Friday, January 27, 2012

Tonight's Dinner - Domino's Pizza

This is the state of our pizza delivered earlier by Domino's. Needless to say it was in pretty sad condition piled in the box! This is getting some comments on the Facebook pages of Domino's, Papa John's, and Pizza Hut. I have even received feedback on Twitter! I sure didn't appreciate the manager of the local store being rude on the phone with Melisa. Now to be fair, the District Manager called to make arrangements to personally deliver the refunded cost of our ruined pizzas to our home and offer an additional credit for a future purchase. Melisa has already made it known that the credit will not be used unless a competitor honors it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

John's Call to Faith and Understanding: 1 John 5:13-21 Part 5


In the nine verses studies in this passage of Scripture, a great deal of theological truth has been unpacked. Of course, there commentaries that focuses on slightly different aspects of this passage. There is general agreement among scholars as to the meaning intended by John in this epistle. The lack of controversy with regard to authorship has certainly proven beneficial for the author. Still, this passage studies offers rich theological detail for study.

Living out the few remaining years of his life, John writes all five of the books attributed to him likely from about A.D 85 to A.D. 100. 1 John is perhaps written with the intention of being circulated among a number of churches in the Roman province of Asia. The closing passage of this letter reinforces themes John previously developed in the letter such as the confidence believers should have in their salvation and promise of eternal life, the fact that God hears an answers prayers made in His will, and God provides believers with an understanding of the nature of the world and His word.

Two particular areas where further study would be quite beneficial would be verses 16-17 where the Apostle discusses intercessory prayer and the sin being committed by a so-called brother. John suggests earlier that a true Christian can fall into habitual sin (cf. 3:9) yet John refers to a brother who commits a sin that leads to death. Can a true Christian commit such sin? Another area of interest for further study is the question of who John intends to refer to in verse 20. Does being in him who is true refer to be in Christ or being in God the Father? There are scholars who argue for both positions.

Perhaps the best way to gain a better understanding of 1 John is in studying the Gospel that bears his name. 1 John follows many of the themes in his Gospel and the two works are certainly complementary of one another. In fact, before undertaking a study of the book of Revelation, it may well be best to study all four of the other books attributed to John. His writing style is unlike the other biblical authors and yet in simple, modest language he manages to communicate some of the most difficult theology to be found in Scripture. As for the current study, it has been a pure joy to undertake.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

John's Call to Faith and Understanding: 1 John 5:13-21 Part 4

Application for the Modern Christian

The Apostle John said a great deal to his readers in this short passage of Scripture. Surely his audience was grateful and put the wisdom John imparted upon them into practice. How then can modern Christians do the same? Here three principals were addressed that speak directly into the lives of Christians of the twenty-first century. These principals are referred to by the author as gifts of faith.

The first gift of faith is that of confidence. The Christian need never question that which is so assuredly affirmed here in 1 John 5:13. Salvation is found in Jesus Christ and eternal life is part of that assurance. The difference in the lives of believers should demonstrate this confidence as should the way believers discuss their faith in Christ. There is eye witness testimony in support of these claims so there is every reason to believe in this promise.

The second gift of faith is found in 1 John 5:14-17 and this is the gift of prayer. There is a boldness that believers possess when taking their prayers before God that they will both be heard and answered as long as they are in keep with the will of the Father. This of course assumes that the believer has an active prayer life. Faith enables prayer. Without faith, what is the point of prayer? Yet with faith, Christians may come boldly to the Father with their requests knowing that those requests have already been answered! Of course, knowing the will of God is not exactly a simple matter. Knowing the will of God means knowing Scripture where we either find His will explicitly or in principal.[1] The point of prayer if not for Christians to get God to see their requests from their point of view; rather the point is for Christians to learn to see their request from God’s point of view.[2]

The third gift of faith is the gift of understanding. Gods enables believers to understand His word in a way the world can never understand. God enables believers to understand the world for what it truly is: a dismal place in under the control of Satan. It should never come as a surprise or shock to hear about the violence people commit against each other. The lost nature of the world should be obvious to those who truly know Christ. With this understanding there should also come the realization that without Christ there can be no hope for those people. This should motivate God’s people to do everything they can to share the Gospel.

[1] Walls, David, and Max Anders. Volume 11, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, Jude, Holman New Testament Commentary, Holman Reference. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 224-25.

[2] Ibid.

