Hello again! It’s been a while since my last post. Here is another bible class written for the Rugby Christadelphians. You can also download the original pdf. Hope this study will be useful.
Good evening brethren and Sisters.
The first Epistle of John is commonly thought to be written between AD 95 – 110. However John A. T. Robinson in “Re-dating the New Testament” shows that these dates commonly upheld for the writing of New Testament are based on circular arguments. These ideas arise from a fundamental mistrust in the authority of the biblical manuscript. This is due to academics who take the stance of “false until proven otherwise”, and yet fail to look at the overwhelming Archaeological, prophetic evidence as a whole (because it is beyond their field of textual criticism, which ironically also attests to the veracity of the text). Therefore their conclusion is that the new testament books were not written as first hand accounts by the apostles themselves. If we trust the word of scripture, taking the text at face value, then the message it contains is opened before our eyes.
Notice that the Jewish wars and the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 are only prophetically mentioned in the New Testament (perhaps excepting the book of Revelation, the Apocalypse). With so much of the New Testament dedicated to warning the people of the catastrophic events on their doorstep, a time when the world that existed was obliterated by the Roman armies and the infighting of the various sects of the Jews. If written after AD 70, then what is the point of warning people about an event already taken place. These books were likely all written before AD 70 with the exception of the Apocalypse.
With this in mind, Robinson suggests the first Epistle of John was likely written around AD 60… as a warning to the people of the danger of the time leading to the destruction of the temple.
1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrist; whereby we know that it is the last time.
“This is that spirit of Antichrist which ye have heard shall come, and even now is already in the world”
Every Wind of Doctrine
So then with this in mind, let us wind back the clock to AD 60 and set the context of the chapter…
:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit… but try the spirits whether they be of God.For many false prophets are come into the world.
:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
The world here in verse 1 is the “Jewish world”, the bustling and complex cosmopolitan in the land of Israel. Daily passing through it’s borders both by Jews and Greeks, Romans and all manor of peoples from all four corners of the Roman empire. Josephus describes the two main Jewish sects of the day: the Sadducean priests of the temple believing exclusively in the written text of the Tanach (the old testament), and disavowing any belief not clearly indicated in the written scriptures; and the Pharisees. Who on the other hand, held the opinion that the Torah (law of Moses) was given in two parts – the “written law” which is the first 5 books of the bible, and the “oral law” which was supposedly passed on by word of mouth from Moses to his successors.
This “oral law” is said to be an explanation of the written law, “filling in the gaps” with the Babylonish Mysticism which is still alive today. This is preserved for us in the Mishnah written a hundred years after the first epistle of John, and over the following three hundred years the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds were written as explanations of the Mishnah. We know what the Pharisees taught, because their teaching is preserved and still upheld as orthodox Judaism to this day.
Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
These are the first of the false prophets that are come into the world. Christ says of them:
Mark 7:6 “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
:7 “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
:8 “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.”
:9 And he said unto them, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”
They had mixed Babylonish fables and philosophy and interwoven it with the true written words of Yahweh. With ideas such as immortality of the Soul and heaven going, there was no room for a Messiah that would restore the purity of the law and “turn the hearts of the children to the Fathers” of old. Instead they attempt to kill the Anointed king (the Messiah) to preserve their positions of authority with the people – “this is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.” (Luke 20:14)
The work of John against the spirit of Antichrist
John continues to face the animosity of the Jewish leaders after the death and resurrection of Christ, who try to preserve their traditions instead of accepting the original uncorrupted Torah. John worked closely with Peter specifically to build up the Jewish Ecclesia and defend them from the attack of the Pharisees. In the words of Paul… John was to “the circumcision”, as we read in Gal 2:9.
We also read of John’s work in Judea (Acts 3:1 – 4:31) and in Samaria (Acts 8:14), giving the background to the Epistle. Acts 3 describes Peter and John going into the temple to pray, and after healing a lame man answer the people with a declaration of the faith. The temple priests upon hearing these words, and after 5 thousand men respond to the truth that day, say amongst themselves.
Acts 4:17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
This confrontation with the Jewish leaders seems to spark the writing of John’s first epistle, to encourage his Jewish brethren.
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
So in our chapter, the first 6 verses continue to address the challenging situation the new Ecclesia had to face regarding the Jewish leaders.
1 John 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
This open enmity between the seed of the serpent, that generation of vipers as the lord says in Matthew 23, and the true gospel message was already in the world.
Acts 4:17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
Brethren and sisters, we are of God, we have been born of water and are being born of spirit to the perfecting of our character.
1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
However notice that second part, “little children”, a phrase used 9 times in the first epistle of John.
