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.
We are in the postscript or PS of John’s letter where he gives some final affirmations or exhortations, each marked with “we know” and these are followed by a final warning. Since the warning stands by itself and seems like a very strange way to end a letter, we will take it up separately. So, this evening let’s consider these three “we knows.” It’s one of John’s favorite words, he repeats it a lot, over thirty times in I John and over 100 times in his Gospel. The Christian faith is not a mystery religion, not a religion over which hangs a heavy cloud of unknowing, of cosmic uncertainty, of endless speculation. There are great truths in our faith that stand as absolutes, as things about which you need not doubt. John lays down three great truths here.
Every text in I John seems to have its special word, a word that he repeats over and over. What is that word in our text? Testimony and testify, at least eight times. Our text reads like a courtroom drama. John does three things: First, he calls in three witnesses to give expert testimony to testify to the proof and validity that Jesus really is the Christ, Son of God who gives eternal life to all who believe, vss. 6-8. Then, he contrasts the testimony of men with the testimony of God and give three reasons why the testimony of God must be accepted, vss. 9-12. Finally, he sums up the testimony and makes his closing argument in verse 13
John wrote this letter with essentially two purposes in mind. He wanted to expose the false teachers and those who merely profess faith but don’t actually possess eternal life. And at the same time to encourage believers and reassure them what it means to be born again. John is writing to the church, the family of God, and he is helping identify who is in the family and who isn’t. The spiritual deceivers and fakes and frauds are confusing the saints. We know in our human families how we are like our parents and our kids are like us. There are certain identifying characteristics, birthmarks. We can see the resemblance in the eyes, nose, mouth, how someone walks or talks. Like father, like son. She is just like her mother. People often comment about how much our boys look like one of us. People are identifying Woodyard features in our granddaughters. John is saying there are three identifying birthmarks or characteristics of God’s kids, of those who have been born again. John has repeatedly used three tests for both sides. The doctrinal test, do we love Jesus; the moral test, do we love God’s commands; and the social test, do we love His people. These are the fruit on the tree of born again, the tree of spiritual life. They are not the cause of our being born again, but the consequence. They are not the root, they are the fruit. I remind you that we had no more to do with our being born again than we did with our being born. We are born again of God, by the power of the Spirit, by grace through faith, which is a gift from God so none of us can boast. The word born means begotten by God.
The apostle John is called the apostle of love. The word love occurs 57 times in his gospel, more than the other three gospels combined. The word love occurs 46 times in his first letter, 27 of which are in chapter 4. That makes this chapter the other love chapter in the Bible after the famous I Corinthians 13. Twice John says God is love. Five times John says love one another. Those two themes go together. After all John has said about love and God, he is not finished, he still has more to say. And when he is done he will not have said it all. God’s love is unfathomable. That’s why Paul prays for God’s enabling grace
The Bible has a lot to say about love, which should tell us something about the One who wrote it. There is a whole book on romantic love in the OT, The Song of Songs. There is a whole chapter on love in the NT, I Corinthians 13. The most famous verse is on love, John 3:16. John has been called the apostle of love. He loves to talk about love. John writes a lot about love in his Gospel and in his letters. He mentions love over fifty times in his Gospel (more than other three Gospels put together. He mentions love almost fifty times (in 26 verses) in this short letter, and 15 times just in our short text (15 times in 6 verses). John already talked about love in 2:7-11 as a sign one is walking in the light, and in 3:11-24 as evidence one is a child of God. But I John 4:7-12 is the fullest treatment of love. This is another great love chapter in the Bible, and appropriately it begins, Beloved.
We are getting used to John’s way of writing. He makes constant use of contrasts to help us understand the truth. If we say we have no sin, verses if we confess our sin. I am not writing a new commandment, but an old commandment. Darkness and light; hating our brother and loving our brother. Love for the world, love for God. False prophets and true prophets The spirit of the antichrist and the Spirit of God. In our text John says “from God” six times and “from the world” six times. John is very concerned about two spirits which lead to contradictory confessions concerning Christ. Here is the problem. Those who are from the world and not from God are now in the church. Therefore, we must learn how to discern the spirits, how to eat the meat and spit out the bones. If you don’t pray for and develop spiritual discernment you place yourself and your family in danger of being carried along by the popular winds of doctrine and making shipwreck of your faith. Countless millions have been led astray.
You may remember me saying that I John is a challenge because he is so repetitious. He uses a 300 word vocabulary to write a 2300 word letter. So this evening I will focus on a couple of smaller specific points that can be easily missed when dealing with the larger points. We will begin at the end of our text.
At our Woodyard family Christmas gathering this year we played a game of This or That. People had to go to one side of the room or the other based on their preference for this or that. Starbucks or Woods, Huskies or Cougars, Coke or Pepsi, Packers or Seahawks, turkey or ham. Using contrasts and comparisons are great tools in teaching and effective in writing essays. We are helped to understand some things by looking at the opposites. John has been using this tool very effectively in his letter. Walk in darkness and walk in light Say we have no sin and confess our sin Love the world and love the Father Children of the devil and children of God. Hate your brother and love your brother. Our passage starts a new section in this letter. Most commentators on John’s first letter see it as having two parts and one main reason for saying it is each part starts with the same words.