John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern
Bapti...
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06.22.14.god.forgiving.1.john.1.2.commentary

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1 John 1 God is Forgiving Commentary

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06.22.14.god.forgiving.1.john.1.2.commentary

  1. 1. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 1 June 22, 2014 - Session 4—God Is Forgiving - 1 John 1:5–2:2 Commentary The Point: God always forgives when I truly repent. The Bible Meets Life: Who among us has not been affected by unforgiveness? Many of us have wronged someone else—intentionally or unintentionally—and though we may have sought forgiveness, it was not offered. Others have been so hurt by someone else that the idea of forgiving seems impossible. Fortunately, God is not like us. The Bible reveals to us a loving God whom we have wronged with our rebellion and sin, yet He offers us total forgiveness. Who among us has not been affected by unforgiveness? Many of us have wronged someone else—intentionally or unintentionally—and though we may have sought forgiveness, the person we wronged did not grant it. Others have been so hurt by someone else that the idea of forgiving seems impossible. Fortunately, God is not like us. The Bible reveals to us a loving God whom we have wronged with our rebellion and sin, yet He offers us total forgiveness. As we have wronged with our rebellion and sin, yet He offers us total forgiveness. As we either extend God’s forgiveness or receive God’s forgiveness, we embrace the life of freedom God intends for His children. 1 John 1:5-10 5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. KEY WORD: Fellowship (v. 6)—The Greek root word means common. This term implies that those in fellowship with one another share things in common as part of their relationship. 1 The apostle John wrote the Letter of 1 John to believers facing the attack of their faith by false teachers. It was probably written in Ephesus between the years 95–110,2 though some scholars, most notably the imminent A.T. Robertson, date this letter earlier, perhaps as early as 60–65. The work was written to counter Docetism, the belief that Jesus did not come "in the flesh", but only as a spirit. It also defined how Christians are to discern true teachers: by their ethics, their proclamation of Jesus in the flesh, and by their love. 1 Editor’s comments. 2 C.I. Scofield dates it at AD 90.
  2. 2. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 2 He wrote to counteract the doctrinal, moral, and social fabrications proclaimed by those misguided teachers and to assure believers of the trustworthiness of the gospel they had first received. He included in his reassurance the reality that every person sins, but Christ’s work provides the means of restored fellowship with God. In his later years John lived and ministered in Ephesus, the chief city of the province, and the rising heresy of Gnosticism in the late first century grabbed his attention. First John refutes this heresy that denied some of the fundamental truths of the faith. Gnosticism denied the reality of sin, guilt, and punishment. Further, this heresy denied either Jesus’ deity or His humanity. The Gnostic views of God and the world were based on Greek mysticism and philosophy rather than the teachings of the Old Testament, the apostles, and prophets of the New Testament era. John’s approach in writing his letter was to affirm the basic truths of the Christian faith and, while doing so, to refute the heretical teachings of this dangerous sect as well. The first four verses of 1 John form the Prologue and establish one of the two major truths in this epistle: the person of Christ. Verse 5, as explained below, contains another major truth: “God is light.” John was the only living apostle at the time he wrote this letter late in the first century. He also was likely one of few people still alive who had seen Jesus both during His ministry and after His resurrection. John may have used the first person “we” and “us” in chapter 1 in reference to those who had been eyewitnesses of the Christ event just as He was, but more likely it is a literary plural so that “we” means “I” and “us” means “me.” [If we accept the later date of authorship, at] the time of writing, likely John alone could say he had seen Jesus, had heard His voice, and had actually touched Him—the one he called “the Word of life” (1:1). It was the Person of Christ and “the eternal life” (1:2) He provides that John declared to his readers. In doing so, John refuted the form of Gnosticism that denied Jesus was really a human being. Elsewhere in the letter, John refuted the form of Gnosticism that denied Jesus’ deity. One of the fundamental and non- negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is the God-man—fully God and fully man. He was neither a humanized god nor a deified man. He is 100 percent God and 100 percent man. In His incarnation, the Son of God, who was eternally equal with the Father, became a human being in the womb of Mary. This is often referred to as the hypostatic union, the unfathomable joining of two natures—deity and humanity—into one Person, Jesus Christ. True and historic Christianity does not and cannot exist apart from a correct Christology. The apostle John knew this, of course, and connected the Person of Christ to the offer of eternal life that the gospel provides. Clearly then, John insisted that there is no eternal life apart from knowing who Jesus is and believing in Him for salvation (5:1). Verse 5 introduces another key truth of the epistle: Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. The existence, nature, and attributes of God are themes that permeate the Scriptures, and one of God’s attributes is that He is light. This refers to His hatred of sin and evil and His love of truth and righteousness. John’s style was that he often stated the same truth in two different ways, and he did so here by declaring that there is absolutely no darkness in Him. God never causes nor condones sin.
  3. 3. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 3 He will judge all sins and often brings judgment against sin in this life. In John’s Gospel and 1 John, light often refers to a specific truth about God and Christ—that God has provided salvation through faith in Christ, which is the only way to avoid God’s judgment against sin. Daniel Akin explained: “Having stated that God is light by his very nature and as a result has fullness of life in himself, John is able to deny the claims of fellowship with God to those who live in the darkness of death. In the context of this epistle, John must be aiming these statements against those who reject Jesus as the incarnate Son of God. These persons are, in reality, living in the state of death because eternal life is found only in this Jesus, the Jesus whose identity is the Son of God. John’s purpose was to ensure that his readers not fall into the same sin as these heretics.”1 John specifically addressed sin and salvation in verses 6-10. Each Greek verse begins with the word “if,” which introduces a conditional sentence. This construction refers to something that is happening or is likely to happen. The latter part of the verse describes the implications. Verses 6, 8, and 10 state these truths in a negative way, while verses 7 and 9 do so in a positive way. We must recognize that the semantic relationship between the first part of the sentence and the second part is not cause-effect; viewing it this way results in works salvation in verse 7: walking in the light results in fellowship (salvation) and cleansing, which would mean we can earn it through godly living. Since the construction in all five verses is the same, it is best to explain them all the same way as evidence-conclusion. The “if” part of the sentence provides evidence of what someone says or does, and the “then” part (“then” is implied) shows what conclusion can be drawn from the evidence. This string of conditional sentences begins with a negative, that also forms a warning to those who are guilty of doing this: If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness. The term fellowship (Greek, koinonia) is not a sub-category of salvation, as if some Christians have fellowship with God and other Christians do not. It refers to salvation itself and emphasizes the spiritual union and communion we have with God and His Son on the one hand, and with each other as believers on the other hand (1:3). The point is that some people claim to have fellowship with God or know God, but they really don’t—instead they are still in the dark. Though many take darkness here in the sense of a sinful lifestyle, it is best to see it as the opposite of the light of the truth of the gospel, as stated earlier. Jesus clearly stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God” (3:19-21). Today there are billions who are in darkness because they have rejected the light, Jesus Himself, as the only way to have a relationship with God. John’s conclusion about those who are in darkness is that they are lying and are not practicing the truth. The deceitfulness of sin means people are prone to accept lies as truth in spiritual matters. The gospel states that all people are sinful and separated from God and that only faith in Christ provides salvation. People cannot save themselves through good works.
