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Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Winter, 2018-19

 

Study Theme:  Engaging Culture in an Ever-changing World

What This Lesson Is About

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus for this week’s study is on our need to heed God’s warning from His Word about loving our possessions too much.

 

 

 

Jan. 13

When Races Collide (Ephesians 2:11-11)

 

Jan. 20

When Life is Expendable (Exodus 1:16-17,22—2:9

 

Jan. 27

When Circumstances Over Whelm (Psalm. 42:1-3,6-8; 43:3-5)

 

Feb. 03

When Substances Take Over (Ephesians 5:15-21)

 

Feb. 10

When Marriage is Questioned (Genesis 2:18-25)

X

Feb. 17

When Materialism Consumes (1 John 2:12-17; 3:16-18)

 

Feb. 24

When False Religions Deceive (1 John 2:18-29)

 

LIFE IMPACT:

Possessions never satisfy or last, but the love of God does.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

1 John 2:12-17; 3:16-18

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.

Christ Followers are Those Who Know & Love God (1 John 2:12-14)

Loving the Things of the World is the Opposite of Loving God (1 John 2:15-17)

Loving God is Reflected in Our Attitude Toward Our Possessions (1 John 3:16-18)

THE SETTING:  

The apostle John, son of Zebedee and brother of James, wrote 1 John. The apostle penned this letter to a church or a group of churches dealing with a crisis situation. False teachers were attacking these first-century believers. Some persons who had previously been associated with the Christian community had accepted false teachings and left the church (1 John 2:19). After these agitators departed, they created confusion by trying to spread their false teachings within the believing community. John wrote 1 John with at least two purposes in mind. First, he wanted to combat false teaching that included the following elements. It denied that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah or Christ (2:22). It also rejected the truth that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh (4:2-3). Additionally, it downplayed the serious nature of sin (1:6-10). Finally, it resulted in spiritual pride that demonstrated itself in a lack of brotherly love (2:9,11). Second, John wrote this letter to strengthen believers’ assurance of their salvation (5:13).

While we refer to 1 John as a letter, it lacks the name of the sender. In first-century letters the sender’s name typically appeared at the beginning of the epistle (see Rom. 1:1; Jas. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1). The book also does not specifically name any recipients. It simply designates them as “little children” (see 1 John 2:1). Thus, the form of 1 John is more like that of a tract or treatise written to deal with a particular crisis. John wrote in the style of a teacher, urging his readers to follow his instruction. In chapters 2 and 3, the apostle challenged believers to obey God’s commands, to beware of enemies to their faith, to live like children of God, and to love one another.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

INTRODUCTION:

 I love books. Since the time I first met “Dick, Jane, and Sally,” reading has been an exciting adventure for me. Books about these children were the predominant readers used in public schools from the 1940s through the early 1960s.1 After I accepted Christ as my Savior, studying the Bible and reading commentary and devotional materials became an important part of my life. Members of my church youth group jokingly referred to me as “the head librarian” because I always carried a bag of books whenever we traveled. I diligently studied books in high school, college, and graduate school. I collected good books as I could afford them and created my own library. When I went to work in the publishing business, I discovered I could get free books. My library grew rapidly.

One of my friends constructed bookcases for me as my library increased. At one point he innocently commented that I was soon going to need another bookcase. His words convicted me. I had become like the rich fool who determined to build bigger barns to house his possessions (Luke 12:13-21). I possessed more books than I would ever be able to read. It was time I focused on sharing my possessions instead of greedily acquiring more.

We love our stuff. Over the past fifty years, the average American home has tripled in size. Yet, ten percent of us also rent off-site storage. All these things—even good things like good books—simply don’t last. However, they hold our attention—often at the expense of neglecting the people around us. God calls us to love Him first and to express that love through our love for others.

1 Kate Kelly, “Dick and Jane: Story of These Early Readers,” America Comes Alive, https://americacomesalive.com/2017/06/02/dick-and-jane-story-of-these-earlyreaders/.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

I.

Christ Followers are Those Who Know & Love God (1 John 2:12-14)

12 I am writing to you, little children, since your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the one who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have conquered the evil one. 14 I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the one who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one.

  1.   What is the setting for this week’s study? (See ‘The Setting” on pg. 1.)

  2.   What phrases did John use to describe what it means to be part of the family of God?

  3.   Through whom was forgiveness possible (v. 12)?

  4.   Why do you think John addressed his readers as “little children” in verse 12? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “The apostle began . . . “ )

  5.   How would you explain John’s message that would make it a little easier to understand? (See Adv. Comm., pg 4, “In 1 John . . .  “ & “These believers could . . . “ )

  6.   What were some of the various reasons Bible scholars suggest John addressed his readers with three different designations? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Why did John address . . . “ )

  7.   What do you think John meant when he used the phrase “have come to know . . .” in this passage of Scripture? (See Adv. Comm., pg. 4, “Some Bible scholars . . .,“ “Others believe these . . .,” & “Still others point . . . “ )

  8.   Why do you think John addressed the three different groups of his readers as separate groups?

  9.   How would you explain John’s advice about evil, based on what he told his readers in this passage? (See Adv. Comm., pg; 4, “John next referred . . . “ )

10.   In what ways do you think we can experience spiritual victories like the little children, fathers, and young men to which John wrote?

11.   Why do you think that we sometimes need to hear something three times before it we can really understand it?

12.   How do you think John’s encouragement about the importance of them knowing Jesus’ earthly life and ministry really helped them to stand strong as they faced heretical teachings?

13.   How would you explain our need to really understand the dangers if and when we are exposed to heretical teachings?

14.   What do you think is the danger we, as believers face, when we are exposed to heretical teachings?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 John

1. If we have accepted Christ as Savior by faith, we can stand firm in the assurance He has forgiven our sins.

2. Knowing Christ is more than intellectual knowledge about Him; it is a close, personal relationship with Him.

3. Believers today still experience victory over temptation through faith and careful, regular study of God’s Word.

4’ Knowing God’s Word is vital to identify false teaching.

 

II.

Loving the Things of the World is the Opposite of Loving God (1 John 2:15-17)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

  1.   What do you think makes loving the things (or “stuff”) of this world so dangerous? 

  2.   What do you think makes it so easy for a believer to fall in love with worldly stuff?

  3.   What do you think makes us (especially believers) so weak when exposed to the “things and  stuff” of this world?

  4.   What are some things we can do that would help any believer to minimize our love of worldly “stuff”?

  5.   How would you explain John’s exhortation in verse 16?

  6.   What makes the three things John identifies in verse 16 so dangerous and the constant need for believers to guard against?

  7.   What can we do to protect ourselves from the love of the “things and stuff” we are surrounded by in this world?

  8.   How would you help a new believer to build a strong defense against falling victim to the love of worldly “stuff”?

  9.   What are some things we can do to place a higher value on loving God and others than on the things of this world?

10.   How would you explain the meaning of verses 15-17?

11.   What does a materialistic mindset look like?

12.   What does John’s use of “the world” and the three values he identifies look like? (See Adv. Comm., pg 5, “What did John mean . . . “ )

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 John 2:15-17:

1. Believers are to stop loving the devil’s evil organized system that stands opposed to God.

2. Believers are to place a higher value on God and people rather than on this world and the things in it. 

3. Believers are to heed John’s warning against a materialistic mindset that is greedy and glories in oneself and one’s possessions.

4. Believers are to invest in eternal values rather than in the things of this world and to demonstrate their values by their conduct.

 

III.     

Loving God is Reflected in Our Attitude Toward Our Possessions (1 John 3:16-18)

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.

     1.   In what areas of your life does love for the world compete with love for God? Why?

     2.   How would you explain your love for God by your attitude toward your possessions?

     3.   Can we ever overcome our attraction for acquiring “stuff” and spend more time on showing others sacrificial love through sharing our “stuff” in their time of need?

     4.   What does it mean that our love for Christ is reflected in our attitude toward our possessions?

     5.   How would you explain your love for others as a reflection of your love for your “stuff”?

     6.   Do you think an attitude of compassion for others in need is ever reflected in a hoarding attitude toward one’s stuff?

     7.   What are some was we can overcome our love for “stuff” and love God as we should?

     8.   How much “stuff” do you have that’s never been used for anything?

     9.   Looking around your church, how much “stuff” do you see that the church has that is sitting idle?

  10.   Wht does this statement mean to you: “The One who has the most “stuff” wins”?

  11.   If we say we love God and do not love others, are we lying to ourselves? Why, or why not?

  12.   How would you explain what Christ expects His disciples to demonstrate the kind of love He has shown toward them?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 John 3:16-18:

1. Christ expects His disciples to demonstrate the kind of love He has shown toward them.

2. Our love for God is reflected in sacrificial giving to meet fellow believers’ needs. 

3. God’s kind of love is demonstrated in simple acts to help others performed without hypocrisy.

 

CONCLUSION:

We verify what we believe by the way we act.  If we believe tn the  love o God, we will live by the love of God.  Love for God and others is a central responsibility of Christian believers.  When believers attempt to be in love with this world and the things of this world, their love for God will be squeezed out, for we cannot love God and the world simultaneously (Matt. 6:24).  We lose our right to talk about love if we fail to act with love to those in need.

As you reflect on this studies Scripture passage, respond to the following questions:

1. What are some evidences of consuming materialism in our society?

2. Which, if any, of these evidences are present in your life?

3. What are some practical actions that help us conquer the sin of materialism?

4. List some practical ways you will demonstrate God’s kind of love to members of your church.

5. What are you doing to make sure your actions match your words of love?

6. How are you using the resources available to you to express the love of God to persons in need?

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

FOCAL PASSAGE: 

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

Biblical Translations 2 (New)

King James Version

1 John 2:12-14 (KJV)

12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.



King James Version

1 John 2:15-17 (KJV)

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.


King James Version

1 John 3:16-18 (KJV)

16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

 

New King James Version

1 John 2:12-14 (NKJV)

12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. 13 I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.


New King James Version    

1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 


New King James Version

1 John 3:16-18 (NKJV)

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

 

New International Version

1 John 2:12-14 (NIV)

12 I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 13 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.


New International Version

1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.


New International Version

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

 

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” “Bible Studies For Life Commentary,” and “The Pulpit Commentary” and is provided for your study.)

 

Lesson Outline — When Materialism Consumes1 John 2:12-17; 3:16-18

I.

