Significance of Systematic Theology

By Andy Woods

The two previous articles in this three part series on the subject of systematic theology [published in the Conservative Theological Journal - see footnotes] dealt with the definition of systematic theology1 as well as the contribution that dispensational premillennialism makes to systematic theology.2 This final article of the series gets to the most fundamental issue by answering the question, “Do we really need theology at all?” Although previous generations of believers would have never entertained such a question, this query is crying out for an answer today on account of the fact that more and more Christian leaders are beginning to view theology as something that is somewhat irrelevant to the health and life of the church.

Evidence of Contemporary Doctrinal Decline

Lest the reader think that this analysis is an exaggeration, let us consider a few comments found in one of the most recent best selling books authored by a well-known advocate of the church growth movement. While many of the insights found in the book are appreciated, one is struck by how frequently the author goes out of his way to marginalize the significance of doctrinal study and exposition. Consider the following: “God won’t ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views.”3 “Jesus said our love for each other-not our doctrinal beliefs-is our greatest witness to the world.”4 “Today many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of biblical information and doctrine you know.”5 “The Bible is far more than a doctrinal guidebook.”6 “The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice.”7 In another work, the same author seems to marginalize in depth teaching when he recommends that a sermon series should never go beyond eight weeks for fear that the congregation will begin to lose interest.8 He then goes so far as to poke fun at in depth eschatological teaching by relaying the complaint of a woman who said, “My pastor has been in Daniel’s seventy weeks longer than Daniel was!”9

The slogans that believers use also betray doctrinal obfuscation within evangelicalism. One sometimes hears the following trite expressions. “Don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus.” “What really matters is Christ not creed.” “Devotion is important and not doctrine.” “What counts is our behavior, and not our beliefs.”10

Other signs abound that the modern church is down playing theological truth. Some of these signs come from my own personal experience. For example, I recently ran across an advertisement in a well-known Christian magazine from a church seeking a pastor. The advertisement read, “Seminary not required, MBA preferred.” On a similar front, one of my seminary professors used to ask each of his classes the following question at the beginning of each semester: “When was the last time that you heard a sermon on the Trinity?” According to this particular professor, it was rare to have even one or two hands go up in a classroom of about 50 students each time this question was asked. Furthermore, in an attempt to explain away the lack of doctrinal content in his ministry, I once had a pastor tell me that the “shelf life” of the average sermon is from the church building to the parking lot. He explained that people just do not remember what the Sunday sermon was about after they are reintegrated into daily life.

Much of the blame for the decline of doctrinal teaching in our churches can be laid at the feet of the seeker friendly movement. The name of the game in seeker-oriented churches is to attract the unsaved to church by coming up with sermon topics that appeal to the felt needs of the unregenerate.11 Those topics that run the risk of offending the un-churched such as sin, hell, the Second Coming, etc…are omitted from the church’s Sunday morning diet. Thus, the problem with seeker-oriented approach lies not so much in what is communicated on Sunday morning but rather in what is omitted. Because of its emphasis upon the felt needs of man rather than on what God has disclosed, the seeker philosophy at its core is anthropocentric rather than theocentric. Consequently, MacArthur describes the seeker movement in terms of entertaining the goats at the expense of feeding the sheep.12

The impetus of this philosophy emanates from psychologist Abraham Maslow who postulated that human behavior can be understood in terms of man engaging in various behaviors designed to satisfy his five basic areas of need (physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self development). Modern marketing approaches as well as managerial theories are predicated upon Maslow’s view of human nature. The seeker approach also capitalizes on Maslow’s theory by selecting sermon topics designed to appeal to man’s various felt needs. It is argued that this approach will attract the unregenerate to church. Thus, the Bible is used selectively to preach a variety of pragmatic “how to” messages designed to appeal to the felt needs of the unsaved. Biblical subjects that do not nicely fit into one or more of the categories of Maslow’s hierarchy are avoided. Such a selective approach creates “canon within the canon” teaching philosophy thus robbing the church of the spiritual knowledge necessary to reach maturity.

When seeker advocates are confronted with the lack of doctrinal and expositional teaching in their churches, their standard answer is that such teaching occurs at the midweek service or during small group ministry. However, as explained by T.A. McMahon, theory and practice are often two different things:

As we’ve noted, most seeker-friendly churches focus much of their time, energy, and resources on accommodating unchurched Harry and Mary. Consequently, week after week, the entire congregation is subjected to a diluted and leavened message. Then, on Wednesday evening, when a fellowship is reduced to a quarter or a third of its normal size, would it be reasonable to assume that his remnant is served a nourishing meal featuring the meat of the word, expositional teaching, and an emphasis on sound doctrine and discipleship? Hardly. We’ve yet to find a seeker-friendly church where that takes place. The spiritual meals offered at midweek services are usually support group meetings and classes for discerning one’s spiritual gifts or going though the latest psycho-babble-ized “Christian” bestseller…rather than the study of the Scriptures.13
Because doctrinal decline has become a discernible trend in modern evangelicalism, a fresh scriptural look into what God has revealed concerning the significance of doctrine is appropriate. The remainder of this article will survey various biblical reasons as to why doctrine should be returned to a place of preeminence within evangelicalism.

A Heaven or Hell Issue

The most important reason as to why theology should not be neglected by Christian leaders is that what people believe about certain doctrinal matters can determine where they spend eternity. For example, the expression “do not give me doctrine, just give me Jesus” rings hollow upon considering that doctrine helps determine if someone has believed on the right or wrong Jesus. There are many false renditions of Jesus. The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses represents the recycled Jesus from an ancient heresy known as Arianism, which teaches that Jesus is not an eternally existent being but rather is a created being. Thus, the Jesus of Arianism is a different Jesus than what is portrayed in Scripture. Believing on the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses therefore entails believing on the wrong Jesus. This error, if not corrected, could have eternal ramifications. The only way to discern the biblical Jesus from the Arian Jesus is through the doctrine of Christology.

Numerous other examples of a false Jesus are found in other false religions, such as Mormonism and the New Age movement. Paul warned of such false gospels in Galatians 1:8-9 when he said, “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” 14 It is impossible to harmonize Paul’s warning with modern statements such as “God won’t ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views” or “today many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of biblical information and doctrine you know.” Doctrine is a central issue since it determines whether a person has believed in the right Christ, which in turn could determine whether they go to heaven or hell.

Christian Living

Not only does the role of doctrine have the potential of determining someone’s eternal destiny, but it also has a tremendous bearing on the standard of Christian living. As one of my seminary professors used to say, “a person cannot behave Christianly until he first learns to think Christianly.” Perhaps the reason that the standard for Christian living has deteriorated in our day is because we have witnessed corresponding doctrinal erosion. A clear scriptural nexus exists between doctrine and daily living. Let us consider some examples.

In John 13:17, Jesus says, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” In this context, “these things” refers to Christ’s example of servitude as recorded in the first sixteen verses of the chapter. Notice the relationship between knowing and doing in John 13:17. Knowing precedes doing. People cannot do what they do not know. Knowing is not an end in and of itself. It is just a first step toward the second step of doing. However, the second step cannot be taken unless the person has a cognitive grasp of doctrinal content. Our capacity to do the right thing is first predicated upon the doctrine that we know.15

Another example of how doctrine influences behavior is found in Acts 2:42-47. This familiar ecclesiological passage depicts the various items that the first church “devoted” itself to. These items included apostolic doctrine, fellowship, communion, prayer, worship, and giving. Although every item on this list is important, it is interesting to observe that the church’s devotion to apostolic doctrine is mentioned first (Acts 2:42). Such prioritization is significant because doctrinal learning shows the believer why and how to perform the other items subsequently mentioned on the list. Doctrine gives insight into all of the following activities. If the church had not first given itself to doctrine of the apostles, it would not have known how or why to perform all the other behaviors. This explains why Luke conspicuously mentions doctrine as the first item the church devoted itself to.16 Interestingly, many pastors complain that their churches do not give enough, worship enough, pray enough, fellowship enough, or value the Lord’s Table enough. Perhaps the reason is that modern pastors do not allow doctrine to have preeminence in their ministries. If churches were more doctrinally literate, then the other previously described behaviors would naturally fall into place. Rather than “beating the sheep” for not living the right way, perhaps pastors should make doctrinal teaching more of a priority in their ministries.

Yet another example of how doctrine influences behavior is found in 2 Peter 3:11, which says, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.” Prior to this verse, Peter had unfolded numerous eschatological truths pertaining to the coming Day of the Lord and the destruction of the present order (2 Pet 3:3-10). Then, in verse 11, Peter explains that these truths have the effect of changing the behavior of God’s people by giving them an incentive to live holy. Knowledge of great eschatological truths, such as the temporary nature of this world, naturally has the effect of revolutionizing a believer’s priorities, value system, and the way he spends his time, talent, and treasure. Thus, this passage links knowledge of eschatology with behavior.

A similar link is found in 1 John 3:2-3, which says, “…We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” Thus, contemplating Christ’s coming purifies the daily life of the believer. Unfortunately, many pastors avoid the subject of eschatology altogether for fear that it is too controversial or complicated. But here both Peter and John testify that the subject should be openly preached because of the impact that it has on the believer’s daily life. The linkage between eschatology and behavior is found throughout the Bible. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, once commented that nearly every time the doctrine of the Second Advent is mentioned in the New Testament, it is linked to some sort of admonition about daily life. The impact that eschatology has on behavior probably explains why so much of God’s Word is devoted to the subject of predictive prophecy. According J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 27%, or over one quarter of the Bible, pertains to the subject of predictive prophecy.17

Practical Issues

Many attempt to marginalize the study of doctrine on the grounds that it is not practical. However, observing how frequently Paul introduces doctrine for the purpose of correcting practical problems within the local church rebuts this assertion. In fact, some of the greatest expositions of doctrinal principles comes about in Scripture as a result of Paul having to correct the daily behavior of Christians. In his writings, Paul does not elucidate doctrinal principles just for the purpose of passing on some random theological thoughts. Rather, some practical problem existed in the churches that he was writing to and he used doctrine to address the practical problem. It is for reasons such as these that biblical epistolary literature is sometimes referred to as “occasional literature.”

Nowhere does this become clearer than in Philippians 2. Most know this chapter as the kenosis chapter. It offers a graphic depiction of Christ’s incarnation. It describes how Christ voluntarily laid aside the independent exercise of His divine attributes, while still retaining His deity, for the purpose of serving humanity. But why did Paul insert this material into his letter to the Philippians? Was his goal to pass along a random theological thought? Hardly. The Philippian congregation was characterized by numerous self-serving attitudes such as selfishness and empty conceit (Phil 2:3), grumbling (Phil 2:14) and disputing (Phil 4:2). At one point, Paul makes mention of two women, Euodia and Syntyche, who were embroiled in a bitter interpersonal conflict. Paul’s remedy for ridding the church of such self-centeredness was an exposition of Christ’s incarnation (Phil 2) in hopes that his readers would imitate the selflessness of Christ. Evidently Paul thought that this doctrine was practical enough to change the behavior of believers.

Another example is Paul’s presentations of the doctrine of the Bema Seat Judgment in 1 Corinthians 3. This chapter represents one of the most graphic portrayals of this unique judgment found anywhere in Scripture (1 Cor 3:10-15). Was Paul’s intent to unfold this doctrine just for the sake of randomly developing another area of systematic theology? Not at all. Paul took the opportunity of revealing the Bema Seat Judgment because of practical problems taking place within the Corinthian assembly. Although the Corinthians were believers (1 Cor 1:2), they had made little progress in the area of practical sanctification. The church in Corinth was one of the most carnal churches of first century world of which we have record. In this church, there existed Christians following men instead of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-17), worldly wisdom (1:18-2:16) divisions (chapter 3), sexual immorality (chapters 6), incest (chapter 5), lawsuits among believers (chapter 6), drunkenness at the Lord’s table (chapter 11), misuse of spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14) and false doctrine that included a denial of the resurrection (chapter 15). Yet it is to this church that we find one of the greatest expositions of the Bema Seat Judgment because Paul believed that this doctrine would change the behavior of the people by communicating to them the reality of a coming judgment. This judgment, unlike the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15, would not be a judgment to determine whether a person spends eternity in heaven or hell. That issue had already been settled because the Corinthians were already believers. Rather, this judgment would determine reward. The Corinthians would either gain or lose reward depending on how they progressed in the realm of practical sanctification. Paul understood that living with the knowledge of future accountability would change one’s behavior in the present. Rather than seeing the eschatological truth of the Bema Seat Judgment as something unrelated to daily life, Paul saw it as integral to practical living.

Yet another example of Paul using doctrine to stimulate behavior is found in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he offers the following profound Christological nugget: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” However, there is a context in which Paul offers this Christological truth. Rather than offering an unrelated insertion on the generosity of Christ, Paul’s goal in 2 Corinthians 8-9 was to get the Corinthians to give generously to the offering that he was collecting for the needy saints in Jerusalem. Paul discussed the selflessness of Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9 in hopes that the Corinthians would imitate the generosity of Christ and give generously as well. Paul evidently thought that Christology was practical enough to insert into the extremely practical context of offering collections. Curiously, one of the common complaints among modern pastors is that their congregations do not give enough. Perhaps the problem lies in the people’s lack of exposure to the doctrine of Christology.

Yet another example of Paul using doctrine for the sake of influencing behavior is found in the famous exposition of the rapture doctrine found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. This passage represents probably the clearest reference to the rapture found in all of the New Testament. Again, we ask the question, is Paul simply providing a random theological truth? On the contrary, this eschatological truth must be understood within the context in which it was written. The Thessalonians were grieving over their deceased believing relatives and were wondering if they would ever see them again (1 Thess 4:13). Paul comforts the Thessalonians in the midst of their grief by informing them that not only would they see their relatives again in a reunion in the sky known as the rapture, but also God’s eschatological resurrection program will in fact begin with these deceased love ones. In other words, Paul used this eschatological truth for the practical purpose of comforting Christians in the midst of emotional turmoil. This explains why Paul concludes this section with the admonition to “comfort one another with these words.” Apparently, Paul saw a pragmatic connection between the eschatological truth of the rapture and alleviating emotional sorrow.

A final example where Paul relied upon doctrine to influence the behavior of his readers is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, which furnishes a detailed outline of events that will transpire during the Tribulation. Items related to how the tribulation period begins are emphasized. But why is this information given? Apparently, the Thessalonians had become convinced that they were in the midst of the Tribulation. Such a misconception was probably due to several factors such as the reception of a false letter allegedly having come from Paul giving them incorrect information (2 Thess 2:2), an overreaction to the eschatological truths that Paul expounded in his first letter, and the present experience of persecution (1 Thess 3:3). Such bad theology was having a negative impact upon their lives by causing them to quit their jobs and neglect daily responsibilities (2 Thess 3:10). After all, why hold down a job if the Day of the Lord has begun and the Second Advent is right around the corner. Paul corrects the problem by furnishing the Thessalonians with an eschatological outline emphasizing key events that must first take place before the Tribulation can begin. Paul’s point was that the Thessalonians were not in the midst of the Tribulation because the events signaling its arrival had not yet transpired. Thus, they could get on with their daily responsibilities such as holding down a job. Again we find Paul using doctrine for the purpose of remedying a practical problem.

James also follows the same practice. In James 3:9, he makes a significant contribution to Christian anthropology by explaining that man, even in his fallen condition, still bears the image of God. Man was originally fashioned in the image of his creator (Gen 1:26-27). Even after the fall, man continues to share in God’s likeness (Gen 5:1; 9:6). Although this image has been defaced through the fall, it has not been erased. But why does James reiterate man’s retention of the divine image even in his fallen state (Jas 3:9)? Interestingly, James inserts this anthropological truth in the context of his admonitions to tame the tongue. In other words, if we view one another as deserving of dignity because we all share in God’s likeness, we will be less inclined to gossip about and slander one another. Thus, James connected a correct understanding of anthropology with the practicality of avoiding gossip and slander.

The preceding examples show how frequently biblical writers appealed to doctrine to alter the life choices of believers. Thus, they did not view doctrine as “pie in the sky” concepts that were available only for an ivory tower elite. They brought doctrine in at every opportunity for the purpose of changing the daily life of Christians. If they saw the practical import of doctrine and used it for pragmatic, tangible reasons, then the present generation of pastors should do no less.

The Pastoral Epistles

The preeminence that God designed doctrine to have in the life of His church is amply illustrated by the doctrinal emphasis found in the Pastoral Epistles. The three pastoral letters of 1-2 Timothy and Titus represent the section of the New Testament that was specifically written for the purpose of providing instruction concerning “how to do church.” One cannot escape the emphasis that these books place upon the priority of doctrinal dissemination. Regarding the book of 2 Timothy, New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace makes the following observation: “By my count, there are twenty-seven explicit commands given in the body of this letter. In 27 words Paul tells pastors what to focus on. You have to be blind to miss the thrust of Paul’s instructions here, because eighteen of those commands–fully two-thirds–have to do with the ministry of the Word.” 18 These commands are especially significant given the fact that Paul wrote them with his impending death in mind (2 Tim 4:6). Therefore they represent his last will and testament. The focus of the elders of the early church upon doctrine can also be seen in their unwillingness to leave the ministry of the word in order to wait on tables (Acts 6:1-4).

We can also observe the priority that the pastoral epistles place upon the preeminence of doctrine in the pastoral letters by noting the criteria for the selection of elders as given in Titus 1. Verse 9 says that an elder must hold “fast to the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” How much should a person know about doctrine before he is selected as an elder of a local assembly? He obviously must understand the doctrinal content of his faith well enough in order to communicate it to others and exhort others in it. However, his breadth of knowledge does not end there. He has to also understand competing belief systems well enough in light of his own faith in order to refute theological opponents. Thus, Paul indicates that doctrinal knowledge was a key attribute that a candidate was to posses before he could occupy the office of elder. Sadly, many churches look for other qualities in an elder such as how “successful” they have been in the business world and consequently place doctrinal knowledge toward the bottom of the list. Unfortunately, the “MBA preferred, seminary not required” mentality is the norm in many places. Here, however, the importance of doctrinal knowledge can be seen in Paul’s criteria for the selection of church leaders.

The doctrinal emphasis of the pastoral letters can also be seen in Paul’s command to Timothy to preach the word (2 Tim 4:2). A few verses earlier Paul explained to Timothy why the word must be preached. According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequately equipped, for every good work.” Thus, if the faithful proclamation of Scripture is substituted for something else, the ministries of teaching, reproof, correction, training, and equipping within a local assembly disappear since these ministries are inextricably linked to the faithful proclamation of Scripture.

The notion of equipping in 2 Timothy 3:17 conjures up memories regarding what Paul had told the Ephesian church a few years earlier regarding the function of a pastor. In his earlier letter to the Ephesians, he explained that the gift of pastor-teacher was necessary to bring the church to maturity (Eph 4:11-12). But how does this happen? Paul explains this in writing a few years later to the same Ephesian church when he says that Scripture is capable of equipping the man of God for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). Putting Ephesians 4:11-12 together with 2 Timothy 3:17, we learn that the pastor matures the church through the systematic exposition of Scripture. Thus, the primary function of a pastor is that of an equipper. An equipped, matured and gifted body is then capable of carrying on the work of the ministry (1 Cor 12; Eph 4:12). An awareness of a pastor’s primary role is needed in our day when so much confusion abounds concerning what the role of a pastor actually is. Many see the function of a pastor as that of a CEO, marketer, motivational speaker, or resident psychologist. However, the Pauline definition of a pastor is that of an equipper. Perhaps the reason why so much immaturity exists in the body of Christ is that modern pastors have strayed away from their primary task of being an equipper who leads the church into maturity through the faithful exposition of Scripture.

The emphasis upon “all Scripture” (2 Tim 3:16) conveys the idea that pastoral responsibility entails communicating the totality of divine revelation rather than just portions of it. Paul emphasizes all Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16 and then emphasizes preaching the word in 2 Timothy 4:2. Putting these verses together, we can see Paul’s emphasis upon communicating the totality of Scripture rather then using it selectively.