  4. 4. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 4 Verse 7 contrasts verse 6: But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. To walk in the light is to walk in the truth of the gospel as revealed by Jesus Himself, believing in Him as the only Savior. When we walk in the light in this way, we provide evidence we enjoy fellowship with one another and that we have been cleansed by Jesus’ blood. We enjoy spiritual union and communion with each other only because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Verses 6-7 address contrasting themes: light versus darkness; similarly, verses 8-10 address contrasting themes: denial of sin versus confession of sin. Verses 8 and 10 refer to acts of sin and their consequent guilt. Verse 9 explains God’s provision through the forgiveness and cleansing of sin. The first part of verses 8 and 10 seems to say the same thing, but there is a nuance of difference between them, often obscured in English. In verse 10, John used the Greek verb meaning “to sin.” This verse refers to those who deny that they have ever committed a sin. In verse 8, he used the noun in the have no sin. The phrase refers not to committing an act of sin but to the guilt such sin brings upon a person. Gnostic teaching denied both the reality of sin and the guilt that comes with it, and it is not difficult to find the same mindset among people today. John denounced such false teachings in severe language. If we deny the reality of sin and the guilt that it causes, then we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us, and we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. Few things could be worse than self-deception and calling God a liar! The proper perspective on sin is to accept what God says about it. All sins are condemning sins and deserve God’s punishment. The gospel is the good news that God has provided a remedy for sin—the blood of Christ (v. 7). God forgives the sins of those who believe in Jesus Christ and Him alone for their salvation. Verse 9 explains that those who have been forgiven do not deny sin in their lives but openly admit that they are sinners: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Those who are forgiven willingly and openly admit their sinfulness, rather than denying it like the Gnostics did in John’s day. It was because of God’s mercy that Paul could say he was the worst of sinners, knowing that through the grace and love of God he had been saved (1 Tim. 1:12-16). God declares those who have faith in Jesus to be in a right relationship with Him, which includes the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 4:6-8). Forgiveness is something we have as believers, not something we try to attain (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 John 2:12). Forgiveness refers to the cancellation of a debt or legal obligation (Matt. 18:22-27; Luke 7:39-48). The debt we owe God because of sin is beyond our ability to pay. But God provided a way for the debt to be paid through the death of His Son. God always forgives the sins of those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord. 1 John 2:1-2 1 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. 2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.
  5. 5. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 5 KEY WORDS:  Advocate (v. 1)—One who stands beside. The related verb means to encourage, exhort, counsel, or comfort. The Greek word in John’s Gospel refers to the Holy Spirit but here to Jesus.  Propitiation (v. 2)—The Greek word refers to the appeasement of God’s wrath against sin through the appropriate sacrifice, which could only occur through the death of God’s Son. John’s purpose in writing to his little children was that you may not sin. Christians are not perfect or sinless people; we are forgiven people. We still struggle with sin, and John wanted to help his readers overcome the power of sin in their lives. He also wanted them to know that the forgiveness of sins is something believers can constantly enjoy: if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. After saving us, God does not hold us responsible to keep ourselves saved. No, He takes care of that too. Jesus is our advocate with the Father anytime we sin, stressing the price He has already paid that our current sin might be forgiven too. This should not promote a casual or indulgent attitude toward sin; rather, it should motivate us to serve our Savior and God with even greater zeal since He has provided forgiveness for all of the sins in our lives—past, present, and future. The Greek word translated advocate was used in Greek society for someone who helped another in a legal case. None of the four uses of the term in John’s Gospel occur in legal contexts (each one refers to the Holy Spirit), but a heavenly court and judgment against sin fit the context of 1 John 2:1 in reference to Jesus as our advocate with the Father. Daniel Akin explained well the concept of Jesus as our advocate: Jesus is now in the Father’s presence as the eternal High Priest, who, having atoned for the sins of his people, now stands as their effective Advocate to ensure that their sins do not disqualify them from fellowship with the Father…. John’s readers could confess their sins by believing in God’s word concerning Jesus, which takes care of their sins for all time and is the path of life (i.e., fellowship with the Father and with the Son). If anyone doubted that Jesus could be such an advocate for all of God’s people, John assured them that He is completely capable of doing so: He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. Jesus died for Jews (not only for ours) and Gentiles (the whole world). The gospel originated among the Jews, but it began to spread after Jesus’ death and resurrection and after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. It took several decades for the early church to spread the gospel from Jerusalem and Judea into Gentile lands, but by the end of the first century the spread of the gospel had largely become a Gentile movement, though a remnant of Jewish believers has existed in every generation since then. The New Testament consistently emphasized that the gospel would break down barriers between the two since God is the God of both and Jesus is the Savior of both. Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone, is the Savior of both Jews and Gentiles because only He is the propitiation for our sins. The Greek word used here and the related word Paul used in Romans 3:25 refer to a sacrifice that turns aside or appeases divine wrath.
  6. 6. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 6 Our sins deserve the wrath of God—eternal punishment in the flames of hell. But Jesus, through His own death on the cross, paid the penalty of our sins and appeased God’s wrath against us. Only Jesus, the God-man, could have done this for sinful humanity. No wonder Jesus is the only Savior and the greatest proof that God is forgiving! LIVE IT OUT As you consider that God always forgives when we truly repent, which application below fits best for where you are in your relationship with Him?  Repent of unconfessed sin. God always forgives when you truly repent. Examine your life today for any sin you have not given to God. Confess, repent, and thank God for His forgiveness.  Give God your false guilt. Ask God to show you where you are living under false guilt for a sin Christ has already paid for and forgiven. Give that false guilt to Him before you study the next session, and remind yourself that, because Christ forgave you at the cross, you can forgive yourself.  Forgive someone else. Forgiving someone does not minimize his or her hurtful action, but it helps you let go of the past along with the anger and bitterness, leaving it in God’s hands. Your act to forgive can point someone else to the ultimate forgiveness in Christ. Today, note the name of who you need to forgive. With God’s help, do it. We’ve all broken God’s rules … a lot. But our fellowship with Him does not have to be broken, even if it has been broken for a long time. Seek Him and you will find true forgiveness—true restoration. ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING: Commentary on 1 John by William Barclay3 GOD IS LIGHT (1 John 1:5) 1:5 And this is the message which we have heard from him, and which we pass on to you, that God is light, and there is no darkness in him. A man's own character will necessarily be determined by the character of the god whom he worships; and, therefore, John begins by laying down the nature of the God and Father of Jesus Christ whom Christians worship. God, he says, is light, and there is no darkness in him. What does this statement tell us about God? (i) It tells us that he is splendour and glory. There is nothing so glorious as a blaze of light piercing the darkness. To say that God is light tells us of his sheer splendour. 3 Barclay, William. "Commentary on 1 John 1:1". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=1". 1956-1959.
