs, little conversation, imposed grounding and privileges removed perhaps were part of the existing tension. There was a price to be paid.

However, Jesus Christ has already paid the price for the believer’s sin: past, present and future (Colossians 2:13). He is not only our Savior but He is also our advocate.

What is an advocate? An advocate (παράκλητον; parakleton) is one who intercedes and provides help on  behalf of another person. In effect, Jesus comes along side each believer and assists them in their walk of holiness: especially when the believer sins.

The basis for Jesus’ advocacy is not based on anything believers have done, or could ever do. Penance is not in question here.

Rather, the basis for Jesus’ help is His atoning sacrifice on the cross on behalf of the sinner. Jesus Christ is, and remains, the believer’s propitiation before God the Father. He satisfied the righteous wrath of God the Father towards the sinner by becoming a sin offering on the believer’s behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). Propitiation and expiation are forever linked together.

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, Let’s think about what these words mean, beginning with the word expiation. The prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or the offering of an atonement. By contrast, propitiation has to do with the object of the expiation. The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him.”

In other words, expiation is the undertaking which results in the change of God’s outlook towards you and me. It is what Christ accomplished on the cross. The result of Christ’s expiating work is propitiation—God’s wrath is removed.

This work is applicable to all kinds of people within the fallen world. There is no distinction because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:21-26 says, 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Sin can and should be conquered through the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:12–14; 8:12–131 Cor. 15:34Titus 2:11–121 Pet. 1:13–16). The presence and power of the Holy Spirit is based upon the advocacy of Jesus Christ.

As you approach the Lord today in prayer, take time to thank and praise Him for being you advocate and helper.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!    

I John: The Reality of Sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I John 1:8-10)

It was during my first year at Detroit Bible College (DBC) when one of my professors invited a friend of his to lecture to our Marriage and Family class. The lecture had really nothing to do with either marriage or family. Rather, the speaker’s contention was that he no longer sinned as a believer in Christ. He contended, and debated with several of us students, that he had achieved a condition of sinless perfection while here on earth.

It was during my second year at DBC that I read a book for a class entitled Philippians and Spiritual Life. The author of the supplemental book for the class proposed the perspective known as Carnal Christianity. He contended that the church must accept any individual’s profession of faith in Christ regardless of their lifestyle and lack of obedience to the Scriptures. In other words, such people who consistently live lives disobedient to the Scriptures are Carnal Christians. These are they who live in continual disobedience to God’s Word but are confident they are converted and are going to heaven when they die.

What do we make of these two extreme views of Christian living or sanctification? Can and may a believer achieve sinless perfection while here on earth? Or, may a professing Christian living as sinfully as they desire confident they are truly converted and are a child of God who possesses eternal life?

I submit that today’s text from I John refutes both of these extreme views of biblical sanctification. The Apostle John refutes not only the perspective of sinless perfection but also blatant carnality as two false views of spirituality.

John says that, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” No believer in Christ, the apostle contends, can biblically say that they are without sin. To do so is self-deception and an indication that God’s truth is not in their thinking, emotions and will. Remember, John is writing to believers in Christ and not to the unconverted.

John also says that, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” This refutes that idea that sin is no big deal with God. The so-called carnal Christian is calling God a liar regarding the seriousness of sin. It also is evidence that God’s Word has not taken root in their thinking, emotions and will.”

What is the solution to avoid both of these extreme, and incorrect, views? The answer is found in I John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Both views are avoided in the believer’s life when they approach God with not only a recognition of their sin, but also a repentant heart to see their sin as God does. Sin is rebellion against a holy God.

How do we approach God in order to confess our sins? Taking our direction from King David following his moral failure as recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12, we see the following principles of confession from David’s Penitential Psalm: Psalm 51.

First, believers in Christ must acknowledge that they are approaching the God of mercy and grace. We must never presume on God’s forgiveness but rely on His unmerited favor towards wicked sinners. If we think we deserve forgiveness, then we do not understand grace.

Second, believers must have a genuine attitude of repentance. Understand your sin from God’s perspective. As Dr. R. C. Sproul contends, “Sin is cosmic treason.”

Third, ask for God’s mercy to forgive you of your sin based on the imputed righteousness of Christ applied to your eternal soul’s account before God. God forgives, not on the basis of your sincerity but rather on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary atonement applied to us by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Christ alone. Confession and repentance, resulting in forgiveness, is never based on one’s penance or attempts to make amends to God for sin.