Paul’s emphasis upon “all Scripture” (2 Tim 3:16) also brings to mind what he had told the Ephesian elders about ten years earlier on the Island of Miletus toward the end of his third missionary journey. There, he gave the Ephesian elders his farewell address in which he declared that he was innocent of the blood of all men because he had declared to them the full counsel of the will of God (Acts 20:26-27). This statement may be a direct allusion to God’s admonition to the sixth-century prophet Ezekiel. On two occasions, God told the prophet that if he warns the wicked man who dies in his sin, then the prophet was not responsible for the wicked man’s blood. However, if the prophet does not warn the wicked who does die in his sin, then God would hold the prophet accountable for the wicked man’s blood (Ezek 3:17-19; 33:7-9). In alluding to God’s admonitions to Ezekiel, Paul was modeling for the Ephesians elders that their primary function as spiritual leaders was to disclose the totality of divine revelation. To the extent that they did not, God would hold them accountable (Jas 3:1). To the extent that they did, they had exonerated themselves. This emphasis upon the totality of biblical truth stands in stark contrast to the previously mentioned seeker movement, which selectively uses the biblical text for the purpose of appealing to man’s felt needs. In sum, any honest reading of the pastoral letters demonstrates the great influence that God expects doctrine to have within the local church.


Sadly, we live in a day when the relevance of doctrine to the vitality of the church and the individual believer is being questioned as never before. However, a fresh scriptural look into God’s design for doctrine argues convincingly for its restoration to a place of preeminence. Most significantly, bad doctrine has the potential of damning the soul. Moreover, the influence of doctrine is linked to proper Christian living. The relevance of doctrine can also be seen in the way Paul did not shy away from using it for the purpose of addressing pragmatic concerns within the churches that he was ministering to. In addition, the pastoral letters place an inordinate emphasis upon doctrine. As servants of the Lord, let us not follow contemporary trends but rather work to restore doctrine to its rightful place of preeminence within modern evangelicalism.


1 Mal Couch, “What Is Systematic Theology?,” Conservative Theological Journal 8, no. 23 (March 2004): 10-28.

2 Charles Ray, “Systematic Theology and Premillennialism,” Conservative Theological Journal 8, no. 24 (August 2004): 165-91.

3 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 34.

4 Ibid., 124.

5 Ibid., 183.

6 Ibid., 186.

7 Ibid., 231.

8 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 300.

9 Ibid.

10 Most of these slogans were originally accumulated in Henry Holloman, “Prolegomena, Bibliology, and Theology (Part 1)” (unpublished class notes in TTH511 Theology I, Talbot Theological Seminary, Spring 1998), 9.

11 Ibid., 294-95.

12 John MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel (Wheaton: Crossway, 1993), 72.

13 T. A. McMahon, “The Seeker-Friendly Way of Doing Church,” The Berean Call, March 2004, 2.

14 All Scripture citations are taken from the NASB.

15 Henry Holloman, The Forgotten Blessing, Swindoll Leadership Library, ed. Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck (Nashville: Word, 1999), 127.

16 Holloman, “Prolegomena, Bibliology, and Theology (Part 1),” 8.

17 J. Barton Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy: The Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their Fulfillment (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 681-82.

18 Daniel Wallace, “Crisis of the Word: A Message to Pastors or Would-be Pastors,” Conservative Theological Journal 1, no. 2 (August 1997): 108.

Law and Gospel

4     Believe In God
by Matt Slick

“…for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin,” (Rom. 3:20).

In the Old Testament God gave the Law through Moses. It is the commands and precepts that govern human conduct. In the New Testament God gave the Gospel through Jesus. It is the message of salvation by grace through the sacrificial death and physical resurrection of Jesus, for our sins.

The Law is the do’s and don’t’s of moral behavior. It consists of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20), rules for social life (Exodus 21:1-23:33), and rules for the worship of God (Exodus 25:1-31:18). It was a covenant of works between God and man and was (and is) unable to deliver us into eternal fellowship with the Lord. The Law is a difficult taskmaster because it requires that we maintain a perfect standard of moral behavior. And then when we fail, the Law condemns us to death. Works do not earn us salvation or play any part of it. The Bible says that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

The Gospel, on the other hand, is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is the message of what God has done for us, our deliverance from sin and the punishment of the Law. “Law and Gospel” are also part of our foundation, and a good understanding of their relationship will greatly help your witnessing. How? If you understand that the Law of God is a standard of perfection, that it reveals sin, that we are unable to keep from breaking it, and that the Gospel frees us from the need to keep the law perfectly in order to obtain forgiveness of sins, you will then be better able to communicate the message of salvation to the unsaved.

The Law is different from the Gospel

Most Christians already have a basic understanding of the difference between Law and Gospel; they just don’t know they do. For example, “You are a sinner (Law). You need Jesus as your Savior (Gospel).” The Old Testament (Law) came before the New Testament (Gospel). The Law shows us what we are guilty of and the Gospel delivers us by grace. First we must know we are guilty (Law) before we recognize our need to ask for forgiveness (Gospel).

The Law kills. The Gospel makes alive. When Moses came down from the mount after receiving the Law and saw that the Israelites had fallen into idolatry, he threw the tablets of the Law down to them and 3000 people died (Exodus 32:28). Later, when Peter preached the Gospel, 3000 people were saved (Acts 2:41).

With a better understanding of the Law, it will be easier for you to explain sin. Without the Law, sin cannot be known; Romans 3:20 says, “…through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (See also Rom. 7:7). If sin is not known, then the need for Jesus is not felt. This is why you mention the Law to those with whom you witness. How? By asking them if they have ever sinned. Tell them that lying, cheating, stealing, lusting, not honoring God, etc. is sin. Everyone is guilty somewhere (Rom. 3:23), so everyone needs to be delivered. Everyone needs the Gospel.

The Law is peculiar. It says “be holy,” but shows us we are not. It says “do not lie,” but shows where we do. It says “honor the Lord your God,” yet shows us where we fail. Since none of us can keep the whole Law, we are all under condemnation. There is no way out. What can we do? Nothing! That is why “the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The Law guides us to Him. How does it do that? By showing us that the attempt to keep the Law (our works) is insufficient to gain eternal life and that the Gospel of grace is the only way to God.

In other words, you must help the person realize that they are not good enough to merit God’s favor. People tend to think that because they are sincere or “not that bad” they are going to be with God when they die. But the Bible reveals that “sincerity” and being “not that bad” are not good enough. God requires perfection.

Salvation is of God.

That is why salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8), by faith and not by works (Rom. 4:5). That is why it is a free gift of God (Rom. 6:23), through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). That is why God became man (John 1:1,14) and fulfilled the Law: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). And also, “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on Law” (Gal. 3:21); “For by grace through faith you have been saved, not by works…” (Eph. 2:8). And, “…but to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).

In presenting the Gospel, you show how the requirements of keeping the Law perfectly is removed. Say something like, The Bible says that if you break just one command of God, you are condemned, (James 2:10-11). I often add, “Sin can be forgiven but the effects continue. The effect of your sin is death. Your sin is an offense to the Law-giver, God. But Jesus, who is God in flesh, bore our sins on the cross and died with them. If you want your sins forgiven, then you need to come to Christ and ask Him to forgive you. He will.”

Noah, The Film: All Washed Up



By Randall Price

The pre-release advertising promoting the movie Noah made a point of stating that while the director took artistic license in the production it was still faithful to the biblical story. Early theater previews were carefully edited to appeal to people of faith, but this is the least biblical “biblical film” of all time! However, to be charitable, the bare outline of the Flood story is present, but after that artistic license has taken the film so far afield of anything resembling the Bible that it is offensive to people of faith. To say that the biblical story was watered down (pardon the pun) is much too mild. Those who know the Bible were aware of how little the script followed Scripture. Those who didn’t know the Bible still didn’t know it when the final credits appeared. It is to the movie studio’s credit that they chose to even make a film with a biblical theme, but the torturous fiction that was the final cut partly written and directed by an atheist is a discredit to both the studio and the actors and is, in result, worse than having not made it at all. Remember the old adage of making a bottle of poison look nicer by removing the ugly skull and crossbones label and replacing it with one that read “essence of peppermint?” The bottle now looks pretty, but is even more deadly because of its deceptive label. To a generation that already rejects the Genesis account as pure fiction, mixing a little Bible with a film of impure fiction is even worse – and certainly more dangerous to faith. For those who have not seen the movie and may think my judgments too harsh, please consider the following.

The film presents the sole purpose of Noah and the Ark as the preservation of the innocent animals. The pre-Flood world is portrayed as barren and denuded as the result of human corruption. What could be more evil and deserving of judgment in ecologically-minded Hollywood? Therefore, as Noah interprets God’s purpose, mankind – all of mankind, including Noah and his family – are supposed to die so the new world can continue with only with an innocent animal population. The Ark has nothing to do with the salvation of mankind, but with its punishment. Noah was only chosen to save the animals, and he is so intent on fulfilling his task to see humanity destroyed that he announces to his family on the Ark that they must all die, for “the Creation is only safe when mankind is dead.” For this reason, when Noah learns that Shem’s wife is pregnant, he declares that he will murder her baby, if it is a girl, as soon as it is born! The ensuing drama aboard the Ark has Mrs. Noah trying to help her expectant kids escape, a crazed Noah stalking his newly born twin granddaughters, and Shem and Ham trying to kill their father (especially after he sets fire to the couple’s escape raft). Add to the drama the evil meat-eating king of the old world, Tubal-Cain, who sneaked on board and remained hidden throughout the voyage, only to finally die in a knife fight with Noah when the Ark lands and breaks in two.

In the end, Noah spares his family because of “love.” Mankind is not so bad after all, for as Mrs. Noah explains, “all the heart needs is love to be good.” God, who has remained silent through the drama on the Ark, despite Noah’s pleas for divine guidance, is shown to have stayed away because, as Noah’s adopted Cainite daughter (the wife of Shem who had been miraculously cured of bareness by a healing touch from Methuselah) states, God wanted to let Noah chose whether mankind should live or not. So, in spite of the ecological hype, it is about humanism in the end. The film closes with newly sober Noah brandishing his snake-skin phylactery (a relic from the serpent in the Garden of Eden) and telling his kids to be “fruitful and multiply” as a rainbow appears (sans the Noahic covenant).

Yet this summary reflects the best part of the film. To get the real flavor of the added fiction one must consider the four-armed giant rock men, who are actually imprisoned fallen angels (“Watchers”) created on the second day to help mankind and aid Noah by building the Ark. For their good works they get redeemed and taken to heaven (and their wings restored) in explosive shafts of light as the rain starts to fall, but only after slaughtering the masses of mankind who were trying to kill Noah and take over the Ark. At the same time Methuselah eats a berry and is killed in the first wave of water from the Flood (he did die in the same year that the Flood occurred, but not as a result of the Flood). On board the Ark Noah’s family pleads with him to let in the screaming people scratching on the door of the Ark because “there is room,” but Noah as judge and jury says there is no room for such people, and then follows this with the aforementioned announcement to those on the Ark that God wants all of them dead as well. If you ever wondered where the wood for the Ark came from, the film depicts a whole forest magically growing up around Noah’s family camped at Methuselah’s mountain from a seed from the Garden of Eden that Methuselah had been keeping all this time. And as for the innocent animals, they mostly come by the thousands (same species), mostly snakes, birds, and insects (more dramatic for the special effects guys), following a magic waterway that sprang from the Edenic seed and had spread over the world. Sadly, some species were made extinct on the Ark since Tubal-Cain kept himself alive by eating the animals on board the Ark. They were easy prey because Noah had drugged them all to sleep with sedative-laced incense. Other fictional elements include a Zohar stone that instantly bursts into flame when struck, no wives for Ham and Japeth so only six people in Noah’s family go on the Ark (though eight get off), big windows staying open during the Flood (compare Genesis 8:6) and the family running around on top of the Ark while it rides out the Deluge, and the inclusion of evolutionary development on the fifth day of Creation (which is implied in the succession of creatures and landscapes as lasting for millions of years).

The producers tried to keep these details secret from the faith-based public in order to not have a backlash from negative reviews that would affect the all important opening weekend box office. I learned about some of these details last year from a French graphic novel (which I was shown in Germany) upon which the film’s script was based. As far as I know this was not translated or released to the English-speaking market, presumably to prevent these fictional elements from getting out to the faith-based American audience. Now, the secret is out and it is hoped that informed audiences will, like Noah in the film, judge this parody of the biblical account, unworthy of cinematic salvation.

No Sense of Smell   Written By Let Us Reason Ministry

What I’m writing here is in behalf of many ministries and pastors who agree and are concerned about what is taking place in the church.

2 Cor. 2:14-17: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

God speaks of our prayers as incense in the Old Testament, and the sacrifices as a sweet smelling aroma unto Him. We are His ambassadors to the world and we are a family, His body on earth. Though we may not all meet together, we are united in the Spirit as we worship Him in spirit and in truth.

If this is what the church is supposed to be united in both the spirit and truth why do we disagree-why are there conflicts in the church? The answer to this question is simple yet weighty- It is written that, “My people perish from a lack of knowledge.” It should be apparent to people who are observing what is taking place in the church and understanding it from Biblical perspective that there is a lot of garbage coming inside our doors. The smell is permeating God’s house and there are only a few that notice it and even fewer that want to say or do something about it. Our indifference and lack of will is what is preventing us from a God sent revival.

In 2 Cor. 2:14-17 the fragrance Paul is speaking of is one of knowledge; we are the ones who bring this knowledge of God’s grace and the truth to people. If they accept the gospel of salvation it is a sweet smell to them. It they reject the gospel, it becomes odious to them. If your life is not being a sacrifice for Christ it may not smell so good. This is why we have only a small influence in society.

We should all follow the example of Mary, Lazarus’ sister who sacrificed her costly perfume for Jesus’ burial and it says “the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3). The oil was a type of the anointing on Jesus who was to be crucified. The more we are dead to our self the more alive Christ is in us. But this is the more difficult part, where knowledge becomes wisdom as it is applied in our lives.

Have you ever had a cold where you could not smell or taste what you are eating? Well the church has got a cold that is affecting her taste for good food and she is ready to eat any bland food served on the platter. In fact, too many drink the skim milk of men-they do not know what the pure milk of the word tastes like anymore.

The Bible tells us that we were all like sheep that have gone astray. We are sheep that are to be led by the good Shepherd. The Lord used sheep in a number of illustrations and for good reason, because as sheep we can still go astray after we believe. There are other illustrations that are used as well:

Proverbs 27:8: “Like a bird that wanders from its nest is a man who wanders from his place.” Some teachers that were once grounded in Scripture have been influenced away from their place called home.

Many think they are immune to bad influences and leave themselves wide open to them. We are to have discretion with whom we associate with, who we learn from and submit ourselves to. No true minister is to befriend false teachers, defend them or contribute to their ministry. The simple reason is that once you begin to compromise in this area, you have nothing to say, you have lost your salt. It won’t take long before you become one with them and blinded to what you once knew. One of the best examples is found in the New Testament, Barnabas; he was carried away with Peter’s hypocrisy that compromised him and others (Gal.2). Leaven never affects a few but the many.

Chasing down trends has become a trend in itself. People sit and wait for the newest thing they can introduce to their church for church improvement or the real reason- for church growth. Growing attendance and growing spiritually are two different matters. Super-size is in and it is beneath the notice of today’s Mega leaders if you do not have this kind of attendance. So they desire more and follow the one who wanders from its nest. Like birds, they chirp whatever is said and follow the bird droppings of big bird.

The followers parrot whatever their teacher has said, never understanding that they are submitting to him instead of Jesus. For Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). People are following men and their words over Jesus and His Word.

The world is convinced the devil is imaginary and is a mythical creature, who wears a red suit. In the same manner a good portion of the Christian church has been convinced to accept anyone who is successful, that wears an expensive suit (or aloha shirt) behind the pulpit as teaching the truth about God. To the listeners of these teachers it has become more offensive to question what they are saying than it is for spreading heresy. If someone accuses their teacher of saying something wrong, they are pre conditioned to act like Pavlov’s dogs and attack them, labeling them with every derogatory term or word in the book (and some not in the book).

We are to be listening to the content, we do not have our eyes on the messenger. Is it Biblical teaching or is it from man. It happened to Israel- Ezek 22:27-28 “Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. “Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD had not spoken.” We are told to be aware of men rising among us to lead us astray by speaking perverse things. Paul warned the Ephesian church specifically about this (Acts 20:29). Perverse is the Greek word diastrepho-1) to distort, to turn aside to oppose, to plot against the saving purposes and plans of God. 2) to turn aside from the right path, to pervert, to corrupt.

On the other hand he commended a certain group of people above all the others, the Bereans (Acts 17). They searched the Scriptures daily- not just once in a while or not at all. Unfortunately, the emphasis today is on “not at all.”

Like a bad cold, their followers ears are stuffed with the teachers words and cannot hear anything spoken to the contrary, even the pure word. They have become mentally challenged on the truth, rationalizing that because they speak in tongues they are filled with the Spirit and anyone who disagrees with their teacher is not. They label anyone who disagrees with them a Pharisee, they quickly become disrespectful, intolerant to any of the facts. This is no exaggeration, as I have received letters for years on these matters and this is the attitude of too many in the church. All one needs to do is ask- is this a Biblical teaching found in the Bible, can it be proven to be the correct interpretation? Once they are willing to examine it thoroughly they usually come to a different conclusion. But the inquiry of teaching becomes the roadblock to knowing truth.

The main contention between the Pharisees and Jesus were all the extra Biblical laws they were practicing as God’s law. It was their added revelations to Moses that they enforced upon people to obey which got Jesus very angry. The Pharisees wanted him to obey the elder’s laws- their laws (Mk.7 the tradition of the fathers). Jesus would not submit to them at all.

Jesus defended the people against the false teachers of his day. He stood in the gap for them. He corrected them by teaching them what is right and true, often right in front of the false teachers. And when necessary he got in their religious faces. It cost Him His life, though He was going to lay it down for sinful man; that would include them.

The religious leaders had all the money (it says they loved money) they had a monopoly on power and because of this they had great influence on the religious population. Sound familiar? If they were here today (and they are) they would make sure they stand out on the TV. They would make sure everyone sees them pray in public, their giving would be made known, and they would exert their authority and make disciples of themselves. They would enforce their position by making sure the people side with them. They would connive the people to give them money to support their work, using false promises to ingratiate themselves with their audience. Not much has changed only the names and means. All of these qualities were found in the religious sect of Jesus’ day.

It’s hard to defend Christianity when they see the TV evangelists preach money as their gospel. To the unbelievers that watch them on TV they think all of the church is like them. It is they that have brought the church in disrepute. And this is where the latter portion of 2 Cor. 2:17 is applied- “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”

When someone is told about their teacher being wrong that they have been learning from for years they immediately start a comparison list of what you have done and what they have done.

We do well to remember what Paul wrote: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12)

Their defense is often like Simon the sorcerers followers in Acts 8:9-11: “this man is the great power of God.” The Lord’s apostles wrote us that we would know who is with him or against him, NOT by their works, NOT by their power (Mt.7:21), but by their doctrine and lifestyle and love for the brethren (1 Tim.4:6; 1 Pt.2:21; 2 Thess.3:7, 9). God does not pour out His Spirit and power on those who teach falsely, they must repent first and correct their teachings and practices. There is no power from God unless one is under God’s authority. Which means they are servants to him first and then to his people, they are not masters (Jn.15:20; Mk.9:35; Col.1:7,4:7).

What’s the Real problem?

Too many are unaccountable for what they are teaching. They are hurting people’s lives both spiritually and physically. Because of this, so many are depressed, disillusioned, and are losing hope. We love people enough not to sit idly by but to be active in helping them understand what has taken place and help them get freedom that is in Christ Jesus. Love is an action, a commitment and in this case to the word of God which is the truth and to God’s people.

They don’t defend Christ when he is mocked or ridiculed by the world but they do defend their teachers WHEN THEY ARE QUESTIONED OR EXPOSED. It is a form of idolatry to follow man over Jesus and the word of God that is truth.

There are too many Christians that look with disdain on those who publicly defend the Christian faith. For numerous reasons, they have been convinced that we should not have a say about anything. What if the early Church lived by their example against the heresies that arose? We certainly would not have any Christianity today.

Did you ever read a review of a product before you purchased it? Maybe you wanted to buy a refrigerator or a car. Did you not appreciate that someone took the time to look at it in detail to prevent you from losing your money. Of course you did.

People refuse to open their eyes to see, their ears to hear. Go drive down the road with your eyes close and see if you don’t get into an accident. In fact anything that impairs your seeing can bring about an undesirable circumstance.

What if you had a babysitter for your child and someone knew he was molesting him, would you want him to tell you? Of course you would. it would be for the child’s protection.