  7. 7. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 7 (ii) It tells us that God is self-revealing. Above all things light is seen; and it illumines the darkness round about it. To say that God is light is to say that there is nothing secretive or furtive about him. He wishes to be seen and to be known by men. (iii) It tells us of God's purity and holiness. There is none of the darkness which cloaks hidden evil in God. That he is light speaks to us of his white purity and stainless holiness. (iv) It tells us of the guidance of God. It is one of the great functions of light to show the way. The road that is lit is the road that is plain. To say that God is light is to say that he offers his guidance for the footsteps of men. (v) It tells us of the revealing quality in the presence of God. Light is the great revealer. Flaws and stains which are hidden in the shade are obvious in the light. Light reveals the imperfections in any piece of workmanship or material. So the imperfections of life are seen in the presence of God. Whittier wrote: "Our thoughts lie open to thy sight; And naked to thy glance; Our secret sins are in the light Of thy pure countenance." We can never know either the depth to which life has fallen or the height to which it may rise until we see it in the revealing light of God. THE HOSTILE DARK (1 John 1:5 continued) In God, says John, there is no darkness at all. Throughout the New Testament darkness stands for the very opposite of the Christian life. (i) Darkness stands for the Christless life. It represents the life that a man lived before he met Christ or the life that he lives if he strays away from him. John writes to his people that, now that Christ has come, the darkness is past and the true light shines (1 John 2:8). Paul writes to his Christian friends that once they were darkness but now they are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8). God has delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son (Colossians 1:13). Christians are not in darkness, for they are children of the day (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5). Those who follow Christ shall not walk in darkness, as others must, but they will have the light of life (John 8:12). God has called the Christians out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). (ii) The dark is hostile to the light. In the prologue to his gospel John writes that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). It is a picture of the darkness seeking to obliterate the light-- but unable to overpower it. The dark and the light are natural enemies.
  8. 8. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 8 (iii) The darkness stands for the ignorance of life apart from Christ. Jesus summons his friends to walk in the light lest the darkness come upon them, for the man who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going (John 12:35). Jesus is the light, and he has come that those who believe in him should not walk in darkness (John 12:46). The dark stands for the essential lostness of life without Christ. (iv) The darkness stands for the chaos of life without God. God, says Paul, thinking of the first act of creation, commanded his light to shine out of the darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6). Without God's light the world is a chaos, in which life has neither order nor sense. (v) The darkness stands for the immorality of the Christless life. It is Paul's appeal to men that they should cast off the works of darkness (Romans 13:12). Men, because their deeds were evil, loved the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). The darkness stands for the way that the Christless life is filled with things which seek the shadows because they cannot stand the light. (vi) The darkness is characteristically unfruitful. Paul speaks of the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). If growing things are despoiled of the light, their growth is arrested. The darkness is the Christless atmosphere in which no fruit of the Spirit will ever grow. (vii) The darkness is connected with lovelessness and hate. If a man hates his brother, it is a sign that he walks in darkness (1 John 2:9-11). Love is sunshine and hatred is the dark. (viii) The dark is the abode of the enemies of Christ and the final goal of those who will not accept him. The struggle of the Christian and of Christ is against the hostile rulers of the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12). Consistent and rebellious sinners are those for whom the mist of darkness is reserved (2 Peter 2:9; Jude 13 ). The darkness is the life which is separated from God. THE NECESSITY OF WALKING IN THE LIGHT (1 John 1:6-7) 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with him and at the same time walk in darkness, we lie and are not doing the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other and the blood of Jesus Christ is steadily cleansing us from all sin. Here John is writing to counteract one heretical way of thought. There were those who claimed to be specially intellectually and spiritually advanced, but whose lives showed no sign of it. They claimed to have advanced so far along the road of knowledge and of spirituality that for them sin had ceased to matter and the laws had ceased to exist. Napoleon once said that laws were made for ordinary people, but were never meant for the like of him. So these heretics claimed to be so far on that, even if they did sin, it was of no importance whatsoever. In later days Clement of Alexandria tells us that there were heretics who said that it made no difference how a man lived. Irenaeus tells us that they declared that a truly spiritual man was quite incapable of ever incurring any pollution, no matter what kind of deeds he did.
  9. 9. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 9 In answer, John insists on certain things. (i) He insists that to have fellowship with the God who is light a man must walk in the light and that, if he is still walking in the moral and ethical darkness of the Christless life, he cannot have that fellowship. This is precisely what the Old Testament had said centuries before. God said, "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am Holy" (Leviticus 19:2; compare Leviticus 20:7; Leviticus 20:26). He who would find fellowship with God is committed to a life of goodness which reflects God's goodness. C. H. Dodd writes: "The Church is a society of people who, believing in a God of pure goodness, accept the obligation to be good like him." This does not mean that a man must be perfect before he can have fellowship with God; if that were the case, all of us would be shut out. But it does mean that he will spend his whole life in the awareness of his obligations, in the effort to fulfill them and in penitence when he fails. It will mean that he will never think that sin does not matter; it will mean that the nearer he comes to God, the more terrible sin will be to him. (ii) He insists that these mistaken thinkers have the wrong idea of truth. He says that, if people who claim to be specially advanced still walk in darkness, they are not doing the truth. Exactly the same phrase is used in the Fourth Gospel, when it speaks of him, who does the truth (John 3:21). This means that for the Christian truth is never only intellectual; it is always moral. It is not something which exercises only the mind; it is something which exercises the whole personality. Truth is not only the discovery of abstract things; it is concrete living. It is not only thinking; it is also acting. The words which the New Testament uses along with truth are significant. It speaks of obeying the truth (Romans 2:8; Galatians 3:7); following the truth (Galatians 2:14; 3 John 1:4 ); of opposing the truth (2 Timothy 3:8); of wandering from the truth (James 5:19). There is such a thing as might be called "discussion circle Christianity." It is possible to look on Christianity as a series of intellectual problems to be solved and on the Bible as a book about which illuminating information is to be amassed. But Christianity is something to be followed and the Bible a book to be obeyed. It is possible for intellectual eminence and moral failure to go hand in hand. For the Christian the truth is something first to be discovered and then to be obeyed. THE TESTS OF TRUTH (1 John 1:6-7 continued) As John sees it, there are two great tests of truth. (i) Truth is the creator of fellowship. If men are really walking in the light, they have fellowship one with another. No belief can be fully Christian if it separates a man from his fellow-men. No Church can be exclusive and still be the Church of Christ. That which destroys fellowship cannot be true. (ii) He who really knows the truth is daily more and more cleansed from sin by the blood of Jesus. The Revised Standard Version is correct enough here but it can very easily be misunderstood. It runs: "The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." That can be read as a statement of a general principle. But it is a statement of what ought to be happening in the individual life. The meaning is that all the time, day by day, constantly and consistently, the blood of Jesus Christ ought to be carrying out a cleansing process in the life of the individual Christian.
