What The Gospel Of John Teaches Us
Well, let me say it’s a real joy for me to be with you here. And I am looking forward to a few days of wonderful fellowship. So, as much as possible I’ll try and hang around even when I’m not speaking, especially during breaks so that we can get to know one another. And so, if you have any questions after my presentations don’t wait until the Q and A session that will be there. Feel free to approach me, to ask whatever questions that you might have so that we clear as much material as we go along. And then the Q and A session will be there to just help us to fine-tune whatever else remains. Okay, so I trust that this period will also be very educative to me as I get to know more and more of you and the kind of questions that are on your minds.
Please turn with me then to 1 John as has already been said. That’s where I’m speaking from. And to begin with, I will deal with the whole of chapter one. Thankfully it’s fairly short compared to all the others. And so, that gives me an opportunity to do a little bit of an introduction with respect to the whole of this book or this letter.
John was one of the Lord’s disciples who became an apostle. John was among the three disciples that were closest to our Lord Jesus Christ. John is one of whom it is written a few times, as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He wrote for us four documents that have since reached us today. The first is what we call the gospel of John, which is the fourth gospel. And it is fairly unique compared to all the others because of the way in which John was writing. And then we also have three letters that have reached us; the one that we are studying, which is the longest of the three, and then we also have 2 John, and 3 John. The other matter that is worth us thinking about is what we call the book of Revelation. Which is also a letter that was written, but not quite a letter that was written. It is one that is unique in the Bible because it is referred to as apocalyptic literature. It’s full of imagery and in that imagery, it points forward to the future. But at the same time, it speaks about the present in pictorial language. So that we who are believers might be strengthened while those who are persecutors may be completely ignorant of what God is in fact saying to us to encourage us, and everything else. So, we have quite a few documents that are here in this Bible that have been passed on to us by this servant of the Lord.
I also want us to then see why did he specifically write this letter that we have before us? As I hinted to you yesterday, if we can just quickly turn to the last chapter. 1 John 5:13, John specifically tells us why he wrote these things. So, 1 John 5 :13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” We’ll come back to this chapter later. But by way of introduction let me say a few things that arise from there. Well, first of all, it is important to notice that he speaks in terms of, “I write these things….” What are these things? We’ll spend the next few days looking at them.
But let me tell you at least two things that John says in this letter again and again. And then we will notice them as we go through. Two of them; first of all, it is the fact that Christianity is one that is shown by moral transformation. It is shown by moral transformation. In other words, one of the ways in which you know that you are a Christian, is that God changes you from the inside out. From being a lover of sin, to becoming a lover of righteousness. If that transformation has not taken place yet, you are not yet a Christian. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone to church. It doesn’t matter how much of the Bible you’ve memorized. There must be a moral transformation. The second part that comes out of this book is this, that Christianity shows itself in your doctrinal understanding- your doctrinal understanding. In other words, if you are wrong, terribly wrong in what you believe about Jesus, if you are wrong, terribly wrong about what you believe concerning the way of salvation. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve had some kind of good, moral life, you are not a Christian.
One of the ways in which you know that you are a Christian, is that God changes you from the inside out from being a lover of sin, to becoming a lover of righteousness.
So, there are two things that John over and over again takes us through. And it is this, that our lives must be right, and our knowledge of Jesus Christ must be right. And he’s saying, he is writing these things over and over again to who? To those who believe in the name of the Son of God. Why is he writing this to those who already believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, he says that he wants them to be assured that they possess eternal life. They possess that life now. Okay, notice the tense there. He’s not saying that you may know that you will have eternal life. He is saying that you may know that you have eternal life. Why? Well, the main reason is not too obvious in the text itself. But Bible students have over and over again brought out the fact that at the time that John was writing, there was a major heresy that was doing its rounds within the context of the Church. And it is referred to as the gnostic heresy. I’ll spell it for you because it has a silent ‘g’. Okay, so it’s ‘g-n-o-s-t-i-c’ gnostic. Once you put the g, everything else is not a problem, ‘G-n-o-s-t-i-c’. And basically, it was individuals who were claiming to have a special knowledge of God. A mysterious knowledge of God that was not available to anybody else. And in this knowledge therefore, you were to simply believe what they are saying.