Silence is part of the problem, silence on matters that are destructive to peoples lives. While people affirm they love Jesus, but where is the hatred for things Jesus hates? (Psalm 97:10-11; John 12:23-26; Lk.16:13; Heb.1:9; Rev.2:6,15). Where is the love for people to help them by telling them the truth? Sitting by idly and watching people get spiritually massacred is not love. Jesus didn’t and neither did those who were trained by him, they spoke up. And that is why we speak.

This lack of discernment and standing up for the Lord reminds me of Cain, who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper? Cain’s response is defiant. He was saying to God I have no obligation, he was accusing God- saying you take care of him knowing full well what he did.

Yet we are commanded James 5:19-20: “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

God tells us to judge teaching, man tells us not to. Who are we going to obey? These scriptures on judging are not bible dressing…

God wants US to judge those inside the Church, He will take care of those outside.

1 Cor 5:11-13: “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner– not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

“Test ALL THINGS; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

We do not live in the former Soviet Union; we are allowed to speak our mind before God and men. If you tell people its wrong to question and challenge something openly you have either been taught wrong, are naïve to what the Bible actually says or you are intentionally having them disobey the Bibles commands. Either way you are wrong.

Our mild exhortation to the followers of these men is nothing compared to the divisive effect they have on the church. Many of us have had enough of the nonsense- the pervasiveness of false teaching from our pulpits, on our radio and our TV (emphasis on our) has gone on far too long without a strong voice of challenge.

Show us where the apostle Paul, Peter or John taught the church that we are little gods, that we have great spiritual powers like Jesus that can defy or change nature by our speaking. That we will take over the earth as the Church before Christ comes. That Jesus became sinful on the cross and went to hell to be tortured by Satan.

Since they have taught these heresies publicly there is an obligation to Biblically refute them publicly. Analyzing statements and published works are in obedience to the Word of God. Men who have something to lose will always deny people the right to examine their teachings, they intimidate them into silence.

If you allow others to tell you how to think on something without ever looking into it yourself to come to your own conclusion- you have accepted a cult mindset. The cults convince their followers not to pursue questions that would challenge their leadership or teachings. They set themselves up as an authority and convince their followers they are God’s man or woman. This has been going on for hundreds of years. In modern terms its called group think.

The church in Germany was silent as Hitler rose to power. Today the church is mostly silent about the slaughter of their brethren that is taking place all over the world from Islam. But they are quick to speak up and condemn their brethren who are being Bereans and obeying the command of Christ.

Consider this a recent relative example to what is taking place inside the church.

At the Democratic National Committee’s Annual Winter Meeting in Washington the Democrats were led in prayer by a Muslim imam, Husham Al-Husainy, Imam of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center. He asked Allah to assist in converting the party members to Islam. “We thank you God, to send us your messages through our father Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Muhammad. Through you, God, we unite. So guide us to the right path. The path of the people you bless, not the path of the people you doom. Help us God to liberate and fill this earth with justice and peace and love and equality. And help us to stop the war and violence, and oppression and occupation. Ameen.”

I’m astounded that there was no outcry, they did not even blink. It was if they did not hear him say what he said (certainly they did not understand what he meant).

Husham Al-Husainy, was later invited on the Sean Hannity (Friday 9 of Feb. 2007 show to explain himself on the statement of oppression and occupation in relation to the United States. When asked if the president of Iran is an anti-Semite or is Hamas is a terrorist organization he would not answer him. and argued about giving him a chance to speak (which he graciously did) He then tires of Sean and calls him names accusing him of not being for peace and working against the unity of the world. Saying you are against the prophet Mohammed, you are against the Qur’an. You are makinbg God mad at you Jesus is going to get mad at you… he was called the anti peace person; and much more was said in his anger from questioning him

Take this as lesson in dodging the point and turning the tables on the one who directly asks about the facts and is trying to get to the truth. Al-Husainy could not deal with the facts so he went into a tirade.

Getting to the truth will always remove the deception. But to do so, questions need to be asked and ANSWERED– facts need to be scrutinized. When we as a people and a church stop doing this we may find ourselves in a similar time period of Germany in the 1930’s.

Getting back to the subject in the article- If people would learn to think past their feelings – their emotions, their blind loyalty to man, they just might be able to get a whiff of the smell. This aroma is spread all throughout God’s house. Instead they tell people to ignore the smell even if they are ready to keel over. Instead of the fragrance of Jesus filling the house it is the smell of garbage and decay. We are telling people to get the garbage out of the house before it is ruined.

Paul wrote 2 Tim 4:3 They “will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;” its all about – SELF. The problem does not lie with the teachers only but with the people- they want it, they love it (Jeremiah 5:31). Why? Because they love themselves; they are not intending on living as Jesus instructed, to deny themselves and carry the cross. If they did they would see right through the manipulation and chicanery. What has taken place is nothing short of criminal.

The main problem is the strength of the Laodicean church today. The delusion is increasing in power and scope and this is no time for you to be complacent, silent or indecisive. In this matter, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. It’s time to take the garbage out of the house.

Gal. 3:2-3: “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”

Because everything is turned upside down people do not recognize what is taking place. They are under these men’s lawful spell of blessings. They are looking for God in all the wrong places.

With the Spirit and faith comes God’s blessings but when you put people under the law (such as tithing for a blessing, or obedience to men to gain spiritual favor) Gal. 3:10 For “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” Gal. 3:18 For “if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”

Being under the Law removes one from being under grace. We should not be removed from the simplicity in Christ (2 Cor.11:3). The word simplicity is haplotes- meaning- 1)singleness, simplicity, sincerity, mental honesty the virtue of one who is free from pretence and hypocrisy 2) not self-seeking.

It has been given to us all individually and collectively. 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Some have missed the whole point of the New Covenant and the Spirits indwelling. We have what we need if the Spirit is in us, we don’t have to wait for another baptism- we do not need an anointed man to give us the spirit or more grace or blessings.

2 Pet 1:3-9: “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness ,to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”

You can’t love God with your heart when you are not using your mind, and Jesus told us to know the truth. That means we must judge by the truth, his Word and forewarned us of a deception in the last days that would be so great that few would escape its net. If you do not think we are in these days then you do not believe Jesus’ own words. If you do believe His words then you should be on guard about those who come in his name to deceive you with their teachings, prophecies and their solicitation of money to have a blessing.

In fact, when one chooses to continue following these MENS teachings (Laodicea means men’s opinions) that are false, it solidifies them further in the deception and makes it more difficult for them to hear truth. There is no justification for anyone to continue this once it is pointed out, unless they willfully do not want to walk in the truth (1 Jn.1:6-7; 3 Jn.3-4). We care for individuals and for the body of Christ; and we want to see it strengthen what remains so that we are ready.

Rev 3:11: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” (1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Pt.5:4)

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Written By George Zeller


In no uncertain terms the Bible declares that God is a sovereign God who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” and who has “done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Eph. 1:11; Psalm 115:3). God’s purpose and plan will be accomplished without fail: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:10-11).

We must, however, be careful to distinguish between what God purposes to accomplish directly by His own actions and what God permits His creatures to do, both of which will ultimately bring glory to His holy Name. Examples of God purposing to accomplish something directly by Himself would be creating the world, sending the Genesis Flood, bringing judgment upon Babel and Sodom, causing the miracle of the virgin birth, etc. Man has nothing to do with these things. God’s direct will and activity brings them about. The sovereign God also accomplishes His overall purpose of bringing glory to Himself by allowing His creatures to perform in certain ways, even ways that are contrary to His revealed will. His creatures are allowed to act in ways that are contrary to the desire and wish of the Creator. This we call sin, and God is not the Author of sin. God, for example, did not want or wish Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit as indicated in His command to the contrary (Gen. 2:16-17), but God allowed Adam to partake of the fruit and this terrible sin and momentous fall was part of God’s overall plan whereby He would ultimately bring glory to Himself by revealing the riches of His grace and the depths of His mercy.

Extreme Calvinists seem to have difficulty in understanding how a sovereign God can “desire” something that will never come to pass. They believe that whatever God wills and desires must come to pass. If God desires to save certain men then these men must be saved. If God so loved the world, then the world must be saved (the “world” referring to the world of God’s elect). If Christ died for all men, then all men must be saved. This is how they would reason. Of course, they believe that Christ did not die for all men but that He died only for the elect. They believe that all who Christ died for will be saved (but they say He only died for some and not for all).

In 1 Timothy 2:4 we learn of God’s compassionate desire for the salvation of all men. One Calvinistic writer made the following comment in light of 1 Timothy 2:4—”What God desires that He will do” (thus he believes that the phrase “all men” in this verse refers only to the elect). They feel that if God wants men to repent, then they will repent (God will work in their hearts and bring about repentance). They reason that if God wants men to believe, then they will believe. The logic of this implies that God does not want the majority of men to believe, and hence, does not want these people to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 to the contrary.

Extreme Calvinists have difficulty understanding how God could love someone and not save that person. For example, the Scripture says that Christ loved the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21), a man who “went away” and as far as we can tell never followed Christ. A.W. Pink did not believe that Christ could love a man who would never be saved. He said, “We fully believe that he (the rich young ruler) was one of God’s elect, and was saved sometime after his interview with the Lord” [The Sovereignty of God, p. 125, footnote]. This is Pink’s theory, but the Scripture provides no support for this view. It is a view based on Pink’s theology, not based on Pink’s Bible.

Every honest believer knows that what God desires is not always fulfilled. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we learn what God desires for every believer. His revealed will (“this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”) is that believers rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything; yet how many times do we fail to fulfill God’s will in these areas?

If God is willing, then the extreme Calvinist believes that man must be willing also, because God will make him so. If man is unwilling, then it must be because God was unwilling to make the person willing. The Scripture, however, teaches that even though God is willing and desirous that men should turn from sin and go in His direction, He often allows men to have their own way and go their own way according to the stubbornness of their own sin-hardened hearts. God was willing, but they were not. God would, but they would not.

Thus our purpose in this study is to examine certain key words (especially in the Old Testament) which demonstrate that God’s compassion and desire and invitation does indeed reach out to all men, even to those who refuse to repent and believe and come to Him. We shall see the wonderful willingness of God in sharp contrast to the stubborn unwillingness of man. We will gain a better appreciation for our Lord’s words in Matthew 23:37 which cannot be fully understood apart from certain Old Testament passages which we shall study. May the Lord open our eyes to these truths.

The Hebrew Verb ‛abah [Strong’s #14]

This verb means “to be willing, to consent, to desire, to wish.” It is an interesting verb because it is always used with a negative particle except for two places (Isa. 1:19 and Job 39:9). With the negative it means “to be unwilling, to refuse.” For example, in Exodus 10:27 it is used of Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to let the children of Israel go (“he would not,” he refused!). This word is also illustrated in 2 Samuel 23:16 where David refused to drink the water (“he would not”) even though he was terribly thirsty. This word is also used in Isaiah 42:24 (Israel’s refusal to walk in God’s ways) and in Ezekiel 3:7 (used twice) and 20:8 (Israel’s refusal to listen to God). The following passages which contain this verb especially relate to our study:

1) Psalm 81:11—“But my people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would have none of me.” God wanted them to open their mouth wide (v.10). God wanted to bless them and fill them (v.10). God earnestly desired that they should hearken unto Him and walk in His ways. How could God’s willingness and desire be stated any clearer than in verse 13? “Oh, that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” (Psalm 81:13). God was willing! God would have done so much for them (verses 14-16), but they would not. They refused! God had a heart for them; they had no heart for God.

2) Proverbs 1:25,30—“But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof . . . They would have none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof.” Is God willing that men should love simplicity and hate knowledge (v.22)? Wisdom cries out (v.20) and invites men (v.23) and promises great things to those who come to her (v.23). God was willing; man was unwilling (v.25,30).

3) Isaiah 28:12—“This is the rest by which ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing; yet they would not hear.” God graciously offered rest (compare Matthew 11:28) and refreshment, but they refused (compare Jer. 6:16). God was willing to give them rest but they were unwilling to receive it.

4) Isaiah 30:15—“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.” God graciously offered rest and deliverance, but the rebellious ones (v.1,9) refused. They said NO (v.16) to God’s kind offer.

5) Isaiah 1:19—“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. This is one of those rare places where the verb is used without the negative. God’s desire was that they would be clean (v.16). God wanted them to learn to do well (v.17). God was willing to reason with them and to offer them the forgiveness of sins (v.18). God was willing. Would they be willing (v.19) or would they refuse (v.20)?

The Hebrew Verb ma’en [Strong’s #3985]

This verb means the opposite of the last verb. It means “to refuse, to be unwilling, to refuse with a resolved mind.” Thus it means the very same thing as ‛abah [Strong’s #14] with the negative. Pharaoh is a good illustration of this verb also. In Exodus 7:14 he refused to let the people go. Let us now examine some of the passages where this verb is used:

1) Jeremiah 5:3—“O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.” God wanted Israel to return to Himself (Jer. 4:1) but they refused! God was willing, they were not.

2) Jeremiah 11:10—“They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words.” God earnestly protested to their fathers (v.7) because He wanted them to obey His voice (v.7), but they refused (v.8). God wanted them to obey, but He allowed them to walk in the imagination of their evil heart (v.8).

3) 1 Samuel 8:19—“Nevertheless, the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay, but we will have a king over us.” God was willing to be their King and the Lord was grieved that they had rejected Him (v.7).

4) Nehemiah 9:16-17—“But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to obey.” God was ready, willing and eager to pardon and to be merciful and to hold back His anger (verse 17), but the people who lived in the days of Moses refused to obey.

5) Proverbs 1:24—“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.” God (personified by wisdom-v.20) called but man refused! God was willing to pour out His spirit unto them and make known His words to them, but they were unwilling (verses 23-24). God stretched out His hand (v.24) but they could care less.

6) Isaiah 1:20—“But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword.” God was willing and able to PARDON and WASH His people from their sins (verses 16,18). He was willing to pour out His blessing and give them the good of the land (v.19). God was willing, but were they?

7) Zechariah 7:11—“But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.” God’s will and desire was clearly revealed in His commands. He wanted them to turn from their evil ways (verses 9-10), but they refused to hearken. Their hearts were as hard as stone (v.12).

8) Jeremiah 13:10—“This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be like this belt, which is good for nothing.” God wanted the whole house of Israel and Judah to be unto Him for a people and.for a name and for a praise and for a glory (v.11). This was His desire, but THEY WOULD NOT HEAR (v.11). THEY REFUSED TO HEAR (v.10).

The Hebrew Verb bachar [Strong’s #977]

This is the common Hebrew verb which means “to choose, to select, to elect.” This word has been made famous by Joshua in Joshua 24:15—“Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Let us now consider some of the other passages that use this word:

1) Deuteronomy 30:19—“I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” A choice must be made between life and death, good and evil (v.15). God wanted them to live and be blessed by loving Him and keeping His commandments (v.16). God, through Moses, warns them about making the wrong choice (verses 17-18). Finally Moses said, CHOOSE LIFE (v.19). Doubtless Moses was reflecting the desire of the living God that He might be their choice. God was willing for them to have life, but they must choose (compare John 5:40—God was willing for them to have life, but they must come).

2) Proverbs 1:29—“Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” God was willing (verses 20-23) but man was not (verses 24-25; 29-30).

3) Isaiah 65:12—“When I called, ye did not answer; when I spoke, ye did not hear, but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that in which I delighted not.” God was not delighted by their choice. It’s obvious that their choice did not please the Lord. It was not God’s wish or desire that they should choose in such a way. Notice God’s gracious appeal to these people. He “called” (v.12). He spread out His hands (v.2). He was willing, but they were not.

4) Isaiah 66:3-4—“Yea, they have chosen their own ways and their soul delighteth in their abominations . . . when I called, none did answer; when I spoke, they did not hear; but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” God allowed these people to go their own sinful ways. The people made a choice and the people were delighted in the choice that they made! God, however, was not delighted in their choice. He was grieved. God wanted the people to choose His ways not their own ways. Their choice was contrary to God’s desire.

Hebrew Verbs Meaning “To Stretch Out the Hands”

God’s willingness is seen by the way He earnestly and urgently calls to His people and pleads with them and entreats them. How can the Bible writers describe this divine entreaty in terms that we can understand? One of the ways is by picturing God as stretching forth His hands as He invites and urges His people to come unto Himself. In Proverbs 1:24 the verb natah [Strong’s #5186] means “to stretch or extend the hand.” In Isaiah 65:2 the verb paras [Strong’s #6566] is used with a similar meaning (“to spread out or extend the hands”). Consider the following passages:

1) Proverbs 1:24—“’Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded.” Here we have wisdom making her wonderful appeal and invitation which man foolishly rejects.

2) Isaiah 65:2—“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, that walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts.” Notice that God was not pleased in the way that they were walking. God stretched out His hands and wanted to draw them unto Himself, but they wanted to go their own way. And God allowed it to be so! God let them have what they wanted even though it was not what He wanted. This verse is quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:21 (see below).

3) Romans 10:21—“But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” The word “gainsaying” means “rebellious, contrary, refusing to have anything to do with God.” What words could better express God’s tender invitation to sinful men as He extends wide His arms. As Hodge remarks, “God has extended wide His arms, and urged men frequently and long to return to His love.” What yearning, what love, what pleading, what patience! As Barnes has said, “This denotes an attitude of entreaty; a willingness and earnest desire to receive them to favour, to invite and entreat.” “The arms outstretched all the day long are the symbol of that incessant pleading love which Israel through all its history has consistently despised” (Expositor’s Greek New Testament). God was so willing; man was so rebellious!

The New Testament Verb thelo [Strong’s #2309]

This common verb means “to wish, desire, be willing, take delight, have pleasure.” In the Septuagint it is used frequently and often it corresponds to some of the Hebrew verbs we have already studied. For example, it occurs in Isaiah 1:19-20; Isaiah 28:12; Jeremiah 5:3; 8:5; Ezekiel 3:7; 18:23,32. Let us now consider a few New Testament examples of the usage of this word:

1) Matthew 23:37—“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicken under her wings, and ye would not.” The verb is used twice in this verse. Jesus was saying: “I would . . . ye would not.” “I was willing . . . you were not willing!” God was willing to gather these murderers unto Himself but they were not willing! God wanted to gather them, but they did not want to be gathered! God’s willingness and man’s stubborn refusal are so clearly expressed in this passage! We will say more about this verse later.

2) Luke 13:34—parallel to Matthew 23:37.

3) John 5:40—“And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” A literal translation: “And ye do not desire to come to Me, that ye might have life.” Again we see man’s wicked refusal to come to the living God. Why do people not have eternal life? They refuse to come to the One who is LIFE and who desires to give LIFE (John 10:27-28). Is God willing that men should come to Him and have life? Consider the next verse:

4) 1 Timothy 2:4—“Who will have (desires) all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” This is God’s desire for all men. God is willing (1 Tim. 2:4) but man is unwilling (John 5:40). God does not desire that any should perish.

Note: This verb, thelo [Strong’s #2309], in its noun form, is often used in relationship to God’s will for the believer (1 Thess. 4:3; 5:18; Eph. 5:17-18; etc.). God’s will and desire for every believer is that we should be holy, constantly filled with the Spirit and constantly filled with thanksgiving, etc. Yet often we fall short of these things and our God is grieved. God is willing to fill us with Himself, but often we hinder and quench His working in our lives even though He is willing to do so much in and through us (compare Psalm 81:10). So even when it comes to practical sanctification, God is willing but His believers are unwilling at times.

The Hebrew Verb chaphets [Strong’s #2654]

This verb means “to delight in, take pleasure in.” Here are some of the places it is used:

1) Isaiah 65:12—“When I called, ye did not answer, when I spoke, ye did not hear, but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that in which I delighted not.” God was not pleased by their choice. He wanted them to choose differently.

2) Isaiah 66:4—“When I called, none did answer; when I spoke, they did not hear; but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” God is not delighted when men choose their own ways (v.3), but He allows them to make such a tragic choice. God desires something else, but often He gives men up to their own desires.

3) Ezekiel 18:23—“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD, and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” God is not delighted when the wicked continue in their wicked ways. God is delighted and pleased when the wicked turn from their wicked ways. God’s will and wish for every wicked person is this: Turn from your evil ways and live!

4) Ezekiel 18:32—“For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD; wherefore, turn yourselves, and live.” In this verse God answers the question raised in verse 23. God is not willing that sinners should continue in their sin. God is willing that they should turn in the direction of the living God. Question for the extreme Calvinists: If God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, then why do the wicked die?