  10. 10. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 10 The Greek for to cleanse is katharizein (Greek #2511) which was originally a ritual word, describing the ceremonies and washings and so on which qualified a man to approach his gods. But the word, as religion developed, came to have a moral sense; and it describes the goodness which enables a man to enter into the presence of God. So what John is saying is, "If you really know what the sacrifice of Christ has done and are really experiencing its power, day by day you will be adding holiness to your life and becoming more fit to enter the presence of God." Here indeed is a great conception. It looks on the sacrifice of Christ as something which not only atones for past sin but equips a man in holiness day by day. True religion is that by which every day a man comes closer to his fellow-men and closer to God. It produces fellowship with God and fellowship with men--and we can never have the one without the other. THE THREEFOLD LIE (1 John 1:6-7 continued) Four times in his letter John bluntly accuses the false teachers of being liars; and the first of these occasions is in this present passage. (i) Those who claim to have fellowship with the God who is altogether light and who yet walk in the dark are lying (1 John 1:6). A little later he repeats this charge in a slightly different way. The man who says that he knows God and yet does not keep God's commandments is a liar (1 John 2:4). John is laying down the blunt truth that the man who says one thing with his lips and another thing with his life is a liar. He is not thinking of the man who tries his hardest and yet often fails. "A man," said H. G. Wells, "may be a very bad musician, and may yet be passionately in love with music"; and a man may be very conscious of his failures and yet be passionately in love with Christ and the way of Christ. John is thinking of the man who makes the highest possible claims to knowledge, to intellectual eminence and to spirituality, and who yet allows himself things which he well knows are forbidden. The man who professes to love Christ and deliberately disobeys him, is guilty of a lie. (ii) The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ is a liar (1 John 2:22). Here is something which runs through the whole New Testament. The ultimate test of any man is his reaction to Jesus. The ultimate question which Jesus asks every man is: "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13). A man confronted with Christ cannot but see the greatness that is there; and, if he denies it, he is a liar. (iii) The man who says that he loves God and at the same time hates his brother is a liar (1 John 4:20). Love of God and hatred of man cannot exist in the same person. If there is bitterness in a man's heart towards any other, that is proof that he does not really love God. All our protestations of love to God are useless if there is hatred in our hearts towards any man. THE SINNER'S SELF-DECEPTION (1 John 1:8-10) 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, we can rely on him in his righteousness to forgive us our sins and to make us clean from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.
  11. 11. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 11 In this passage John describes and condemns two further mistaken ways of thought. (i) There is the man who says that he has no sin. That may mean either of two things. It may describe the man who says that he has no responsibility for his sin. It is easy enough to find defences behind which to seek to hide. We may blame our sins on our heredity, on our environment, on our temperament, on our physical condition. We may claim that someone misled us and that we were led astray. It is characteristic of us all that we seek to shuffle out of the responsibility for sin. Or it may describe the man who claims that he can sin and take no harm. It is John's insistence that, when a man has sinned, excuses and self-justifications are irrelevant. The only thing which will meet the situation is humble and penitent confession to God and, if need be, to men. Then John says a surprising thing. He says that we can depend on God in his righteousness to forgive us if we confess our sins. On the face of it, we might well have thought that God in his righteousness would have been much more likely to condemn than to forgive. But the point is that God, because he is righteous, never breaks his word; and Scripture is full of the promise of mercy to the man who comes to him with penitent heart. God has promised that he will never despise the contrite heart and he will not break his word. If we humbly and sorrowfully confess our sins, he will forgive. The very fact of making excuses and seeking for self-justification debars us from forgiveness, because it debars us from penitence; the very fact of humble confession opens the door to forgiveness, for the man with the penitent heart can claim the promises of God. (ii) There is the man who says that he has not in fact sinned. That attitude is not nearly so uncommon as we might think. Any number of people do not really believe that they have sinned and rather resent being called sinners. Their mistake is that they think of sin as the kind of thing which gets into the newspapers. They forget that sin is hamartia (Greek #266) which literally means a missing of the target. To fail to be as good a father, mother, wife, husband, son, daughter, workman, person as we might be is to sin; and that includes us all. In any event the man who says that he has not sinned is in effect doing nothing less than calling God a liar, for God has said that all have sinned. So John condemns the man who claims that he is so far advanced in knowledge and in the spiritual life that sin for him has ceased to matter; he condemns the man who evades the responsibility for his sin or who holds that sin has no effect upon him; he condemns the man who has never even realized that he is a sinner. The essence of the Christian life is first to realize our sin; and then to go to God for that forgiveness which can wipe out the past and for that cleansing which can make the future new. Chapter 2 A PASTOR'S CONCERN (1 John 2:1-2) 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. But, if anyone does sin, we have one who will plead our cause to the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. For he is the propitiating sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
  12. 12. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 12 The first thing to note in this passage is the sheer affection in it. John begins with the address, "My little children." Both in Latin and in Greek diminutives carry a special affection. They are words which are used, as it were, with a caress. John is a very old man; he must be, in fact, the last survivor of his generation, maybe the last man alive who had walked and talked with Jesus in the days of his flesh. So often age gets out of sympathy with youth and acquires even an impatient irritableness with the new and laxer ways of the younger generation. But not John, in his old age he has nothing but tenderness for those who are his little children in the faith. He is writing to tell them that they must not sin but he does not scold. There is no cutting edge in his voice; he seeks to love them into goodness. In this opening address there is the yearning, affectionate tenderness of a pastor for people whom he has known for long in all their wayward foolishness and still loves. His object in writing is that they may not sin. There is a two-fold connection of thought here--with what has gone before and with what comes afterwards. There is a two-fold danger that they may indeed think lightly of sin. John says two things about sin. First, he has just said that sin is universal; anyone who says that he has not sinned is a liar. Second, there is forgiveness of sins through what Jesus Christ has done, and still does, for men. Now it would be possible to use both these statements as an excuse to think lightly of sin. If all have sinned, why make a fuss about it and what is the use of struggling against something which is in any event an inevitable part of the human situation? Again, if there is forgiveness of sins, why worry about it? In face of that, John, as Westcott points out, has two things to say. First, the Christian is one who has come to know God; and the inevitable accompaniment of knowledge must be obedience. We shall return to this more fully; but at the moment we note that to know God and to obey God must, as John sees it, be twin parts of the same experience. Second, the man who claims that he abides in God (1 John 2:6) and in Jesus Christ must live the same kind of life as Jesus lived. That is to say, union with Christ necessarily involves imitation of Christ. So John lays down his two great ethical principles; knowledge involves obedience, and union involves imitation. Therefore, in the Christian life there can never be any inducement to think lightly of sin. JESUS CHRIST, THE PARACLETE (1 John 2:1-2 continued) It will take us some considerable time to deal with these two verses for there are hardly any other two in the New Testament which so succinctly set out the work of Christ. Let us first set out the problem. It is clear that Christianity is an ethical religion; that is what John is concerned to stress. But it is also clear that man is so often an ethical failure. Confronted with the demands of God, he admits them and accepts them--and then fails to keep them. Here, then, there is a barrier erected between man and God. How can man, the sinner, ever enter into the presence of God, the all-holy? That problem is solved in Jesus Christ. And in this passage John uses two great words about Jesus Christ which we must study, not simply to acquire intellectual knowledge but to understand and so to enter into the benefits of Christ.