Fourth, ask for cleansing and for strength to refrain from doing that sin anymore. Admittedly, believers will sin again and probably commit the same sin they just recently confessed and repented of before God. However, the promise from God is that He remains faithful to forgive and cleanse the believer from all remaining unrighteousness. 

Dr. John MacArthur writes, Not only did the false teachers walk in darkness (i.e., sin; v. 6) but went so far as to deny totally the existence of a sin nature in their lives. If someone never admits to being a sinner, salvation cannot result (see Matt. 19:16–22 for the account of the young man who refused to recognize his sin). Not only did the false teachers make false claims to fellowship and disregard sin (1 John 1:6), they are also characterized by deceit regarding sinlessness (Eccles. 7:20Rom. 3:23).”

“Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. While the false teachers would not admit their sin, the genuine Christian admitted and forsook it (Ps. 32:3–5Prov. 28:13). The term “confess” means to say the same thing about sin as God does; to acknowledge his perspective about sin. While 1 John 1:7 is from God’s perspective, v. 9 is from the Christian’s perspective. Confession of sin characterizes genuine Christians, and God continually cleanses those who are confessing (cf. v. 7).”

I would encourage each of you to read Psalm 51 and David’s heartfelt confession of repentance unto God. May it parallel our own confession when we are tempted to either think we are without sin or that sin does not really matter to God.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

LORD’S DAY 28, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 28 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. This morning’s devotional addresses the subject of The Lord’s Supper or Communion.

Q. How does the holy supper remind and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his benefits?

A. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup in remembrance of him. With this command come these promises:1 First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup shared with me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross. Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me assure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life
with his crucified body and poured-out blood.

1 Matt. 26:26-28Mark 14:22-24Luke 22:19-201 Cor. 11:23-25.

Q. What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?

A. It means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and thereby to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.1 But it means more. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body.2 And so, although he is in heaven3and we are on earth,
we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.4 And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as the members of our body are by one soul.5

1 John 6:35, 40, 50-54.
2 John 6:55-561 Cor. 12:13.
3 Acts 1:9-111 Cor. 11:26Col. 3:1.
4 1 Cor. 6:15-17Eph. 5:29-301 John 4:13.
5 John 6:56-5815:1-6Eph. 4:15-161 John 3:24.

Q. Where does Christ promise to nourish and refresh believers with his body and blood
as surely as they eat this broken bread and drink this cup?

A. In the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is [broken]* for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death
until he comes.”1 This promise is repeated by Paul in these words: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”2

1 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
2 1 Cor. 10:16-17.

*The word “broken” does not appear in the NRSV text, but it was present in the original German of the Heidelberg Catechism.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

I John: Walking in the Light.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:5-7)

John wrote to a church steeped in a polytheistic culture. The Greco/Roman gods had dominated the thinking of the then known world for close to 800 years. The Apostle John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”

John uses the singular form of the word God. This means that God is not one of many but rather the only, true God of the universe (Isaiah 45:1-5). Additionally, John says that in God’s nature and being is light and no darkness at all. Metaphorically, light and darkness refer respectively to holiness and un-holiness. The polytheistic gods of the first century were just as sinful and depraved as human sinners. The One, True God of Scripture is completely holy with no trace of unrighteousness within Him.

Therefore, the apostle’s conclusion is that if we say we are children of God, or that we have communion and fellowship with Him, then it stands to reason that we should live in the light of His holiness and not sinful darkness. In other words, believers in Christ are to live holy lives unto God and before other people. The Christian is never to live in blatant and unrepentant sin.

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, In Scripture, light and darkness are very familiar symbols. Intellectually, “light” refers to biblical truth while “darkness” refers to error or falsehood (cf. Ps. 119:105Prov. 6:23John 1:4; 8:12). Morally, “light” refers to holiness or purity while “darkness” refers to sin or wrongdoing (Rom. 13:11–141 Thess. 5:4–7). The heretics claimed to be the truly enlightened, walking in the real light, but John denied that because they do not recognize their sin. About that basic reality, they were unenlightened.”

Dr. MacArthur continues by stating that, “John forcefully affirms that God is absolutely perfect and nothing exists in God’s character that impinges upon his truth and holiness (cf. James 1:17).”