5) Ezekiel 33:11—“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Nothing could be more clear. God desires that the wicked should turn from their evil ways. God pleads with these sinners and urges them to repent and be converted. “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Certainly not because God wanted you to die!

The Hebrew Verb shakam [Strong’s #7925]

This interesting verb means “to rise up early in the morning.” Figuratively it came to mean “speaking early and often, to speak earnestly, eagerly and urgently, to urge earnestly.” Let the following verses speak for themselves:

1) 2 Chronicles 36:15-16—“And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words.”

2) Jeremiah 7:13—“I spoke unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not.”

3) Jeremiah 7:25-26—Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants, the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them; yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck.”

4) Jeremiah 11:7-8—“For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart.”

5) Jeremiah 25:3-4—“I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking, but ye have not hearkened. And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants, the prophets, rising early and sending them, but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear” (see also verse 5).

6) Jeremiah 26:4-5—“If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, to hearken to the words of my servants, the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened.”

7) Jeremiah 29:19—“Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants, the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.”

8) Jeremiah 32:33—“And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face; though I have taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.”

9) Jeremiah 35:14-15—“I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but ye harkened not unto me. I have sent also unto you all my servants, the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings . . . but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.”

10) Jeremiah 44:4-5—“I sent unto you all my servants, the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness.”

[See also Neh. 9:29-30 and Zech. 1:4 where this word is not used but the same idea is there.]


Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet, but his tears were but a mere reflection of a grieved and weeping God. When this God became a man these tears could again be seen as He wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37; compare Luke 19:41) and said, “HOW OFTEN would I have gathered you.” These words can only be understood in light of the verses cited above: “How often have I sent my prophets unto you, rising up early! How often have I stretched forth my hands unto you! How often have I pleaded and entreated and invited! How often have I called unto you and spoken unto you! How often have I offered you REST and REFRESHMENT! How often would I have filled your mouth if you had but opened it! How often would I have reasoned together with you about your sins! Oh Israel, WHY WILL YOU DIE? Why do you choose the way that I do not delight in? Why do you go your own way? HOW OFTEN WAS I WILLING TO GATHER YOU UNTO MYSELF BUT YE WERE NOT WILLING!!!

I trust that this study has taught you something about the terrible depravity of man and the compassionate and tender heart of the Saviour who desires all men to be saved and who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God is willing, but tragically man is often unwilling.

George Zeller


(Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:41).

Alas! for thee, Jerusalem,

How cold thy heart to me!

How often in these arms of love,

Would I have gathered thee!

My sheltering wing had been your shield,

My love your happy lot:

I would it had been thus with thee–

I would, but ye would not.”

He wept alone, and men passed on,

The men whose sins He bore;

They saw the Man of sorrows weep,

They had seen Him weep before;

They ask’d not whom those tears were for,

They ask’d not whence they flowed;

Those tears were for rebellious man;

Their source, the heart of God.

They fell upon this desert earth,

Like drops from heaven on high,

Struck from an ocean-tide of love

That fills eternity.

With love and tenderness divine,

Those crystal cells o’erflow,

‘Tis God that weeps, through human eyes,

For human guilt and woe.

That hour has fled, those tears are told;

The agony is past;

The Lord has wept, the Lord has bled,

But has not loved His last,

His eye of love is downward bent,

Still ranging to and fro,

Where’er in this wide wilderness

There roams the child of woe;

Nor His alone–the Three in One,

Who looked through Jesu’s eye,

Could still the harps of angel bands,

To hear the suppliant sigh;

And when the rebel chooses wrath,

God mourns his hapless lot,

Deep breathing from His heart of love,

“I would, but ye would not.”

–A.Miller, Brethren writer (The Serious Christian, Series II, Vol. V, pp. 85-87).

Word Search For Blessed

Bible, King James Version

88 matches.

1.[3] Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2.[4] Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
3.[5] Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
4.[6] Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
5.[7] Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
6.[8] Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
7.[9] Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
8.[10] Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
9.[11] Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

1.[6] And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

1.[16] But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

1.[19] And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

1.[17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

1.[9] And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

1.[39] For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

1.[46] Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

1.[34] Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

1.[26] And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

1.[41] And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.

1.[7] And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.

1.[16] And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

1.[9] And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
2.[10] Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

1.[22] And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
2.[61] But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

1.[28] And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
2.[42] And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
3.[45] And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
4.[48] For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
5.[68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

1.[28] Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
2.[34] And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

1.[20] And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
2.[21] Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
3.[22] Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

1.[23] And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

1.[16] Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude.

1.[23] And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:

1.[27] And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
2.[28] But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

1.[37] Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
2.[38] And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
3.[43] Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

1.[35] Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

1.[14] And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
2.[15] And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

1.[38] Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

1.[29] For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

1.[30] And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
2.[50] And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
3.[51] And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

1.[13] Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.

1.[29] Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

1.[25] Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

1.[35] I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

1.[25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

1.[6] Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
2.[7] Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
3.[8] Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
4.[9] Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

1.[5] Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

1.[3] Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

1.[31] The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

1.[8] And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
2.[9] So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

1.[15] Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

1.[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

1.[11] According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

1.[15] Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

1.[13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

1.[1] For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
2.[6] But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
3.[7] And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

1.[20] By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
2.[21] By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

1.[12] Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
2.[25] But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

1.[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1.[3] Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

1.[13] And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

1.[15] Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

1.[9] And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

1.[6] Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

1.[7] Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
2.[14] Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

“Classic Pauline Dispensationalism” Explained

575186_10151900939994631_1204923927_nBefore delving into various affirmations of, it may be best to state what Classic Pauline Dispensationalism (CPD) is not. CPD is not one of the many variants of dispensationalism which believe the advent of the Body of Christ (Church) came after the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. Nearly two decades ago, we coined the term “post-Acts 2,” to describe groups who believe the Church began with the Apostle Paul in either Acts 9, Acts 13, or Acts 28(1).

By contrast, we believe the Church began at Acts 2 and that Paul was commissioned by the Risen Lord Jesus Christ to progressively unfold and explain, to the other Apostles and members of the Body, various aspects of subjects previous hidden (“mysteries”) as mentioned throughout his epistles. Thus by classic, we mean the historic view which was held (recovered) and expounded by such groups as the 19th century Plymouth Brethren, and later by American dispensationalists, albeit with modification(2).

Church history records two major “recoveries” of Pauline teaching. This first focused upon the foundational truths of the authority of Scripture (sola Scriptura) together with justification by grace through faith (sola gratia plus sola fide), and is identified with men like Martin Luther (1483-1546) who were contributors to the great Protestant Reformation. The second recovery of truth, which in part built upon the first, is identified with John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and the Plymouth Brethren, which arose during the middle of the 19th century. Darby set forth “…the Scriptures to be absolutely inspired by God and the sole authority for faith and practice,” as well as “the sovereignty of God, election, assurance, acceptance, and unconditional eternal security.”

(1) Despite their extensive arguments, these groups fail to find agreement among their own and are seemingly consumed with belligerently arguing the issue of when the Church began (similar to debates over the meaning of baptism between Baptist and Church of Christ denominations)…ad nauseum. Sadly, there is little focus upon the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and His Glory.

(2) An extensive documentation of this history was undertaken by the late Christian author, Roy A. Huebner in several of his works, which are available from Present Truth Publishers, Jackson, NJ. For an introduction, see J. N. Darby’s Teaching Regarding Dispensations, Ages, Administrations and the Two Parentheses, 1993, and DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH, Volume 1, 1998. Both publications contain exposition regarding the error(s) of post-Acts 2 dispensationalism.

We are evangelical-fundamental believers holding to the following truths:


•The supernatural, inerrant inspiration of God’s revelatory Word (2 Peter 1:20), the exclusive 66 books (combined Jewish & Christian Canons) of Genesis through Revelation–the Bible. With the authorship of the final book–Revelation, the Canon was permanently closed. Apocrypha and Gnostic writings do not rise to canonical standards, and are materially inferior in content. The source of all other so-called “sacred writings” are either human or angelic (fallen), or a symbiotic effort of the two.

•By inerrancy of the Word, we mean that the original, God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) writings (on stone, clay, wood, leather, papyrus, or parchment), which no longer exist, were perfectly accurate in every respect. From these original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, Jewish scribes and early Christians meticulously created numerous copies. Through the art and science of historical textual analysis, comparing vast numbers of copies, experts have been able to recreate highly-accurate facsimiles of the originals. These copies are then used as the foundation for translating the texts into various languages. This entire process (from God’s mind to our mind using spoken and written language) has been guided and superintended by the sovereign and providential “hand” of Almighty God to ensure effective communication. This view spans nearly 3,500 years of recorded history.

•Based on this inerrancy, human epistemic certainty (via the “new birth”, sovereign illuminating work of God the Holy Spirit, and tertiary historical validation) is assured for accurately understanding God’s written revelation (1 Cor. 2:15,16). God has initiated communication (Heb. 1:2); He also permits some, but not all, to figuratively “hear” and understand (Luke 8:10). This process results in absolute-definitive knowledge, but not exhaustive knowledge. Those without the new birth wrestle with the text/words of Scripture in their own power and pride and typically arrive at erroneous interpretations and conclusions (2 Peter 3:16).

•The use of a common and literal approach to reading and studying the Word, which allows for normal grammatical and historical use of language. Literal interpretation stands in opposition to a contrived allegorical interpretation–which seldom allows the text to be taken at face value. Seek the normal, plain sense meaning of the text first. We recommend Professor Roy A. Zuck’s Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth for a safe and sound approach to biblical interpretation.

•The Bible is neither an encyclopedia nor science textbook. However, the Bible does speaks, directly and indirectly, to a vast host of relevant subjects.

•While the first 42 books of the Bible (in excess of 80 percent) have to do with the Jewish nation of Israel, what unifies the whole is the unfolding of the nature and glory of God in Christ, manifest in two spheres, the earthly and the heavenly (Eph. 1:9,10).


•God the Father (First Person of the Trinity) is Almighty, Eternal, Spirit, Light and Love (John 4:24; 1 John 1:5; 4:8).

•Jesus Christ is God the Son (Second Person of the Trinity, fully equal with the Father (Heb.1:3) and Holy Spirit), Lord and Savior, Head of His Body the Church, Sovereign over a completely New Creation, and Israel’s Millennial Messiah and King. Through the miracle of His incarnation, He became fully man, sharing flesh and blood except for Adamic sin.

•The Holy Spirit (Third Person of the Trinity) is Comforter, Helper, Spiritual Guide and Teacher.

•The Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are absolute sovereignty in power, contra any humanistic notion of the sovereignty of mankind.


•The idea of human “co-sovereignty” with God is an oxymoron and philosophically implausible, by definition. For fallen mankind, so-called free will is an inherent state of shackled rebellion. The concept of autonomous free will, while ancient, is the widespread central tenet of Enlightenment humanism, antithetical to the biblical Gospel, and is Satan’s consummate stratagem in which even the elect are blinded and deceived (2 Cor. 4:3,4).

•Mankind’s inheritance of corruption (sin) from the First Man–First Adam. All men and women are born lost sinners, in an inherent, perpetual state of enmity toward God (Rom. 8:7). In Western culture, the enmity most often takes the form of repulsion or passive-aggressive behavior toward all things “Bible” and “Christian.” For a growing minority, the enmity has developed into visible hate.


•The supernatural, spiritual “new birth” is the exclusive portal to genuine Christian experience. Genuine Christians are those who have been “born again” according to the Scriptural definition . Used in the most broad sense, “Christian” can mean anyone who embraces Judeo-Christian values or belong to some Christian denomination.

•Salvation by grace and divine election (cause), through faith (means) in Jesus Christ’s (Second Man–Last Adam) exclusive work of redemption (Eph. 2:8,9; John 6:37-40,44,45).

•The existence of two life forces (natures) within saved sinners (i.e., saints).

•Believers’ sanctification by grace, faith, and the Risen Christ. In Christ, believers are positionally separated from the law, sin, the world, and Satan/demons.

•Law is not made for the righteous, but for the unrighteous, for accountability, and for just punishment.

•Repentance is a vital part of genuine Christian experience.

•Since salvation is by grace, not works or free will, assurance of Heaven is the comfort of those who are spiritually mature in their understanding.

•Since God is the Author of salvation, His work cannot be thwarted by the existence of sin or sins. Genuine assurance of salvation leads to an obedient heart, not an excuse for further license or rebellion. Believers are both eternally secure as well as subject to loving reproof, correction, and discipline of the Father.

•The existence of supernatural miracles (Acts 2:22; 19:11), including Christ’s unique conception and His resurrection from the dead.

•The 1st century cessation of the sign gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; 14:1-32

•Fellowship with God in truth and in the light as the only divine basis for unity among brethren (1 John 1:7).

•Defeated, yet active Satan and demons (fallen angelic spirit beings) existing in a spiritual (non-corporeal) dimension.

•”A new heaven and new earth” as the destiny of the saved; “the lake of fire” the destiny of the lost…both human and demonic. Revelation 21:1; 20:10,15.

•God’s glory in Christ will be manifest with government in the earthly sphere, the nation of Israel at its center. God’s glory in Christ will be manifest with spiritual blessings in the heavenly sphere, the Bride and Bridegroom (Body/Mystery) with Christ as Head, as its center.

•That Israel’s earthly calling and the present Age were interrupted by a parenthetical period in which God interposed a holy calling (the Body beginning at Pentecost) and that its consummation will be the translation or Rapture of this Body or Church, as well as signaling the beginning of Daniel’s prophetic 70th week of years (i.e., Tribulation or Time of Jacob’s Trouble).

• At the end of Daniel’s prophetic 70th week of years, the Lord Jesus Christ will, as promised, come again (Second Coming) to establish His Millennial Kingdom, to bring together things earthly and things heavenly, and later to consummate and usher in an eternal new heavens and new earth, as replacement for our current spacetime reality.

Further, in theological circles the term Pauline is a classical adjective used when speaking of the unique works of the Apostle Paul, his writings, teachings, and theological doctrines derived from them.

The etymology of Dispensationalism relates to the English word dispensation which is “an anglicized form of the Latin dispensatio, which the Vulgate uses to translate the Greek work” oikonomia. Oikonomia comes from the Greek verb meaning: to manage, regulate, administer, and plan. Broadly speaking, a dispensation is: a stewardship, an economy, an administration. While a dispensation can involve a duration of time, it is misleading to treat a dispensation as being synonymous with a biblical aeon (age) or a biblical diatheke (covenant). Distinctions in the various activities of the Godhead have been recognized by theologians and Bible students down through church history. However, it is an error to assume that every mention of oikonomia signifies a major shift in the plans of God.

The truths of the Gospel came under attack in the 1st century. Read Paul’s letter to the Galatians. A “different” Gospel began to establish itself and genuine Christianity increasingly became marginalized. By the post-Apostolic era, the true, born-again Church was fully in exile and the spiritual darkness of Christendom was in ascendance. For the most part, this period spanned nearly fourteen centuries!

The Lord used the Reformation (1500-1650) to recover three foundational tenets from a long era of ecclesiastical and religious darkness.

•The Word of God as principal authority (Sola Scriptura)

•Mankind’s lost estate (depravity) due to the Fall, and

•Justification by sovereign grace, through the instrumentality of faith. (Sola Gratia, Sola Fide)

While the Reformation rejected the religious humanism of Roman Catholicism and reestablished a sound biblical foundation based on NT revelation, it was only the beginning in the recovery of Pauline truth. Later the Lord used one John Nelson Darby, (1800-1882), a leader within the Irish/English Plymouth Brethren, to restore to the Church an understanding of the full-orbed revelation originally given (Gal.1:11,12) by the Ascended Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle Paul. This included clarification of sanctification by grace, through faith, (not law) plus a clear understanding about the true, born-again Church. At a most basic level, the essence of Pauline dispensational theology, as found in Scripture, is “God has one purpose: to glorify Himself in Christ. This involves glory in two spheres, the earthly and the heavenly.”

Therefore, classic Pauline Dispensationalism is used to describe the biblical emphasis as originally set forth in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, with portions historically recovered by Martin Luther during the 16th century (Protestant Reformation), and a further major recovery by John Nelson Darby during the middle of the 19th century. This framework was embraced by a majority of the original Plymouth Brethren, and dispensational Bible teachers in America such as Clarence Larkin, William R. Newell, Miles J. Stanford, and others. Many American dispensationalists drew heavily upon the deeply-spiritual writings of the original Plymouth Brethren.

Among dispensationalists, confusion has arisen regarding the term. At the end of the 20th century and start of the 21st, the label is used by various groups with both subtle and not so subtle differences in meaning. Our explanation will hopefully clarify these differences.

The Church/Body began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but the doctrinal details of this spiritual event were a complete mystery until revealed to Paul by the Risen Christ (Gal.1:12) and then expounded by this Apostle to others. Contrary to a narrowly-held, dispensational error, the Apostle Paul was not the first member of the Body of Christ. For several decades following Pentecost, the other Jewish Apostles, including Peter, were unclear regarding much of this new truth and would subsequently learn it ‘secondhand’ from Paul (2 Peter 3:15,16).

We hold to the following indispensable tenets regarding the Church–the Body of Christ:

1.First and foremost, “Classic Pauline Dispensationalism is based upon the division of LIFE, not simply that of economies. Once that total separation of the two seminal lives [First and Last Adam] is seen and maintained, the economies will never coalesce.” The quintessence of the rightly divided Word is the doctrine of the two Adams!

2.”The Church (Body of Christ) was neither prophesied nor revealed in OT Scriptures.” The Church is a heavenly entity. The Church is not, as per covenant theory, the fulfillment of the promised blessings to Gentiles according to the Abrahamic Covenant. Further, the Church is not the recipient of blessing formerly promised to the nation of Israel nor of any “spiritual blessings” from Israel’s New Covenant. God made no covenant with the heavenly Church. The Body of Christ is unique.

3.”The Church was a complete mystery until revealed doctrinally by Paul.” It is the Body of Christ and her uniqueness that is the central mystery, not the principles of grace or faith. There is one Body of Christ, whose advent was on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts Chapter 2. The Church (Body of Christ) did not begin with the Apostle Paul, but rather his ministry was one of unfolding the truths associated with that one Body.

4.”Paul, in the Church Epistles, was the minister of Church truth.” “Those who do not center in the truths which the ascended Lord communicated directly to this Apostle will not know who and where they are in Christ, nor what their part is in the purpose of God. Neither will they know their heavenly privileges and responsibilities. Those who are ignorant of, and not centered in, the Pauline Gospel as set forth exclusively in Paul’s epistles, are constantly astray in their interpretation of the Gospel, to say nothing of Church truth.

“…for a dispensationalist it is best not to refer to the difference between the Old Testament (books) and New Testament (books), as such. Much of the NT (Synoptic Gospels) is OT (related to Israel and her covenants): all is OT to Matthew 27, Mark 15, and Luke 23. Church (Body) truth, the new, is totally different from Judaistic truth, the old; and it was not fully revealed until after the Cross, via Paul.” MJS

5.”The thirteen epistles of Paul (Romans to Philemon) form a distinct body of truth; and this realm of truth is about us, the Church, the Body of Christ, as no other Scriptures are. And Paul is the Father’s special messenger to us. As has been truly said, ‘All of the Bible is for us, but it is not all about us.’” WRN

Should your Dispensationalism fall below or depart from these standards, it may be time to take a long and hard look at the difference. If your theological ancestors or contemporaries have spent their livelihoods arguing and debating among themselves, even attempting to draw others into the incessant fray, and not focused upon developing a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus Christ, maybe it’s time you considered Classic Pauline Dispensationalism. Pauline dispensationalist Miles Stanford had this to say:

NO COMPROMISE! — A Dispensationalism that includes ground for the charismatic, is a danger to the Church. There may be the claim of “complete separation” of Israel and the Church, while at the same time including charismatic ground, i.e., secondary application of the Sermon on the Mount, the “spiritual” blessings of Israel’s New Covenant, plus aspects of the “present/future” millennial kingdom.

A Dispensationalism that provides ground for Covenantism, is a danger to the Church. There may be the claim of “complete separation” of Israel and the Church, while at the same time including Covenant ground, i.e., secondary application of the Sermon on the Mount, the “spiritual blessings” of Israel’s New Covenant, plus aspects of the “present/ future” millennial kingdom. Such compromised, inclusive Dispensationalism is the spawning ground for charismatic craziness, Lordship salvation, Covenant legalism, Reconstructionism, etc. [bold emphasis mine]

A Dispensationalism that does not include ground for the charismatics, or Covenantism, is a blessing to the Church. The home ground of the Body, her growth ground is in the glorified, heavenly Lord Jesus Christ, who is her Head and her Life. Her doctrinal ground is centered in the Pauline Church Epistles. Carefully note Ephesians 3:9-11. I would a thousand times rather be accused of making the Synoptic Gospels secondary to the Pauline Church Epistles, than to make Paul secondary to anything [other than the Lord Jesus Christ]!