II.

III.

Christ Followers are Those Who Know & Love God (1 John 2:12-14)

Loving the Things of the World is the Opposite of Loving God (1 John 2:15-17)

Loving God is Reflected in Our Attitude Toward Our Possessions (1 John 3:16-18)

COMMENTARY:

Advanced Bible Study Commentary:  Nehemiah 6:1-3,15-16; 8:1-3,5-8

I. Christ Followers are Those Who Know & Love God (1 John 2:12-14)

In 1 John 2:12-14 John expressed some reasons for his warm correspondence with this group of believers. The apostle began verse 12 by greeting his readers as little children. The Greek term appears in the New Testament as a kind and tender way a teacher addressed his disciples or followers. The apostle then appealed to his audience’s personal experiences with the Lord. They had confessed their sins (1:9), and on account of or because of Christ’s name or essence, their sins have been forgiven. The form of the Greek verb rendered have been forgiven conveys the meaning that these believers had previously received Christ’s forgiveness, and that forgiveness continued to be effective in their lives. The expression on account of his name refers to Christ’s person and work in its totality. In Hebrew thought, a person’s name stood for his identity, and to know someone’s name provided access to that individual’s power. Christ had purchased forgiveness at the price of His blood (1:7). These believers had experienced salvation by faith in Christ’s name (3:23; 5:13) or by faith in Him (5:1,5), two expressions carrying the same meaning.

These believers could stand firm in the knowledge that they had been forgiven. In the midst of the turmoil and confusion the false teachers attempted to create, these Christians could experience assurance of their salvation. Apparently the false teachers claimed to possess special knowledge that “ordinary” believers lacked. Thus, these heretics announced that the disciples to whom John wrote did not really know God because they lacked this special knowledge. John not only refuted this false teaching but also tenderly bolstered these true believers in their faith.

Why did John address his readers using the different designations children, … fathers, and young men? Some Bible scholars suggest these titles indicate differing chronological ages within his audience. Others believe these terms refer to varying levels of spiritual maturity. Still others point out that elsewhere in the letter John repeatedly assigned the term “children” to all his readers (see 2:1,28; 3:7,18; 5:21). Thus, this last group holds that John applied each of the three terms to all of his readers. If this third view is correct, then the message John addressed to each age category, he intended to be applied to all believers.

In 2:13 John identified his congregation as those who had come to know the one who is from the beginning. To whom did this description refer? While it could designate God the Father, John most likely applied it here to Christ, especially in light of the clear reference to God the Father in verse 14. Additional support for this view lies in the fact that in 1 John 1:1-3 both God the Father and Christ are equally represented. Furthermore the phrase the one who is from the beginning calls to mind the initial verses of the Gospel of John (John 1:1-3). There at the outset of his record of Christ’s incarnation and ministry, the beloved disciple focused attention on Christ’s presence before the beginning of time.

The apostle’s statement that his readers have come to know Christ reminded them of the importance of knowing about Jesus’ earthly life and ministry as they faced heretical teachings. It also emphasized that their knowledge was not just factual information but also a deep, spiritual ongoing relationship with Christ that was grounded in history, not in intellectual speculation that perverts Jesus’ true identity.

John next referred to his readers as young men. Again the apostle could have used this term to designate chronological age, spiritual maturity level, or as a general reference to all believers. John added a new dimension by stating that the community of faith had conquered the evil one. The apostle did not regard evil as abstract. Rather, the evil one is a personal being whom Scripture elsewhere calls “the devil and Satan” (Rev. 20:2). These believers had engaged in spiritual warfare and experienced victory over temptations Satan had thrown at them. John may have specifically had in mind temptations from false teachers to lure his readers away from the community of faith.

The Christian life is a constant struggle against evil for all believers, regardless of our ages or levels of spiritual maturity. Nevertheless, we can be encouraged because Christ has already won the victory through His life, death, and resurrection. We can have assurance that if we remain faithful, we can overcome temptation in Christ’s name and by His power.

In verse 14 John reiterated his messages addressed to children, fathers, and young men. This time, however, he used a different verb form, rendered I have written, instead of I am writing, as in verses 12-13. While some translations divide verses 13-14 differently than the CSB, most editions of the Greek text begin verse 14 at the same place the CSB does. This division creates an exact symmetry or correspondence between verses 12-13 and verse 14. While John employed the present tense verb form in verses 12-13, the apostle used the past tense of the same verb in verse 14.

Why did John repeat essentially the same information in verses 12-14 using different tenses of the same verb? We do not know. Some Bible scholars believe the change in tenses is stylistic and the repetition is for emphasis. In the original language of verse 14 the apostle used a different Greek word for children than the one rendered little children in verse 12. If John intended any difference in meaning between the two terms, the one in verse 14 might stress the immaturity of the child or the child’s need for direction and instruction. In contrast the designation translated little children in verse 12 might place greater emphasis on the relationship; that is, the dependence of the child on the parent. In verse 12 John stated his reason for writing to those he addressed as children as because their sins have been forgiven on account of his name. In the parallel expression in verse 14 John expressed that his reason for writing the children was because they have come to know the Father. Because his readers had experienced forgiveness of their sins, they had a close, intimate relationship not only with Christ, but also with God the Father (see John 14:6).

A difference also exists between John’s message to the young men in verses 13 and 14. In addition to the fact that they had conquered the evil one, John added in verse 14 that the young men were strong, and God’s word remains in them. These descriptors indicate the reason the young men had overcome Satan. The context suggests that with his use of the term strong, John had in mind spiritual strength. Furthermore, this strength of faith derived from these believers’ dependence on the Word of God. They avidly studied the Old Testament and perhaps also had access to John’s Gospel. What are some lasting truths in 1 John 2:12-14?

II. Loving the Things of the World is the Opposite of Loving God (1 John 2:15-17)

After assuring the believers that their sins had been forgiven, that they knew God the Father, and that they had experienced victory over the evil one, John shifted his focus to application in verses 15-17. In these three verses the apostle warned his readers about the dangers of loving the world. John had previously encouraged his readers to love God (2:5) and to love one another (2:10). Now in verse 15, he warned them, do not love the world.

What did John mean by the term the world? Here, he meant the world as the evil system that opposes God. The apostle had in mind attitudes and values that disregard God or defy Him. What John warned against might be described as choosing to live in opposition to God’s commandments or in disobedience to His will. Such behavior is sometimes called worldliness. The form of the mandate do not love in the original language specifies that John instructed believers to cease an action already in progress. In other words, the writer ordered his readers to “stop loving the world.”

The verb translated love in John’s command to stop loving the world is closely related to the noun rendered love in the phrase the love of the Father. It is also the same Greek verb that appears in 1 John 2:10 where John encouraged believers to love one another. The difference between these two distinct usages lies in the object of one’s focus. When people love God and fellow believers, their love is properly directed. When they love the world, however, their love is misapplied in a way that will bring disastrous results. The object of one’s love is crucial.

How are we to interpret the expression the love of the Father? Does it mean God’s love for us or our love for God? While Bible scholars hold differing opinions, the context of this verse supports the view that John meant believers’ love for God. We cannot love both God and the world at the same time because they stand in opposition to one another (see Jas. 4:4). The love of the world versus the love of God provides another way of evaluating whether we are walking in the light (see 1 John 1:5-6).

In 1 John 2:16 the apostle specified some values of the world—the evil system that opposes God. These values include the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions. John did not mean that the world as God created it is evil. Rather he meant that sinful humanity has chosen to follow evil rather than good. People have preferred to worship created objects rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:20-23).

What did John mean by each of the three descriptors listed in the preceding paragraph? The Greek word rendered lust conveys a longing, especially a longing for something forbidden. The term translated flesh in this context depicts not the physical substance that covers the bones, but rather it refers to an outlook on life that is oriented toward self instead of toward God. Thus it connotes all that is egocentric, materialistic, and exploitative of others.

The phrase the lust of the eyes does not mean our physical eyes are evil in themselves. While the eye is sometimes used in Scripture as a figure of speech to designate sinful passions (see Matt. 5:28-29), John likely had more in mind here than sexual lust. The expression probably includes the sin of greed and a desire for things that is aroused by seeing them.

The third descriptor of worldly values is the pride in one’s possessions. The Greek term rendered possessions literally means “life.” It is not, however, the same Greek word for life the apostle used in John 3:16, when he referred to “eternal life.” The Greek term life in 1 John 2:16 can designate “the course of life” or “the resources, wealth, and goods by which life is sustained.” The adjective related to the noun rendered pride describes conceited, two-faced persons who glory in themselves and their possessions. It depicts individuals whose public image is more important to them than honest relationships with God and other people.

John concluded 1 John 2:16 by reminding his readers that these worldly values are not from the Father. If our outlook on life becomes more oriented toward self than toward God and others, if we greedily desire more and more of the things we see around us, and if we vainly glory in ourselves and our possessions, then we need to heed John’s warning against materialism.

In verse 17 John presented a stark contrast between the end results of investing in this world that is passing away and in eternal values. The form of the verb translated is passing away emphasizes that this worldly system of opposition to God along with its values are already in the process of perishing. By His life, atoning death, and resurrection, Christ defeated the devil and his worldly system. Those who place their faith in Christ receive the gift of eternal life as a permanent possession that will not pass away. Believers are eternally secure in Him. The apostle linked believers’ confessions of faith to their conduct when he stated that the one who does the will of God remains forever. Genuine faith reveals itself in action.

III. Loving God is Reflected in Our Attitude Toward Our Possessions (1 John 3:16-18)

In 1 John 3:16 the apostle directed his readers’ attention to the highest definition and demonstration of love. The Greek word rendered love is agape, that unselfish, unconditional commitment that acts in others’ best interests. John stated that we have come to know what love is by observing what Christ did for us. Christ’s sacrifice is the supreme example of the nature of genuine love. The form of the Greek verb translated we have come to know stresses an encounter with Christ with ongoing results that affect a believer’s life in the present. John experienced the nature of this kind of love by witnessing Christ’s death on the cross, and the apostle continued to grow and mature in that love as God’s child.

In verse 17 John described a practical, everyday way believers demonstrate agape love and thus reveal the sincerity of their faith. They do so when they see another believer’s need and show compassion within the limits of their ability to meet that need. The term translated compassion literally means “bowels” or “intestines.” The Hebrews regarded the bowels as the seat of tender affections, kindness, and benevolence. The Greek term is sometimes rendered tender mercy.