Monday, January 09, 2012

John's Call to Faith and Understanding: 1 John 5:13-21 Part 3

Verses 18 – 21: Faith Provides Understanding

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (v. 18-21 ESV).

John transitions from faith providing confidence and faith enabling prayer into bold statements of fact. Three of the final four verse of 1 John 5 begin with the statement “we know”. As previously discussed, oἴδαμεν is article of οἶδα, which means “to know”, and also translates experience, learn, know how; be acquainted with, recognize, acknowledge; remember; and pay proper respect to.[1] Faith provides understanding to the believer that unbelievers simply do not possess. In verse 18, John again returns to an earlier point he made in this epistle that those who are born of God do not continue to sin (cf. 3:6, 9). John’s use of the perfect participle γεγεννημένος here discussing those “born of God” suggests a permanent relationship begun sometime in the past that has continuing results from this new birth experience.[2]

It is quite reasonable to assume that the person truly born again is given the ability to avoid falling into habitual sin. This might seem to contradict verses 16 – 17 but this is not the case. John stated that if a Christian sins his brother will intercede for him yet here says that Christians do not sin. Habitual sin is not the normal state of the believer; rather, resistance to sin is to be expected of all believers.[3] Where there is habitual sin, there is likely unbelief to be found as well. In the second half of verse 18, the evil one does not touch the believer because of some protection. Here John does not specifically state who is protecting the believer. However, from earlier in the epistle, believers are assured that God is within them and is greater than he who is in the world (cf. 4:4). It is Jesus Christ who protects Christians.

Faith provides understanding of the true nature of the natural world. While John audience is assured in verse 19 that they are indeed from God, he also provided a very vivid reminder that the world lies in the power of the evil one. The King James Version translates this verse to say the whole world lies in wickedness. The simple point John is making is that the world is under the control of Satan yet his audience belongs to God and are safe from Satan. There is an important point John makes here that is easy to miss. A person is either a child of God’s or belongs to the world. John does not leave room for people to choose a neutral position. There is a clear implication here: if one does not belong to God and belongs to the world then by default that person belongs to Satan.

The third of the “we know” statements from John in these closing verses states what John has been an eye witness to which is Jesus Christ has come. This affirmation of the incarnation is important. First, it states the knowledge of what John experienced and that his audience knows from John’s telling. Second, recall John is writing against false teaching. Those false teachers questioned the deity and humanity of Christ and believed all matter was evil. An incarnate Christ posed a real problem for these false teachers. Jesus is clearly not one of these false teachers. Rather, He provides the needed understanding about His deity.

John explains to his audience that believers know him who is true and they are “in him” using ἐν τῷ with the implied meaning of being in union with Jesus Christ though this may also refer to being in union with God the Father (cf. John 17:3).[4] The latter is the position taken by Utley though for this writer it seems more likely the union implied is with Jesus Christ. It is through this union that communion with the Father is made possible. Regardless, the point is well taken that believers are in the true God and as such have eternal life.

John’s final verse again uses the term of endearment “little children” (cf. 2:12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4). Again, John is writing to believers for whom he cares deeply and he is also writing as an elder statesman of the church. John goes on to tell them to keep themselves from idols though the word here translated “keep” (φυλάξατε) might better be translated as “guard” yourselves from the idols. The question is this: to which idols does John refer? While anything that replaces God can be construed as an idol, it is unlikely that is the meaning John intended.

Ephesus is the “temple-keeper of the great Artemis” from Acts 19:35 and it is possible that is the meaning John intended here. Being constantly surrounded by the idolatry from which many likely converted, it would make sense for John to warn these believers not to return to idol worship. However, in the context of the entire epistle, it is equally likely that John intends to warn his readers about following the false teaching of those who had departed and whose influence could still be felt in their congregation. Regardless of precisely which meaning John intends, it is clear that believers are to maintain the focus on truth and reject the false that is found all around.

[1] Newman, Barclay Moon. A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), 123.

[2] Akin, Daniel L. The New American Commentary, Volume 38 1, 2, 3 John, electronic ed, Logos Library System. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 211-12.

[3] Plummer, A. The Epistles of S. John, With Notes, Introduction, and Appendices, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896), 169.

[4] Utley, Dr. Robert James. The Beloved Disciple's Memoirs and Letters: The Gospel of John, I, II, and III John, Study Guide Commentary Series Volume 4. (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 1999), 243.

Friday, January 06, 2012

John's Call to Faith and Understanding: 1 John 5:13-21 Part 2

Verses 14 – 17: Faith Enables Prayer

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death” (v. 14-17 ESV).