So, you can see that we are around a similar problem even today. By pastors and preachers who seem to claim that they themselves have this funnel where God speaks to them, and what they say to you must be taken as ultimate truth. They were those kinds of people. But more than that it was the fact that they were wrong in their knowledge about Jesus Christ, seriously wrong. One of the things that they really taught was in fact to do with the fact that Jesus-who is God, is not really the Jesus that was moving around in the Middle East. Rather, that Spirit-who is Jesus, simply came upon Jesus, who was moving around and at the convenient time would have left him, especially when he died. So, John you will notice, a number of times is making it clear that he who was the eternal God is the one who was actually on earth. And he was the one that John was mingling with. Okay, so that’s the background. And what it was doing is, it was disturbing the faith of so many believers. And so, John is saying, “Look, I want you to know that you who have trusted in Jesus, you, you have eternal life. Don’t let anybody steal that away from you.” Okay, so that’s really the background behind this letter.
Fellowship With God
Let’s quickly then deal with the first chapter. Let’s quickly deal with the first chapter. And I have given it the title, ‘fellowship with God. Fellowship with God.’ I want you to notice a number of things that he is dealing with here. And you can’t miss the fact that much of his emphasis is primarily this, fellowship with God. Number one, he himself in relating to Jesus Christ had fellowship with God. And number two, it is what we need to know about this God that determines whether we have fellowship with him or not. And then thirdly, and lastly, in this chapter it is how we can in fact continue to have fellowship with God despite the fact that we are born sinners and we remain sinners even as converted people until we get to heaven. How do we experience something of this fellowship?
Okay, so let’s quickly go into it. And first of all, it is John himself had fellowship with God. And we see that in the first four verses. If you’ve got your Bible, I’m about to read to you from the English Standard Version. “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 (or it could be your) joy may be complete.” You can’t miss the fact that in the midst of what looks like cyclic words, John is telling us who the man of Galilee was. And it is this, God. Very God of very God. Otherwise, you cannot speak in terms of, that which was from the beginning. None of us would qualify for that description because it’s referring here to the beginning of time. In fact, he refers to him a number of times here that he is the word of life-the life that was made manifest. He says again there that we have fellowship with the father, and with his son Jesus Christ. So, he is obviously referring to somebody who when the beginning began, he was already there. God’s own son. The word of life-the eternal life. The son of the father who is God.
But as we’ve already said in addressing the gnostic teachers, he then goes on to say that in fact, that same one is the one we’re mingling with here on earth. In a physical body, he was man. Notice the way he puts it there, he says, “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…” It’s not a mere spirit. Not some phantom that just came and somehow manifested itself through somebody who already was. No, no, no, no, he-the eternal one, is the very one that we mingled with. That was born as a little baby to Mary in Bethlehem, in that little cow shed. And grew up in due season, became a preacher, and a teacher. And called us to be with him in fellowship with him, for at least three years up until that time he finally died. This is the one that we are talking about. And then, he quickly wraps that up by saying that we have had fellowship with him. That’s been our greatest joy, and we want to introduce him to you so that you may also experience something of this joy that we have had.
And in many ways, he’s saying, that’s why we preached to you. It is because we wanted you to also experience the joy that is ours. Isn’t it? There it is in 1 John 1:3, “That which we’ve 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 he ends by saying, “We write these things so that our joy…” Or as I said, some versions will say, ‘your joy’ “may be complete.”
What Is Fellowship?
What is fellowship? It will keep coming out a number of times after this. The word fellowship is a word that in the Greek is a fuller word than we can understand by simply reading it here. I know some people have said, fellowship is two fellows in the same ship, but that’s a bit of an over simplification. It has the idea of communion. In other words, being able to relate to one another in a way that connects you. In a way that enables you to understand each other. Not simply at word level, but also in a sense of the spirit speaking to spirit-connecting. But it also has the idea of partnership, partnership. In other words, having a common purpose. Wanting to do things together. A Desiring to see accomplishments coming through. In other words, it’s a connection at heart level as well. This common purpose is also in this idea of fellowship. And John here, he is saying that, as we came to mingle with this Son of God, who is both God and man, we found a connection with him. We found our hearts ticking together. We found ourselves wanting to live for his purpose, for his glory, we are in fellowship with God.