The change from the plural brothers and sisters in verse 16 to the singular fellow believer in verse 17 individualizes the responsibility of helping another Christian. It refutes the false idea that we can love everyone in general without expressing love to someone in particular. The verb translated withholds can also be rendered “shuts out.” It is used literally of closing or locking a door. It suggests a deliberate neglect of acting on needs one has observed.

The bottom line is that the person who genuinely possesses God’s love actively demonstrates that love to others. In verse 18 John encouraged his readers to heed that message. He again addressed them as little children (see comments on 1 John 2:12). Saying they loved one another meant little if actions did not back up their words. Genuine love manifests itself in action and in truth. It reveals itself in deeds, in the way we treat others in the daily grind of life. It also reveals itself in truth. John may have added the expression in truth because actions or deeds can be hypocritical. Demonstrating God’s kind of love requires more than empty talk or exalted theology. It requires simple acts in others’ best interests performed without hypocrisy.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Bible Studies For Life Commentary:  

I. Christ Followers are Those Who Know & Love God (1 John 2:12-14)

Verse 12. While it is easy for a person to claim to know Christ, his actions will either support or contradict the assertion. The apostle John knew this and thus penned a letter to Christians to encourage them in their faith. He emphasized Christ-followers are those who know and love God, which is reflected in their beliefs and their behavior.

In 1 John 2:311, John addressed false teachings in the church. While John was straightforward in countering the erroneous claims of those who had rejected Christ and His teachings, he also wrote to give assurance to true believers.

John addressed three groups—children, fathers, and young men. Bible commentators have long debated whether John was writing to different categories of believers, either different age groups or distinct faith stages (such as immature believers, younger Christians, and more mature disciples). It is possible, however, that his words in verses 1214 apply to all believers, because John also addressed his readers as “little children” or “children” using two Greek terms: teknion (2:1,12,28; 3:7,18; 4:4; 5:21) and paidion (2:14,18). Whatever the case, John most likely viewed all of them as his spiritual children, so he wrote to them as a loving and concerned father.

John began by addressing those he termed little children. He first emphasized one of the foundational truths of the Christian faith. For all who have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, their sins have been forgiven on account of his name. The Greek verb in this sentence is in the perfect tense, which designates a present reality that continues from a past event. Through His sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for believers’ sins—past, present, and future. God’s forgiveness for us is as applicable today as it was 2,000 years ago, and likewise will continue into the future.

In ancient times one’s name was an indication of who the person was and what he or she had done. Thus Jesus’ name reflects the whole of His life, including His death and resurrection, which made eternal life available for all who repent and place their faith in Him. Only by trusting in what Jesus did (that is, trusting in His name) can we experience the salvation that begins with forgiveness of sin.

Verse 13. John next addressed the fathers, which is probably a reference to these individuals’ spiritual maturity. John noted these believers have come to know the one who is from the beginning. The Greek word translated have come to know emphasizes a knowledge gained by personal experience. It is in the perfect tense, meaning a knowledge gained in the past that continues to grow or develop in understanding. Because they had been walking longer with the Lord, these people had a deeper knowledge of Him that went beyond the foundational understanding of their forgiven sins. While young children can recognize their father’s care and provision, as they grow up they have a broader knowledge of their father’s heart and mind. This was what John emphasized to these fathers as he noted their greater understanding of who God is and what He does (and has done) for them.

There is a difference of opinions as to whom John was referring to as the one who is from the beginning. Some believe this to be a reference to God the Father, who has always existed and is unchanging (Jas. 1:17). Others believe it is a reference to Jesus Christ, the incarnate, eternal Son of God, by whom and for whom all things were made (John 1:13; Col. 1:1617). It has also been suggested that in this reference John could intentionally have been referring to both God the Father and God the Son. In the end, John is most likely referring to Jesus, given the background of the false teachings about the Person and work of Jesus against which John was writing. John had previously emphasized Jesus’ existence in “the beginning” in both this letter (1 John 1:1) and his Gospel (John 1:1).

After addressing the fathers, John then turned his attention to a different group in the church—the young men who had continued to develop as disciples. When a person begins a relationship with Christ, he or she is like a baby. While the birth of a child is an exciting event, everyone would be concerned if the baby did not develop properly. Growth is a natural expectation in both physical and spiritual life. This growth can be difficult and even painful at times. These spiritual young adults understood the reality that believers are in a struggle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens” (Eph. 6:12). Thus they had prepared themselves, utilizing all of the weapons God provided them, so they could be victorious in the battle (vv. 1318). As a result, they had conquered the evil one.

Throughout the New Testament the evil one refers to a personal being, also known as the devil or Satan, who is the embodiment of evil (Matt. 13:19,38; Mark 4:15; John 17:15; 1 John 3:12; 5:18). He is called the tempter (Matt. 4:13), the deceiver who accuses God’s people (Rev. 12:910), a murderer and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is our adversary, looking for any opportunity to persecute and destroy us (1 Pet. 5:8).

Throughout John’s writings there is an emphasis on conquering or overcoming. This victory for believers only comes by the power of God, who can “deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13). The tense of the verb translated conquered in 1 John 2:13 indicates a permanent, ongoing state of victory. Most certainly John had in mind how his readers continued to be victorious as they stood against the false teachers, whom the devil was using in an attempt to lead believers away from the true faith.

Verse 14. Once again John addressed each group of believers in the church, starting with the children. John used a different Greek word for children than the one he had used in verse 12. Both words are terms of endearment used by John to address his spiritual children. In this case, John is affirming and encouraging those young believers who were living out what they had been taught about how to know the Father.

Jesus described God as the Heavenly Father who longs for and has made possible an intimate relationship with sinful people. When we receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, we go from being enemies of God to being His adopted children and heirs (Rom. 8:1417; Gal. 4:17). In regards to this relationship, one commentator notes, “To know the Father is to be like the Father. Spiritual maturity moves us into a deeper and fuller knowledge of our God with the result being familial resemblance. Children should resemble their Father. John believes they will.”1

John once more addressed the fathers in the congregation, noting again they had come to know the one who is from the beginning. Again, most likely John had in mind Jesus, the Son of God, given the background of the false teachings about the Person and work of Jesus against which John was writing. 

To the young men John expanded on his previous words to them. He first noted they were strong. This most likely refers not to their physical strength but rather to their spiritual strength, which did not come from their own efforts. Instead, they had been “strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength” (Eph. 6:10) because of their faith (1 John 5:4). These strong young men had been on the front lines of the spiritual battle and had conquered the evil one. Their victory came not only because they trusted in and yielded to God, but also because of God’s word. John probably had in mind the Old Testament and the accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings. The young men had not simply read or heard these words, however. John noted that the Word remains in them. The Greek tense of this verb emphasizes a continuous, present action. While the text does not say, the young men most likely practiced such things as studying and receiving instruction on the Word, memorizing it, and applying it in their lives. They followed the example of Jesus, who responded with Scripture to overcome the temptations of the devil (Matt. 4:111). John again referred to the devil as the evil one. They trusted the word of Jesus, who emphasized, “everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (7:24), able to withstand whatever difficulties came against them in life.

II. Loving the Things of the World is the Opposite of Loving God (1 John 2:15-17)

Verse 15. After writing words of commendation and assurance, John turned to instruct and challenge. The only way the believers would continue maturing and being victorious was by resisting the lure of anything that drew them away from God. John was especially concerned about the heart, the seat of will and affection, so he used language of the heart when he warned that loving the things of the world is the opposite of loving God.

The apostle was straightforward in his instruction: Do not love the world or the things in the world. After having written about how the believers had overcome the evil one, whom Jesus called the “ruler of this world” (John 16:11), John was concerned about how the devil would use the world to draw believers away from God. Here John was not focused on the created world or the people in it; rather, he was thinking of the values, perspectives, and concerns of the world system opposed to God that is “under the sway of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

To love the world is to admire or elevate a worldview that contradicts what God has said or what He desires. To love the things in the world is to embrace those attitudes, desires, and actions that are natural for sinful humanity.

John warned, if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. These two types of love are mutually exclusive. Just as we cannot serve both God and money  (Matt. 6:24), we cannot love both the Father and the world. The apostle James was adamant about this, noting “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” and “whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). 

Verse 16. To clarify some of the worldly loves, John listed three broad categories that can trap believers and pull them away from their devotion to God. These three things are not an all-encompassing list, but rather three areas sinful human beings naturally gravitate toward.2 Again, John was not writing that the creation itself was bad. When God created the physical world, He pronounced everything “good” and “very good” (Gen. 1). The world John identified here refers to everything associated with the world system ruled by Satan that stands in opposition to God and His will.

John first mentioned the lust of the flesh. The Greek word for lust (epithymia) is neutral. Elsewhere it is translated “fervently desired” (Luke 22:15) or “long” (Phil. 1:23) and in both cases refers to wanting something good. Most often, however, the word emphasizes a negative craving or passion. Likewise, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) is neutral. It can refer to the human body or to human nature. In this verse John may have had in mind a natural desire fulfilled in the wrong way, which leads us away from God. For instance, sex is a normal human desire God designed to be fulfilled within the context of marriage. However, the world proclaims it is OK to engage in sex with anyone, anywhere, at anytime, and it mocks those who hold to the biblical standard.

While God blessed us with eyes, they can lead us into thoughts and actions that go against God’s standards. The eyes have a direct pathway to a person’s mind (thoughts, emotions, and feelings). The lust of the eyes refers to those people or things which visually entice a person to act in the hopes of gaining momentary pleasure. However, as is often the case with “the lust of the eyes” (and lust in general), the person rarely considers (or even cares about) the consequences of his or her thoughts and actions.

The third category John noted, the pride in one’s possessions, is the tendency to boast about what we possess or what we have accomplished. This phrase could also include our aspirations (such as for power or status) that become idols and thus push God out of His rightful place at the center of our lives (see Luke 12:1621).

Taken together, these three categories comprise a materialistic focus. They are not from the Father but rather come from the world. Interestingly, it was temptation in these three areas that led Adam and Eve to commit the first sin, and the evil one continues to use these same temptations today to lead people away from God.