  13. 13. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 13 He calls Jesus Christ our Advocate with the Father. The word is parakletos (Greek #3875) which in the Fourth Gospel the King James Version translates Comforter. It is so great a word and has behind it so great a thought that we must examine it in detail. Parakletos (Greek #3875) comes from the verb parakalein (Greek #3870). There are occasions when parakalein (Greek #3870) means to comfort. It is, for instance, used with that meaning in Genesis 37:35, where it is said that all Jacob's sons and daughters rose up to comfort him at the loss of Joseph; in Isaiah 61:2, where it is said that the function of the prophet is to comfort all that mourn; and in Matthew 5:4, where it is said that those who mourn will be comforted. But that is neither the commonest nor the most literal sense of parakalein (Greek #3870); its commonest sense is to call someone to one's side in order to use him in some way as a helper and a counselor. In ordinary Greek that is a very common usage. Xenophon (Anabasis 1.6.5) tells how Cyrus summoned (parakalein, Greek #3870) Clearchos into his tent to be his counselor, for Clearchos was a man held in the highest honour by Cyrus and by the Greeks. Aeschines, the Greek orator, protests against his opponents calling in Demosthenes, his great rival, and says: "Why need you call Demosthenes to your support? To do so is to call in a rascally rhetorician to cheat the ears of the jury" (Against Ctesiphon 200). Parakletos itself is a word which is passive in form and literally means someone who is called to one's side; but since it is always the reason for the calling in that is uppermost in the mind, the word, although passive in form, has an active sense, and comes to mean a helper, a supporter and. above all, a witness in someone's favour, an advocate in someone's defense. It too is a common word in ordinary secular Greek. Demosthenes (De Fals. Leg. 1) speaks of the importunities and the party spirit of advocates (parakletoi, Greek #3875) serving the ends of private ambition instead of public good. Diogenes Laertius (4: 50) tells of a caustic saying of the philosopher Bion. A very talkative person sought his help in some matter. Bion said, "I will do what you want, if you will only send someone to me to plead your case (i.e., send a parakletos, Greek #3875), and stay away yourself." When Philo is telling the story of Joseph and his brethren, he says that, when Joseph forgave them for the wrong that they had done him, he said, "I offer you an amnesty for all that you did to me; you need no other parakletos (Greek #3875)" (Life of Joseph 40). Philo tells how the Jews of Alexandria were being oppressed by a certain governor and determined to take their case to the emperor. "We must find," they said, "a more powerful parakletos (Greek #3875) by whom the Emperor Gaius will be brought to a favourable disposition towards us" (Leg. in Flacc. 968 B). So common was this word that it came into other languages just as it stood. In the New Testament itself the Syriac, Egyptian, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions all keep the word parakletos (Greek #3875) just as it stands. The Jews especially adopted the word and used it in this sense of advocate, someone to plead one's cause. They used it as the opposite of the word accuser and the Rabbis had this saying about what would happen in the day of God's judgment. "The man who keeps one commandment of the Law has gotten to himself one parakletos (Greek #3875); the man who breaks one commandment of the Law has gotten to himself one accuser." They said, "If a man is summoned to court on a capital charge, he needs powerful parakletoi (Greek #3875) (the plural of the word) to save him; repentance and good works are his parakletoi (Greek #3975) in the judgment of God."
  14. 14. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 14 "All the righteousness and mercy which an Israelite does in this world are great peace and great parakletoi (Greek #3875) between him and his father in heaven." They said that the sin-offering is a man's parakletos (Greek #3875) before God. So the word came into the Christian vocabulary. In the days of the persecutions and the martyrs, a Christian pleader called Vettius Epagathos ably pled the case of those who were accused of being Christians. "He was an advocate (parakletos, Greek #3875) for the Christians, for he had the Advocate within himself, even the Spirit" (Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History,, 5: 1). The Letter of Barnabas (20) speaks of evil men who are the advocates of the wealthy and the unjust judges of the poor. The writer of Second Clement asks: "Who shall be your parakletos (Greek #3875) if it be not clear that your works are righteous and holy?" (2 Clement 6: 9). A parakletos (Greek #3875) has been defined as "one who lends his presence to his friends." More than once in the New Testament there is this great conception of Jesus as the friend and the defender of man. In a military court-martial the officer who defends the soldier under accusation is called the prisoner's friend. Jesus is our friend. Paul writes of that Christ who is at the right hand of God and "who intercedes for us" (Romans 8:34). The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ as the one who "ever lives to make intercession" for men (Hebrews 7:25); and he also speaks of him as "appearing in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24). The tremendous thing about Jesus is that he has never lost his interest in, or his love for, men. We are not to think of him as having gone through his life upon the earth and his death upon the Cross, and then being finished with men. He still bears his concern for us upon his heart; he still pleads for us; Jesus Christ is the prisoner's friend for all. JESUS CHRIST, THE PROPITIATION (1 John 2:1-2 continued) John goes on to say that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. The word is hilasmos (Greek #2434). This is a more difficult picture for us fully to grasp. The picture of the advocate is universal for all men have experience of a friend coming to their aid; but the picture in propitiation is from sacrifice and is more natural to the Jewish mind than to ours. To understand it we must get at the basic ideas behind it. The great aim of all religion is fellowship with God, to know him as friend and to enter with joy, and not fear, into his presence. It therefore follows that the supreme problem of religion is sin, for it is sin that interrupts fellowship with God. It is to meet that problem that all sacrifice arises. By sacrifice fellowship with God is restored. So the Jews offered, night and morning, the sin-offering in the Temple. That was the offering, not for any particular sin but for man as a sinner; and so long as the Temple lasted it was made to God in the morning and in the evening. The Jews also offered their trespass-offerings to God; these were the offerings for particular sins. The Jews had their Day, of Atonement, whose ritual was designed to atone for all sins, known and unknown. It is with that background that we must come at this picture of propitiation. As we have said, the Greek word for propitiation is hilasmos (Greek #2434), and the corresponding verb is hilaskesthai (Greek #2433). This verb has three meanings. (i) When it is used with a man as the subject, it means to placate or to pacify, someone who has been injured or offended, and especially to placate a god. It is to bring a sacrifice or to perform a ritual whereby a god, offended by sin, is placated. (ii) If the subject is God,
  15. 15. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 15 the verb means to forgive, for then the meaning is that God himself provides the means whereby the lost relationship between him and men is restored. (iii) The third meaning is allied with the first. The verb often means to perform some deed, by which the taint of guilt is removed. A man sins; at once he acquires the taint of sin; he needs something, which, to use C. H. Dodd's metaphor, will disinfect him from that taint and enable him once again to enter into the presence of God. In that sense hilaskesthai (Greek #2433) means, not to propitiate but to expiate, not so much to pacify God as to disinfect man from the taint of sin and thereby fit him again to enter into fellowship with God. When John says that Jesus is the hilasmos (Greek #2434) for our sins, he is, we think, bringing all these different senses into one. Jesus is the person through whom guilt for past sin and defilement from present sin are removed. The great basic truth behind this word is that it is through Jesus Christ that man's fellowship with God is first restored and then maintained. We note one other thing. As John sees it, this work of Jesus was carried out not only for us but for the whole world. There is in the New Testament a strong line of thought in which the universality of the salvation of God is stressed. God so loved the world that he sent his son (John 3:16). Jesus is confident that, if he is lifted up, he will draw all men to him (John 12:32). God will have all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He would be a bold man who would set limits to the grace and love of God or to the effectiveness of the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Truly the love of God is broader than the measures of man's mind; and in the New Testament itself there are hints of a salvation whose arms are as wide as the world. Gnosticism by A.T. Robertson4 The Epistle [1 John] is not a polemic