Faith enables confidence as previously discussed. The gift of confidence the believer has leads directly into the boldness (παρρησία) that the believer may have in bringing concerns directly to God. In short, faith enables prayer. Returning to the idea of approaching God in prayer (cf. 3:21-22), John uses language meaning boldness, confidence, and with courage when speaking of bringing prayers directly to God. This boldness should be a natural result of the assurance of eternal life believers receive when they come to saving faith in Christ. It is important not to overlook the second half of verse 14 where John states that the things believers ask should be according to the will of God. This is not a new idea for Christians as we see in the Lord’s Prayer we are to seek the will of God in our prayers (Matt. 6:10).

John again repeats the idea from verse 13 in verse 15, that Christians who have (ἔχετε), or already possess, the things which they have asked the father to grant them according to His will. God wants His children to have those things they needs according to His will yet an active prayer life is essential. These are prayers that have already been answered though the results of these answered prayers may not be perceptible to the Christian making the request.[1] The point is that God’s children know their prayers have been answered.

John then illustrates this point in verses 16 – 17 by addressing intercessory prayer. John tells his readers that they are to pray for a brother who is committing a sin that does not lead to death. It is likely that John’s original audience knew full well the difference between sins that lead to death and sins that do not.[2] It is this difference that limits the efficacy of prayers offered for one committing sin unto death.

Of course, for the modern reader reaching a place where one may say they possess the same understanding is challenging if not impossible. Even with this challenge, it is the view of this seminarian that John is referring to a sin that can be observed by the Christian community. If this were not so, there would be no reason to distinguish between the two types of sin. To determine what the sin unto death may be, another review of the context of the epistle may be helpful. John was writing against false teaching in the church (cf. 2:19, 26; 3:7) to a group who had endured what may have been a painful split in their congregation. These false teachers had left the church but their influence was still being felt thus the necessity of John’s letter.

All sin is serious business but the sin of unbelief leads to spiritual ruin. John wanted to be certain his readers knew the importance of an active prayer life. With all that these believers had been through, they should boldly take their concerns directly to the Father and make their requests according to His will for their lives. It is also important to pray for each other though offering prayers for those who are trapped in their unbelief may not be answered.

[1] Plummer, A. The Epistles of S. John, With Notes, Introduction, and Appendices, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1896), 166.

[2] Akin, Daniel L. The New American Commentary, Volume 38 1, 2, 3 John, electronic ed, Logos Library System. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 208.

Monday, January 02, 2012

John's Call to Faith and Understanding: 1 John 5:13-21 Part 1

**This series originated as an assignment for my studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary**

Without actually breaking from the preceding line of thought, John moves into the concluding remarks of the epistle. In the closing verses, John essentially calls on his audience to be confident in the Gospel they previously received. John states clearly that he writes to a group of people who have already professed faith in Christ. As such, John seeks to provide them with a bulwark against the idolatry and false teaching attacking them from all sides.

Verse 13: Faith Instills Confidence

13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (v. 13 ESV). John wants there to be no question among those in the church or churches receiving his letter about the fact of their salvation and eternal life. The Greek verb εἰδῆτε translated here “you may know” is rich in meaning. An article of οἶδα, which means “to know”, also translates experience, learn, know how; be acquainted with, recognize, acknowledge; remember; and pay proper respect to.[1]

As John is writing, he is conveying in no uncertain terms that those who believe in Christ can have an assurance, an absolute knowledge that they have eternal salvation through their faith in Jesus Christ. It is important to keep in mind who John is writing this letter to. These are people who have endured what may have been a rather hurtful split in their congregation. Those who left may have been members of families that remained causing great anguish over both the split itself and the circumstances themselves. To have received a letter from an eye witness of the life and ministry of Christ was likely a great source of comfort for those who were trying to stand strong in the faith they had previously received.

Another key phrase found in this passage of Scripture is John’s use of ἔχετε. Here John drives the point home to his readers that they have eternal life using a word that also means to hold or possess.[2] The last apostle is writing to these people reinforcing the faith they have already proclaimed that they may be confident, beyond any possible doubt, that they have salvation unto eternal life and that they too will see Jesus. This group of believers should have the confidence that faith in the living God provides, assured of their salvation because of their belief in Christ (cf. 2:3; 3:14).

[1] Newman, Barclay Moon. A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), 123.

[2] Ibid, 78.