Last week we considered the persecution that followed in the wake of Stephen’s death, the first martyr of the early church. This morning we come to consider the first missionary of the early church. The ancient church father, Tertullian, once wrote, the more you kill us the more we will multiply, every drop of our blood will spring up, some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold (Apology, ch. 50).
John begins verse 7 with what sounds like discouraging news. There are many deceivers who have gone out into the world. He doesn’t want believers to be naïve about how many, they are not rare, but commonplace. Don’t be discouraged about all the false teaching in the church in the world. Jesus said again and again there would be false angels, false spirits, false apostles, false teachers, false evangelists, false missionaries, false shepherds, false messiahs, anti-christs, wolves in sheep’s clothing. There is nothing new here, no surprises. This is the work of Satan, it has never ceased and won’t until Christ returns and puts an end to it. The enemy never rests and the enemy is very subtle. Our world is filled with thousands of cults with millions of followers, false religions, liberal theologies, and worldly ideologies. There are over five thousand cults with millions of followers. Many of them once attended a church. But we need not fear, “And though this world with devils filled.” Jesus is on His throne and He will not be overthrown and the gates of hell will not prevail against His blood-bought Church.
In our culture today which would you say is more important, truth or love? I think the answer is pretty obvious. Love trumps everything. Truth is relative, diversity and tolerance are all the rage. People who stand for truth are labeled haters speaking hate speech. Unyielding commitment to the truth is called unloving. Truth has been sacrificed on the altar of love. We are told truth divides and separates us from love, because it makes distinctions and calls error error. We are told doctrine divides and love unites. Today love is defined as tolerance without the truth. Love is never challenging someone’s views. Love is refusing to label anything as wrong. One example is the view of marriage. It is no longer culturally acceptable to say marriage is only between one man and one woman. That is too exclusive, elitist, narrow, unfair. It marginalizes people who feel and think differently, and want all the rights and benefits even if they don’t believe God’s will and purpose for marriage. Predictably it won’t stop at same-sex unions. Recently the American Psychological Association announced it is opening the door to polygamous relationships or what are now called polyamorous relationships. If we throw out God’s definition of marriage, then anything and everything goes. Why not a marriage with three or four or more people? Who can stand up against that? If gender doesn’t matter then why should number matter? There is no end to the folly of godlessness. If there is no God then everything is permitted.
We are returning to the Book of Acts this morning. This is Luke’s history of the early church. We started with Jesus’ ascension into heaven, then Pentecost and the phenomenal growth of the early church which lead to the formation of deacons to help with the work. One of them was Stephen who became the first martyr in the Christian church. He was stoned to death by an angry mob of Jews. All of this was watched over by Saul who was approving it.
I am going to start my sermon this morning by telling you the destination, where we are going. Then I am going to back up and tell you why we are going there and how we will get there. If this was a big bus and I announced that we are going to go the Thudpucker, Arkansas, I am sure I would have to make a good case for why in the world would we go there, or I might have a mutiny on my hands. So, this morning our destination is to call First CRC to become a prayer advocate church for the nation of Nigeria and specifically for the Muslim Hausa frontier people group in northern Nigeria. Now already a few of you are thinking, I would rather go to Thudpucker, Arkansas. So, let’s back up and talk about the bigger picture and then zero in on why that destination.
Tonight, we come to the conclusion of our sermon series on John’s first letter. For those who like statistics this is sermon number 20 on these five chapters. If you think that’s a lot, consider the great preacher, D.M. Lloyd-Jones, who preached 67 sermons on this letter. I have those sermons in five volumes. In one of those sermons he digs deeply into one of the things John emphasizes the most in his letter, that God is love. I decided to do the same as a way of wrapping up and summarizing our time in this great little love letter from the apostle John. What can be more important than knowing the love of God? John certainly doesn’t think there is anything more important. In the short section of John, I just read he uses love 18 times. John wants us to know something and he wants us to know it so that our joy may be complete (I John 1:4). He wants us to know the love of God. He wants our knowledge to be objective and subjective, grounded in truth and doctrine, and at the same time experiential, felt, personal, practical, living. Mind and heart will and emotion.
We have already mentioned that verse 13 seemed like a natural ending to this letter. Even verse 20 could have worked. He could have ended, little children, love Jesus, walk in the light, love your brother. Or he could have ended this letter the way he ends his next two letters, II John and III John, saying he has much more to say but hopes to come in person, face to face. So why this strange, unexpected concluding command added onto the end of I John? This is the only letter in the NT to end with an abrupt command. If we look at the context we get some clues for this ending.