primarily, but a letter for the edification of the readers in the truth and the life in Christ. And yet the errors of the Gnostics are constantly before John‘s mind. The leaders had gone out from among the true Christians, but there was an atmosphere of sympathy that constituted a subtle danger. There are only two passages (1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:1-6) in which the false teachers are specifically denounced, but “this unethical intellectualism” (Robert Law) with its dash of Greek culture and Oriental mysticism and licentiousness gave a curious attraction for many who did not know how to think clearly. John, like Paul in Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral Epistles, foresaw this dire peril to Christianity. In the second century, it gave pure Christianity a gigantic struggle. “The great Gnostics were the first Christian philosophers” (Robert Law, The Tests of Life, p. 27) and threatened to undermine the Gospel message by “deifying the devil” (ib., p. 31) along with dethroning Christ. There were two kinds of Gnostics, both agreeing in the essential evil of matter. Both had trouble with the Person of Christ. The Docetic Gnostics denied the actual humanity of Christ, the Cerinthian Gnostics distinguished between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ that came on him at his baptism and left him on the Cross. Some practised asceticism, some licentiousness. John opposes both classes in his Epistles. They claimed superior knowledge (gnōsis) and so were called Gnostics (Gnōstikoi). Nine times John gives tests for knowing the truth and uses the verb ginōskō (know) each time (1 John 2:3, 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:16, 1 John 3:19, 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:2, 1 John 4:6, 1 John 4:13; 1 John 5:2). Some of the leaders he calls antichrists. There are stories about John‘s dread of Cerinthus and his unwillingness to be seen in the same public bath with him. The Apostle of love, as he is, is a real son of thunder when Gnosticism shows its head. 4 Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John overview". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/view.cgi?bk=61&ch=0". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
  16. 16. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 16 Westcott thinks that the Fourth Gospel was written to prove the deity of Christ, assuming his humanity, while 1 John was written to prove the humanity of Christ, assuming his deity. Certainly, both ideas appear in both books. “LIGHT” in John’s Writings By Mark Rathel, associate professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida, Graceville, Florida. The concept of light serves as an image of the church, the people of God as they participate in the light. THE GREEK WORD most often translated as “light” in our English Bibles is phos. Light, of course, referred to literal light or a light-giving body, such as the Sun. In addition, the concept of light developed numerous metaphorical associations in secular writings. The Greeks linked light to life. “To see the light” meant “to live”; “to leave the light,” meant, “to die.”1 Greek culture also connected light with ethical goodness. For instance, in his “Allegory of the Cave,” Plato associated light with knowledge, the ability to see and understand true reality. Plato associated his highest “Form” or “Ideal” with the Sun, the highest reality he called “The Good.” Light also had connotations of something being holy, pure, heavenly, and divine.2 Light developed some religious connotations in Hellenistic thinking with the spread of Greek culture after the rule of Alexander the Great. The Old Testament provides the most important background for John’s usage of light. Since forming light was God’s first creative activity, the Old Testament writers recognized light as a source for life. Most significantly, the Old Testament described God by using the analogy of light. God reveals the hidden things and dwells in light (Dan. 2:22). Habakkuk compared the brilliance of God with the brightness of light (Hab. 3:4). God wraps Himself in a robe of light, an imagery depicting the majesty of God as light (Ps. 104:2). A pillar of fire indicated God’s presence and nearness to His people for the purpose of guidance (Ex. 13:21-22; Neh. 9:12). Isaiah described the redemptive influence of the coming Messiah as the appearance of a great light (Isa. 9:2). The prophet further described the ministry of the Servant as the role of “a light to the nations” (42:6). Finally, the Old Testament also associated light with salvation (Ps. 27:1). In the New Testament the noun “light” (Greek, phos ) occurs 72 times; the writings ascribed to the apostle John contain 33 of those. Light functions as an important theological theme in John’s writings. “Light in its varied meanings is at the heart of such central biblical themes as creation, providence, judgment, redemption and sanctification.”3 John’s writings express all of these biblical themes associated with the concept of light. “Light” occurs 23 times in John’s Gospel. Yet, the evangelist did not use the term light evenly. The occurrences of light are in the first 12 chapters (called “the Book of Signs”) detailing the public witness to Jesus as the Messiah. Chapter 1 introduces Jesus as the true Messiah by means of six references to light, whereas chapter 12 concluded Jesus’ public ministry with an urgent invitation containing six references to light (12:35- 50).4
  17. 17. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 17 Light as Source of Life and Revelation (1:4-5,9)—The Prologue of John (1:1-18) emphasizes two aspects of the Word as the Light: the creative Source of human life (vv. 4-5) as well as incarnate Revealer (v. 9). Light gives life and reveals. As demonstrated by the opening phrase “in the beginning,” the Johannine prologue recalls the Genesis narrative. Creation was “through Him” and “in Him.” “Through Him” the creation of things came to be. “In Him,” the self-existing One, life came to be, particularly human life. John’s mentioning darkness alludes back to the entrance of sin at the fall of Adam. Light drives out darkness; the light of Jesus defeats darkness. In the Fourth Gospel, the adjective “true” often points to fulfillment. In the Word (that is, in Christ), the Old Testament depiction associating the coming of the Messiah with light receives fulfillment (Num. 24:17; Isa. 9:2; Mal. 4:2).5 The true Light enters into the realm of the “world,” a term that often depicts rebellious humanity in the Fourth Gospel (John 1:9). Light as Agent of Judgment (John 3:19-21)—Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (v. 2), a picture of the spiritual darkness of his soul.6 In response to Nicodemus’s nighttime visit, Jesus warned of a process of judgment (vv. 19-21). The terms “judgment” and “exposed” demonstrate the judgment motif. The issue of the process of judgment is response to the incarnate Light who came into the world. Notice the contrast in the object of love: God loved the world; the world loved darkness.7 The process of judgment does not await the eschatological judgment; rather, an individual that rejects the incarnate Light experiences judgment as a present reality. Light as the Symbol of God’s Presence (8:2)—John 6—8 recalls the Hebrews’ wilderness wanderings. In the wilderness, the Hebrews experienced manna from heaven, water from a rock, and a light from a pillar of fire. Jesus especially claimed to be the bread of life (6:35), the water of life (7:37-38), and the light of life (8:12). The Jews’ annual Feast of Tabernacles included elaborate water and light ceremonies. At the time of the water of the water ceremony celebration, Jesus claimed Himself as the fulfillment (7:37-39). Every night of the festival, four large luminaries filled the Jerusalem night, reminding the Jews of the wilderness pillar of fire. On the last day of the festival, Jesus addressed the Pharisees. Rather than illuminating the night, sky merely over Jerusalem, Jesus functions as the exclusive Light of the whole world. Any individual continually following Jesus experiences the light consisting of life, in other words salvation. The miracle recorded in John 9 continues the light theme by illustrating the Light of the world bringing light to one born blind. Light as an Urgent Invitation (John 12:35-36,46)—The light theme concludes the public ministry of Jesus as described in the Book of Signs (John 1—12). In response to Jesus’ statement about His being lifted up, the crowd speculated about how to relate this teaching to the Old Testament teaching about the Messiah remaining permanently. Jesus answered, using the light theme to emphasize the urgency of a decision rather than speculation. The Light of the world that came into the world would be present only a little while longer. Continually walking in the light gives victory over (or overtakes) darkness. The proper response to the Light is “believing into” the light, which is a faith commitment. A faith commitment to the Light gives an individual a new status, that of being a son of the Light. As an enacted parable of judgment, Jesus withdrew from the crowd (vv. 32-36).8