The Atonement – 1 John 2:2




A Defense of Unlimited Atonement

1 John 2:2

Read this verse to a child and he will tell you that Christ died for all men. He would
assume that “the whole world” means just that. Read this verse to an extreme
Calvinist and he will tell you that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the elect
Jews, and not for the sins of the elect Jews only, but also for the sins of the elect
Gentiles. We are reminded of Matthew 11:25.

John Murray, who denies that Christ died for all, says this about 1 John 2:2–”No
text in Scripture presents more plausible support to the doctrine of universal
atonement….It must be said that the language John uses here would fit in perfectly with
the doctrine of universal atonement if Scripture elsewhere demonstrated that to be the
biblical doctrine” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, page 72). Because 1
John 2:2 does not fit in with Murray’s theological system, he tries to make the
passage mean something other than what it so obviously says.

To determine the meaning of the pronoun “our” in 1 John 2:2 we must ask who
John was writing to. John Owen, strong defender of a limited atonement, believed that 1
John was written about 46 AD and was sent to Jewish Christians. However, most Bible
scholars today agree that the letter was probably written towards the end of John’s
life and was intended for believers living in Asia Minor, which is where John ministered
toward the close of his life. Obviously the churches in Asia Minor toward the close of the
first century were composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers, with the Gentiles being
in the majority.

Actually John tells us who he is writing to. In 1 John 5:13 he says, “These things
letter to BELIEVERS. Thus, in 1 John 2:2 Christ is the propitiation for our sins
(that is, believers), and not for ours only, but for the sins of
the whole world
(that is, unbelievers). That the term “world” is used elsewhere to refer to
unbelievers (in contrast to believers) is clear from John 14:22; 16:8-9; 17:9,21.

When John uses the word “our” he is referring to all Christian believers, not
just Jewish believers. See 1 John 1:9 – our sins” (it was not
just the Jewish believers who were to confess their sins). See also 1 John 1:10 –
“we,” “us,” (it was not just the Jewish believers that were in danger
of saying that they had not sinned). See 1 John 2:1 – “we have an
advocate” (it was not just the Jewish Christians who had an Advocate, but all
believers). There is no reason to say that John wrote this epistle strictly to Jewish
believers. The terms “our” and “the whole world” are definitely
contrasts between believers and those who are not.

If there is any question about this, let the Bible define its own terms. One should
consider the usage of the term “world” in the book of 1 John (see 1 John 3:1;
3:13; 4:5; 4:9; 4:14; and especially 5:19). This word is certainly not used when referring
to elect Gentiles. Especially significant is the usage of this term in 1 John 5:19. John
used the expression “the whole world” in only two places: in 1 John 2:2 and
5:19. In 1 John 5:19 we read this: “And we [Christians] know that we
[Christians] are of God, and THE WHOLE WORLD [non-Christians] lieth
[in the wicked one].” This is the same meaning that the expression
has in 1 John 2:2, though certain Calvinists are forced to deny this because of their
theology which tells them that Christ could not have paid the death penalty for any of the

To summarize this point, in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 5:19 the terms that are used both
mean the same thing:

“our”   “we”

refers to Christians, those to
whom John was writing (including both Jewish and Gentile believers)

“whole world”

refers to all the
unbelievers who are part of Satan’s world system (this would include both the
non-elect and those unsaved who would at some later time respond to the gospel, believe on
Christ and be delivered from Satan’s world system).


Thus, 1 John 2:2 teaches that Christ by His death on the cross satisfied the demands of
divine justice not only for the sins of believers but for the sins of all the unbelievers
who were part of Satan’s kingdom of darkness (the majority of which were non-elect).
Thus, saved people are not a part of “the whole world.” Some who are included in
“the whole world” could eventually believe the gospel and be saved. The term
“world” here in 1 John 2:2 does not mean “all humanity” as in John
3:16. Rather, it means “all humanity” in contrast to “saved humanity.”
This is a common usage of the word “world” (see John 17:9,21 – Christ
prayed for believers, not for the world; however, some who are in the world will believe
through the Church’s testimony).

Those who deny the fact that Christ died for all (believers and unbelievers)
sometimes try to argue on the basis of a comparison between 1 John 2:2 and John 11:51-52
(see the argument in Gary Long’s book, Definite Atonement, p.95). However,
John 11:51-52 is actually a strong argument that Christ died for all men and not just for
the elect! In verse 50, the high priest Caiaphas (himself unregenerate) made mention of
one dying for the people (the Jewish people), so that the WHOLE NATION perish not!
Certainly he was thinking of all the Jewish people without exception! If the Romans were
to invade Palestine they would seek to destroy all the Jews without exception! Without
knowing it, the high priest actually gave a prophecy that Jesus should die for that nation
(verse 51). In other words, Jesus died for the whole Jewish nation! Not only did He die
for all Jews, but the death of Christ was for the sins of the whole world with the result
that God would be able to gather children from the uttermost parts of the earth. John
11:51-52 teaches that Christ died for the whole Jewish nation and 1 John 2:2 teaches that
Christ died for the whole world!

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1 John 1

1Jn 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have gazed upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–
1Jn 1:2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and we declare to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us–
1Jn 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, in order that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1Jn 1:4 And these things we write to you that our joy may be fulfilled.
1Jn 1:5 And this is the message which we have heard from Him and we announce to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
1Jn 1:6 If we claim that we have fellowship with Him, and we are walking in the darkness, we are lying, and are not practicing the truth.
1Jn 1:7 But if we are walking in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1Jn 1:8 If we claim that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we claim that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