Verse 17. John emphasized the final outcome in this battle between the world and God. The world (the world system opposed to God), along with its values and its lust, is temporal—it is passing away. It’s foolish to love those things and live for them because those who do so will end up with nothing. In contrast, the one who does the will of God remains forever. The emphasis here is on both ongoing action (continuing to do God’s will) and ongoing result (continuing to remain or abide).

III. Loving God is Reflected in Our Attitude Toward Our Possessions (1 John 3:16-18)

Verses 16, 17.

The nature of love as shown by Christ, and its obligation on Christians. Love has been declared the criterion for distinguishing the children of God from the children of the devil. It remains to show what love is; and this is best seen in a concrete example. “The Eternal Word, incarnate and dying for the truth, inspires St. John to guard it with apostolic chivalry; but also this revelation of the heart of God melts him into tenderness towards the race which Jesus has loved so well. To St. John a lack of love for men seems sheer dishonour to the love of Christ” (Liddon).

Verse 16.

In this (verse 10; 1 John 2:3)we have come to know (have acquired and possess the knowledge of) love (what love is), in that he laid down his life for us. This is better than “We have come to know love as consisting in this, that he laid down his life for us,” which would have been ἐν τούτῳ οὖσαν. Cain is the type of hate; Christ, of love. Cain took his brother's life to benefit himself; Christ laid down his own life to benefit his enemies (see on John 10:12). This realized ideal of love we must imitate; ready to sacrifice ourselves, and even our lives, for the good of others. The effacement of another's rights and perhaps existence for one's own sake is the essence of hatred; the effacement of one's self for another's sake is the essence of love. Christ died for those who hated him; and the Christian must confront the hatred of the world with a love that is ready even to die for the haters. This shows that the “brethren” here and in verse 14, though used primarily of Christians, does not exclude unbelievers; otherwise the parallel with Christ would be spoiled (see on verse 10).

Verse 17.

“But δέ if a man not only fails to do this, but even steadily contemplates θεωρῇ another's distress, and forthwith (aorist, κλείσῃ closes his heart against him, although he has the means of relieving him, how can he have any love for God?” The meaning is not, “How can God love him?” as is plain from 1 John 4:20. But possibly “love such as God has shown towards us” may be meant (1 John 4:10). “The world's goods” τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου is literally “the world's means of life” (see on 1 John 2:16, and Trench on ‘New Testament Synonyms,’ for the difference between βίος and ζώη. (For τὰ σπλάγχνα as the seat of the affections, comp. Luke 1:78; 2 Corinthians 6:12; 7:15; Philippians 1:8; 2:1; Philemon 1:7, 12.) The ἀπ αὐτοῦ is graphic; closes his heart and turns away from him (1 John 2:28).

Verses 18-24.

As in chapter 2:28, St. John bursts out into personal exhortation (comp. verse 13; chapter 4:1, 7), based upon the preceding statements. He then restates the motive in a new form both positively and negatively.

Verse 18.

Little children (τεκνία, the μου being spurious). This address, as in 1 John 2:28, introduces the summing up of the section. It may be doubted whether the absence of ἐν with the first pair λόγῳ μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ and its presence with the second ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ indicates any marked difference, as if λόγῳ expressed the instrument, and ἐν ἔργῳ the element or sphere. This introduces a false antithesis, like “Do not dig with a stick, but dig in the earth.” (For the Hebraic ἐν to express the instrument, comp. Revelation 13:10.) “Nor yet with the tongue” is not a tautological addition. One may love in word only, and yet the affectionate words may be quite sincere; and this is a common case. People say kind things which they mean at the moment, but afterwards they do not take the trouble to act kindly. But to love with the tongue only is far worse. This is to say kind things which one does not mean, and which one knows to be unreal. Deeds are needed to complete the kind word; truth is needed to correct the insincere tongue.

SOURCE: Bible Studies For Life Commentary; Leader Guide; Senior Adults; One LifeWay Plaza; Nashville, TN 37234-0175

 

The Pulpit Commentary; 1 John 2:12-14

I. Christ Followers are Those Who Know & Love God (1 John 2:12-14)

Verse 12.

I am writing to you, little children (see on verse 1), because, etc. Beyond reasonable doubt, ὅτι, is “because,” not “that,” in verses 12-14; it gives the reason for his writing, not the substance of what he has to say (cf. verse 21). For his Name's sake must refer to Christ, not only because of the context, but also of the instrumental διά (cf. 1 John 3:23; 5:13; John 1:12); and Christ's Name means his character, especially as Saviour. Because they have already partaken of the ἱλασμός (verse 2), and have had their sins washed away in the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7), therefore he writes to them this Epistle. Note the perfects throughout, indicating the permanent result of past action: ἀφέωνται ἐγνώκατε νενικήκατε.

Verse 13.

Because ye know (literally, have come to know, as in verses 3, 4) him that is from the beginning τὸν ἀπ ἀρχῆς. The context respecting Christ's Name and ὃ ἦν ἀπ ἀρχῆς (1 John 1:1) show that the Word and not the Father is meant. A more perfect knowledge of Jesus as the Eternal Word, and no mere aeon or emanation from the Deity, is the special prerogative of the aged Christian; and such are fit recipients of the ἀγγελία of the apostle. No less fit, but for a different reason, are the younger among his readers. To fight is the lot of the young soldier; and a victorious warfare against Satan is the distinction of youthful Christians. They have got the better of that evil one in whose power the whole world lies (1 John 3:12; 5:18, 19; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Not that the warfare is over, but that it is henceforth warfare with a defeated enemy. Hence they also have a right to share in the apostolic message. I wrote (or, have written) to you, children, because ye know (or, have come to know) the Father. The reading ἔγραψα must be preferred to γράφω, on overwhelming evidence, both external and internal. The second triplet begins here, and this sentence should have been given to verse 14. It is difficult to determine what is meant by the change from τεκνία to παισία. Τεκνία occurs once with μου (verse 1), and six times without μου in the Epistle, and once in the Gospel (John 13:33), the probable source of this form of address. Παιδία occurs in verse 18 (see note) and John 21:5, and nowhere else in the New Testament as a form of address. Probably both words are applied to the whole of St. John's readers. Some would limit παιδία to actual children; but in that case we should expect a different order — children, young men, fathers; or fathers, young men, children. These “children” know the Father to whom they have been reconciled by forgiveness of sins; they have become his adopted sons through the Name of his own Son (verse 12).

Verse 14.

The address to the fathers remains unchanged; their claim to Gospel and to Epistle is the same. The address to the young men is enlarged; their claim to the Gospel is that they are strong to fight, have God's revelation of himself as a permanent possession in their hearts, and have won victories over Satan. The context and John 5:38 and 10:35 utterly forbid us from understanding ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ of the “living Personal Lord” (cf. John 17:6, 14, 17; Revelation 1:9; 6:9; 20:4).

Pulpit Commentary, The - The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 22: Peter-Revelation.

II. Loving the Things of the World is the Opposite of Loving God (1 John 2:15-17)

Verses 15-17.

Secondly, walking in the light excludes all love of the world. This is another form of darkness.

Verse 15.

Love not the world. Obviously, both “love” and “the world” are used in a different sense in John 3:16, where it is said that “God loved the world.” The one love is selfish, the other unselfish. In the one case “the world” means the sinful elements of human life, in the other the human race. It is most important to distinguish the different meanings of κόσμος in the New Testament. Connected with κόμειν and comere, it means

(1) ornament (1 Peter 3:3);
(2) the ordered universe, mundus  (Romans 1:20);
(3) the earth (John 1:9);
(4) the inhabitants of the earth (John 3:16);
(5) all that is alienated from God, as here and frequently in St. John's writings.

The things of the world are not those things in the world which may become objects of sinful affection, such as wealth or honour, still less such as scenery or physical objects. St. John is not condemning a love of those material advantages which are God's gifts, nor of nature, which is God's work. He is forbidding those things the love of which rivals and excludes the love of God — all those immoral tendencies and pursuits which give the world its evil character. The world κόσμος is order; the things in the world are the elements of disorder — those things which arise from each man making himself the center of the world, or of some little world of his own creation.

These rival centers clash with one another, and also with the one true Center. All this St. John forbids. With τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, cf. τί ἦν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ (John 2:25). Note the μηδέ (not μήτε), nor yet: “Love not the world; no, nor any of its ways.” As so often, St. John goes on to enforce his words by a negative statement of similar but not identical import. Love of the world absolutely excludes the love of the Father. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Some important authorities have τοῦ Θεοῦ for τοῦ Πατρός; the balance is decidedly for the latter.

Verse 16.

He still further emphasizes the command by explaining the negative statement just made. Everything that is in the world has as its source, not the Father, but the world. This shows clearly that τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ cannot mean material objects capable of being desired; these have their origin in God who created them (John 1:3). To assert otherwise is rank Gnosticism or Manicheism. But God did not create the evil dispositions and aims of men; these have their source in the sinful wills of his creatures, and ultimately in “the ruler of this world” (John 8:44). The three genitives which follow are subjective, not objective. The lust of the flesh is not merely the lust after the flesh, but all lust that has its seat in the flesh (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 2:3). The lust of the eyes is that lust that has its origin in sight (Augenlust) — curiosity, covetousness, etc. (cf. “the lusts of their hearts,” “the lusts of your body,” Romans 1:24; 6:12). In the world of St. John's day the impure and brutal spectacles of the theatre and the arena would supply abundant illustrations of these ἐπιθυμίαι. The vain-glory of life, or arrogancy of living, is ostentation exhibited in the manner of living; the empty pride and pretentiousness of fashion and display. It includes the desire to gain credit which does not belong to us, and outshine our neighbours. In Greek philosophy βίος is higher than ζωή: βίος is the life peculiar to man; ζώη is the vital principle which he shares with brutes and vegetables, In the New Testament ζωή is higher than βίος is the life peculiar to man; ζωή is the vital principle which he shares with God. Contrast βίος here; 1 John 3:17; Luke 8:14, 43; 15:12, 30, etc., with ζωή in 1 John 1:1, 2; 3:14; 5:11,12, 16; John 1:4; 3:36; 5:24, 26, etc. Βίος occurs only ten times in the New Testament (in 1 Peter 4:3 it is a false reading), ζωή more than a hundred and twenty times. Each of the three forms of evil here cited by St. John as typos of τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ are dangerous at different periods of a man's life; each also has been a special danger at different periods of the world's history.