  18. 18. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 18 Light as Ethical Nature (1 John 1:5)—Generally speaking, John’s Gospel serves to introduce God’s self- revelation through His Son, Jesus Christ, who came as the Light of the world (8:12; 9:5). John’s First Epistle, though, served to help clarify what it meant for a believer to live in the light. Thus in describing light, John in his epistle speaks of light as a quality of God—and does so without a definite article (compare “God is light” [1 John 1:5] with Jesus is “the light” [John 8:12]).9 Since light characterizes God’s nature, “darkness in not in him, not even one bit.”10 Light, then, uplifts God’s moral, ethical qualities. An individual’s proper response, believing into the light, is to follow the model of God’s lightness (1:7). Walking as God modeled entails rejecting the darkness. “By introducing these metaphors [light and darkness] John intends to demonstrate the impossibility of neutrality.”11 Light as an Expression of the Eschatological Community (1 John 2:8-10)—The contrast between light and darkness depicts two ages. The new era of light began with the “true light coming into the world” (John 1:9). Since the true Light “is already shining,” the old era represented by darkness is passing away. The shining of the Light entails the ultimate defeat of the darkness. The dawning of the coming age depicts an eschatological community characterized by light, fellowship, and love. The concept of light, then, serves as an image of the church, the people of God as they participate in the light. The theme of light comprises one of the major theological emphases of John’s writings. He used the imagery of light to symbolically set forth theological themes of creation, incarnation, revelation, judgment, God’s immanence, ethics, and relationships within the eschatological community. John’s use of light, therefore, helps clarify both Jesus’ identity and His mission. The WORLD as a New Testament Concept By Randall L. Adkisson, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Cookeville, Tennessee. “WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING?” “Welcome to my world.” “That’s out of this world.” “The third world.” “The new world order.” “He is in a world of his own.” “She is a woman of the world.” You and me against the world.” “It’s a small world.” The Arab world.” He is in a world of hurt.” SUCH STATEMENTS remind us that words carry different meanings or nuances of meaning depending on the context of their use. In English the meaning of “world” changes depending on the term’s social, scientific , or personal context. As in modern English, so too biblical words express different meanings depending on the context of their usage in a historical period, cultural setting, or literary phrase. The English New Testament translates several Greek words into “world.” As with Old Testament, terms for “world,” each New Testament term can present differing nuances of meaning depending on its context. Ge—Physical World Ge, one of the Greek worlds for “world,” primarily designated the physical earth, much as the Hebrew erets.1 Used extensively in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, where 120 of its 250 occurrences are found, the term focuses on the world as a landmass. Almost every New Testament writer made use of the term in this way.
  19. 19. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 19 New Testament authors used ge as the common term to designate the earthly sphere. So in Acts 1:8 the gospel moves to the ends of the earth. In Matthew 5:35, the world is the footstool of God. But ge may also designate any size area of the earth from a national landmass to the small piece of land on which a seed may fall. Thus, in Matthew 10:15 it designates Sodom and Gomorrah, but in the parable of the sower, it represents the singular spot of soil on which a seed is planted (Matt. 13:8; Luke 8:8). This term is morally neutral, designating the world neither as evil nor virtuous, but ge does designate a place of corruption that will ultimately pass-away (Matt.6:19). Oikoumene—Inhabited World Oikoumene, a cognate of the Greek term oikos meaning “house” or “dwelling,” speaks of the world, as it is inhabited, the dwelling place of man and by expansion, mankind who dwells upon the earth.2 Luke was particularly fond of the term, employing it in his Gospel and Acts 8 times out of its 15 usages. But in the Book of Revelation, the term reveals its distinction most clearly. Here, God judges the oikoumene, John specifically using this term to indicate the judgment of mankind. Thus, the hour of testing will come upon the whole world (Rev. 3:10). Satan deceives the entire world, that is all of mankind (12:9). And the kings of the whole world are gathered for judgment (16:14). In every case, the term designates the inhabitants of the world, not its landmass. In exaggerated speech, oikoumene may designate a subsection of mankind but as if the designated subsection were the only important part. So Luke said that a census was taken of the “world,” but clearly meant only the Roman world or the jurisdiction of Caesar (Luke 2:1). Such usage was common when speaking of the Roman Empire. Aion—Age or Era Aion, another Greek word for “world,” is indicative of a cultural environment. Often translated as “age,” this word denotes the political, cultural, even religious atmosphere of an epoch of time.3 The period may be as extensive as the period between Jesus’ advent and return (Matt. 13:40). Or it can designate the general period in which the reader lives, thus the “worries of this age” choke out the efficacy of the Word of God (Mark 4:19, HCSB). Even so, the riches of the present world (aion) may cause a believer to trust in his or her financial resources instead of God (1 Tim. 6:17). Kosmos—The World Kosmos, familiar to the English reader because of its frequent transliteration and familiar cognates cosmos, cosmic, cosmology, and even cosmonaut, may refer to the world with the many varying shades of meaning often attributed to the English term “world.” Thus, it may designate the sum of all things that man perceives in the created order, or merely the physical earth, or mankind, or the place of human habitation as opposed to the abode of God and supernatural creatures. The term can also designate a political or religious culture. Because of its plentiful and varying usage, this term is the most significant for the study of John’s Gospel. Although John used kosmos throughout his Gospel, Epistles, and the Revelation, the interpreter must take care because the apostle often varied its nuance of meaning within close textual proximity. Kosmos may be morally
  20. 20. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 20 neutral in one verse but then designate non-believing, even evilly motivated mankind in a nearby verse.4 Great error and complete misunderstanding result when a reader demands the term carry the same meaning throughout John’s writings or throughout the New Testament. In and Out of this “World” Because of its multiple nuances of meaning, the “world” of the New Testament text is at one place to be loved and at another to be loathed depending on its contextual usage. Although Paul developed the concept of kosmos some in this writings, the most extensive use of the term is in the Johannine writings, particularly in John’s Gospel. In fact, John used the term 105 of the 186 times it appears in the New Testament. The relative lack of usage of the term in the Synoptic Gospels, only 15 times, seems to reflect the Hebraic style of designating the created order with the phrase “heaven and earth.” This is paralleled closely by usage in the Old Testament where the concept of “all created things” is so designated (see Gen. 2:1-2; Matt. 24:35). The wide divergence of meanings of the term kosmos should remind the biblical student to be sensitive to the importance of context when reading. In John, God so loved the world that He initiated the incarnation even before He laid the world’s foundation (John 3:16-18; 10:36; 17:24; 1 John 2:2). Yet, John called believers to hate the world, not allowing its touch to stain their sanctification (1 John 2:15-16). In one Gospel context, Jesus created and entered the world, but in another, He would not even pray for it (John 1:9-10; 17:9). Variously, John used the term to designate all people, the tangible things of creation, the fallen social order, and the determined antagonistic forces of opposition to God’s rule. In John 17, the reader will do well to thoughtfully consider each use of the term. John’s first use speaks of creation, pairing kosmos with ge (17:4,5). Yet, almost immediately, the “world” becomes the sum of all mankind who refuse to believe in Jesus as Messiah (vv. 6,9). Still again, the “world” is the seductive trappings of life lying in wait for the unsuspecting disciple (v. 15). The modern reader should not consider John as muddled in his thinking, rather remember that modern usage of the term “world” also carries many different nuances. Just as the sense of the term is easily determined in modern cultural and literary contexts without thorough examination, the biblical usage is generally simple to comprehend even when different nuances of meaning are used within close proximity to one another. Yet a purposeful pause to consider the exact nuance of meaning will add great strength to one’s biblical understanding. PROPITIATION A Word Study By Hal Lane, pastor, Westside Baptist Church, Greenwood, South Carolina. THE SALVATION THAT Jesus CHRIST provided through His death on the cross is comparable to a diamond with many facets. The facets represent the many aspects of Christ’s provision for sinners through His death. New Testament words such as “redemption,” “reconciliation,” “atonement,” and many more distinguish these facets. One brilliant facet that illumines an important aspect of Christ’s death is “propitiation” (Greek, hilasmos) found in 1 John 2:2; 4:10 (HCSB).