1 John 1:1-10

EXPOSITION   The Pulpit Commentary
1. THE INTRODUCTION. It declares the writer’s authority, based on personal experience; announces the subject-matter of his Gospel, to which this Epistle forms a companion; and states his object in writing the Epistle.
These opening verses help to raise the reader to the high frame of mind in which the apostle writes. Emotion, suppressed under a sense of awe and solemnity, is shown by the involved construction through which his thoughts struggle for utterance. We are reminded of the introduction to the Gospel, especially in the first clause. Both announce to us the subject of the writing which follows—the Word who is the Life. Both set before us, in the simplest language, truths of profoundest meaning. But while in the Gospel he seems to lose sight of his readers in the magnitude of his subject, here the thought of his “little children” is uppermost.
The construction of the first three verses may be taken in more ways than one; but almost certainly the main verb is ἀπαγγέλλομεν, and the clauses introduced by ὅ give the substance of the ἀπάγγελία. The sentence is broken by the parenthetical 1Jn_1:2, after which the main part of 1Jn_1:1 is repeated for clearness. Reduced to a simple form, the whole runs thus: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life, we declare to you also, that ye also may have communion with us.”
The first clause states what or how the object is in itself; the next three state St. John’s relation to it; “which,” in the first clause nominative, in the others is accusative. The neuter (ὅ) expresses a collective and comprehensive whole (Joh_4:22; Joh_6:37; Joh_17:2; Act_17:23, etc.); the attributes of the Λόγος rather than the Λόγος himself are indicated. Or, as Jelf expresses it, “the neuter gender denotes immaterial personality, the masculine or feminine material personality.” In the beginning is not quite the same as in Joh_1:1; there St. John tells us that the Word was in existence before the world was created; here that he was in existence before he was manifested. Thus far all is indefinite; the philosopher, about to expound a law of nature, might begin, “That which was from the beginning declare we unto you.” What follows is in a climax, making the meaning clearer at each step: seeing is more than hearing, and handling than seeing. The climax is in two pairs, of perfects and of aorists; the aorists giving the past acts, the perfects the permanent results. Together they sum up the apostolic experience of that boundless activity of Christ, of which the world could not contain the full account (Joh_21:25). Beheld ἐθεασάμεθα is more than have seen ἑωράκαμεν. Seeing might be momentary; beholding implies that steady contemplation, for which the beloved disciple had large and abundantly used opportunities. In our hands handled we may see a reference to Luk_24:39, where the same verb is used ψηλαφήσατε; and still more to Joh_20:27, where the demanded test of handling is offered to St. Thomas, provoking the confession of faith to which the whole Gospel leads up, “My Lord and my God!” Had St. John merely said “heard,” we might have thought that he meant a doctrine. Had he merely said “heard and seen,” we might have understood it of the effects of Christ’s doctrine. But “our hands handled” shows clearly that the attributes of the Word become flesh are what St. John insists on, and probably as a contradiction of Docetism. “Those who read his letter could have no doubt that he was referring to the time when he saw the face of Jesus Christ, when he heard his discourses, when he grasped his hand, when he leaned upon his breast” (Maurice). Between the first clause and what follows lies the tremendous fact of the Incarnation; and St. John piles verb on verb, and clause on clause, to show that he speaks with the authority of full knowledge, and that there is no possible room for Ebionite or Cerinthian error. The first clause assures us that Jesus was no mere man; the others assure us that he was really man. Precisely that Being who was in existence from the beginning is that of whom St. John and others have had, and still possess, knowledge by all the means through which knowledge can have access to the mind of man. (For “seeing with the eyes,” cf. Luk_2:30; for θεᾶσθαι of contemplating with delight [Stark Luk_16:11, Luk_16:14], Joh_1:14, Joh_1:34; Act_1:11.) Concerning the Word of life. “Concerning” περί may depend on “have heard,” and, by a kind of zengma, on the other three verbs also; or on the main verb,” we declare.” “The Word of life” means “the Word who is the Life,” like “the city of Rome,… the Book of Genesis;” the genitive case is “the characterizing or identifying genitive.” The περί is strongly against the interpretation, “the word of life,” i.e., the life-giving gospel. Had St. John meant this, he would probably have written ὅν ἀκηκόαμεν … τὸν λόγον τῆς ζωῆς ἀπαγγέλλομεν (Joh_5:24, Joh_5:37; Joh_8:43; Joh_14:24); περί is very frequent of persons (Joh_1:7, Joh_1:8, Joh_1:15, Joh_1:22, Joh_1:30, Joh_1:48, etc.). Moreover, the evident connexion between the introductions to his Gospel and Epistle compels us to understand ὁ Λόγος in the same sense in both (see on Joh_1:1 in this Commentary, and in the ’Cambridge Greek Testament’ or ’Bible for Schools’). What St. John has to announce is his own experience of the Eternal Word incarnate, the Eternal Life made manifest (Joh_14:6); his hearing of his words, his seeing with his own eyes his Messianic works, his contemplation of the Divinity which shone through both; his handling of the body of the risen Redeemer.
Parenthetical. The main thought of 1Jn_1:1 and 1Jn_1:3 is, “We declare to you a Being both eternal and yet seen and known by us.” That of 1Jn_1:2 is, “This Being, in his character of the Life, became visible, and in him are centered all the relations between God and man.” Quite in St. John’s style, verse 2 takes up and develops a portion of verse 1, using its last word as the basis of a new departure (comp. Joh_1:14; ἐφανερώθη gives the same fact as σάρχ ἐγένετο from another point of view). Became flesh is the fact in itself; the incarnation of the Λόγοv. “Was manifested” is the fact in reference to mankind; their admission to the knowledge of it. The union of “see” with “bear witness” recalls Joh_19:35; and here, again, Joh_19:2 resumes and develops part of Joh_19:1. Have seen sums up the four verbs in Joh_19:1; for in all languages sight is used of experience generally. Bear witness and declare carries us a stage further—the communication of the experience. It is doubtful whether τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον is the object of all four verbs or of ἀπαγγέλλομεν only. Note the double article: the life, the eternal life. The Epistle begins and ends with this theme (1Jn_5:20). (For ἥτις and πρός, cf. Joh_8:53; Joh_1:1.) Which indeed (as all must know) was with the rather. The verse ends as it began, but not with a mere repetition; the Life was manifested, and in particular to us.
The main sentence is resumed from 1Jn_1:1, only the chief points being retouched. We declare to you also καί must be read before ὑμῖν, on overwhelming authority); i.e., “you as well as we must share in it,” rather than “you as well as others to whom we have declared it.” Of course, ἀπαγγέλλομεν, must be rendered alike in both verses “we declare.” To what does it refer? Not to this Epistle, which does not contain the writer’s experience of the Word of life manifested to mankind, but to his Gospel, which the Epistle is to accompany. The parallel between the two writings must often be noted, especially between the Epistle and Joh_17:1-26. Compare this verse with Joh_17:21. St. John’s aim in writing his Gospel is that the great High Priest’s prayer may be fulfilled—that believers may be one in that communion of which the unity between the Father and the Son is the pattern and the basis; may “be joined together in the same body, the same belief, the same knowledge, the same sins, the same hopes, the same destinies” (Jelf). Communion with Christians is shown to mean a great deal—no less than communion with the Father and with the Son. Note the double μετά St. John’s writings teem with indications of the unity and yet distinctness between the Father and the Son. Communion with the one, so far from absorbing and canceling communion with the other, implies it as a separate bliss. The clause καὶ ἡ κοινωνία δὲ κ.τ.λ.., does not depend on ἵνα, as the δέ shows; we must supply ἔστι, not ᾗ. (For καὶ … δὲ, cf. Joh_6:51, where, as here, καὶ is the leading conjunction; in Joh_8:16, Joh_8:17 and Joh_15:27, δέ leads.) “Blessed are they that see not and yet believe. It is we who are here described, we who are designated. Then let the blessedness take place in us, of which the Lord predicted that it should take place. Let us firmly hold that which we see not, because those tell us who have seen”.
While 1Jn_1:1-3 refer to the Gospel, this refers to the Epistle; but, although ταῦτα in 1Jn_2:26 and 1Jn_5:13 refer to what precedes, there is no need to limit ταῦτα here to these opening verses; it covers the whole Epistle. The reading ἡμεῖς seems preferable to ὑμῖν, and ἡμῶν to ὑμῶν. But ἡμεῖς and ἡμῶν are not coordinate: ἡμεῖς is the apostolic “we;” ἡμῶν means “your joy as well as mine.” This verse takes the place of the usual “grace and peace” in the opening of other Epistles; and as 1Jn_5:3 recalls Joh_17:21, so this recalls Joh_17:13. The joy is that of knowing that, though in the world, they are not of it, but are one with one another, and with the Father and with the Son. The gospel is always joy: “Rejoice alway” (1Th_5:16); “Rejoice in the Lord alway” (Php_4:4). To know that the Eternal Life has been manifested, that we have communion with him, and through him with the Father, must be joy. Whereas Gnosticism, by denying the atonement, and “the personal office of God in the salvation of the world,” cuts off one great sphere of God’s love, and consequently one great cause of the believer’s joy. To sum up this introduction: St. John gives his Gospel to the Church
ἀπαγγέλλομεν in order that all may share in the union for which Christ prayed; and to the Gospel he adds this Epistle καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν, that all may realize the joy resulting from this union—that our joy may be fulfilled.
In this introduction we find the following expressions which are characteristic of St. John, serving to show the common authorship of the Gospel and Epistle, and in some cases of the Revelation also: ὁ Λόγος ἡ ζωή φανερόω μαρτυρέω ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἦν πρός ἡ χαρὰ ᾖ πεπληρωμένη. It is among the many excellences of the Revised Version that characteristic expressions are marked by a uniform translation; whereas in the Authorized Version they are obscured by capriciously varying the translation: e.g. μαρτυρέω is rendered in four different ways—”bear witness,” “bear record,” “give record,” “testify” (cf. page 10).
Verses 1 John 1:5-2:28
Verses 1 John 1:5-2:6
(1) Positive side. What walking in the light involves; the condition and conduct of the believer.
(2) 1Jn_2:7-28. Negative side. What walking in the light excludes; the things and persons to be avoided.
This verse constitutes the text and basis of this division of the Epistle, especially on its positive side. And the message which we have heard… is this. Again we have a remarkable parallel between Gospel and Epistle; both begin with a καί (which connects the opening with the introduction in a simple and artless manner), and with the same kind of sentence: “And the witness of John is this.” The reading ἐπαγγελία (1Jn_2:25, and frequent in the New Testament) must be rejected here and in 1Jn_3:11 in favour of ἀγγελία (which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament), on overwhelming evidence. ̓Επαγγελία in the New Testament means “promise,” which would be almost meaningless here. The change from ἐπαγγέλλομεν (1Jn_3:2, 1Jn_3:3) to ἀναγγέλλομεν is noteworthy: the one is “declare,” the other “announce.” The message received from Christ, the apostle announces or reports (renunciat) to his readers. He does not name Christ ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ; he is so full of the thought of Christ that he omits to name him (cf. Joh_20:7, Joh_20:9, Joh_20:15). Ἀναγγέλλω is used of authoritative announcements; of priests and Levites in the LXX; of the Messiah (Joh_4:25); of the Spirit (Joh_16:13, Joh_16:14, Joh_16:15); of the apostles (Act_20:20, Act_20:27; 1Pe_1:12). St. John speaks with authority. God is light; not the Light, nor a light, but light; that is his nature. This sums up the Divine essence on its intellectual side, as “God is love” on its moral side. In neither case has the predicate the article: ὁ Θεὸς φῶς ἐστίν ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. Light and love are not attributes of God, but himself. The connexion between this message and the introduction is not at first obvious. But St. John writes with his Gospel before him, and the prologue to that supplies the link. There, as here, three ideas follow in order: λόγος ζωή φῶς. There, as here, φῶς immediately suggests its opposite, σκοτία. It is on the revelation of the Λόγος as φῶς, and the consequent struggle between φῶς and σκοτία, that the Gospel is based. And this revelation is the highest: men alone are competent to receive or reject it. Other organisms exhibit the creative power as life: none but men can recognize it as light. And to know the Λόγος as light is to know the Father as light; for the Λόγος is the Revelation of the Father’s nature. That God is, in his very nature, light, is an announcement peculiar to St. John. Others tell us that he is the Father of lights (Jas_1:17), the Possessor of light (1Pe_2:9), dwelling in light (1Ti_6:16); but not that he is light. To the heathen God is a God of darkness, an unknown Being; a Power to be blindly propitiated, not a Person to be known and loved. To the philosopher he is an abstraction, an idea, not directly cognizable by man. To the Jews he is a God who hideth himself; not light, but a consuming fire. To the Christian alone he is revealed as light, absolutely free from everything impure, material, obscure, and gloomy. Light was the first product of the Divine creative energy, the earnest and condition of order, beauty, life, growth, and joy. Of all phenomena it best represents the elements of all perfection. “This word ’light’ is at once the simplest and the fullest and the deepest which can be used in human discourse. It is addressed to every man who has eyes and who has ever looked on the sun.” It tells not only “of a Goodness and Truth without flaw; it tells of a Goodness and Truth that are always seeking to spread themselves, to send forth rays that shall penetrate everywhere, and scatter the darkness which opposes them” (Maurice). In like manner, darkness sums up the elements of evil—foulness, secrecy, repulsiveness, and gloom. In all but the lowest forms of existence it inevitably produces decay and death. Everything of the kind is excluded from the nature of God. And hence St. John, in his characteristic manner, immediately emphasizes the great announcement with an equivalent negative statement: Darkness in him there is not any at all (comp. verse 8; 1Jn_2:4, 1Jn_2:23, 1Jn_2:27; 1Jn_3:6; 1Jn_4:2, 1Jn_4:3, 1Jn_4:6-8; 1Jn_5:12). He does not say, “in his presence,” but “in him.” Darkness exists, physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual; there is abundance of obscurity, error, depravity, sin, and its consequence, death. But not a shade of these is “in him.” The Divine Light is subject to no spots, no eclipse, no twilight, no night; as a Source of light it cannot in any degree fail.
A corollary from 1Jn_1:5. If God is Light to the exclusion of all darkness, then fellowship with darkness excludes fellowship with him. If we say ἐὰν εἴπωμεν; “if any of us, no matter who he be, at any time say.” The construction marks the supposed action as one likely to occur. The apostle includes himself in the possibility, and of course he and his readers did say that they had communion with God. By” walking” περιπατεῖν versari is meant our daily life, our movement and activity in the world (Joh_8:12; Joh_11:9, Joh_11:10; Joh_12:35; Joh_21:18; Rev_21:24); this activity will inevitably express the κοινωνία in which we live. To have communion with him who is Light, and be continually exhibiting a life of darkness, is impossible. The Carpocratians and other Gnostics, who taught that to the enlightened all action is indifferent, because neither purity nor filth can change the nature of pure gold, are perhaps here aimed at. We lie, and do not the truth. As in 1Jn_1:5, St. John enforces a statement by denying the opposite. But the negative is not a mere equivalent of the positive: the two together mean, “we are false both in word and deed.” Truth with St. John is not confined to language; it is exhibited in conduct also (cf. ποιεῖν ψεῦδος, Rev_21:27; Rev_22:15).
The contrary hypothesis is now stated, and the thought is carried a stage further (cf. 1Jn_1:9). He again speaks conditionally ἐάν, and does so until 1Jn_2:3; after which the participial substantive ὁ λέγων ὀ ἀαπῶν ὁ μισῶν represents the conditional clause. The change of verbs is significant: we walk, God is, in the light. We move through time; he is in eternity. Our activity involves change; his does not. Like the sun, he both is Light and dwells in the light; and if we walk in the light, which is his atmosphere, we have fellowship one with another. Darkness is an unsocial condition, and this the light expels. From 1Jn_2:6 we might have expected, “we have fellowship with him;” and some inferior authorities read μετ ̓ αὐτοῦ. But St. John’s repetitions are not mere repetitions: the thought is always recur or reset to carry us a step further (cf. verses 3, 4). Having fellowship with one another is a sure result of that fellowship with God which is involved in walking in the light. “Here is a reply to those who would restrain Catholic communion to their own sect” (Wordsworth). Another result of walking in the light is that the blood of Jesus (his sacrificial death) cleanses us day by day continually (present tense) from our frequent sins of frailty. This cleansing is not the same as forgiveness of sins (verse 9). The latter is the case of ὁ λελουμένος, the man that is bathed (Joh_13:10); the former is the frequent washing of the feet (cf. Rev_7:14; Rev_22:14). The expression, the blood of Jesus, in Christian theology, “is dogma with pathos.… It implies, as no other word could do, the reality
(1) of the human body of Jesus,
(2) of his sufferings,
(3) of his sacrifice.”
By his blood new life-blood is infused into human nature.
After the great message,” God is Light” (1Jn_1:5) and its application to ourselves (1Jn_1:6, 1Jn_1:7), we are now told what walking in the light involves:
(1) consciousness of sin and confession of sin (1Jn_1:8-10);
(2) accepting the propitiation of Jesus Christ the Righteous (1Jn_2:1-2);
(3) obedience (1Jn_2:3-6).
If we say that we have not sin. The present ἔχομεν again shows that the daily falls of those who are walking in the light are meant, not the sins committed in the days of darkness before conversion. The Lord’s Prayer implies that we must daily ask forgiveness. We lead ourselves astray from the truth, and have no right estimate of the gulf between our impurity and God’s holiness, if we deny this habitual frailty. In the sunlight even flame throws a shadow; and that man is in darkness who denies his sin. The truth may be near him; but it has not found a home with him—it is not in him. Πλανᾷν is specially frequent in the Revelation, and always of arch-deceivers—Satan, the beast, antichrist, false teachers; it seems to imply fundamental error.
As in 1Jn_1:7, we have the opposite hypothesis stated, and the thought advanced a stage. Not the exact opposite, “if we confess that we have sin;” but “if we confess our sins.” It is easy to say, “I am a sinner;” but if confession is to have value it must state the definite acts of sin. The context shows that confession at the bar of the conscience and of God is meant. Circumstances must decide whether confession to man is required also, and this St. John neither forbids nor enjoins. Note the asyndeton; there is no
δέ, as in verse 7. He is faithful and righteous, Δίκαιος must be rendered “righteous” rather than “just,” to mark the contrast with unrighteousness ἀδικίτι, and the connexion with “Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1Jn_2:1). To forgive… to cleanse. As explained in verse 7, the one refers to freeing us from the penalties of sin, justification; the other to freeing us from its contamination, sanctification. The sense of purpose is not wholly to be surrendered. No doubt ἵνα, like other particles, becomes weakened in later Greek; but even in later classical Greek the notion of purpose is mixed up with that of consequence. Much more is this the case in the New Testament, and especially in St. John, where what seems to us to be mere result is really design; and this higher aspect of the sequence of facts is indicated by ἵνα. It is God’s nature to be faithful and righteous; but it is also his purpose to exhibit these attributes towards us; and this purpose is expressed in ἵνα ἀφῇ ἡμῖν.
Once more we have no mere repetition, but a fresh thought. “We have not sin” (1Jn_1:8) refers to our natural condition; “we have not sinned” (1Jn_1:10) refers to definite acts. Note the climax: we lie (1Jn_1:6); we lead ourselves utterly astray (1Jn_1:8): we make God a liar (1Jn_1:10). The whole of God’s dealing with man since the Fall, especially in the Incarnation, is based on the fact of man’s innate sinfulness. To deny this fact, therefore, is to charge the God of light and truth with acting and maintaining a vast and persistent lie. It is difficult to see how this strong language can be reconciled with the Roman dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary: why does not her “son” (Joh_19:26, Joh_19:27) except her from its sweep? His word is not in us; i.e., we are cut off from all communication with him (Joh_5:38; Joh_8:31). “His Word” is the sum total of the Divine revelation. That which in itself is “the truth “(1Jn_1:8), when communicated to us is “his Word.” How thoroughly the Church of England enters into the spirit of these verses (8-10) is shown by the fact that it appoints confession and absolution as part of public service every morning and evening throughout the year, as well as of every celebration of the Eucharist. As Bede points out, the Lord’s Prayer itself, with the petition, “Forgive us our trespasses,” is a conclusive answer to Pelagian opponents of St. John’s doctrine.
1Jn_1:1-4 – The Life.
Dr. Edersheim £ makes the remark that there are two great stages in the history of the Church’s learning of Christ: the first, to come to the knowledge of what he was by experience of what he did; the second, to come to experience of what he did and does by knowledge of what he is. The former, he says, is that of the period when Jesus was on earth; the second is that of the period after his ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Ghost. This is true. And there is also an intermediate truth with which we are closely concerned. It is the truth of which we are reminded at the opening of this Epistle, viz. that the instrumentality by means of which we now pass on to the second stage is the writings of those who passed through the first. This is evidently intended to be the effect of this inspired letter; written, it can scarcely be questioned, by the author of the Fourth Gospel; written upon a specific theme, on a distinct method, with an avowed aim. Two preliminary statements hereupon require distinct and emphatic notice here.
1. There is a declaration that the writer was one who had been brought into close contact with the Person of the Lord Jesus, who had himself intimately known him, and who had associates in knowledge of and fellowship with him.
2. The internal evidence that the author of this Epistle is the same who wrote the Fourth Gospel is unusually clear. If any man could be known by his style of writing, surely the Apostle John can be by the way he plays upon the words “life,” “light,” “love.” Note: Each apostle has his own key-words. Those of John are the ones just specified. That of James is “works.” That of Paul is “faith.” That of Peter is “hope.” The main keyword of John here is “life.” In these introductory verses the apostle opens up his theme. The purport of his Epistle, yea, not only of his Epistle, but of his entire apostolic and ministerial life, is indicated here; it has to do with “the Word of life,” i.e., (cf. Westcott, in loc.) with the revelation of life; may we not rather say with the Life and its self-revelation? £In opening up this introductory paragraph we may trace the Life in five stages.
I. THE LIFE ETERNALLY EXISTENT. “That which was from the beginning.” With God there is no beginning. With him there shall be no end. But Divine revelation is worded to suit the exigencies of our limited apprehension. Finite minds make their own horizon of thought. Both back and front there are limits beyond which thought cannot go. £ Hence we are mercifully allowed to think as of a beginning and as of an end. Not as if either were a “definite concrete fact.”£ Let us, then, go back to this “beginning.” It is not said, either here or in Joh_1:1-51, that the Life then ἐγένετο came to be, but ἦν was (cf. Pro_8:22-31; also Php_2:6, ὑπάρχων. There is here no thought of life apart from a Living One—a personal Being. There can be none. That Living One was before all creation—its ground, its medium, its reason, its center of support. In him all things hold together. This Life was “from the beginning.” But note—
II. THE LIFE WAS MANIFESTED IN TIME. “The Life was manifested” (Php_2:2). From what afterwards follows, there can be no question that the apostle here refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. And in thus declaring that he passed out of eternity into the limits of time, out of the invisible to the visible realm, he thus avows the mystery of the Incarnation. A mystery, without the assumption of which the words and life of the Christ can no more be accounted for than the stability of the framework of nature can be accounted for without the law of gravitation. The difficulties that gather round the doctrine would be insuperable if it were a mere marvel, leading nowhere and effecting nothing. But since it is the center of a framework of doctrine around which the noblest hopes do gather, and the substratum of the renewed life of an entire living Church, the difficulties gather rather round its denial than around its assertion. The Life was manifested. The Divine Life can only be manifested to man by taking the form of man.
III. THE LIFE PERSONALLY VERIFIED. “We have ’seen,’ ’tasted,’ ’handled,’” etc. This should be compared with Joh_1:14, “We beheld his glory.” The seeing of the glory was by no means coextensive with beholding the bodily form. “The eye only sees that which it brings with it the power of seeing.” Some saw Christ to vilify; others to adore him. “The pure in heart will see God.” The Nathanaeis will see heaven opened, but the “wise and prudent” will miss the sight.
IV. THE LIFE THUS VERIFIED IS AUTHORITATIVELY DECLARED. “That which we have seen… declare we unto you.” Here are, as Westcott admirably remarks, “in due sequence the ideas of personal experience, responsible affirmation, authoritative announcement.” This latter is involved in the words, “we declare.” Some object to authority in matters of religion. But why? Only ignorance can demur to it, so long as the authority is a lawful one. And since the authority here implied is that which comes from adequate knowledge on the matter in hand, none ought to demur to it for a moment.
1. That of a kindred fellowship of souls who are in communion with the Life! No other fellowship to compare with this. It is
(1) pure,
(2) undying.
2. That out of the closeness of fellowship there might come a fullness of joy. Life is the root of joy. Joy is the fruit of life. A plant is not in perfection till it blooms. The Christian life is not perfected till it smiles and sings.
In conclusion, note:
1. The real and only valid succession in the Church is that of life.
2. There can be no value in forms, except as they express life.
3. Through the Divine Life men are reborn to the noblest fellowship with God and with one another!
1Jn_1:5 – The message.
Connecting link: The Son of God, whom we have seen as manifested Life, has brought us a message from the invisible and everlasting Father. Topic—The message from heaven brought by the Lord Jesus Christ. A careful study of the text will suggest several points for consideration and expansion.
1. Whom it concerns. “God.” “The announcement as to the nature of God is a personal revelation, and not a discovery” (Westcott, in loc.). We know something of God by reasoning upward from the works of nature. Nature speaks (Psa_19:1-4). Her works are a manifestation of God. But not a full or a clear one. We want a testimony direct from God, as to what he is, as to his thoughts towards us; and here it is.
2. What does it tell us about God?
(1) Positively: “God is Light.” Physically, light is the splendour in which all else is revealed. Intellectually, light is knowledge. Morally, light is purity. God is the One Being in and by whose existence all else receives an adequate interpretation of its coming into being. He hath knowledge without limit. He hath purity without stain. Hence the text speaks:
(2) Negatively: “No darkness at all.” Not the least speck. He is absolutely pure. Infinitely wise. How much is summed up in the three sentences which John has recorded: “God is Spirit;” “God is Light;” “God is Love”! Not all the collective wisdom of man could have taught us so much as this.
II. WHENCE THE MESSAGE CAME. “We have heard from him ;” i.e. from the Lord Jesus Christ, as the incarnate Manifestation of the Invisible. Obviously, the value of such a message depends on the Person who brings it. If, then, we ask the all-important question—Who brought this message down to earth? apostles, one and all, join with unwavering tongue in declaring that it was brought by the everlasting Son of the Father, who came from him. This is the distinctive assertion of Christianity. It is made, not doubtfully, not apologetically, but categorically and positively, for the acceptance and salvation of man. This message was brought to man directly by the greatest Messenger from the eternal throne that even heaven itself could send!
III. HOW THE MESSAGE REACHES US. “We announce unto you.” The Lord Jesus Christ asserted his claims and proved them. He sealed them by his death, confirmed them by his resurrection, and gave to apostles the unwavering certitude of their validity by the gift of the Holy Ghost. They, thus sure of and confirmed in the message, living on it themselves as their own life and joy, preached and taught it, and also put it down in writing, that it might be spread over the world through the after-ages. They gave it forth authoritatively, with the authority which comes
(1) of a Divine commission to declare it, and
(2) of adequate knowledge of that which they declare.
Thus the message reaches us. In the Epistles we have the sum and substance of that which in the first century was orally received. It is utterly useless for the adherents of the mythical school to urge the later authorship and miracle-embellishments of the Gospels with the view of weakening this position; since, whatever be the age of the Gospels, there are known letters of the apostolic age, by Paul, Peter, James, and John, from which alone the ground-plan of the Redeemer’s life and the gist of his message could be reproduced, even if the misfortune of the loss of the Gospels could be supposed possible. The historic position is one which never has been and never can be shaken; that in the Epistles we have the sum of that which apostles gave forth orally—the message which has remained unchanged from the beginning of the Christian age. The verse of our text has as much force as if the Apostle John were now living and actually uttering the words in our ears: “This is the message,” etc.
IV. HOW DOES THE MESSAGE BEAR UPON US? We can but briefly suggest.
1. The fact of this truth coming as a message from God unto us, shows us that God is concerned about his intelligent creatures knowing who and what he is.
2. It shows us also that, if we are adequately to know who or what God is, it must be by a message from him to man, and not through man attempting to search out him.
3. We see, further, that by means of such a message, brought by such a Messenger, we may come to know the very greatest fact in the very simplest way.
4. This revelation of the nature of God is not for the purpose of satisfying speculative inquiries; it is intended to yield practical results (cf. verses 6-10).
5. The right use of this message will yield us a knowledge of God and of his Son Jesus Christ, which is in itself” the eternal life” (cf. Joh_17:3).
1. This sublime truth, being presented to us as a message from God, indicates to us so far an element of truth in agnosticism. “The world through its wisdom knew not God” (1Co_1:21, Revised Version).
2. If the gospel be a message from the everlasting God, then the one point which has to be verified is, not whether the message be in all respects such a one as we might have expected, but whether the Messenger be at once capable and true.
3. To demand the same kind of verification which a man gets of his own discoveries in physical science, is absurd. The only possible verification of a testimony lies in the proof of the ability and veracity of the witness. Each kind of truth has its lines of verification in its own direction, and in no other.
4. Most jealous care should be taken that we do neither the Messenger nor the message an injustice through allowing any prejudice or any dogmatic assumption to interfere with the consideration of their claims.
5. The substance of the message is in itself a strong argument for the truth of the Messenger. One assumption only is involved therein, viz. that God can reveal himself.
6. There is an infinite difference between an agnosticism that is such because it never heard the message, and that which is such because it scornfully ignores it under the pretence that God is unknowable. The one is a grievous misfortune; the other, a more grievous sin. In the one there is a yearning for the light; in the other, a turning from it. “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”
1Jn_1:6-10 – “If… if:” which shall it be?
Connecting link: The purpose of God in revealing himself to us as Light is that we may come into fellowship with him; and that in this fellowship we ourselves may become sons of light, which by nature we are not. Topic—The only way in which the purpose of this Divine message about God himself can be accomplished in us is by our first recognizing truly and fully what we are, and then acknowledging our state before him.
1. If we maintain that our fellowship with God follows as a matter of course, independently of moral considerations; e.g., if we
(1) say that we have fellowship with him (1Jn_1:6), and if we
(2) walk in darkness. In that case we are
(a) false in word: “we lie;”
(b) false in practice: “we do not the truth.”
The truth is not merely to be objectively perceived by the understanding, but is also to be transmuted into life. Men would soon go on to know more of objective truth if they would but put in practice what they already know. A fellowship in the Light, and a living and walking in the darkness, are far asunder as the east is from the west.
2. If we maintain that there is no wrong in not being in fellowship with God, or if we deny that sin is the great barrier to fellowship, i.e., “if we say that we have no sin” (1Jn_1:8),—in that case
(1) we are self-deceived;
(2) “the truth is not in us,” i.e., as an informing guide, or as a regulating power. Note: To take a true view of sin—its evil, its guilt, its subtlety, its destructiveness is an imperative condition of understanding the value of the gospel message and of the Redeemer’s work.
3. If we maintain that sin, albeit it may be located in us, has never broken forth into act; i.e., “if we say that we have not sinned” (1Jn_1:10),—in that case
(1) we are putting the lie on what God has said; for certainly God himself and we are in violent moral contrast. But if so, and we say we have not sinned, then we charge the sin on God; and since the revelation of God as Light is meant to throw up our sin in its darkness and enormity, if we deny our darkness, we thereby deny God’s light.
(2) God’s Word is not in us, i.e., as the moving power or the enlightening force. It is outside us; but we close the eye, and will not let it shine within. It may be, it is, true that in God we live, and move, and have our being: that we cannot flee from his presence: that he has beset us behind and before, and laid his hand upon us; £ and yet we may, like Cain, “go out from the presence of the Lord,” and be out of fellowship with him; we may, yea, we shall, remain unillumined by his brightness, and unsaved by his revelation of himself, unless we first learn to own our guilt, to take our right place as sinful men before a holy God. To this the Apostle John urges. Hence observe—
1. Confession. “If we confess our sins” (verse 9); “not only acknowledge them, but acknowledge them openly in the face of men” (so Westcott). Unquestionably, open confession forms an essential part of our duty (cf. Rom_10:9). The open confession before men of Jesus as our Saviour from sin, obviously includes as its basis the acknowledgment of the sin from which we are to be saved. Certainly there must be
(1) confession before God (Psa_32:5), and
(2) confession and restitution before man where the wrong has been to man (Luk_19:8; James 6:16). This first duty will have a twofold issue. Where sin is thus confessed, there will be
(1) forgiveness,
(2) cleansing; and both these are guaranteed to the penitent by
(a) the faithfulness and
(b) the justice of God.
Faithfulness in the fulfillment of the promise; and justice, in that, when the penitent puts away sin by forsaking it, God puts it away by forgiving it, through his method of mercy in Jesus Christ.
2. Walking in the light is the second duty. We walk in the light, and God is in the light. Ours is to be constant advance; God’s is permanent being. When once a penitent has by confession avowedly quitted the realm of darkness, he at once begins to move on in light, and towards fuller light. This second duty will also have a twofold issue.
(1) Fellowship. Sin is the great separator of man from God, and of men from one another. We “turn every one to his own way.” Jesus is the great Reconciler, and thus the Restorer of the ruptured fellowship.
(2) The efficacy of the blood of Christ will then be fully realized. Few verses in Scripture have suffered so much as this seventh verse, by being first halved and then isolated. It must be read as a whole, and the full force of” the elongated present” must be given to each verb. “If we are walking in the light, as he is in the light, we are having fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son IS CLEANSING US from all sin;” i.e., the redeeming efficacy of the work of the Son of God is disclosing itself as a practical power, by removing the estrangement and the foulness which sin had brought. It can no longer be a question—Is Christ a Redeemer? for there will be the living, the manifest proof that he is so, in our being cleansed through him from guilt and sin, and restored to communion with God and to loving fellowship with our brother. Then, then, he who is the Light will not only have transferred us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, but will actually have transformed us from being darkness to becoming light in the Lord. Then will the light and purity of heaven be reflected in us on earth, and we, while living on earth, shall be steadily moving toward the brighter light above.
The apostle’s aim and method.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,” etc.
I. HERE IS AN OBJECT EMINENTLY WORTHY OF AN APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST. “That ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” St. John sought to lead his readers into:
1. Participation in the highest fellowship. “That ye also may have fellowship with us,” etc. (verse 3). The word “fellowship,” or “communion,” signifies “the common possession of anything by various Persons.” By the “with us” we understand the apostles and others, who had been eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ. And St. John’s aim was that his readers should participate in the truth and trust, the life and love, which the older generation of Christian disciples already possessed; that they should share in his own highest and holiest experiences. And it was not into an exalted human communion merely that the apostle endeavoured to lead his readers. “And truly” he says, “our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” In infinite condescension, the heavenly Father and the Divine Son admit Christian believers into vital and intimate communion with themselves. This fellowship is a thing of character and of life. They who share in it are “begotten of God;” they have “become partakers of the Divine nature; and they realize with joy the Divine presence. The apostle sought to lead his readers into:
2. Realization of perfect joy. “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” Hitherto the joy of those to whom St. John wrote had not been full; for their acquaintance with Christian truth had been imperfect and partial. By the fuller disclosures of that truth he hopes that their joy may be fulfilled. How rich and manifold and abundant is the joy of the true Christian! The joy of the forgiveness of sins, of reconciliation with God, of progress in truth and holiness, of hope of future perfection and glory. Our Lord said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” “Rejoice evermore.”
II. HERE ARE MEANS EMINENTLY ADAPTED TO ACCOMPLISH THIS OBJECT. St. John endeavoured to attain his aim by declaration of the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice:
1. The title applied to him. “The Word of life.” Each term of this title demands consideration.
(1) The Word—the Logos (cf. Joh_1:1). “The term Logos,” says Canon Liddon, “denotes at the very least something intimately and everlastingly present with God, something as internal to the Being of God as thought is to the soul of man. In truth, the Divine Logos is God reflected in his own eternal thought. In the Logos God is his own object. This infinite thought, the reflection and counterpart of God, subsisting in God as a Being or hypostasis, and having a tendency to self-communication,—such is the Logos. The Logos is the thought of God, not intermittent and precarious like human thought, but subsisting with the intensity of a personal form. The expression suggests the further inference that, since reason is man’s noblest faculty, the uncreated Logos must be at least equal with God … The Logos necessarily suggests to our minds the further idea of communicativeness. The Logos is speech as well as thought.”