Verse 17.

Seeing, then, that the love of the world and the love of the Father are absolutely incompatible, which must we choose? Not the former, for its object is already passing away; while not only does the Father abide for ever, but he who loves him and does his will abides for ever also. The antithesis, as usual, is a progress; it carries us beyond the limits of the original statement. The world is passing away like a dissolving view. It has its sentence of death in itself; its decay has begun. And even if it were not passing away, our capacity for enjoying it would none the less certainly come to an end. “The sensualist does not know what the delights of sense are; he is out of temper when he is denied them; he is out of temper when he possesses them” (Maurice). To love the world is to lose everything, including the thing loved. To love God is to gain him and his kingdom. Some men would have it that the external world is the one thing that is certain and permanent, while religion is based on a mere hypothesis, and is ever changing its form. St. John assures us that the very reverse is the case. The world is waning: it is God alone and his faithful servants who abide. As St. Augustine says, “What can the world promise? Let it promise what you will, it makes the promise, perhaps, to one who tomorrow will die.” The will of God is the exact antithesis of “all that is in the world.” The one is the good power “that makes for righteousness;” the other is the sum of the evil powers which make for sin. Abideth for ever is literally, abideth unto the age (μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα). The notion of endlessness is, perhaps, not distinctly included; for that we should rather have had εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν, αἰώνων (Revelation 1:18; 11:15; 22:5). The contrast is not between “passing away” and “lasting forever,” but between “passing away” and abiding till “the age” comes. But as “the age” is the age of eternity as distinguished from this age of time, the rendering “abideth for ever” is justified. The Jews used” this age” and” the age to come” to distinguish the periods before and after the coming of the Messiah. Christians adopted the same phrases to indicate the periods before and after Christ's second coming; e.g., ὁ αἰὼν οὗτος (Luke 16:8; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:20), ὁ νῦν αἰών (1 Timothy 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:12), as opposed to ὁ αἰὼν ἐκεῖνος, (Luke 20:35), ὁ αἰὼν ὁ ἐρχόμενος (Luke 18:30), ὁ μέλλων (Ephesians 1:21), and very frequently, as here and throughout St. John's Gospel and Epistles, simply ὁ αἰών. In Revelation the invariable expression is εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, the τῶν being omitted in Revelation 14:11. The exact meaning here, therefore, is “abideth unto the age,” i.e., the coming of Christ's eternal kingdom.

Pulpit Commentary, The - The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 22: Peter-Revelation.

III. Loving God is Reflected in Our Attitude Toward Our Possessions (1 John 3:16-18)

Verses 16, 17.

The nature of love as shown by Christ, and its obligation on Christians. Love has been declared the criterion for distinguishing the children of God from the children of the devil. It remains to show what love is; and this is best seen in a concrete example. “The Eternal Word, incarnate and dying for the truth, inspires St. John to guard it with apostolic chivalry; but also this revelation of the heart of God melts him into tenderness towards the race which Jesus has loved so well. To St. John a lack of love for men seems sheer dishonour to the love of Christ” (Liddon).

Verse 16.

In this (verse 10; 1 John 2:3)we have come to know (have acquired and possess the knowledge of) love (what love is), in that he laid down his life for us. This is better than “We have come to know love as consisting in this, that he laid down his life for us,” which would have been ἐν τούτῳ οὖσαν. Cain is the type of hate; Christ, of love. Cain took his brother's life to benefit himself; Christ laid down his own life to benefit his enemies (see on John 10:12). This realized ideal of love we must imitate; ready to sacrifice ourselves, and even our lives, for the good of others. The effacement of another's rights and perhaps existence for one's own sake is the essence of hatred; the effacement of one's self for another's sake is the essence of love. Christ died for those who hated him; and the Christian must confront the hatred of the world with a love that is ready even to die for the haters. This shows that the “brethren” here and in verse 14, though used primarily of Christians, does not exclude unbelievers; otherwise the parallel with Christ would be spoiled (see on verse 10).

Verse 17.

“But δέ if a man not only fails to do this, but even steadily contemplates θεωρῇ another's distress, and forthwith (aorist, κλείσῃ closes his heart against him, although he has the means of relieving him, how can he have any love for God?” The meaning is not, “How can God love him?” as is plain from 1 John 4:20. But possibly “love such as God has shown towards us” may be meant (1 John 4:10). “The world's goods” τὸν βίον τοῦ κόσμου is literally “the world's means of life” (see on 1 John 2:16, and Trench on ‘New Testament Synonyms,’ for the difference between βίος and ζώη. (For τὰ σπλάγχνα as the seat of the affections, comp. Luke 1:78; 2 Corinthians 6:12; 7:15; Philippians 1:8; 2:1; Philemon 1:7, 12.) The ἀπ αὐτοῦ is graphic; closes his heart and turns away from him (1 John 2:28).

Verses 18-24.

As in chapter 2:28, St. John bursts out into personal exhortation (comp. verse 13; chapter 4:1, 7), based upon the preceding statements. He then restates the motive in a new form both positively and negatively.

Verse 18.

Little children (τεκνία, the μου being spurious). This address, as in 1 John 2:28, introduces the summing up of the section. It may be doubted whether the absence of ἐν with the first pair λόγῳ μηδὲ τῇ γλώσσῃ and its presence with the second ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ ἀληθείᾳ indicates any marked difference, as if λόγῳ expressed the instrument, and ἐν ἔργῳ the element or sphere. This introduces a false antithesis, like “Do not dig with a stick, but dig in the earth.” (For the Hebraic ἐν to express the instrument, comp. Revelation 13:10.) “Nor yet with the tongue” is not a tautological addition. One may love in word only, and yet the affectionate words may be quite sincere; and this is a common case. People say kind things which they mean at the moment, but afterwards they do not take the trouble to act kindly. But to love with the tongue only is far worse. This is to say kind things which one does not mean, and which one knows to be unreal. Deeds are needed to complete the kind word; truth is needed to correct the insincere tongue.

SOURCE:  The Pulpit Commentary – Volume 15: Matthew. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

 

DIGGING DEEPER: Key Word(s)

The evil one (2:13)—This term refers to the devil or Satan (Matt. 13:19,38; Mark 4:15). He is the adversary of God’s people, using temptation, deceit, and lies to lead us away from God.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

Bible Background Commentary

Exhortations to Different Groups (1 John 2:12-14)

“I am writing” is probably not intended to convey a sense different from “I wrote”; it was common to vary style to make one’s writing more interesting. One could write “I have written” in a letter one was presently writing; grammarians call this convention an “epistolary aorist.”

On the one hand, “fathers,” “young men” and “children” (John does not exclude women from consideration here but employs the language categories of his day, which used masculine forms for mixed groups) could refer to different stages of progress in the Christian faith; see comment on 1 John 2:1. On the other hand, some writers addressed different kinds of moral instruction to different age groups to which particular points were most relevant (e.g., the fourth-century Greek rhetorician Isocrates; a letter of the Greek philosopher Epicurus; cf. Proverbs 20:29; 2 Tim. 2:22).

Fathers held positions of honor and authority; children were in positions of learning and lacked status and authority. Young men were generally associated with strength and vigor; here they had overcome the evil one by participating in Christ’s victory (1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:4) over sin (1 John 3:10-12). Although some ancient writers often considered young men more vulnerable to particular temptations (especially sexual immorality), John expresses his confidence in them.

Do Not Love the World (1 John 2:15-17)

2:15. “The world” could refer to everything but God; here it means the system in competition with God. Just as Israel in the Old Testament repeatedly had to decide between allegiance to God and allegiance to the pagan nations around them, the Christians scattered among the nations had to choose Christ above whatever in their cultures conflicted with his demands. In the case of John’s readers, refusal to compromise might be a costly proposition (1 John 3:16).

2:16. The Old Testament often related the eyes to desire, especially sexual desire, and pride. Both Judaism and philosophers (e.g., Aristotle, Epictetus) condemned arrogant boastfulness. By listing the three vices together, John might allude, as some commentators have suggested, to Genesis 3:6, although the language here is more general.

2:17. Judaism spoke of the world passing away but of God’s word remaining forever (cf. also Isaiah 40:6-8). John’s words here could encourage those who preferred death for the sake of Christ over the survival that the world offered (cf. 1 John 3:16).

Which Side Are You On?

In traditional Jewish fashion, John contrasts sin and righteousness, along with those aligned with either side (1 John 3:4-9). He then explains why the unrighteous oppose the righteous, appealing to a stock Jewish illustration for this principle: the righteous love one another, but the wicked, like Cain, hate the righteous (1 John 3:10-18). This was the test that would make clear who would ultimately triumph in the day of judgment (1 John 3:19-24).

3:16-17. John’s readers anticipated persecution and the possibility of death, although few had actually been martyred so far (Rev. 2:13). Refusal to participate in the worship of the emperor would brand them as subversives, and their enemies would be more than happy to betray them to the government as such. Since noncitizen prisoners were routinely tortured for information, especially if they were slaves, Christians might have to pay a tremendous price to avoid betraying their fellow Christians to death.

But John also demands of them a practical commitment to love in the present. Their opponents, who had withdrawn from the community, perhaps to avoid persecution, are responsible for others’ deaths as Cain was; but the true Christians are to live sacrificially on behalf of others daily. As in some Jewish thought, withholding goods from someone in need was equivalent to starving him or her (cf. James 2:15).

3:18. Ancient literature often coupled “word” and “deed” (e.g., in Isocrates, Demosthenes, Quintilian, Seneca, Lucian, Wisdom of Solomon); one who did both was praised, but one who only spoke and did not act accordingly was viewed as a hypocrite.

SOURCE: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener © 1993 by Craig S. Keener published by InterVarsity Press; P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

ABIDE in John’s First Epistle

By Joseph Beckler

Joseph Beckler is a church planter and resort minister in Durango, Colorado.

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HE WORD ABIDE (Greek, meno ) carries synonymous meanings such as remaining, staying, living, dwelling, lasting, enduring, and continuing.1 The Greek New Testament uses meno 112 times.  Of its usage, the Johannine group of literature (the Gospel of John; 1, 2, 3 John; and Revelation) uses the term 66 times.2 Having a proper understanding of abide  is thus important when reading any of John’s writings. 