Matt 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
4 “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
5 “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”
Do we act as little children? Are we humble and pure of heart ignoring worldly distractions? Do we have that child like keen bright eyed enthusiasm for learning anything and everything about what is around us? How do we think and feel when opening up our bibles? Is it something we look forward to when we wake up, and is it the first thing we think of doing when coming home from work? Are we trying to understand what we read and do we ponder how to apply it in our lives? Are we excited meeting brethren and sisters, knowing we can discuss the gems of scripture with like minded people and encourage each other on the way? Sadly for me, not as much as it should.
Ye have overcome them
John continues saying they “have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”. The leaders of the Jewish world had no power over Christ, he spoke with authority and his miracles demonstrated that authority. Each denomination tried to trick him with crafty words, but always ended up shamed. They had no power to take him, except it was given them by his father.
Neither could Peter and John be silenced in their witnessing of him.
Matt 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in the valley of Hinnom.”
The Jewish leaders could kill them (if permitted by the father), but they could not take away their inheritance through the promises to Abraham at the resurrection. However Yahweh could take away both in the judgement of the Roman fire of AD70, just as their fathers were judged by the Babylonians for burning their children to Molech in the valley of Hinnom on the west side of Jerusalem.
Moving on to verse 5.
1 John 4:5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
There are those who allow themselves to be ruled by the flesh. They are of the world and they strive to build up this world, to keep their self earned positions of respect and wealth. Such a person does not have ears to hear, and will not hear the words of Yahweh because to do so would require giving up the world they love.
Those who are of God love not the world, nor the things of it. Therefore when their eyes are opened and they see the lies and hypocrisy the world is built upon.
1 John 4:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
God is love
In the rest of the chapter, the spirit through John moves to the most important theme in scripture. It’s one thing to reject the doctrines of anti-christ spirits, it’s another to actively embrace the spirit of Yahweh. It is one thing to denounce the doctrines of the spirits of this world, while it is another thing entirely to become a living part of the body of Christ.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God;for God is love.
Brethren and Sisters, I’d like to share bit of a story about my life. Having grown up in a Christadelphian family, scripture was very familiar… perhaps too familiar. During my teen years I made a promise to seek out and find what my purpose in life was, and what my heavenly father wanted of me. I started to ask questions about everything I could find in the scripture I had taken for granted, and reading the works of John Thomas answered many of those questions. Learning Hebrew allowed me to dig deeper and studying scripture for myself. Very quickly this thirst for knowledge and the ever increasing stream of answers caused the dilemma… why was I not baptised?!
After passing through the waters of baptism, the enthusiasm continued to rapidly increase and I became very zealous for my new found understanding of the wonders of scripture. Going to the meeting on a Sunday was an opportunity to “make a stand for the truth” by criticising the the speakers talk and discussing the current arguments in the brotherhood and how to combat the error and apathy that was seeping into the Ecclesia. I became embittered that other brethren and sisters didn’t share my zeal and didn’t discuss scripture after the breaking of bread. It got to the point where I spent 6 weeks breaking bread on my own at home because I could then spend the whole day studying my Hebrew bible.
For all the knowledge I had… I understood nothing. My desire for knowledge was self centred. How to build myself up to enter the kingdom of God? Over the next 10 years, my heavenly father broke me in many ways at various times; he used my health, money, food, family, and made my work life unbearable. Until I finally understood that everything I have is given from him, and he can take it away in a second… and give it all back just as quick. And most important of all, I was lacking love for my brethren and sisters. My focus was on building myself up, and not building up the body of Christ through love. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”, I didn’t love and I didn’t know God.
1John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
If we love our heavenly father, we will love our Brethren and Sisters which he has also begotten. As Christ says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”.
Our Fathers love demonstrated
When our heavenly father created this earth, he created Adam-kind in families. Why did he do that? So that naturally we will experience love and have the opportunity to show love. In this way our characters start to be developed to mirror his character, and his loving relationship with his people – Israel. He called out Abraham to be a family that would demonstrate his character, his glory to the whole earth… to be an example to all people inhabiting this globe (Gen 12:2,3).
Throughout the history of Israel, Yahweh tenderly nurtured Israel until they became apathetic and wandering only to return to him in distress. As we know, this cycle can be found throughout the scriptures. However we also see it in varying degrees throughout all our lives… we too wax and wane in our love for of father, as when our lives become easier the flesh rises up. As Paul says “O wretched man that I am” (Rom 7:24).
The spirit declares that “God is love”, and we see this in the very name that the great creator chose for himself. Yahweh, a name which summarises a desire that all peoples of the earth develop the character of the creator of the heavens and the earth.
But what is the character of that name, which was first nationally demonstrated by taking Israel out of Egypt? Is it to be found in the smashing to pieces of the Egyptian pride as their armies were washed away in the red sea? Both Moses and Elijah were shown the character of Yahweh in the cave on Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb) – Moses after in his jubilant song and Elijah after his jubilant run to Samaria ahead of the chariot of Ahab. Is the calling out of the gospel in the power of the earthquake, the stormy winds, the bolts of lightning ripping through rock, or the enfolding fire of the burning Cherubim. Are these the things which build up and strengthen the family that will fill the earth?
