God is Love: Nuts & Bolts Pt I

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In 1 John, John calls the believers back to a fundamental understanding that God is love. He reveals that God is love later in the book. The first issue that he addresses deals with a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief. The opposing ideology known as Gnosticism split the believers into two. In 1 John 2:18 – 23, John reveals that antichrist who denied Christ lived among them. These individuals eventually left the church community, but their false teachings continued to infiltrate the church. 1 John 4:1 – 3 and 2 John 7 also suggest the antichrist does not acknowledge that Christ came in the flesh. This false understanding corresponds to the ideology of Gnosticism. Gnosticism based its theology on the duality between spirit and matter.[1] The spiritual dimension represents divine and good, while matter is created and evil. [2] Therefore, the Supreme God could not create matter more specifically Jesus as a physical Jesus equates to matter that is evil. "Consequently, a real incarnation of Christ of the Son of God was impossible." [3] On the other hand, the denial of the true humanity of Christ represents a docetic ideology."[4] Docetists denied Christ by suggesting that He only seemed to live in the flesh. Docetists viewed the earthly life of Christ, especially His sufferings on the cross as unreal.[5] On the contrary, John combats Gnostic and Docetic knowledge by challenging the believers to obtain adequate knowledge of God and Christ. This knowledge derives from faith which fosters the believers' assurance.[6] In 1 John 4:7 – 21, John identifies that God is love. In his identification, he encourages the believers to possess confidence, assurance, and certainty about God is love.
I remembered visiting a non-Christian religious group. In the group meeting, I was intrigued by the community's desire to build a deep relationship with God. I was moved by their passion to know God on a deeper level. However, as the religious leader continued to preach, he began to minimize the influence of Jesus Christ. Initially, I was open-minded to his viewpoints as this was the first time that someone made me think differently about Jesus. However, as the lessoned progressed, I realized that the person's understanding was not valid. Jesus was not a mere man, and His life made an impact. In His life, God transformed my life. I eventually left the meeting with more enthusiasm to examine the life of Jesus. In this situation, I had the freedom to explore the truth about Christ outside the Christian context. On the contrary, John addresses individuals who received contradicting teachings of Christ within their own fellowship. I believe that the first-century Christians experienced something more challenging than me. They had to wrestle with their faith amongst those whom they trusted. Despite this challenging situation, John calls the believers to the truth about Jesus. He also demonstrates that this truth reveals that God is love.
John identifies that God is love. In verses 9 – 10, he depicts God's love manifesting in Jesus as our sin offering. In verse 15, John climatically tells the believers that those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God will abide in God. John's plea addresses those who wavered in their understanding of Jesus. These individuals thought of Jesus as less than God and required reminding of His divinity.[7] In confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, they adequately acknowledged Jesus' humanity. In relation to the New Testament, the TDNT possesses three definitions for confess. In correlation to the Johannian literature, definition three proclaims, "to make solemn statements of faith," "to confess something in faith."[8] Thus, John contends that those who confess Christ are also making a statement of their faith. Subsequently, the person's faith attests to the whole truth of Christ. Similarly to Christ bearing witnesses to the truth (John 18:37), believers must publicly declare this truth (1 Timothy 6:12 – 13). In both scriptures John 18:37 and 1 Timothy 6:12 -13, confession occurred in the presence of a witness or witnesses. In verse 15, when John asserts that whoever confesses, he understands that these individuals publicly "express a specific truth, the only possible relation to Christ."[9] In their confession, believers publicly announce the truth of Christ.

Continue Reading: God is Love: Nuts & Bolts Pt II

[1] I. Howard Marshall, The Epistles of John (New International Commentary on the New Testament), (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), 17.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: gnosticism, s.v., "Orr", (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1939),  https://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/gnosticism.html, (accessed January 29, 2018)

[5] Ibid.

[6] G.J.Wenham, J.A. Motyer, et al. New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th Edition, (Downers Grove: IVP, 1994), 1398.

[7] Dr. Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, and 3 John, Volume 51:Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), xxiii

[8] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: ὁμολογέω, s.v. "Michel", (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964 - 1976), 209.

[9] Ibid., 210.