  21. 21. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 21 The purposes of this article are to discuss background of the Greek word hilasmos, to define the concept of propitiation as used by John in 1 John 2:2, and to consider its contribution to our understanding of the death of Christ in the New Testament. Propitiation Defined Understanding the meaning of propitiation is complicated by the fact that the word is no longer in common use. The noun “propitiation” comes from a Latin root (propitiare) meaning “to appease anger.”1 Early Latin translations of the New Testament, such as Jerome’s Vulgate (late fourth century AD), used this Latin root to translate the Greek word hilasmos in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. These influenced English translations such as the King James Version when translators chose “propitiation” to convey the meaning of hilasmos. Some modern scholars have challenged the use of the word “propitiation” and have preferred “expiation” (Revised Standard Version). The merits of this challenge will be considered later. While the main focus of our study will be on hilasmos (propitiation), it is also important to consider the related New Testament words hilaskomai (to propitiate) and hilasterion (propitiation, mercy seat). Prior to New Testament times, writers of Greek mythology used hilasmos to describe the appeasement of the anger of various mythological deities.2 The Greeks sought to appease the wrath of their gods through various sacrifices and rituals. Offerings to these deities supposedly soothed their anger and halted their destructive rage. Gentile readers who understood the Greek culture would naturally associate the concept of the appeasing anger with all three of these Greek words. The Septuagint (the second century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament) frequently used exilaskomai (a synonym for hilaskomai) to translate the Hebrew verb kaphar (“to cover,” “to atone”). The Septuagint translators used the Greek noun hilasterion (from the same root as hilasmos) to translate the Hebrew kapporeth (mercy seat), which was the golden lid over the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:17). Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would make sacrifices for himself and then for the nation to cover or atone for the sins of the previous year (Lev. 16). The blood sacrifices would be poured on the mercy seat showing the necessity of sacrifice in order to obtain God’s mercy. The sacrifice on the mercy seat, therefore, was a propitiation or appeasement of God’s wrath. The New Testament uses the verb hilaskomai in the story of the penitent tax collector who prayed “turn Your wrath from me” (Luke 18:13, HCSB). In Hebrews 2:17, the author used the verb to describe Jesus’ act of propitiation as a faithful High Priest who provided a sufficient sacrifice. Paul used the noun hilasterion in Romans 3:25 to describe Jesus’ work of propitiation through His death. The author of Hebrews used the same word to designate the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant (9:5). All three words (hilaskomai, hilasterion, and hilasmos) point to the death of Christ as the sacrifice that obtained God’s mercy and satisfied His wrath against sin. The symbolism of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement under the Old Covenant was fulfilled in the death of Christ on the cross. He became both High Priest and the atoning sacrifice. Propitiation or Expiation? Secular Greek and Septuagint vocabulary both support the translation of hilasmos as “propitiation.” However, some modern expositors have objected strongly to the idea of soothing God’s wrath.3 They contend that the
  22. 22. John R. Wible, Editor. Sources: Southern Baptist Uniform Sunday School Lesson and Commentary, Summer, 2014; Southern Baptist Advanced Bible Study and Southern Baptist Biblical Illustrator, selected articles; Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study, and William Barclay, Daily Bible Studies Series, except where noted. Page 22 idea of appeasing a wrathful God is a primitive idea from paganism and not worthy of the true God. They argue that the word hilasmos should be translated “expiation.” Expiation focuses on the removal of our sin rather than the soothing of divine wrath. Jesus most certainly expiated or wiped out our sins. However, to use “expiation” as a translation of hilasmos does not accurately reflect its full meaning. It also fails to recognize the biblical concept of God’s wrath against sin.4 P. K. Jewett in his article “Propitiation” made the following statement: “It is said that there are more than 20 different words used to express the wrath of God in the [Old Testament], with over 580 occurrences of these words.”5 The New Testament also refers to the wrath of God as an expression of His holy revulsion of sin (John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 3:5; 5:9; Eph. 2:3; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2:16; 5:9). The object of expiation is sin while the object of propitiation is God. Jesus made it possible for us to have a relationship with a holy God by removing our sin. This propitiated the wrath of God toward the sinner.6 In 1 John 1:8,10, John stressed the universality of sin. Anyone who claims to be without sin is a liar. In 1 John 1:9, God promises forgiveness for the one who will confess his or her sins to Him. In 2:1, John began by stating his desire was that his readers would not sin. However, he knew they would not be morally perfect; therefore he reminded his readers of the advocacy of Jesus for believers who fall into sin. The basis for propitiation—that is, the appeasement of God’s wrath—is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the High Priest and the sacrifice that sooths the wrath of God against us and our sins. We can be sure of God’s forgiveness because of the sacrifice of Christ. The use of hilasmos by secular Greek authors and John have only one thing in common. They both describe a soothing of anger. The uses of the word by the Greek authors and John are also very different. In the case of the Greek gods, people bribed capricious deities with gifts. Those offering the sacrifices were actually manipulating these deities through their actions. In the New Testament, God is the one who sent His Son to provide the sacrifice to satisfy His just demands for the punishment of sin. It was not a bribe but the just payment for the sins of the world through the substitutionary death of Christ. It was God’s holiness that demanded payment, and it was His mercy that provided His Son as the payment. All of the glory for propitiation belongs to God who saw the need and provided for the need by sending His Son. First John 2:2 states that Jesus was not only the propitiation for the sins of John and his readers but for the whole world. This speaks of the unlimited provision of forgiveness that the blood of Jesus purchased for all men. Only those who accept Him by faith will experience the benefit of His propitiatory sacrifice. Only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior will escape the wrath of God against sin. The Bible declares that there will be a judgment day for every individual. The one who trusts Jesus will experience peace with God. The one who remains in sin will face a holy God and experience His wrath forever.

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