(2) The life which is predicated of the Word. “The Word of life.” We cannot define this life. Its essential nature is hidden from us. But life in an extraordinary sense and degree is attributed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Twice he himself said, “I am the Life.” And St. John says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “As the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself.” He is the Giver of life to others. “All things were made by him,” etc. “I came,” said he, “that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.” “As the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son also quickeneth whom he will.” He has life in himself, and he is the great Bestower of all life to others. And his life is eternal. It “was from the beginning.” He existed before creation, and before time, and his existence is independent of time. “We declare unto you that eternal life.” He is ever-living and unchangeable.
2. His intimate communion with God the Father. “That eternal life which was with the Father” (cf. Joh_1:1). “The Word was with God.” “He was not merely: παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, ’along with God,’ but πρὸς τὸν Θεόν. This last preposition expresses,” says Canon Liddon, “beyond the fact of coexistence or immanence, the more significant fact of perpetuated intercommunion. The face of the everlasting Word, if we may dare so to express ourselves, was ever directed towards the face of the everlasting Father.” Or, as Ebrard expresses it, the life “was towards the father.… A life which did indeed flow forth from the bosom of the Father, but which did at once return back into the bosom of the Father in the ceaseless flow of the inmost being of God.”
3. His manifestation to men. “And the life was manifested, and we have seen,” etc. “The Word” also suggests the idea of revelation or communication; for the Logos is not only reason, but discourse; not only thought, but the expression of thought. The life was manifested in the Person of Jesus Christ—in his words and works and life amongst men. It was exhibited gloriously in his splendid triumph over death by his resurrection. “It was not possible that he should be holden of it.” “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,” etc. We have said that these means—the declaration of the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ—were eminently adapted to lead men into participation in the highest fellowship and realization of perfect joy. The statement is capable of ample proof.
(1) A right relation to God is essential to fellowship with him and to true joy. For us, who have sinned against him, reconciliation to him and trust in him must become facts before we can have any communion with him.
(2) A true knowledge of God is essential to right relation to him. If we regard him as a stern Lawgiver, offended, resentful, implacable, we cannot even approach unto him. And the guilty conscience is prone to entertain such views of him.
(3) The true knowledge of God is attainable through Jesus Christ. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” In Jesus Christ, God is revealed unto us as “a just God and a Saviour,” as mighty and merciful, as faithful and forgiving, as infinitely holy and gracious and full of compassion. Such a revelation of God is attractive; it is fitted to melt the heart into penitence, to awaken its confidence in him, and to draw it to him in the fellowship of life and light.
III. HERE IS AN AGENT EMINENTLY QUALIFIED TO USE THESE MEANS. The apostle was qualified by various and competent knowledge of him concerning whom he wrote.
1. He had heard his voice. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard.” St. John and his fellow-apostles had heard his words on very many occasions both in public discourse and in private conversation.
2. He had seen his human form and his mighty works. “That which we have seen with our eyes The Life was manifested, and we have seen it.” There is, perhaps, a special reference to his having seen hint accomplish his great and beneficent miracles. But the apostles had seen their Master in various circumstances and conditions. They had seen him in his majesty and might quelling the tempest and raising the dead to life; and they had seen him exhausted and weary. They had seen him bleeding and dying on the cross; and they had seen him after he had risen again from the dead. John and two others had seen him bowed in anguish in Gethsemane; and they had seen him radiant in glory on Hermon.
3. He had intently contemplated him. “That which we looked upon,” or beheld. This looking upon him is more internal and continuous than the having seen hint with their eyes. With the most intense and affectionate and reverent interest the apostle contemplated him.
4. He had handled his sacred body. The hands of John and the other apostles must frequently have touched the body of their Divine Master. But there is, perhaps, special reference to the touching of him after his resurrection: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me,” etc. (Luk_24:39). “He saith to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands,” etc. (Joh_20:27). Thus we see how eminently qualified St. John was to testify concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. How conclusive is the testimony which he bears! And how fitted is such an agent with such means to introduce men into the blessed fellowship and the perfect joy! Have we entered into this high fellowship? Do we realize this sacred and perfect joy? Let those who are strangers to these hallowed nod blessed experiences seek them through Jesus Christ – W.J.
The great message.
“This then is the message which we have heard of him,” etc. Notice two preliminary points.
1. That the Christian minister has received message from the Lord Jesus Christ. He spoke to his apostles and to many others. He revealed unto them God the Father, and the great truths concerning human redemption. He still speaks to us through the sacred Scriptures.
2. That the Christian minister should announce this message to others. It is his duty not to preach the theories of men, but the truth of God, and especially the truth revealed by Jesus Christ. There has been too much preaching of our ecclesiastical and theological-isms instead of the great and gracious truths of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour. In our text St. John briefly announces the great message which he had received from his Divine Master: “that God is Light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Light is frequently associated with the Divine Being in the Bible. It is his vesture. “Thou coverest thyself with light as with a garment” (
Psa_104:2). It abides with him. “The light dwelleth with him” (Dan_2:22). He abides in it. “Dwelling in light unapproachable.” It accompanies his manifestations. “His brightness was as the light” (Hab_3:4). He is the great Source of all illuminations. “The Father of lights” (Jas_1:17). He calls his people to dwell and to walk in light. “Who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pe_2:9); “Ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph_5:8). Our Lord claimed to be “the Light of the world” (Joh_8:12). His “life was the light of men” (Joh_1:4). But in our text light is said to be the essence of the Divine Being. “God is Light.” Of all material things light is most fitted to set forth truth and holy spiritual being. “It unites in itself,” as Alford says, “purity, and clearness, and beauty, and glory, as no other material object does.” And Milton, “Light ethereal, first of things, quintessence pure.” The emblem suggests—
I. THE INFINITE INTELLIGENCE OF GOD. He is the Omniscient. “No intellectual ignorance can darken his all-embracing survey of actual and possible fact.” “Unto him all hearts are open, all desires known, and from him no secrets are hid.” “O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine uprising,” etc. (Psa_139:1-6); “He telleth the number of the stars,” etc. (Psa_147:4, Psa_147:5); “He knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psa_44:21); “God knoweth all things” (1Jn_3:20); “I know thy works,” etc. (Rev_2:2, Rev_2:9, Rev_2:13, Rev_2:19; Rev_3:1, Rev_3:8, Rev_3:15). Every sparrow is known unto him (Luk_12:6, Luk_12:7). Let us endeavour to personally realize this great and solemn truth: God knows me always and thoroughly.
II. THE ENLIGHTENING INFLUENCE OF GOD. He created the light of the material universe. “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” He is the great Fountain of all intellectual and moral light. He inspired Bezaleel to devise and execute skillful handiwork (Exo_31:1-5). The scientist, the metaphysician, the statesman, the poet, the artist, each and all derive their light from him. He communicates religious truth to man. He inspired, and still inspires, the great religious thinkers, and the far and clear-sighted spiritual seers of our race. By his Son Jesus Christ he “lighteth every man” (Joh_1:9).
III. THE LIFE-GIVING AND INVIGORATING INFLUENCE WHICH GOD EXERTS. Light cannot create life; but it quickens, develops, and strengthens it. “Physical light,” says Ebrard, “appears to be the producing, forming, quickening principle of all organization, in its essence self-communicative, and the stimulating principle of all physical organic functions of life.” Light is essential to every kind of life with which we are acquainted. Without it our world would speedily become one vast, dreary, dread abode of the dead. Great forces also of various kinds are produced from light. As George Stephenson pointed out, it is light which propels so swiftly our long and heavy railway trains. “It is light bottled up in the earth for tens of thousands of years, light absorbed by plants and vegetables being necessary for the condensation of carbon during the process of their growth, if it be not carbon in another form; and now, after being buried in the earth for long ages in fields of coal, that latent might is again brought forth and liberated—made to work, as in that locomotive, for great human purposes.” God is the great Author of all life and of all force. He created the physical universe, and he sustains it. The forces of nature are expressions of his awful or beautiful might. Evolution is a mode of Divine operation. And the life and strength of souls he inspires and renews. He inspires the soul with life. “You being dead in your sins hath he quickened” (Col_2:13). The true Christian “is born of the Spirit” (Joh_3:8); he “is born of God” (1Jn_3:9). And God imparts and renews strength to his people. “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength,” etc. (Isa_40:29-31).
IV. THE EXISTENCE OF GOD AS A TRINITY IN UNITY. This is at least suggested by speaking of him as Light. In two ways does light suggest the triunity of God. “The researches of Young and Helmholtz,” says Mr. Sugden, “have proved beyond the possibility of doubt that the three primary colours are red, green, and violet, and that by various combinations of these three all the colours with which we are acquainted are produced; whilst the combination of all three in equal proportions gives white light, apparently one simple and homogeneous sensation, but in reality a compound of three. Have we not here a most striking illustration, if not more than an illustration, of the Christian truth about the nature of God, which teaches us that he is a Trinity in unity—three Persons, and one God?… As Luthardt well says, ’God has, in the history of salvation, revealed himself in a triune manner—as Father, Son, and Spirit; and we, in that work of appropriating salvation, through which we become Christians, have experience of God according to this distinction, viz. as him to whom we are reconciled, and as the Spirit who has inwardly appropriated to us the grace of reconciliation, and made it the power of a new life to us. Thus do we become certain that there are distinctions in the Godhead, that God is the triune God.’” Light suggests the same truth in another way. It is thus stated by Professor Lias: “When we reflect on the threefold nature of light, its enlightening, its warming, its chemical powers, we are reminded of the Holy Trinity—the unapproachable Light himself; his eternal Revealer, bringing light to earth, and quickening by his genial warmth the frozen hearts of men; and the eternal Spirit, dwelling in their hearts, and slowly bringing his healing influences to bear upon their diseased souls.”
V. THE PERFECT HOLINESS OF GOD. Light is pure and purifying. It visits scenes of corruption and decay, and exercises a cleansing and healing influence there, and pursues its glorious course without having contracted any taint, still absolutely pure. Fit emblem of the infinite holiness of the great God. “No stain can soil his robe of awful sanctity.” He is preeminently “the Holy One.” “Thou only art holy.” The highest intelligences ceaselessly praise him, crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.” “His name is holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place.” His holiness is the glory of his Being. He is “glorious in holiness.” As if to set forth the entire purity and perfection of the Divine nature considered as light, St. John says, “And in him is no darkness at all.” No kind of darkness whatsoever has any place in him. “Neither ignorance, nor error, nor sin, nor death” is found in him.
1. Let us reverence this great and holy Being.
2. Let us seek his life-giving, enlightening, and invigorating influences – W.J.
1Jn_1:6, 1Jn_1:7
The condition and consequences of fellowship with God.
“If we say that we have fellowship with him,” etc.
I. THE CONDITION OF FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. St. John states this condition both negatively and positively.
1. Negatively. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
(1) There may be a profession of fellowship with God, while the practice is utterly opposed to his character and will. We have spoken of this fellowship in our treatment of the third verse. To “walk” is an expression frequently used in the sacred Scriptures to indicate the entire life, with special reference to its outward aspects. To “walk in darkness” is to live in the practice of sin. In St. John’s time there were persons who claimed to have communion with the Light, but walked in the darkness. The Gnostics professedly devoted their souls to the pursuit of the highest knowledge, and yet were guilty of the vilest sins with their bodies, alleging “that the flesh was so corrupt that no filthiness of life could affect it.”
(2) That such profession, joined with such practice, is a twofold lie. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in the darkness, we lie.” Here is the lie of the lip. The profession is untrue. “And do not the truth.” Here is the lie of the life. The practice is opposed to truth. Truth is not only to be spoken, but acted. Life should be brought into harmony with the eternal verities. The truth acknowledged in the creed should be expressed in the conduct. But in this case supposed truth is neither spoken nor acted.
2. Positively. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” “This walking in the light, as he is in the light,” says Alford, “is no mere imitation of God, but is an identity in the essential element of our daily walk with the essential element of God’s eternal Being; not imitation, but coincidence and identity of the very atmosphere of life.” “The light” denotes “the sphere of the manifestation of the good and the God-like.” The words of St. Paul, in Eph_5:8, Eph_5:9, considerably elucidate this verse: “Ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth).” As Meyer says, the “whole of Christian morality is here presented under its three great aspects—the good, the right, the true.” If we would express the meaning of the apostle’s phrase, “walking in the light,” in a single word, “holiness” is the word best suited to that purpose. We discover three ideas in this expression of St. John.
(1) Life in sympathy with holiness. The heart beating in harmony with the light.
(2) Life in the practice of holiness. The inward principle expressed in the outward conduct. The light of the heart shining in the life.
(3) Life progressing in holiness. He who walks is not stationary, but advancing. The godly soul “follows on to know the Lord;” “presses on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” This, then, is the condition of fellowship with God—walking in the light; holiness of heart and of life.
1. Fellowship with the saints. “We have fellowship one with another.” The reality of our communion with God is attested by our communion of love with those who are his. Walking in the sphere of truth, righteousness, and love, we have fellowship with all those who walk in the same sphere. All who walk in the light are one in their deepest sympathies, in their most steadfast principles, in their most important aims, and in their highest aspirations; they are one in character, in service, and in destiny. Hence their communion with each other is genuine, vital, and blessed.
2. Sanctification through the Saviour. “And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” This implies that even they who walk in the light need cleansing from sin. “The requirement that we walk in the light, is confronted by the fact that in us there still is sin and darkness.” Notice:
(1) The power by which we are cleansed. “The blood of Jesus his Son.” Not the material blood of Jesus, but his blood in its moral significance and strength. “The life of the flesh is in the blood” (Le Joh_17:11); “The blood is the life” (Deu_12:23). The blood of Jesus denotes the sacrifice of the life of Jesus for us. The power of that sacrifice is chiefly the power of holy and purifying love. It is the fullest and mightiest expression of the infinite love of God the Father toward us, who “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all;” and of the infinite love of Jesus his Son toward us in his voluntary self-sacrifice. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.” Holy love received into the heart, by its own essential nature, is cleansing in its influence. In proportion as the love of God in the death of Jesus Christ is heartily believed, will sin be hated and holiness loved and cultivated.
(2) The progressiveness of this cleansing. “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us.” The apostle uses the present tense. He does not write “cleansed,” or “hath cleansed,” but “is cleansing us.” The cleansing is not accomplished at once and for ever. It is a continual process. The precious blood of Christ exerts its purifying and sanctifying influence until the heart and the life are thoroughly cleansed from all sin.
(3) The thoroughness of this cleansing. “Cleanseth us from all sin.” No sin-stains are so deep as to defy its power. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” etc. (Isa_1:18; cf. Eze_36:25; Heb_9:13, Heb_9:14).
Let our earnest endeavour be to walk in the light, and to trust in the great and gracious Saviour – W.J.
Man’s attitude towards his own sins.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” etc. It is implied that man is a sinner, that even Christian men “have sin.” The renewed nature is not, in our present condition, an altogether sinless nature. The saintly apostle includes himself in the “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” etc. But this is not the same moral condition as “walking in the darkness” (1Jn_1:6). In that condition the man “is in the darkness;” in this, the sin is in the man. In that, darkness is the moral region in which the sinner lives and moves and has his being; in this, he lives and walks in the light, but is not altogether free from sin. Our text sets before us two contrasted attitudes of men towards their own sins.
I. THE DENIAL OF PERSONAL SINS. “If we say that we have no sin,” etc. (1Jn_1:8). “If we say that we have not sinned,” etc. (1Jn_1:10). Notice:
1. This denial itself. It may be made variously.
(1) By affirming that we are flee from sin. There may be persons whose view of the exalted claims of God’s holy law is so deficient, and whose estimate of their own character and conduct is so exaggerated, that they think and assert that they have no sin.
(2) By pleading the merit of certain good actions as a set-off against our sins. In this case certain small and venial sins are acknowledged, but very many virtuous and generous deeds are claimed, and great merit is ascribed to them, and they are held to far more than counterbalance the slight offences. Or, like the Pharisee (Luk_18:11, Luk_18:12), a man may conclude that he has no sin by comparing himself and his good works with others whom he deems very much his inferiors.
(3) By extenuating the character of sin. There are not a few who virtually deny the fact of sin altogether. What the Bible calls sin they speak of as misdirection, imperfect development, inherited tendencies to errors of life; and thus they seek to get rid of personal guilt.
2. The consequences of this denial.
(1) The self-deception of the denier. “He deceiveth himself.” By closing his eyes to the light of truth and holiness, he is wandering into moral error, falsehood, and danger. He sins against his own soul.
(2) The manifestation of the solemn fact that the truth of God is not in him. Saying that he has no sin, he testifies that neither the truth of the perfect holiness of God, nor that of the sinfulness of man, is realized by him.
(3) The negation of the Divine veracity. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar.” God has repeatedly declared that all men are sinners (Rom_3:10-18). All the provisions and arrangements for man’s redemption imply that he is a sinner and spiritually lost. But if any man has not sinned, these declarations are untrue, and redemption itself is based upon falsehood. How dreadful a thing it is to “make him a liar”!
(4) The manifestation of the fact that the Word of God is not in him. By “his Word” (1Jn_1:10) we do not understand the eternal and personal Word (as in 1Jn_1:1), but, as Ebrard says, “the collective revelation of God, not merely that which is contained in the written words of the Old and New Testaments, but the entire self-annunciation of the nature of God, who is Light.” The whole revelation of the mind and will of God teaches that man is a sinner; he who says that he has not sinned contradicts that revelation, and in so doing shows that the spirit of that revelation is not in him.
II. THE CONFESSION OF PERSONAL SINS. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1. The confession itself. The confession, to be valid, must be sincere; it must be the expression of penitence. The apostle means more than a vague, general confession of sin. It is to be feared that many join in the “general confession” in church every Sunday without any true realization of their personal guiltiness, and whose confession, consequently, cannot be acceptable unto God. Our confession must be personal and particular; it must spring from the heart, and its sincerity must be evinced in the life. Confession must be made to God. In our text there is no suggestion whatever of confession to a priest. Confession to man is binding only when we have injured man, and then the confession should be made to the injured person or persons. But the confession and forgiveness of which our text speaks are things which transpire between the penitent soul and the pardoning God.
2. The consequences of this confession.
(1) Forgiveness of our sins. As a consequence of genuine personal confession of sins, God exempts us from their spiritual penalties, sets us free from their guilt, and delivers us from condemnation. How completely and graciously God forgives (Psa_103:12; Isa_38:17; Isa_44:22; Isa_55:6, Isa_55:7; Mic_7:10; Luk_15:20-24)!
(2) Cleansing from our sins. “And to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Purification is promised as well as pardon; sanctification as well as justification. Of this sanctification we have already spoken (1Jn_1:7).
(3) The guarantee of these blessings. “He is faithful and just [Revised Version, ’righteous’] to forgive us our sins,” etc. The character of God is a pledge that the penitent shall receive pardon and purification. He has promised these blessings; he is faithful, and will fulfill his promises. He is faithful, not only to his promises, but to his own holy nature. “God is Light,” and he is true to himself in forgiving and sanctifying those who sincerely confess their sins. It seems to us that his righteousness here does not mean that, Christ having borne our sins and satisfied Divine justice, the forgiveness of all who believe on him is due to him or to them in him. That may be taught elsewhere, but we cannot discover it here. The justice or righteousness is that of the character of God; and pardon and purification from sin are bestowed in harmony with his righteousness. It may be, as Alford observes, that “in the background lie all the details of redemption, but they are not here in this verse: only the simple fact of God’s justice is adduced.” “Justice and mercy are forms of love. The same is true of righteousness, or right—this requires both justice and mercy; for no being can ever think himself righteous who does not exercise mercy where mercy is possible—’faithful and just’ (righteous), says an apostle, ’to forgive us our sins.’ God will be just, retributively, because he is righteous. He will also be merciful and forgiving because he is righteous.” £
Our subject presents the strongest reasons to dissuade us from attempting to cloak or deny our sins, and the strongest encouragement to humbly and heartily confess them unto God. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”—W.J.
1. What is thrown into prominence.
(1) The absolute concerning the Word of life. “That which was from the beginning.” By this form of expression we are taken back to a point which has existence only in thought, and from that point we are called to look forward. “That which was from the beginning,” or, strictly, “that which is timeless,” concerning the Word of life, viz. his Divine Personality and attributes, was included in the proclamation. It is put first as the grand background of the Incarnation. The Incarnate
One must be thought of as having timelessness and all that belongs to timelessness.
(2) The historical concerning the Word of life. “That which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled.” John uses the plural number, as writing in the name of the apostles, of whom he was the sole survivor. There could also be predicated of Christ that he was the Object of sensuous perception. This was not from the beginning, but in time. We thus come upon the historical existence of Christ. “That which we have heard.” In accordance with the context, we are to think only of what they had heard from the lips of Christ. They had been so near him as actually to hear him speaking. They had heard him when he spoke the sermon on the mount, when he taught them to pray, when he bade the sea be still, when he uttered the seven voices on the cross, when he saluted them after his resurrection, when he blessed them in parting from them. “Have heard.” That which they had heard—the words and tone of voice—was their permanent possession; and it is the permanent possession of the Church still in substance, though not now associated with impressions through the sense of hearing. “That which we have seen with our eyes.” Some had only come into contact with those who had seen Christ: they had seen him with their own eyes. They had seen him when he was teaching, when he was walking on the sea, when he was transfigured, when he was hanging on the cross, when he was risen, when he was going up into heaven. “Have seen.” The impressions received through the sense of sight remained with them, instead of which we have only the descriptions of the evangelists. “That which we beheld.” By a change of verb we are referred to seeing with an intention, and by a change of tense we are referred to separate acts. On occasion after occasion they looked purposely, and satisfied themselves that he was indeed bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. “And our hands handled.” This is joined closely in the same tense to what goes before. They had the solid evidence of handling on which to proceed. They not only touched, but touched with an intention. They must often have felt the touch of his hand; and we can think of them looking forward to an opportunity, and satisfying themselves, in the actual contact, that he was indeed their own flesh. There was one remarkable occasion after his resurrection; when he stood suddenly in the midst of them, they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they beheld a spirit; and he asked them to go beyond beholding. “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having.” And apparently they were each favoured with the convincing evidence of handling him.
(3) The designation of Christ as the Word of life. “Concerning the Word of life.” In the introduction to his Gospel John calls Christ” the Word.” The natural interpretation is that he is the Word in relation to God, as essentially manifesting God. Instead of God here we have Life, which therefore is to be taken as a designation of God. Created life has only a partial significance; life in its absolute significance is only to be found in God. The chief elements of life are consciousness, activity, gladness; in the Word, God sees brought out the infinite richness of his own conscious, active, glad life.
2. Parenthetical statement.
(1) Designation of Christ as the Life. “And the Life.” In the former designation God is thought of as the Life; now Christ, as essentially manifesting God in the particular aspect, is designated the Life (Joh_1:4).
(2) Another manifestation which is connected with the evidence of sight. “Was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness.” As the Word, Christ was manifested to God; but here we come upon another manifestation. The reference is to the Incarnation, or his becoming flesh (as it is expressed in Joh_1:14). As the Word, he was hidden from men; as the Incarnate, he was manifested to men, specially to the apostles. He came within the sphere of their vision, and they were put in the position of eye-witnesses to the Life as manifested.
(3) The second manifestation not announced out of connection with the first. “And declare unto you the Life, the eternal Life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” They realized the importance of making public the manifestation of the Life to them, but, at the same time, what he was before being manifested to them. He was eternal; while entering into time, in the life which essentially belonged to him, he was timeless. He was also with the Father—a Companion, as it were, in whom the fatherly love found its object. This was the blessed concealment out of which he came. It is only when the Incarnation is thus connected that its graciousness appears. He who manifested the fullness of the Divine life was manifested in a form level to sense. He who was manifested eternally was manifested in time. He who was manifested with the Father was manifested in the midst of uncongenial society.
3. Former statement, which was left incomplete, resumed. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also.” We are not told who the recipients of this Epistle were. They were not all Christians, for, having declared their message to others, they declared it to them also. Their message was based on facts for which they had the evidence of sight and hearing. In accordance with what has been said, they presented those facts with their proper setting, viz. as facts in time concerning him who was before all time. They also presented them with their proper interpretation, viz. as showing the Divine desire for human salvation. This gave a great simplicity and power to their preaching: they had a few facts to tell, which they themselves could attest. Christ is not now in the world, so that we can have faith founded on the testimony of our own senses of sight and hearing; but we can have faith founded on apostolic testimony. We owe a debt of gratitude to the apostles that they were as careful witnesses, looking purposely and handling purposely, and that they took such pains to make their testimony known; and we owe a debt of gratitude to the great Head of the Church, who made use of them for the eliciting and establishing of our faith.
1. Aim of the apostolic proclamation.
(1) Fellowship with apostles. “That ye also may have fellowship with us.” Fellowship depends, to a great extent, on a common range of experience. There were saving experiences which the apostles enjoyed, in connection with which many had fellowship with them; they wished these, too, to have fellowship with them in connection with the same experiences. Therefore they preached the Incarnation to them, for that was the condition of those experiences being enjoyed.
(2) Fellowship with God. “Yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” Of far more importance than having fellowship, even with apostles, is having fellowship with God. This is the principal end for which we are associated. We have fellowship with the Father. In his fatherly love he enters into all our experiences, and we have to enter into his loving thoughts and purposes and to share in his peace and joy. We have fellowship with the Father, as identified with his Son Jesus Christ—him whom he sent forth on the errand of human salvation. From his human experiences, even of death, the Son can enter into all our experiences; and we are to be encouraged to enter into sympathy with him in the whole extent of his saving work. The apostles proclaimed the Incarnation, that, within the Christian circle, this elevating fellowship might be promoted.
2. Aim of this Epistle. “And those things we write, that our joy may be fulfilled.” It is implied that his letter was in keeping with the apostolic proclamation. In the joy of the experiences connected with the Incarnation there was one element of pain. It was the feeling that man did not share, or did not share more fully, in the joy of these experiences. He sought relief from this pain in writing. He had some joy in his readers experiencing the joy of the Incarnation; he wished to have his joy completed in the completion of their joy. This was the apostle’s feeling, which, as the last of the apostles, he was conserving in the name of all – R.F.
Message from Christ brought to bear on fellowship with God.
I. NATURE OF GOD, “And this is the message which we have heard from him, and announce unto you, that God is Light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Christ’s message is supported by the conviction that he has a message to deliver. The apostolic message, which has still to be delivered, was received directly from the lips of Christ. It has particular reference to the nature of God, viz. his being Light, with which we are to associate infinite clearness of truth and infinite purity. He is Light, to the absolute exclusion of darkness, there being in him not the slightest trace of error, not the slightest speck of impurity. The light of the sun is a fit, though only an imperfect, symbol of his truth and purity. Christ may have given the revelation in these words, though they are not to be found in the Gospels. It is implied in his being the Light, while at the same time the Word (Joh_1:1-9). It was because he manifested the essential light-nature of God that he was Light-bringer to men. We do not have here the good message (language which John nowhere uses), viz. mercy to men, though there may be suggestion of this in the great diffusiveness of light. We have that which mercy presupposes in God and seeks to diffuse among men.
1. First false position.
(1) Stated. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in the darkness.” The three hypothetical sayings, introduced in the same way (“if we say”), are unchristian. As one who would be warned as well as others, John includes himself. Christians, according to the conception in verse 3, are those who say that they have fellowship with God. The position supposed here is saying this while we walk in the darkness,
i.e., while we habitually move in this element—while we keep our life away from true and pure influences, loving error and impurity.
(2) Condemned. “We lie, and do not the truth.” Our lie is saying that we have fellowship with God. Our doing not the truth evidences our lie. We make our life a contradiction of the nature of God, which is light, and thus necessarily unfit ourselves for fellowship with God; for what concord hath light with darkness? It cannot be held that we can be indifferent to our manner of life and yet maintain friendship with God.
2. First opposed position.
(1) Stated. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light.” This is the Christian supposition opposed to the other. As one who would be confirmed, John includes himself. Let us also include ourselves. Light is the Divine clement; let it also be ours. God is in the light, i.e., has absolute fixedness in it. We are to walk in the light, i.e., to throw our life open to all true and pure influences, thus moving forward toward his fixedness.
(2) Justified. One good consequent. “We have fellowship one with another.” This results from our walking in the light. Having a common clement for our life, and therefore common sympathies and antipathies, the foundation is laid for our having fellowship one with another. This, according to the Johannine teaching, is closely related to our having fellowship with God. But how are we to be fitted for this higher fellowship? The answer is given in what follows. By walking in the light, we come within the influence of the blood of Christ. Another good consequent. “And the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
(a) A present power. The blood of Christ refers to the death of Christ, but is to be distinguished from it in marking it as having present virtue. It is a great living reality of the present. It is mentioned, along with other verities, in the twelfth of Hebrews: “Ye are come… to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
(b) A human-Divine power. It is the blood of Jesus, and therefore human blood; but it is also the blood of God’s Son, and therefore blood of infinite virtue.
(c) A cleansing power. It is blood that cleanses, because it was shed in satisfaction for sin. The cleansing is with a view to our having fellowship with God. There was constant instruction in this truth under the Jewish dispensation. The cleansing, in accordance with verse 9, is to be referred to sanctification. Even after we have been cleansed from guilt, we need to be cleansed from impure thoughts and desires, in order that we may be fitted for fellowship with him who is Light. Our whole dependence for sanctification must be on the efficacy of the blood, along with the agency of the Spirit.
(d) A universal power. It is blood that cleanses from all sin. The light-nature of God is constantly revealing the presence of sinful elements in our nature. We have the remedy in the blood of Christ, which will gradually remove all sinful elements, until, thoroughly purified, we are as fitted as creatures can be for holding converse with him who is a consuming fire to all sin.
3. Second false position.
(1) Stated. “If we say that we have no sin.” This goes back on the previous thought, viz. the cleansing away of the remaining impurity, until we are completely fitted for fellowship with God. What if this is unnecessary? if our sanctification is already completed? This is the supposition which is now made.
(2) Condemned. “We deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” It is too violent a supposition to be entertained in ignorance. It can only be entertained where there has been a considerable amount of self-activity in the way of presenting to the mind deceitful appearances—sophisms, such as the Gnostic idea of superior enlightenment. While there is the activity of self-deception, there is not the activity of the truth. If it were active in us, it would show us that there was much remaining evil to be overcome.
4. Second opposed position.
(1) Stated. “If we confess our sins.” The precise converse would have been saying that we have sin. There is a going beyond that to the practice of the Christian duty of confession, which is literally,” a saying along with,” i.e., along with God. It is a duty which cannot be performed unless with feelings of penitence, arising from a proper view of what we are and have done. What we are to confess is not merely that we have sin, i.e., have the taint still in us, are not completely sanctified; but we are to confess particular manifestations of sin. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil.” David had his sin brought home to him very pointedly, “Thou art the man!” and he did not then hide it, but confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” “It is much easier to make pious speeches to the effect that we are sinners in a general way, and expressive of general deep contrition, and of the misery engendered by sin, than to acknowledge the particular wrong we have done, and to endeavour as far as possible to repair it. Many who are ready enough to admit generally that they are sinners would be the first hotly to repel a charge of sinfulness on any one special point, so deep is the self-deception of the human heart, which is often furthest from God when the lips are busiest in honouring him.” Let our confessions have the particularity which is here suggested. Let them be founded on self-knowledge, and on self-knowledge in particular manifestations. The sorrow that prompts to confession cannot be all that it should be unless we clearly realize wherein we have violated the spirit of the Divine precepts and especially of the gospel.
(2) Justified. “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When particular sins are in question, there is brought in the blessing of forgiveness as well as of cleansing. God has pledged his word to forgive us our sins: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” He has also pledged his word to advance our sanctification: “I will put my Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.” This Scripture itself is a distinct promise. If, then, we walk in the light, and fulfill the specific condition, viz. confess our sins, we may with the utmost confidence look to God to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness of disposition which would lead to the commission of sin. He not only holds himself bound by his promise, but the promise is thoroughly in accordance with his nature. In view of what he has done in redemption, he regards it as not only a gracious thing, but even a righteous thing, to attach the double blessing to confession of our sins. Doing, then, what he commands, we can appeal to him, even as righteous, to bless us.
5. Third false position.
(1) Stated. “If we say that we have not sinned.” This is a very large assumption, even if we do not take into account our pre-Christian state: “We have never committed sin since we entered into union with Christ. It is going beyond the previous assumption, inasmuch as this involves complete sanctification from the beginning. This, then, is the most thorough-going perfectionism. Thus perfect, we may say with Christ, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” But what is said about the assumption?
(2) Condemned. “We make him a liar, and his Word is not in us.” The wildest assumption receives the severest condemnation. The blood of Christ is for our continual cleansing. God is therefore dealing with us on the supposition of our partial sanctification. To claim complete sanctification is to make him a liar, i.e., to contradict this supposition. It can be said, further, that his Word is not in us, i.e., is not evidenced in our consciousness in what it says about our state. We do not need to go beyond the petition which Christ put into the mouth of disciples, “Forgive us our sins.” It is the height of presumption to imagine that we can here outgrow the Lord’s Prayer – R.F.