Abide  in the Greek context carries a sense of remaining or staying in place.  The word in its general usage described an idea of enduring or of someone holding his or her ground, even when facing adversity.  Overall, the word meno  communicated a strong sense of tenacity, and this certainly shaped the understanding of those who used the word.  For the modern reader, understanding the meaning of abide, as related specifically to the Jewish community and the early Christian movement, requires looking at meno’s  usage in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. 

The Septuagint used abide (meno ) in translating Hebrew words that carried the sense of standing, lasting, remaining, enduring, being valid or in force, sitting, dwelling, and remaining undisturbed.3 The Septuagint’s use of meno  reveals that the things of earth will waste away, but the things of God will abide for eternity.  Everything associated with God endures, including His counsel, His Word, and His promised new heaven and new earth (Isa. 66:22).4 Looking exclusively at the Old Testament usage, abide suggests more than a casual “sticking around.”  This word emphasizes the enduring, eternal, and dependable nature of God.

Abide in 1 John 2:3-17

John’s writings, as mentioned above, used abide  in a brilliant theological fashion.  The Book of 1 John was written to a group of Christians who dealt with the threat of gnostic influence.  Gnosticism was a Greek (or Hellenistic) notion that existed prior to Jesus’ life and ministry and the work of the earliest believers.  Early gnostics attempted to commandeer Christ’s teachings for the purpose of shaping early Christian beliefs primarily into a form of secret mystical knowledge about God.  John, in writing the Letter of 1 John, boldly defended Christianity in the face of gnostic influences and defined faith as more than a mere philosophical, mystical pursuit.5

Within the passage of 1 John 2:3-17, usage of meno  reveals a superior understanding of what a relationship with Jesus Christ meant for the first-century Christ followers.  Verses 5-6 link together three words that describe the relationship between Jesus and the believer—knowledge, existence, and abiding.  John first started with the concept of knowledge, which was the obvious topic of importance for the gnostics.  He explained that being a Christian certainly meant knowing the Son of God and thus, encountering divine wisdom.  John then went further, though, by saying faith in Jesus was not simply an intellectual process of accruing mystical knowledge.  He explained, in verse 5, that being in Christ also meant existing in Him.  Existence was synonymous with the idea of abiding.6

In verse 6 John uses meno  to emphasize that Christians abide in an intimate connection with Jesus.  Our identity as believers, therefore, comes only as we abide in a deeply personal relationship with Christ.  John taught that the Christian’s spiritual life was inseparable from Jesus.  As Jesus Himself explained through the metaphor of the vine and branches, abiding is more than a cordial relationship (John 15:1-8).  Christ’s followers are intimately connected to Jesus.  In this connection, Christians experience divine empowerment, which results in living differently.  Apart from abiding in Christ, Jesus taught, believers can do nothing.7

Verses 9-10 of 1 John 2 contrast the difference between walking in Jesus (the light) and walking in darkness.  John stated that claiming “to be” in the light, but still hating your brother, was an indicator of spiritual darkness.  In contrast, the one who abided “in the light” reflected the moral character of Christ.8 John contrasted the weakness of claiming “to be” in the light with one who genuinely abides (meno ) in Christ.9

Meno  is also in 1 John 2:17.  This usage is different, however, in that it refers to the state of the believer who loves Christ.  John explained that loving Jesus held the promise of abiding in eternal life.  Clearly, this idea reached back to the Jewish roots of understanding what trusting God meant.  When someone loves God, that individual places his or her trust in God’s Son; and thus, he or she is immediately placed into the secure and powerful reality of eternal life.10

Regarding the use of abide in John’s writings, 1 John 2:3-17 reveals a couple of amazing conclusions about the Christian faith.  First, abiding in Christ affects every aspect of life.  Secondly, abiding reveals the security we have in Christ.  Christians are inseparable and intimately connected to Jesus, just as a brance cannot exist apart from the vine.

1.      Kurt Aland et al., The Greek New Testament  (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1994), 113.

2.      Friedrich Hauck, (remain, abide) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittle, ed. and trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 575.

3.      Ibid., 575.  Old Testament examples of meno’s  usage in the Septuagint are in Isaiah 7:7; 32:8; Job 15:29; Numbers 30:5; and Genesis 24:55.

4.      Ibid., 575.

5.      Harold S. Songer and E. Ray Clendenen, “Gnosticism” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 656;  Glen W. Barker, “1 John” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,  ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 315.

6.      Stephen S. Smalley, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 51 in Word Biblical Commentary  (Waco: Word Books, 1984), 50; John R. Stott, The Letters of John,  vol. 19 in Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 95-96.

7.      Smalley, 52; Stott, 96-97.

8.      Stott, 94-95, 99-100.

9.      Smalley, 61.  When John talked of the person who claims to be in the light, he uses the simple “to be” verb.  When he described the genuine Christian (in verse 10), he described this person as abiding (meno ) in the light.

10.    Barker, 322; Smalley, 89.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 35, No. 4; Summer 2009.

Christ and the Kosmos

Charles A. Ray, Jr.

Charles A. Ray, Jr. is Professor of New Testament, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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HE CHURCH has struggled throughout her history with defining and living out her relationship with the world.  Too often the church either has isolated herself from the world or has emulated the world.  Understanding Jesus’ relationship with the world will help us grasp more fully what we as the church today ought to be doing in that same relationship.

John, more than any other New Testament writer, delineated the boundaries for Jesus’ relationship with the world.  Kosmos, the Greek word most commonly translated into English as “world,” appears 186 times in the Greek New Testament.  Over  half of those occurrences (105) are found in the writings of the apostle John.1 Only Paul in 1 Corinthians comes close to John’s usage.2

The core meaning of kosmos  is “order.”  In early Greek literature the word was used to describe the seating position of rowers in a boat or the way soldiers were lined up for battle.  The corresponding verb could mean “to put in order” or “ to organize.”3 The idea of a thing being well ordered led to the meaning of “decoration” or “adornment.”  This usage is common in the Greek translation of the Old Testament Septuagint (LXX) where kosmos  can refer to jewelry worn by women or decorations in the temple.  This meaning is found only once in the New Testament (1 Pet. 3:3) but is preserved today in the English word “cosmetic.”

The meaning of kosmos  related most directly to John’s usage grew out of Greek philosophy.  When discussing the origin and make up of the universe, Greek philosophers designated the all-embracing world order or system that held together all created things by the word kosmon.4 The word was extended to include the sum total of the created things themselves, or what we call the universe.5 Later Greek philosophers, following the example begun by Plato, divided the kosmos  into “that world,” or the world of thought, and “this world,” or the world that can be seen.  John used the phrase “this world” 12 times.  The separation of the physical and nonphysical worlds reached its climax in the Gnostics of the second century AD, for whom everything physical was evil.

As philosophical discussion continued, use of kosmos  expanded to refer to the known or inhabited world in a spatial sense and also to the people who inhabited that world.  At times kosmos  could refer to living beings in general without specific reference to the earth as we know it.  This usage is seen several in the LXX.  In Deuteronomy 4:19 the phrase “kosmos of the heaven” is translated in the New Revised Standard Version as “the host of heaven.”6 The word also could be used a spart of a title for a ruler, either divine or human.  In the apocryphal books of the LXX, God is called the King of the Kosmos  (2 Macc. 7:9), the Great Sovereign of the Kosmos  (2 Macc. 12:15), and Creator or the Kosmos (2 Macc. 7:23; 13:14; 4 Macc. 5:25).

By New Testament times, the word kosmos  could refer to the universe, the earth, people, a world system, or it could be used as part of a title.  John’s use of kosmos  was just as varied.  At times he used kosmos  in a neutral way.  The Pharisees were convinced that the world (people) was following Jesus (John 12:19).  Jesus shared glory with the Father before the world (universe or created matter) existed (John 17:5).7 The possessions of the world (ton bion tou kosmou ) are the physical necessities of this world that believers are to share with one another (1 John 3:17).  However, the word also carries important theological significance in John’s statement of who Jesus is and what He came to do.

The prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-18) introduces the main themes that are developed within the Gospel, and in that prologue we find John’s first statement about the world.  As the true light, Jesus came into the world, dwelt in the world that He had made, but was not recognized by the world (John 1:9-10).

John 1:1 apparently is a deliberate imitation of Genesis 1 (“In beginning God” equals “In beginning the Word”), and in John’s statement “The world was made through him” (John 1:10), we may hear the echo of Genesis1, “and God saw that it was good.”8 Jesus’ ownership of the created order is emphasized again in the next verse: “He came to his own creation [neuter pronoun, idia ] and his own people [masculine pronoun, idioi ] did not receive him” (John 1:11).  John’s interest, however, lay not in speculation about he physical universe, but in God’s good creation as the object of God’s loving care.  John’s most quoted verse (John 3:16) makes plain God’s love for the world.

As Jesus’ good creation, the world was the stage for human activity.  Motivated by God’s love, Jesus entered the world to fix the mess human activity started shortly after creation (Gen. 3).  As the Lamb of God, He would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).  He came into the world so that the world might be saved,9 so those not seeing might see (John 9:39), so those who believed might not remain in darkness (John 12:46).  As the true “bread of God,” Jesus came down from heaven and gave life to the world (John 6:33, NRSV).

In the prologue John contrasted sharply the two ways that humans responded to God’s initiative in Jesus.  Generally, the world, which was His own, did not receive Jesus (1:10-11).  Led by the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) these people are characterized as hating Jesus.10 Jesus’ explanation for this hostile reaction was that these people were “of the world” (ek tou kosmou ).  By contrast, though Jesus was physically in the world, He was not of the world.  His saving mission initiated by the Father required that He leave the spiritual realm of heaven and enter God’s good, physical creation (the world as the stage of human activity).  He had to deal with the sin and forces of evil that were corrupting that good creation (the world as those who hated Jesus, led by the ruler of this world).  As the light of the world (an inhabitant of that physical creation) He could help them to become children of God.

We can summarize Jesus’ relationship with the world using John’s phrases “in the world” but not “of the world.”  Jesus expected His followers to maintain that same relationship.  His prayer was, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).  As Christians, we are no longer of the world (John 17:14) because we have been born from above (John 3:3) and have become children of God (John 1:12).  However, as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus sent His followers into that same world (John 17:18; 20:21).  The mission of Jesus and of the church cannot succeed without contact with the world.  In the same way, that mission will never succeed if the church lives and acts as though it were of the world.