Our fellowship with God in many ways depends on our desire, and practice, of living in obedience to His commands. Fellowship means intimate communion. God never strays from us, but we often stray from Him by our disobedience to Him and attraction to the world (I John 2:15-17; Romans 12:1-2).

Let us resolve today to live like Jesus Christ today in holiness, righteousness and obedience to the commands of God.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: From the Beginning.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (I John 1:1-4)

What does the Apostle John mean when he writes, “That which was from the beginning”? The pronoun “that” can also be translated “the One” or “Who.” This person was essentially existing from the beginning, which means a point in time in the past in which there was nothing. This person is none other than Jesus Christ.

The phrase “from the beginning” bears resemblance to not only Genesis 1:1 but also John 1:1. In effect, the incarnation of Jesus Christ was as significant an event as creation itself.

John, in speaking about Jesus Christ and His incarnation, indicates that He was a real human being while at the same time God. In other words, Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. John and the other disciples heard Him, they saw Him with their eyes and paid attention to Him, they observed what He did and they touched His physical body. Jesus Christ is the word of life, paralleling John 1:1-5 and John 1:14. John’s point is that Jesus Christ is real.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “With these introductory words, the apostle directed his first shafts at the heresy with which he was concerned. The antichrists brought new ideas, not those which were “from the beginning” of the gospel era. Moreover, their denial of the reality of the incarnate life of Christ could be countered by the experiences of the eyewitnesses whose testimony was founded on actual hearing, seeing, and touching (cf. “look” and “touch” in Luke 24:39). John’s message is solidly based on a historical reality.”

John the Apostle continues by saying “ the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—.” Jesus Christ, living here on earth who is the source of all physical and spiritual life, was manifested or revealed by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  This manifestation was seen, understood by John and now declared and proclaimed to the recipients of John’s letter. John declares that Jesus Christ is the only source of eternal life. He was with God the Father from all eternity and then God the Father revealed Jesus Christ in time and space while He was on earth (Galatians 4:4). Jesus Christ is not only real but also revealed.

The reason John gives for sharing this information is so that the sinners will be converted and therefore have fellowship, not only with God but also with other believers. “3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” John concludes that Jesus Christ is not only real, revealed but also relational.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Have you received His righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone in His person and work? If so, rejoice that you have fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If not, repent and receive Jesus today (John 1:12-13).

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here?

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

I John: The Rules of Interpretation.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (I John 1:1-4)

When we begin to examine a text of Scripture, or in this case a book of the Bible, it is important to ask ourselves four significant questions and to keep them in mind as we study. These four questions are identified as The Interpretive Journey.

The four questions to ask are (1) What did the text mean to the original audience; (2) What are the differences (similarities) between the biblical audience and us; (3) What is (are) the theme(s) contained within the text; and (4) How is the text to be applied in our lives today?

As we noted in the introductory blogs, John’s audience of young believers in Christ were encountering false teaching and teachers within the church. Ultimately, the heretics were denying the person and work of Jesus Christ. In particular, it was denying Jesus’ incarnation (John 1:14; I John 4:1-3) as God in the flesh. Doing so was to deny Jesus substitutionary atonement on behalf of sinners (Hebrews 2:14-18).

One of the characteristics of John’s writing is that he makes clear distinctions between what is truth or false, good or bad, black or white, holy or unholy. There is no middle ground with John. There are no grey areas in obeying God’s commandments in his perspective.  

Dr. John MacArthur provides some helpful insight into this first epistle by the Apostle John. He writes, The interpreter is also challenged by the rigidity of John’s theology. John presents the basics or fundamentals of the Christian life in absolute, not relative, terms. Unlike Paul, who presented exceptions and dealt so often with believers’ failures to meet the divine standard, John does not deal with the “what if I fail” issues. Only in 2:1–2 does he give some relief from the absolutes. The rest of the book presents truths in black and white rather than shades of gray, often through a stark contrast, e.g., light vs. darkness (1:5, 7; 2:8–11); truth vs. lies (2:21–22; 4:1); children of God vs. children of the devil (3:10).”

Dr. MacArthur concludes that, “Those who claim to be Christians must absolutely display the characteristics of genuine Christians: sound doctrine, obedience, and love. Those who are truly born again have been given a new nature, which gives evidence of itself. Those who do not display characteristics of the new nature don’t have it, so were never truly born again. The issues do not center (as much of Paul’s writing does) in maintaining temporal or daily fellowship with God but the application of basic tests in one’s life to confirm that salvation has truly occurred. Such absolute distinctions were also characteristic of John’s Gospel.”

