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The epistle of 1 John, despite being so short, is full of rich meaning for Christians. Join us as we discuss repentance, living without sin, and the dangers of the Antichrist.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide

Episode: 146

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Click here for the reading: 1 John 3:13–18.

The tragedy of Proverbs 9 is the rejection of Wisdom by the simple, and this tragedy has manifold consequences. The scoffer who refuses correction hates the one who is wise. John illuminates this hatred. It is not merely the hatred that the fool has for the one with insight. It is the hatred that the dead have for the living. Having passed from death to life, there is now a chasm between the wise and the fool that cannot be crossed by appeals to common humanity or shared experience.

But John is concerned that those who once were darkness might continue to live in the darkness. The simple test is love for the brothers. The one who does not love has not received love. The one who hates does violence to his brother and is unfit for eternal life. How can you be fit for life when you desire death for those with whom you would share that life? The impossibility is staggering and brings to light the site of much hypocrisy. External piety, devotion, and fellowship in the church count for nothing if you harbor ill-will towards your brother. If you desire life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Most importantly, keep from being double-tongued, saying that you love your brother while you withhold the world’s goods from him in his need.

The word love is almost irrecoverable from the world, but John shows us how to save the notion. “By this we know love, that Christ laid down his life for us.” Love that finds its example in anyone other than Christ is defective or perverse. Love that is not sourced in the love of Christ for the world is never genuine. And the genuineness is seen in this: a willingness to lay down one’s own life for the brothers.

The righteousness that we have in Christ – Christ’s own righteousness – is meant to be into practice (Mt. 6:1). The practice of righteousness in charity is not something incidental to faith, but the two are inseparable. “This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (1 John 3:23). The one who refuses to help his brother in need is also refusing the righteousness of faith. He not only hates his brother, whom he can see, but he hates God, whom he cannot see.

It’s a parallel to Paul’s argument about the resurrection – that if there were no resurrection then we of all people are most to be pitied for we have believed in vain. If the believer has no love for his brothers, then he has believed in vain, for what is the purpose of believing besides living in righteousness. Those who claim to believe but walk yet in darkness have misunderstood the purpose of Jesus’ signs, longing for a bread that perishes, longing for this life without end when they should place their hope in Christ’s life which they may begin to live even now.

Click here for the reading: 1 John 4:16-21.

If there remains uncertainty about why God would choose Abram, or Israel, or you and me, there can be no uncertainty about the result for those who are chosen and are thereby in Christ. They abide in God and God in them. They have received perfect love. They have received it by faith, and so they have come to know who God is. To others the kingdom is hidden, but to those who believe all has been made plain.

Most of all, God’s love delivers righteousness by faith so that the sinner need not fear punishment, even in the great and awesome Day of the Lord. In fact, the one who fears shows that he has not believed. If Abram were to go on in anxiety that Eliezer would be his heir after God had delivered a promise to the contrary, he would show his unbelief. The one who fears the day of judgment has not received the love of God. Neither has the one who refuses to love his brother. That man is a liar if he claims to love God, and he makes God into a liar, for God sends his Spirit into our hearts that we may be perfected in love.

The absolute language that is so characteristic of John leaves us without excuse. While that may lead to sermons preaching repentance, it also leaves room to clarify what is often confused among us about the Christian life. The Christian does not want to make excuses and finds no delight in them. The Christian does not want to hate his brother and does not rest at ease because of the simul. Instead he agrees with the love of God. He abides in it. He believes what God promises, obeys what he commands, and hungers and thirsts for righteousness. The commandments of Jesus are not burdensome for the Christian.

On the contrary, the Christian rejoices in the clarity with which he can now see the righteousness that he has received by faith. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). He sees his own righteousness in the flesh and blood of Jesus, who shows us what perfect love looks like, not fearing the cross, nor death, nor the grave, but laying down his life for those he would call brothers.

The priority of receiving love is the necessary presupposition for everything that follows. “We love because he first loved us.” Much can be made of the subtle ways this necessity gets distorted. What comes of attempts to love without first receiving the love of God? What deception leads one to believe that he has received love while he still does not love his brother? What false confidence arises from loving one’s brother but forgetting the source and origin of that love? The cure for any of these maladies is to receive again the gracious love of God, to again hear and believe.