And then he says this, that when you come to know him, the same thing happens to you. And I think those of you who become Christians, you can understand this. Isn’t it? I remember, before I became a Christian, I used to go to church. I was brought up in church. But I used to go to church the way I went to the post office. You know you just go in to go and get stamps. And so, when people around you greet you, you even get surprised, “Oh, so some people here know me?” Because all you want is what you went there for, to post your letter and quickly get back home. That’s the way it was. I went to church, sat in the pew, wanted to transact with the preacher. You know, hear what he has to say, repeat a few songs, and indeed, quickly go home. I wasn’t interested in connecting with the other believers. I wasn’t really thinking in terms of communion with God. I wasn’t really thinking in terms of being partners with God and with other believers for the great gospel enterprise. I wasn’t thinking like that. It was in and out. But I’ve never forgotten when Jesus saved me. Suddenly, church changed completely. It was now about fellowship. I was interested now in the people next to me. “Hey, I’m Conrad. Who are you?” I really now wanted to know them. In fact, one gentleman I’ve never forgotten said to me, when I greet him that way. I finally asked him, I said, “Is this your first time here?” He says, “No. I’ve been here for the last 15-20 years. What about you?” He said to me. And I’d only been there a few months. You see, I became interested in the people. I now wanted to sense God when I was singing his praises. And when I prayed, it wasn’t just bubbling, ‘our father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name…’ No, no, no, I now was speaking to him. It was real, very real. And I now was interested in adding my weight to issues of the gospel. Wanting to share the gospel with other people. Wanting to put in my money in gospel enterprises. Fellowship became real. This joy being spoken about here, also became very real.
I’ve never forgotten when Jesus saved me. Suddenly, church changed completely. It was now about fellowship. I was interested now in the people next to me.
In fact, often that’s what causes us, isn’t it to want to share the gospel? It’s the fact that we have found joy. Real joy, wonderful joy. And we want other people to know it as well. And I often laugh at non-Christians because they fact, say, “No, I don’t want to become a Christian because I don’t want to lose my happiness.” I say to them, “Look at me. Between you and me, who’s happier? Do I look miserable? Your happiness is fleeting. It depends on too many other things. Mine is real joy, wonderful joy. And I want you to experience this as well.” Well, that’s the way John begins this letter. That’s the way he begins this chapter. But he goes on then, to make it clear, that in order for this to be experienced, we need to be convinced about one unchangeable truth concerning God. And it is this, he is light. He is light. In him there is no darkness. In other words, we cannot claim to have fellowship with him, if this reality about him being light is not a decisive matter in our thinking and in our experience. Look at the way he puts it in 1 John 1:5-7, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you….” It doesn’t change. We’ve heard this message and we pass it on to you faithfully. And what is that message, “…. 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….” There’s fellowship coming up again there. “….. with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
God is light
What do we understand by the phrase light there? Now, in a sense, we all can say it must be about his holiness. And we’re right. It is about his holiness. But before we get to holiness, there are two other truths about light that we mustn’t miss. The first, is the reality of truth, truth. When you’re in a room, and it is dark, and somebody says to you there’s a cobra next to you. What you most likely do unless you’re a very fearful person, is you start laughing at him. Saying, “You just want me to run out of this room. Cobra? What cobra?” But if he switches on the light, and then suddenly you see. There’s no laughter, you won’t even know how you went out through that window at the top. You won’t even know. You’re just suddenly outside, “Thank you for warning me. Thank you for warning me.” Okay, so, light reveals. It reveals the truth. Okay, so that’s one aspect concerning God. The second aspect of truth is, rather of light is goodness. It’s goodness. Now, we human beings don’t appreciate this as much as birds do. What do birds do the moment the sun comes up? Somebody seems to have the answers somewhere. They sing. They are joyful. There is an aspect of wholeness that we experience because of the light. I think we just take it for granted. But the bird kingdom they don’t do it.
God is light, in him there is no darkness. He is truth, in him there is no error. He is goodness itself and therefore, all true pleasure is only found in God.