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: An Introduction, Part 3.

Continuing our introduction of I John, an absence of self-sacrificial love of the will for fellow believers characterized the false teachers, especially when they reacted against anyone rejecting their thinking and doctrines (3:10–18). They separated their followers from the fellowship of those who remained faithful to apostolic teaching.  This led John to reply that such separation outwardly manifested that those who followed false teachers lacked genuine salvation (2:19). This tactic among false teachers remains so today.

This departure by some so-called believers left the other believers, who remained faithful to apostolic doctrine, emotionally shaken. Responding to this crisis, John wrote to reassure those remaining faithful and to combat this serious heresy in the church. As come commentator explains, “Since the false teaching was so dangerous and the time period was so critical for the church in danger of being overwhelmed by false teaching, John gently, lovingly, but with unquestionable apostolic authority, sent this letter to churches in his sphere of influence to stem this spreading plague of false doctrine.”

What are the predominant themes contained in I John? To begin with, the overall theme is a return to the fundamentals of the faith” or “back to the basics of Christianity.” The apostle deals with certainties, not opinions. He expresses the absolute character of Christianity in very simple terms; terms that are clear and unmistakable, leaving no doubt as to the fundamental nature of those truths. John’s epistle is a loving, conversational, and above all, tender intimate conversation a spiritual father is having with his children.

Second, I John is pastoral. It is written by a pastor from the heart of a pastor who has concern for his people. As a spiritual shepherd, John communicated to his flock some very basic, but vitally essential doctrines. He assured his audience of the basics of the faith. He desired that they have joy regarding the certainty of their faith rather than being upset by the false teaching and current defections of some (1:4).

Thirdly, I John is also critical and controversial. It is not positive but also negative. John refutes the heretics with sound doctrine. He has no tolerance for those who distort divine truth. He calls those departing from the truth as “false prophets” (4:1), “those who are trying to deceive” (2:26; 3:7), and “antichrists” (2:18). He pointedly identifies the ultimate source of all such defection from sound doctrine as demonic (4:1–7).

Finally, the epistle’s repetition of three sub-themes reinforces the overall theme regarding faithfulness to the basics of Christianity: happiness (1:4), holiness (2:1), and security (5:13). By faithfulness to the basics, John’s readers will experience these three results continually in their lives. These three results also reveal the key cycle of true spirituality in 1 John: a proper belief in Jesus produces obedience to his commands; obedience originates in a love for God and fellow believers (e.g., 3:23–24). When these three (sound faith, obedience, love) operate in concert together, the result is happiness, holiness, and assurance. They constitute the evidence, the litmus test, of a true, authentic Christian.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: An Introduction, Part 2.

As we continue our introduction into the Epistle of I John, we previously indicated that the Apostle John was an elderly man when he wrote this letter. Regardless, John was still actively ministering to churches. He was the sole remaining apostle who had an intimate, eyewitness association with Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension.

As one commentator notes, “The church Fathers (e.g., Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius) indicate that after that time, John lived at Ephesus in Asia Minor, carrying out an extensive evangelistic program, overseeing many of the churches that had arisen, and conducting an extensive writing ministry (e.g., epistles, the Gospel of John, and Revelation). One church Father (Papias) who had direct contact with John described him as a “living and abiding voice.” As the last remaining apostle, John’s testimony was highly authoritative among the churches. Many eagerly sought to hear the one who had first-hand experience with the Lord Jesus.”

What do we know of the City of Ephesus? Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:10) was part of the intellectual center of Asia Minor. As predicted years before by the apostle Paul (Acts 20:28–31), false teachers arose within the church’s own ranks, and following the prevailing worldview of Naturalism, began infecting the church with false doctrine, perverting fundamental apostolic teaching. These false teachers advocated heresy that eventually became known as “Gnosticism” (from the Greek word “knowledge”).

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “After the Pauline battle for freedom from the law, Gnosticism was the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries. Most likely, John was combating the beginnings of this virulent heresy that threatened to destroy the fundamentals of the faith and the churches.”