The church is similar to a boat.  A boat out of water is unnatural and clumsy.  It is difficult to move around and can never function as it was designed to function.  However, water in the boat is not good either.  Too much and the boat is just as useless.  In the same way, we as the church will never do what God expects us to do unless we are in the world (as the stage of human activity).  We need to be where the people are who need the gospel.  But when the world (as the force opposed to God) gets in the church, we will be characterized by the hate and conflict that characterized the world.

John reminded us (1 John 2:15-17) that the physical world is temporary and its desires are opposed to God’s desires.  Jesus was at home with people wherever they were; however, since He was from heaven, He never accepted the world (neither the physical world nor the methods of those opposed to God) as His home.  We have been sent like Him to live in this world, always remembering that we are not of the world.

1.   Kosmos  appears 78 times in the Gospel of John, 23 times in 1 John, once in 2 John, and 3 times in Revelation.  All word searches were done using Accordance version 2.1 from Oak Tree Software Specialists, September 1996.  All quotations from the New Testament are the writer’s own translation based on the United Bible Society’s The Greek New Testament,  4th ed.

2.   Twenty-one of Paul’s 47 occurrences of kosmos  appear in 1 Corinthians.

3.   See J. Guhrt, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 1:521-22 for a discussion of the use of kosmos  in Greek literature.

4.   Ibid., 521.

5.   See Hermann Sasse, Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), 3:867-898 for a fuller discussion of Greek usages as well as more examples.

6.   See also Deuteronomy 17:3; Isaiah 13:10; 24:21;

7.   See also “before the foundation of the world” in John 17:24.

8.   Genesis 1:10,12.18,21.25.

9.   John 3:17; 12:46; 1 John 4:9.

10.    John 7:7; 15:18-19; 17:14.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 35, No. 4; Summer 2009.

Creation In Ancient Near Eastern Thought

By T. Van McClain

T. Van McClain is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Northeast Campus, Schenectady, New York.

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HY DO I EXIST  and how did the world begin?”  Those questions have always perplexed man.  Without divine revelation, man is left to speculate for himself about his creation and purpose in this world.  Apparently most if not all cultures have provided stories designed to answer these questions.  These stories are often referred to as myths.  A generally accepted definition of a myth would be “a story about gods or supernatural beings.”1 Such a definition suggests an absence of true stories about supernatural beings.  A better definition of myth would be a “traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.”2

The earliest civilizations that left written materials were Sumerian and Egyptian.  One of the earliest creation accounts is from Sumer and is called the “Eridu Genesis.”  Eridu was one of the earliest known cities in southern Mesopotamia.  The fragments of this creation account date to about 1600 BC.  The mother goddess Nintur was portrayed as instrumental in the creation of mankind; she said, “May they [the people] come and build cities and cult places, that I may cool myself in their shade.”3 Humans being created to serve the gods was a common theme in Mesopotamian and Egyptian myths.  The “Epic of Atra-khasis,” a Babylonian creation story dated to the seventeenth century BC, records that the gods were unhappy, because “the toil of the gods was great, the work was heavy, the distress was much.”4 The solution of this problem was for the goddess Nintu (referred to as Nintur in Sumeria), to create humanity.  The goddess said, “I have removed your heavy work, I have imposed your toil on man.”5 This seemed to be a good solution, until humankind became too noisy.  Enlil, one of the chief gods, then said, “The noise of humankind [has become too intense for me, with their uproar] I am deprived of sleep.”6 The myth tells that eventually the gods caused a flood to destroy all mankind, except Atra-khasis.  The god Enki told Atra-khasis to build a boat to save his life.7

The “Epic of Atra-khasis” explained the creation of humanity as the work of the goddess Nintu and involved the slaughter of a god named We-ila, whose blood was then mixed with clay.  Nintu (also called “Mami”) then uttered an incantation and used the clay to produce seven males and seven females.8 There is no borrowing of any of this material by Moses in the Genesis creation account.  Nintu’s creation of man by clay is nothing like the creation of man from the dust of the ground recorded in Genesis.  Of course, the “Epic of Atra-khasis” does mention a great flood.  It was a flood of total destruction, except for Atra-khasis and those with him in his boat.  Nintu came to regret causing the flood saying, “How did I, with them, command total destruction?”9

Genesis accurately records God flooding the earth.  Many ancient cultures retained some knowledge of a great flood and incorporated it into their myths.  The few similarities between the Genesis account of the flood and the flood account in the “Epic of Atra-khasis” pale, however, in comparison to the differences.  The Epic of Atra-khasis reveals supposed deities who made bad decisions and came to recognize their mistakes.  The biblical account of the flood indicates that God was completely righteous in bringing a flood upon the earth.

While the similarities of ancient Near Eastern creation myths with the creation account in the Book of Genesis are interesting, the differences between these accounts are striking.  The Book of Genesis places man at the apex of God’s creation; humanity is made in the image of God; and he is placed in authority over the garden.  Mesopotamian accounts of creation make mankind the servants of the gods, so the gods do not have to work so hard.  The cause of the flood in the biblical account is humanity’s sinfulness; the Mesopotamian accounts attribute the flood to the arbitrary and capricious nature of the gods.10 Many other striking differences are also present, leading one scholar to write, “It is difficult to discuss comparisons between Israelite and Mesopotamian literature concerning creation of the cosmos because the disparity is so marked.”11

Although Egyptian creation myths have some occasional similarities to the biblical account of creation, many striking differences are evident.  The existing text of the Egyptian creation story called “The Theology of Memphis” dates to 700 BC; the original text likely dates to about 2700 BC.  The story contains the statement that by the work of the god Ptah “all the divine order really came into being through what the heart thought and the tongue commanded.”12 Such a statement is reminiscent of the Genesis creation account where God spoke the world into existence.

However, beyond that similarity the Egyptian creation story is radically different. “The Theology of Memphis” depicts the god Ptah as first crating the Ennead, which perhaps was a council of gods (who were then, involved in further creative acts).  How these gods came into being is described differently in different texts.  “His [Ptah’s] Ennead is before him in (the form of) teeth and lips.  That is (the equivalent of ) the semen and the hands of Atum.  Whereas the Ennead of Atum came into being by his semen and his fingers, the Ennead (of Ptah), however, is the teeth and lips in his mouth, which pronounced the name of everything.”13 Such a crude depiction of creation diverges starkly from the biblical account.  God did not create lesser deities who then created even lesser things.  Rather, God created all things, forming humanity specially in His own image.

The Egyptian myths are not the only ones that contain crude and vulgar actions on the part of the gods.  The Sumerian myth that supposedly tells about a loss of paradise is named “Enki and Ninhursag.”14 Some scholars have suggested that the story is not really about a loss of paradise, but that the place named Dilmun in the story is “a virginal and inchoate place, lacking life, fresh water, and human culture.”15 In the story, Enki, the god of wisdom, incestuously fathered a series of goddesses.  He first had relations with Ninhursag, then with their daughter Ninmu, then with Ninkurra, his daughter with Ninmu, and so forth.16 Nowhere in the story is there any hint of any immorality on the part of the god Enki.  The Book of Genesis does record incestuous relationships, like that of Lot with his daughters, but such events are clearly indicated as being immoral.

An Akkadian account of creation, the “Enuma Elish,” also known as the “Epic of Creation,” dates to the eleventh century BC.17 The most notable similarity between it and the Genesis account of creation is the mention of two spheres of water in Genesis created by God, and the mention of Marduk splitting the carcass of the dead goddess Tiamat into two halves, with on half constituting the earth and the other the sky.  Furthermore, the name Tiamat is linguistically related to the Hebrew word tehom, the “deep.”  Yet, any minor similarities are greatly dwarfed by the great disparity between the accounts.  According to one modern scholar the theory that the Babylonian Marduk could create the heavens and earth by splitting the dragon goddess Tiamat into two halves is so preposterous that “no one but a lunatic under the influence of hashish could ever arrive at the theory.”18

The Babylonian myth of the creation of heaven and earth resulting from the splitting of a divine being’s carcass is indeed ridiculous, but so is the claim of some modern scientists such as Francis Crick that life began on earth as a result of directed pan-spermia, the dissemination of microorganisms by extraterrestrials using spaceships.  Ancient people would probably also find other aspects of evolutionary theory to be laughable.  As Phillip E. Johnson wrote,” Those (evolutionists) who are tempted to ridicule directed pan-spermia should restrain themselves, because Crick’s extraterrestrials are no more invisible than the universe of ancestors that earth-bound Darwinist have to invoke.”19

Without divine revelation, mankind is left to his own devices to try to explain the existence of the universe and his place in it.  Some similarities between the Genesis account of creation and the creation myths should be expected.  Israel shared much of the same culture as that of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians.  If the Israelites were aware of the religious claims of those who lived around them, then they possible knew some of the myths of those religions.  Clearly, however, none of those myths made their way into the biblical account of creation.  The differences are too vast.  The gods of the Mesopotamians and Egyptians of the ancient Near East did not deserve worship.  Humanity in those creation myths appear to have more wisdom and morality than the gods.  The true God revealed in Scripture is vastly different from those gods, and He is indeed worthy of worship.          Bi

1.  Kenton L. Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature  (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 306.

2.  “Myth” in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary,  11th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2005), 822.

3.  Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer, eds. Readings from the Ancient Near East: Primary Sources for Old Testament Study  (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 13.

4.  Ibid., 21.

5.  Ibid., 24.

6.  Ibid., 26.

7.  Ibid., 29.

8.  Ibid., 24-25.

9.  Ibid., 30.

10. For a comparison of Biblical and Babylonian creation accounts, see John H. Walton, Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament,  rev. and expanded ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 80.

11. John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), 26.

12. “The Theology of Memphis” in “Egyptian Myths, Tales, and Mortuary Texts” in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament,  ed. James B. Pritchard, 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 5.

13. Ibid.

14. Arnold and Beyer, 15-19.

15. Sparks, 307.

16. Arnold and Beyer 16-17.

17. Ibid., 31-50.

18. F. M. Cornford, The Unwritten Philosophy and Other Essays,  ed. W. K. C. Guthrie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950), 111.

19. Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trail  (Washington DC: Regnery Gateway, 1991), 108.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 36, No. 3; Spring 2010.