Many years ago, we had the eclipse of the sun. And it was one of those where it actually became dark. Not completely dark, but you could sense that it’s almost like evening coming. And so, we got out as a family, we sat by the house. We put our chairs outside. In those days we had these dark goggles that we were all given. Because they were saying we might end up being blind if we look into the eclipse. And you know what happened, as soon as it began getting dark, the birds started rushing back into their nests. Rushing back into their nests. And I think they got confused. Because within a minute or two, it began to get bright again. But the thing that I’ve never forgotten, was how immediately after that, they began to sing. I think they must have been looking at each other saying, “Wow, this is confusing. But hey, it’s light, let’s sing. Let’s enjoy ourselves.” Light represents goodness. Darkness represents misery. That’s what it does-misery. And then thirdly is, morality-pure morality. He who is morally pure is walking or living in the light. So, those three realities are evident in all that God has revealed of himself. And if anybody is teaching anything other than those three realities concerning this God, don’t listen to him. Run away from him. God is light, in him there is no darkness. He is truth, in him there is no error. He is goodness itself, pure-pure goodness. And therefore, all true pleasure is only found in God. Abandoning God does not take you to real enjoyment.
Moral Purity In Your Faith Walk
And then thirdly, it is moral purity. Now it is this aspect, that John is now saying here that, if you are claiming to have fellowship, partnership with this God, you cannot be the opposite of this. You can’t, you can’t. It reflects on you that you are deceiving yourself. And the way in which he handles this is, from 1 John 1:6, there is this conditional clause, ‘if, if, if, if, if’ and it’s meant to say to us, that this reality doesn’t change about God, doesn’t change. Therefore, if you are making certain claims, and they don’t fit into this, then you are only cheating yourself. Let me use an obvious illustration. You know, sensitive gadgets when they are sold to you by manufacturers, they don’t want you to just on your own start opening them. So, they put screws there which you can’t open. The way the screw is, is not even where you can put a straight screwdriver, not even a star screwdriver. It’s completely strange. But what they do, is they provide those same kinds of screwdrivers to their own technicians, they’re on technicians only. And they are the ones who are able to open. So, here it is, you’re having a problem to open, I mean your gadget has got a problem. And so, you call your friend, they’ve told you who can come and fix. And this guy arrives. And as he opens his box of tools, you notice what is pulling out does not look anything like that. The best thing for you to do is to say, “I think I’ll call somebody else.” Now this is what he will say to you, ” No, don’t worry, don’t worry, I can do it.” What you do is, exactly just say, “Ah please, please, please this thing cost me a lot of money. I need to find somebody who has the instrument that fits what is here.” Now, that whatever gadget it is, is not as precious as your soul. Your soul is even more precious. So, if anybody comes with teachings, or with a life that doesn’t fit into the God you’ve come to know, you say, “This is not Christianity. This will not take me to heaven.” But on the other hand, if that fits into the God who has always been there, then you can listen. In the same way, your own life must fit into that reality. If it doesn’t, abandon that life and seek the life that the Bible in fact speaks about. So that’s what those ‘if’ clauses are all about.
Let me quickly take you through them. In fact, they make us go over where we ended. But it will still be important for us to see them. Here it is 1 John 1:6, “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. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Remember, he is the truth. 1 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. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” “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.”
So, over, and over, and over again, he’s giving us these conditions. And all of them hang on the kind of God who is there. The kind of God who is there. Let’s quickly run through the first ones, up to the end of this chapter. First of all, you, are claiming to have fellowship with him. But your life seems to be different. And there it is, “If we say we have fellowship with him, while we walk in darkness….” While we do not live in integrity, truth. While our lives are not lived in love for others’ goodness. While our lives are not deliberately being lived in moral, ethical, uprightness. He’s saying, you’re actually cheating. You’re lying. In other words, you’re not a Christian. You’re not a Christian. And the sooner you get that right, the better.