What were the teachings of Gnosticism? Influenced by such philosophers as Plato, Gnosticism taught a dualism asserting that matter was inherently evil while spirit was good. As a result of this presupposition, these false teachers, although attributing some form of deity to Christ, denied his true humanity to preserve him from evil. Gnosticism also claimed elevated knowledge, a higher truth known only to those selectively initiated on the deeper things. Only the special few had the mystical knowledge of truth that was higher even than the Scripture.

Instead of God’s Word of divine revelation standing as judge over man’s ideas, man’s ideas judged God’s revelation (1 John 2:15–17). The heresy featured two basic forms. First, some asserted that Jesus’ physical body was not real but only “seemed” to be physical (known as “Docetism” from a Greek word that means “to appear”). John forcefully affirmed the physical reality of Jesus by reminding his readers that he was an eyewitness to him (“heard,” “seen,” “touched,” “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”—1:1–4; 4:2–3). According to early tradition (Irenaeus), another form of this heresy that John may have attacked was led by a man named Cerinthus, who contended that the Christ’s “spirit” descended on the human Jesus at his baptism but left him just before his crucifixion. John wrote that the Jesus who was baptized at the beginning of his ministry was the same person who was crucified on the cross (5:6).

These heresies sought to destroy not only the true humanity of Jesus, but also the atonement, for Jesus must not only have been truly God, but also the truly human (and physically real) man who actually suffered and died upon the cross, in order to be the acceptable substitutionary sacrifice for sin (cf. Heb. 2:14–17). The biblical view of Jesus affirms his complete humanity as well as his complete deity. Jesus is the eternal God/Man.

John’s opponents concluded that sins committed in the physical body did not matter; absolute indulgence in immorality was permissible; one could deny sin even existed (1 John 1:8–10) and disregard God’s law (3:4). John emphasized the need for obedience to God’s laws, for he defined the true love of God as obedience to his commandments (John 14:15; I John 2:3; 5:3).

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

I John: An Introduction.

For the rest of the summer season, we are going to examine the Epistle of I John. I thought his would be a good idea in light of the fact that I am team teaching this biblical book in an Adult Bible Fellowship at the church where my wife Diana and I attend and are members.

I John is one of five New Testament books authored by John the Apostle. The others include the Gospel of John, the Epistles 2 & 3 John and the Book of Revelation.

The epistle’s title has always been “1 John.” It is the first and largest of John’s three epistles. John’s three epistles are classified as “general epistles” because John did not write to a particular church or individual. Another characteristic of I John is that it does not have a common epistle like structure, which includes an introduction, greeting, or concluding salutation. However, its intimate like content and tone classifies it as an “epistle.”

Even though the epistle is called I John, how do we know that the Apostle John wrote it? The epistle does not identify the author, but the strong, consistent and earliest testimony of the church ascribed it to John the apostle (cf. Luke 6:13–14). The logical conclusion being that only someone of John’s notoriety and preeminent status as an apostle would be able to write with such authority, therefore expecting complete obedience from his readers, without identifying himself (e.g., 1 John 4:6). He was well known to the readers, and he to them, so he didn’t need to mention his name.

What do we know about John? As Dr. John MacArthur explains, “John and James, his older brother (Acts 12:2), were known as “the sons of Zebedee” (Matt. 10:2–4), whom Jesus gave the name “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). John was one of the three most intimate associates of Jesus (along with Peter and James—cf. Matt. 17:1; 26:37), being an eyewitness to and participant in Jesus’ earthly ministry (1 John 1:1–4). In addition to the three epistles, John also authored the fourth Gospel, in which he identified himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” and as the one who reclined on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). He also wrote the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:1).”

The exact date of I John is difficult because no clear historical references in 1 John. Probably, John composed this letter in the latter part of the first century. Most biblical commentators conclude that John was old and living and actively writing during this time at Ephesus in Asia Minor. The tone of the epistle supports this evidence since the writer gives the impression that he is much older than his readers (e.g., “children”—2:1, 18, 28).

I John and John’s Gospel reflect similar vocabulary and manner of expression (John 1:1-14; I John 1:1-4). Such similarity causes many to date I, 2, and 3 John as occurring soon after he wrote his Gospel. Therefore, since many scholars date the Gospel of John as having been written during the latter part of the first century, they also prefer a similar date for the epistles.

