Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

1 John 2:28-29 – Preparing for the coming of Jesus

If we knew that an important person was coming to our location we would make appropriate preparations. We would adjust our living in light of how we would want that person to see us. Further, those who would be taking part in any events would rehearse their parts and ensure that all was as it should be. We all know that it would be too late to begin preparations once the individual had arrived. 

The New Testament reveals that Jesus Christ is coming back to our world. It says some will be glad to see him and others will not. Those who will not want to see him will be terrified by his appearing and will call on the rocks and mountains to hide them from his wrath. Therefore, we need to know which group we are in. This necessity is enhanced when we recall that Jesus said that there will be a third group present when he returns – those who thought they were serving him, but whom he will deny (Matt. 7:21-23). 

To begin with, we should note John’s loving pastoral concern expressed in the intimate way he addresses those who have remained faithful so far to the cause of Jesus. The apostle speaks tenderly to them, addressing them as ‘little children’. He uses this title several times in this letter and it reveals an essential mark of true leadership. A Christlike leader will always be gentle in the way he speaks, even when he is going to deal with difficult matters. John is going to mention a serious requirement, an essential Christian response, but he demands it with a heart full of love to Christ’s flock.

The necessary preparation for the second coming of Jesus is the maintaining of a living relationship with him. We may ask ourselves why John makes this demand. Is it not the case that every believer will continue to abide in Jesus? The answer to the question is ‘no’. After all, those who had gone off and joined the false teachers had once professed to be believers who accepted the teachings of the apostles. 

Or maybe the question can be rephrased: Is it not the case that every true believer will abide in Jesus? Again the answer to the question is ‘no’.  Some true believers will backslide and fall into sin. Such have forgotten to prepare for the coming of Jesus.

John urges his readers to abide in Christ. The illustration of abiding points to persons who live together in the same house. So when we abide in Christ, it means that we are living with him. We will think tomorrow about what that can mean for us.

Friday, 30 October 2015

1 John 2:18-27 – Divine protection against false teachers

One preoccupation of many Christians is the identity of the Antichrist, with many suggestions being given about who he is. We may respond to this preoccupation by concluding that it is best to avoid even thinking about the matter. Nevertheless, such a response would be wrong because it would mean that we would have chosen to ignore important passages in the Bible. Both the apostle John here and the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2 give details about the antichrist. Yet he did not appear in the lifetimes of those original readers. So why were they given such details? Because no one in the church knows when he will appear, therefore we have to know what he will be like so that he will be recognised when he does appear. After all, when he does appear, he will have neighbours, and what if some of them are Christians?

The final antichrist has not appeared yet. Nevertheless, many antichrists have already gone into the world, each of them trying to deceive the disciples of Christ. That was the case in John’s day, and the number of them has greatly increased in our day. Such false teachers do not come along wearing T-shirts on which they have written, ‘I am an antichrist.’ They can only be identified by us if we know what is wrong with the opinions they have.

John mentions two realities that will prevent Christians from being deceived by false teachers. One of them is external and the other is internal, and both have to do with knowledge. The external is the truth that they were taught and the internal is the anointing that they had received. And both are intimately connected.

The description ‘the anointing’ is a reference to the Holy Spirit. The imagery is connected to the way that God’s servants, such as prophets, priests and kings, were identified for service in Israel during the Old Testament period. What was symbolised by the outward pouring of oil is realised in the experience of all disciples of Jesus. They have been anointed with the Holy Spirit.

They receive this heavenly anointing from Jesus himself. This was and is and will be Jesus’ gift to every one of his disciples. No Christian has ever existed without the indwelling Spirit and he teaches his people about all the truth that God has revealed in his Word. And in doing so, he protects them from false teachers. So we should be thankful for this heavenly protection.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

1 John 2:15-17 - How to defeat worldliness?

John’s remedy for worldliness is to love the Father and to obey his commandments. So affection for God and faithfulness to God are the opposite of worldliness. This is a reminder that mere abstinence from certain practices is not an appropriate response to the dangers of worldliness. We all can see that certain activities are wrong and, in a sense, it is easy to abstain from such outward actions. It is essential in defeating worldliness to undergo constant renewal of our heart and mind, of our affections and understanding.

The first antidote to a worldly spirit is fellowship with the Father. In the verses prior to this text John had reminded his readers that the mark of those he categorises as spiritual children, or those young in the faith, is that they know the Father. Fellowship with the Father is a basic feature of the Christian life.

Fellowship with the Father is a way of saying that an unworldly Christian spends time with God. If a believer does not spend time with God, then he is a worldly person, whatever his abstinences from outward activities. The way such fellowship is expressed is by communion with God. An unworldly Christian is often in the presence of the Father, enjoying the atmosphere created by the Father’s love.

The second antidote to a worldly spirit is obedience to the will of the Father. These commandments are summarised in the Ten Commandments and in passages such as the Sermon on the Mount. An unworldly Christian will desire to obey God from the heart and such a person will want to obey God positively (practice what God requires) and negatively (refuse to do what God forbids).

There are many commandments to obey and a spiritually healthy Christian will take each one of them seriously. Biblical principles and applications of divine commandments have to be made regarding every situation of life. We have to assess each situation according to God’s Word.

Worldliness is inappropriate for Christians because it is an attitude that belongs to what is temporary, to what is passing away. In contrast, those who follow Jesus focus on matters that have eternal consequences. They develop attitudes and engage in activities for which they will receive a gracious commendation from Jesus in the future, with a reward that will be eternal in its effects.