It is only by the still small voice of our heavenly father that builds people up. If his voice is ignored and men oppress men to the detriment of this purpose… then the other manifestations of the Character of the father are displayed. Just judgement is given to those who oppress the his family. However judgement is the last straw, for Yahweh is slow to anger.
Exo 34:6 And Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, Yahweh, Yahweh El (Power)…
Yes, Yahweh is powerful, unimaginably powerful. Men are but grass before the creator and sustainer of the Universe. However he is…
…merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Notice “mercy” comes first, judgement comes last. And what does that word “mercy” mean? It is the root word of a Hebrew word describing a mothers womb.
Our father ‘wombs’ us!
He provides safety and protection from harm, provides our food, our jobs, our homes, we owe everything to our heavenly father. And greatest of all, provides us with an understanding of his Character, shaping our lives that we may develop his Character. Sometimes that shaping is uncomfortable and requires patience and an understanding that our Father is in control of everything, and nothing can hurt us except he let it, and if he does, it is for a reason. And we may not understand that reason, like Job’s trials. Through which the Satan was reproved, possibility to repentance, perhaps unbeknown to Job; his three friends were shaped and brought to a better understanding of the character of our father; and Job himself was undoubtedly strengthened by the experience.
From Job’s experience we are all reminded that we are all part of a larger tapestry, an intricate weaving of lives together as one body, the body of Christ. Our lives affect the lives of others, and our Fathers shaping is as much for those around us, and those that know of us, as it is for us. We must comfortably accept this, and give Yahweh all the praise he deserves, knowing that…
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
The Word made flesh
The second characteristic of Yahweh is “gracious”, חן Chen from חנה Channah. We see the ultimate “grace” or self sacrificial giving in Hannah, when she gave up her only son Samuel, the miraculous son of her barren womb, to become part of the priesthood and become a light to the nation oppressed by Eli’s two wicked sons.
Yahweh revealed his character to us through his Son, Yashua, the word made flesh. That in him we may truly see and experience his love to us-as the gentile dogs that eat of the crumbs of the Jews. As John says,
1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Do we love one another? Do we give our time and effort to help one another? Christ did many miracles in his ministry, turning water into wine, feeding the five thousand, walking on water, calming the waves on the sea of Galilee. But the majority of his miracles were about the healing of people from life long debilitating illnesses. He cared very much for individuals, and was moved with compassion by there trials.
Personally I tend to be a little on the academic side when studying scripture, and it’s easy to forget that these were real people with real trials. Yes every parable, every miracle can be interpreted symbolically to represent the deaf, blind, lame spiritual state of nation of Israel in the last days before the Roman invasion. But this does still not change the fact that the lives of the people healed were touched in a life changing way.
Dwell in him and he in us
Bearing in mind that “God is love”, let us now look at verse 12:
1 John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
The word spirit here means wind or breath. Here spirit describes the breath of our Father in his words, and the character that they portray and induce in those who read with open mind. By loving, we demonstrate his spirit, his character, his mind is within us. Our love is perfected in the practice we have spending time with each other and learning to live with each others short comings.
John shows that we should be prepared to stand up and answer questions about our faith.
1 John 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
Or in other words, those in whom God dwells will confess that Jesus is the Son of God. They are ready to give an answer for the hope within them, they are ready to teach and build up the Ecclesia and all who seek the truth.
Matt 5:15 “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”
:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
We might ask ourselves, how open are we to sharing our pearl of great price? When asked questions at work or in the street… do we happily share the wisdom opened to us, or are we embarrassed to reveal our believes? Do we acknowledge our lord or do we deny him by our silence? Perhaps something for us all to think about.
We shall be as he is: love perfected
Do we fear the return of Christ?
1 John 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgement: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
These words are so very powerful for us! If we are as he was in this world. If we openly declare with a still small voice that Jesus is the son of God, that he is the anointed king of Israel. Then we will be opposed by those of this world and in bearing the reproach of Christ our faith is demonstrated. If we wash each others feet, acting as servants in the Ecclesia, nurturing up our brethren and sisters in any way we can, then our love is perfected – and we will not fear of the day judgement of our generation.
1John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
:3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure
So when we are asked what is the meaning of life? What is foundation of the truth? Why are we here? What should I do to be saved? The answer is so simple, to love Yahweh Elohim. That is to love our heavenly father and his nurturing character, which we demonstrate by showing the same nurturing characteristics to each other. And by this we prepare ourselves for the return of our lord, ready to help him fill the earth with our fathers character.
1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.