Walking In The Light
Number two, if we walk in the light, okay so there is truth, there is goodness, and there is morality or ethics in our lives, we have fellowship. And notice, it’s a little strange. Because they thought you would say, we have fellowship with God. But he says, we fellowship with one another. And then, the biggest surprise is this, he says, “And the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” You’d have thought he will be saying, “You know, you’re morally clean. Therefore, there’s no sin in your life.” But clearly, John has been taught enough about the gospel for him not to invent a new religion in the process. And what he is saying here is the next step. In other words, it’s true you have fellowship with God, after all you are walking in the light. But more than that, you then begin to experience fellowship with one another. And that is what keeps the Christian church to be what it is, generation after generation. It is a company of people who number one; live in truth, and integrity. Amen somebody. That’s Christianity. When you are with a friend who claims to be a Christian, and every so often you are noticing he’s telling you lies, he’s giving you one impression and therefore, saying another, you just know I better run for my life here. Yes. Maybe you even in courtship together, and you know he calls his mother. Or maybe he goes gets a phone call from the mother, and you can hear since he is close to you. The mother is saying, “Where are you?” And you are with him at a shopping mall. And he’s saying, “Ah, I’m at school.” Just like that. “I’m at school. Oh, the studies are hard mommy. They’re very hard. You’re disturbing mommy. You’re disturbing, you know. I’ll call you after I’ve finished you know. I’m now just going through this algebra. I need to think straight. Okay bye mommy. Mommy I love you.” You need to say, “This one, is not a Christian. How can he or she be lying with a straight face like that and just switch off the phone? And then we continue having fellowship. This isn’t fellowship. This isn’t fellowship.
Or I can use another example very quickly here, and it’s to do with that individual who is always spreading misery. Always. They claim to be Christians, and whoever they talk about, they always want to talk about negative things about them. And even after that church is over, it’s, “Did you listen to that sermon? You know that pastor.” And it’s always negative things. You have to pause and say, “Is there fellowship? Is this person really having fellowship?” Because light is primarily emanating or emitting a healthy ray that builds rather than destroys. But that’s not what this person is doing. Whereas the Christian faith brings us into where we build one another. Isn’t it? We build one another.
So, when he says, we have fellowship with one another, he’s right. He’s right. If you are walking in the light, that’s what your life will be like. There’s moral purity as well. I can open that up if I had time. So, but he does add something that we’ll come to in a moment, and it is this, the blood of Jesus cleansing us from all sin. And that’s what he ends this chapter with. You know, it’s So, interesting. If you go to a real Christian and you say to them, that you are a sinner. The real Christian will say, “Yes. But praise the Lord Jesus through his blood has washed away my sin. And through his Spirit is making me a better person.” That’s a real Christian. But try to talk to someone who claims to be a Christian but they are not. And you say to them, “You are a sinner.” They say, “Who? Me? Where did you see me sinning? Where? They even get upset with you. “Get out of here. Get out of here.”
The Marks Of A Genuine Believer
And what John is saying here is, exactly that. Listen to this, he says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So, the person who’s not in the light, they are always pretending in hypocrisy. Always pretending. But a genuine believer, recognizes not just their outward sins, but also their inner sins. The sins in their thoughts, the sins in their hearts. And those lead them to Christ. They lead them to God. They go because they know he is the light. He knows everything. He knows even what is on my phone. He knows it. So, I can’t be dabbling with pornography here and then because nobody knows. Nobody knows. I know, God knows and therefore I want to keep away from that. And if I have any impure thoughts in my own mind, what do I do? I go to him. And that’s what is there in the text.
Listen to this, “If we confess our sins…” That’s what we do. Because he knows all things. If we confess our sins, “…. he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And then he simply finishes again by saying, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” So that’s how we have fellowship with God. That’s how we have fellowship with one another. It is by this walking in the light. It is by this truthfulness, goodness and ethical uprightness. We continue seeking cleansing from the blood of Christ. That we might be more and more like him in his image, we have fellowship with him. Let me ask you today, as I close, do you have fellowship with this God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Do you? Because that’s Christianity. Do you have communion with him? Do you have this partnership, this this heart connection with God? Is he your everything through his son Jesus Christ?Here’s my word as I close. Don’t settle for anything less, this is Christianity 101.
Let’s pray; Our father in heaven, thank you for what John wrote. Thank you for what it means to us. We pray, that as we continue in these morning expositions, you will help us to see the true nature of Christianity in the midst of all the errors, and all the heresies that surround us. That we might find true Christianity, true safety, true salvation. And lord, even as we go through all the other programs this day, all the other teachings this day, give us Christ. Give us Christ we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.