The Purpose and Life Situation of John’s Letters

By Timothy Trammell

Timothy Trammell is Dean, College of Christian Faith and professor of New Testament and Greek, Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, Texas.

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ROBABLY THE BEST KNOWN ANECDOTE about the aged apostle John underscores his vehement opposition to incipient gnosticism and the gnostic leader, Cerinthus.  The church father Eusebius wrote of an occasion, evidently recounted by Polycarp to Irenaeus,1 that happened in Ephesus.  The apostle John entered a bath house, and when he was Cerinthus he fled from the building, crying, “Let us flee, lest the bath house fall, for Cerinthus, the enemy of truth, is within.”2 In this atmosphere of growing heresy within the Christian faith the three Johannine letters were written.

AUTHORSHIP

Strong tradition supports the apostle John as the author of the three letters in the New Testament that bear his name.  Allusions from the Didache and the writings of Clement of Rome uphold the authenticity of 1 John, although they do not actually name John.  In Against Heresies, Irenaeus quoted from 1 and 2 John, as well as the Gospel of John, attributing them to John.3 Origen, in his review of the canon, was evidently the first to include all three epistles as written by John, yet he added, “but not all consider them genuine.”4

Internal evidence supporting Johannine authorship is abundant and striking.  In 1 John 1 the author wrote that he had heard, seen, looked at, and touched the incarnate Jesus.  One is hard pressed to find a more vivid way of confirming that the author was an eyewitness.  The epistle has an unmistakable air of authority, addressing the readers as “dear children,” condemning error in no uncertain terms, and clearly expecting the admonitions to be followed.  Both John’s Gospel and 1 John use similar terminology, drawing a contrast between light and darkness, life and death, love and hate.  The syntax of the Greek text of both writings is relatively simple.

In 2 and 3 John similarities in vocabulary with 1 John point to common authorship, as does the general pastoral tone.  The author’s reference to himself as “the elder” can easily fit the elderly John.  The Greek term presbuteros, “elder,” indicates seniority, with an affectionate reflection of both age and authority at the heart of this less formal title.

As in 2 John, 3 John stresses “truth,” and the writer of both books rejoices over others who walk in truth.  In almost identical words the author of both letters intimates his intention to visit the recipients, telling that he has much to write but would rather not write with “paper and ink” (2 John 12) and with “pen and ink” (3 John 13).

ATMOSPHERE

The cultural and theological atmosphere in which these letters were written requires an examination of incipient gnosticism.  Gnosticism was a philosophical/religious system that combined oriental mysticism with Greek philosophy, getting its name from the Greek noun gnosis, meaning “knowledge.”  It absorbed enough elements of Christianity to make it a dangerous foe of the orthodox faith.  The adjective “incipient” is added because fully developed gnosticism did not appear until the second century AD.  The basic concept of gnosticism was the dualistic teaching that God is spirit and is good but that everything material is inherently and unalterably evil.  To the gnostic it was inconceivable that God who is good could have created a world that is evil.  Gnostics solved this problem by claiming that God created an emanation (called an aeon) from Himself, not as good as He but yet powerful.  The emanation created an emanation—and so on until there was an emanation far enough away from God to create an evil universe, yet powerful enough to do it. 

Salvation for the gnostic was not by having faith but by gaining special knowledge.  This knowledge was imparted by revelation and passed on by initiation and/or esoteric documents.  That this knowledge was of a special quality and could be gained only by a select few led to arrogance, lovelessness, and exclusivism.

The idea that matter was evil had serious implications regarding the incarnation, leading to an outright denial that God the Son could be incarnated in Jesus Christ.  For the divine Word to be united with a human body was unthinkable to the gnostic.  As a result, the gnostics explained away the incarnation in one of two ways.  Some denied Jesus’ actual humanity.  His body, they said, only seemed to be real, when actually He was a phantom.  Others, like Cerinthus, distinguished between the human Jesus and the divine Christ.  They contended that the “Christ-spirit” descended on Jesus at His baptism but left Him before His crucifixion.  Jesus was an exceptional man, but He was merely a human being, not a divine person.

The idea that the material world was inherently evil led to two radically different lifestyles for the gnostic.  Seeing the world as evil, some gnostics turned to asceticism, renouncing everything material, including sex and marriage.  However, other gnostics held that what the body did would have no effect on the spirit, so they were free to live a profligate life, contending that nothing they did constituted sin.

ANTAGONIST

The most widely accepted view concerning the heresy addressed by the Johannine Letters is that it is the particular brand of gnosticism advocated by Cerinthus.5 Cerinthus was a Jewish Christian who had some connection with Simon Magus, theSamaritan magician with whom Peter contended in Acts 8.  He was in the tradition of first-century Judaizers, stressing circumcision and forbidding food.

The most important information about Cerinthus is found in the antignostic writing by Irenaeus, Against Heresies.  In Book I of that treatise, chapters 23-28, Irenaeus listed the gnostic schools, evidently in somewhat chronological order.  This listing placed Cerinthus as a contemporary of the aged apostle John.  He wrote, “Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not make by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him. . . . He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men.”6 Irenaeus connected Cerinthus to gnostic concepts such as the descent of the Christ-spirit upon Jesus at His baptism and its departure prior to His crucifixion.  The bathhouse story illustrates dramatically the antagonism between the apostle John and the heretical Cerinthus.

FIRST JOHN

The apostle John seems to have written this letter to churches and Christians near the city of Ephesus.  Eusebius, quoting a letter from Polycrates to Victor, bishop of Rome, wrote that John was buried at Ephesus.7 This strong tradition placed John in Ephesus during his later life, giving him awareness of the theological and ethical concerns of Christians in that area.

Bible students recognize that 1 John is closely related to the Gospel of John.  Although they differ in their understanding of the exact relationship to the two documents, they agree that the style, vocabulary, key phrases, and fundamental concepts are similar.  It is by no means clear whether 1 John was written before the Gospel, after it, or at the same time.  One writer suggested that they were written as companion volumes, with 1 John written “to accompany and introduce the Gospel.”8 Blaiklock further suggested that “the two books should always be read side by side in mutual commentary. . . .  The letter formed a sermon upon the Gospel.”

Three primary purposes are evident in 1 John.  First, John dealt with doctrinal issues and warned his readers about false teachers.  He began by declaring that the incarnation of God in Christ was actual and that his knowledge of that fact was based on personal experience.  Jesus was no phantom, because “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—. . . we proclaim to you also” (1 John 1:1,3a, NASB).  This God, John declared, is light; He will not tolerate sin; and the path to fellowship with Him is open by cleansing from sin brought about by Jesus’ death.  By these statements John began his attack on false teachers, concluding that they were still in darkness and were in fact antichrists (1 John 1:6; 2:22).  The counterfeit Christianity taught by the gnostics presented a distorted picture of God, an incomplete representation of the incarnate Christ, and an unacceptable concept of sin.  The same Jesus who began His ministry with the water of baptism concluded His redemptive work with the blood of  the crucifixion (1 John 5:6).

Second, John linked belief and behavior, doctrine and deed, creed and character.  The gnostic who claimed that his moral actions had no spiritual consequences and that immorality did not equate to sinfulness was confronted with “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8a, NASB).  Those who were inclined to diminish Christ’s injunction to love were met with an ethic that combined an imperative (1 John 3:11, “Love one another”) with an indicative (1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.”).

Third, John supplied a five fold test to assure the believers that they indeed possessed eternal life.  First John 5:13 is a summary of the author’s purpose, “These things I have written to your who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (NASB).  Those who had withdrawn from the church fellowship(s) to whom John was writing had questioned the quality of the salvation of the orthodox Christians, claiming that gnostic initiation was more valid (1 John 2:19).  How does one confirm that on possesses eternal life?

·   True Christians recognize that God is light, and those in fellowship with Him walk in purity (1 John 1:7).

·   True Christians obey God.  They keep His commandments (1 John 2:3).

·   True Christians affirm that the  incarnation is a reality (1 John 4:2).

·   True Christians love other Christians (1 John 4:7).

·   True Christians possess the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13).

SECOND JOHN

John wrote to “the chosen lady and her children” (2 John 1), evidently a congregation in the area and one for whom he felt responsible.  He focused forst on the necessity of love as the accompaniment of Christian ministry and fellowship, rejoicing that “some” of the members of the congregation were living as they should.  His concerns and admonitions reflect similar terminology in 1 John, requiring them to practice obedience from the heart and true concern for the good of others.

But John’s primary purpose was to warn the congregation about traveling teachers who were setting forth doctrines out of harmony with orthodox Christian truth.  Specifically they were denying the incarnation and Jesus’ deity.  He warned the church not to be taken in by this heresy, directing them not to extend hospitality to false teachers.

THIRD JOHN

This letter was addressed to an individual named Gaius, and John’s purpose was more administrative and ecclesiastical than doctrinal.  Gaius was commended because of his faithfulness to the truth, shown by his support of orthodox traveling preachers.  But a problem had developed in the church.  A man named Diotrephes was attempting to dictate policy to the church, and he specifically rejected John’s authority over it.  He was not allowing the traveling teachers to minister in the church, refusing to allow other members of the church to work with them.  John sent this letter to Gaius, anticipating bythis approach to catch the ear of the church and thus communicate with the people.

Was Diotrephes guilty of heretical belief?  The answer to that question is not clear, but it seems he was not.  His primary design was to control the church and dictate who was allowed to participate in the life of the church.

1.   Both are apostolic fathers.  Polycarp lived from AD 69 to AD 155 and was a disciple of the apostle John.  Irenaeus wrote about AD 180 and was a disciple of Polycarp.

2.   Eusebius, Chruch History  3.28.6.

3.   Irenaeus, Against Heresies  3;26.8.

4.   Eusebius, Church History  6:25.10

5.   I. Howard Marshall, The Epistle of John in The New International Commentary of the New Testament  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 17.

6.   Irenaeus, Against Heresies  1:26.1.

7.   Eusebius, Church History  3.31.2-3.

8.   E. M. Blaiklock, Faith is the Victory: Studies in the First Epistle of John  (Grand Rapids: William B: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), 9.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 1999-2000.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

(28, 151)  What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found:  What church was noted for hating the Nicolaitan heresy?  Answer Next Week:

Last Week’s Question Who had enemies that wrote smear letters about him to the Persian king?:Answer: Zerubbabel; Ezra 4:6-16.