Additionally, the false teaching John exposes most likely reflects the beginnings of Gnosticism which was in its early stages during the latter third of the first century. Since no mention is made of the persecution under the Emperor Domitian, which began about A.D. 95, it may have been written before that began. Therefore, a date for 1 John is c. A.D. 90–95. It was likely written from Ephesus to the churches of Asia Minor over which John exercised apostolic leadership and authority.

I encourage you to begin reading I John. Make it a part of your daily Bible reading during these summer days.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

LORD’S DAY 27, 2019.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will display the 52 devotionals taken from the Heidelberg Catechism which are structured in the form of questions posed and answers given.

The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written in 1563. It originated in one of the few pockets of Calvinistic faith in the Lutheran and Catholic territories of Germany. Conceived originally as a teaching instrument to promote religious unity, the catechism soon became a guide for preaching as well.

Along with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dordt, it forms what is collectively referred to as the Three Forms of Unity.

The devotional for LORD’S DAY 27 is as follows. Please take note of the biblical references given in each answer. This morning’s devotional addresses the subject of Believer’s Baptism.

Q. Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?

A. No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.1

1 Matt. 3:111 Pet. 3:211 John 1:7.

Q. Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the water of rebirth and the washing away of sins?

A. God has good reason for these words. To begin with, God wants to teach us that the blood and Spirit of Christ take away our sins just as water removes dirt from the body.1

But more important, God wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign, that we are as truly washed of our sins spiritually as our bodies are washed with water physically.2

1 1 Cor. 6:11Rev. 1:57:14.
2 Acts 2:38Rom. 6:3-4Gal. 3:27.

Q. Should infants also be baptized?

A. Yes. Infants as well as adults are included in God’s covenant and people,1 and they, no less than adults, are promised deliverance from sin through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.2 Therefore, by baptism, the sign of the covenant, they too should be incorporated into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers.3 This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision,4 which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.5

1 Gen. 17:7Matt. 19:14.
2 Isa. 44:1-3Acts 2:38-3916:31.
3 Acts 10:471 Cor. 7:14.
4 Gen. 17:9-14.
5 Col. 2:11-13.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Grief: The God of All Comfort.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

One of the timeless truths from God’s Word is that while the believer in Christ encounters tribulations in this life, and the subsequent grief, these tribulations and griefs are not purposeless. The Apostle Paul writes that God does not waste any effort in comforting us in all of our affliction. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Two key words are found in 2 Corinthians 1:4. They are “affliction” and “comfort.” No two words would appear to be so unrelated to each other and yet God joins them together for a productive purpose.

The word comfort (παρακαλῶν; parakalon) means to encourage and to console. It appears not only as a verb but also as a noun in this text. That means that not only is God an encourager and consoler but believers in Christ are to be as well. We can be an encourager and a consoler to others with the same encouragement and consolation God gave us.

Note that God’s encouragement and consolation occurred while we were, and perhaps are, in the midst of affliction. Affliction (θλίψει; thlipsis) means trouble, distress, suffering and persecution. It is pain. However, God promises to comfort us in all of our affliction. Not just some, but all.

Who better to console someone who has endured the death of a child, or grandchild, than someone who has experienced the very same affliction? Who better to comfort a person stricken with breast cancer than one who has encountered that same disease? Who better to comfort a family encountering a prodigal than a family who has felt the pain of a wayward child or parent?

There have been several people who have approached my family with encouragement and comfort in these recent days. Those who have especially touched us were those who told us they knew what we were going through because they too had experienced the death of a stillborn child and grandchild. This resulted in a spoken, and unspoken, bond of comfort and understanding.

Dr. Joel Beeke writes, “Every morning for several months, my wife and I walked past an injured Canada goose, whose feathers stuck out in several directions. For all those months, several geese dutifully stayed with the injured bird. Likewise, caring for the wounded is the church’s loving duty to her own. Paul teaches us that when one member of Christ’s body suffers, “all the members suffer” (1 Cor.12:26 KJV). Caring for the grieving promotes the unity of the body of Christ and fosters the communion of saints. Furthermore, grieving saints have a claim on our compassion for Christ’s sake (Matt. 25:40).”

I may not know exactly how, and in what situations, God has comforted, encouraged and consoled you while you were, or are, in the midst of affliction. However, the Scriptures tell us that you can use that God given consolation to console others who are experiencing what you have experienced. 

May all of us be a source of comfort and encouragement today to someone in the midst of affliction.

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!