Written By Miles J Stanford

There are two questions that every believer must settle as soon as possible. The one is, Does God fully accept me? and the second, If so, upon what basis does He do so? This is crucial. What devastation often permeates the life of one, young or old, rich or poor, saved or unsaved, who is not sure of being accepted, even on the human level.

Yet so many believers, whether “strugglers” or “vegetators,” move through life without this precious fact to rest and build on: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:5, 6).

Every believer is accepted by the Father, in Christ. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The peace is God’s toward us, through His beloved Son—on this our peace is to be based. God is able to be at peace with us through our Lord Jesus Christ, “having made peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). And we must never forget that His peace is founded solely on the work of the cross, totally apart from anything whatsoever in or from us, since “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Our faith becomes a fixed attitude once it begins to rest in this wonderful fact. Then it can be, if necessary, “disallowed [rejected] indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious” (I Pet. 2:4). This is the steadying influence most believers are in need of today. A century ago J.B. Stoney wrote: “The blessed God never alters nor diverges from the acceptance in which He has received us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Alas! we diverge from the state in which God can ever be toward us as recorded in Romans 5:1–11. Many suppose that because they are conscious of sins, hence they must renew their acceptance with God.

“The truth is that God has not altered. His eye rests on the work accomplished by Christ for the believer. When you are not walking in the Spirit you are in the flesh: you have turned to the old man which was crucified on the cross (Rom. 6:6). You have to be restored to fellowship, and when you are, you find your acceptance with God unchanged and unchangeable. When sins are introduced there is a fear that God has changed. He has not changed, but you have. You are not walking in the Spirit but in the flesh. You have to judge yourself in order to be restored. ‘For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ (Matt. 26:28). But if your sins are not met there, where can they be met? ‘Now where remission of [sin] is, there is no more offering for sin’ (Heb. 10:18). God has effected the reconciliation; He always remains true to it. Alas! We diverge from it; and the tendency is to suppose that the blessed God has altered toward us. He certainly will judge the flesh if we do not, but He never departs from the love which He has expressed to the prodigal, and we find that when the cloud, which walking in the flesh produced, has passed away, His love, blessed be His Name, had never changed.”

God’s basis must be our basis for acceptance. There is no other. We are “accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6) Our Father is fully satisfied with His beloved Son on our behalf, and there is no reason for us not to be. Our satisfaction can only spring from and rest in His satisfaction. It is from God to us, not from us to God. J. N. Darby was very clear on this: “When the Holy Spirit reasons with man, He does not reason from what man is for God, but from what God is to man. Souls reason from what they are in themselves as to whether God can accept them. He cannot accept you thus; you are looking for righteousness in yourself as a ground of acceptance with Him. You cannot get peace whilst reasoning in that way.

“The Holy Spirit always reasons down from what God is, and this produces a total change in my soul. It is not that I abhor my sins; indeed I may have been walking very well; but it is ‘I abhor myself.’ This is how the Holy Spirit reasons; He shows us what we are, and that is one reason why He often seems to be very hard and does not give peace to the soul, as we are not relieved until we experientially, from our hearts, acknowledge what we are.

“Until the soul comes to that point He does not give it peace—He could not; it would be healing the wound slightly. The soul has to go on until it finds there is nothing to rest on but the abstract goodness of God; and then, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ (Rom. 8:31).”

Sadly today, most believers actually reason just the opposite—from themselves to God. When all is going well and God seems to be blessing, then it is that they feel He loves and accepts them. But when they are stumbling and everything seems dry and hard, then they feel that He does not love and accept them. How can this be? There is nothing about us to commend us to God, our acceptance being in Christ, plus the fact that most of our true spiritual development comes through the dry and hard times. Thank God, He has accepted us in His Son, and upon this fact we must rest our faith. As in justification, our acceptance is by grace alone. In his classic, Romans, Verse by Verse, Wm. R. Newell presents some penetrating thoughts regarding this grace. (pp. 245-47).

“There being no cause in the creature why Grace should be shown, the creature must be brought off from trying to give cause to God for His Grace… He has been accepted in Christ, who is his standing! He is not ‘on probation.’ As to his life past, it does not exist before God: he died at the cross, and Christ is his Life. Grace, once bestowed, is not withdrawn: for God knew all the human exigencies beforehand: His action was independent of them, not dependent upon them…

“The Proper Attitude of Man Under Grace:

“To believe, and to consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret.
“To refuse to make ‘resolutions’ and ‘vows’; for that is to trust in the flesh.
“To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth…
“To rely on God’s chastening [child training] hand as a mark of His kindness…

“Things Which Gracious Souls Discover:

“To ‘hope to be better’ [hence acceptable] is to fail to see yourself in Christ only.
“To be disappointed with yourself, is to have believed in yourself.
“To be discouraged is unbelief,—as to God’s purpose and plan of blessing for you.
“To be proud, is to be blind! For we have no standing before God, in ourselves.
“The lack of Divine blessing, therefore, comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion…
“To preach devotion first, and blessing second, is to reverse God’s order, and preach law, not grace. The Law made man’s blessing depend on devotion; Grace confers undeserved, unconditional blessing: our devotion may follow, but does not always do so,—in proper measure.”

Have we been afraid to really believe God? Have some even been afraid to allow others to really believe Him? We must never forget that “God’s ways are not always man’s ways. To some men constant peril is the only spur to action, and many religions and psychologies are dependent on fear to keep their disciples in line. Fear, too, has a place in Christianity, but God has higher and more effective motivations than fear, and one of these is love. Often fear after a while produces only numbness, but love thrives on love. To promise a man the certainty of his destiny may seem, on the human level, like playing with fire; but this leaves God out of the picture. Those who have the deepest appreciation of grace do not continue in sin. Moreover, fear produces the obedience of slaves; love engenders the obedience of sons” (J. W. Sanderson, Jr.).

“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (I Cor. 14:8). Until the Christian is absolutely and scripturally sure of his standing, he is not going to do much standing. “Stand therefore” (Eph. 6:14).

“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (II Thess. 2:16, 17).