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.
Would you be willing to agree that what we think about God is the very highest hill on which we should be willing to die? In other words, our view of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the most important battle we should ever fight? Every other battle or debate or dispute is secondary to who God is and what He is like and what He does. History seems to bear this out because the biggest battles waged in the early church centered around the nature of God and the divinity and humanity of the Son of God. There were other battles but none this big and none that had two major creeds written almost exclusively about them, the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. While we don’t like conflict and battles in the church there are some battles that must be fought and far from hurting the church, they actually protect the church and make it stronger. They are like a refiner’s fire, that purifies and clarifies and unities the church around the truth. When humans take up the battle of clarifying who God is and what He is like we have to admit we are jumping into the deep end of the pool and we have to be careful and humble about what we are doing. God as He is in Himself is a holy mystery. We are creatures and God is the Creator. His ways and His thoughts are as far above ours as the heavens are above the earth. God in His essence is utterly and absolutely incomprehensible and beyond all human senses and wisdom. When we try to talk about the Trinity, our human language stains on the edges to explain this very great mystery. It is hard enough to grasp, and even harder to explain. We understand and know in part, but not in whole. We cannot know Him fully and eternity will not be long enough to fathom the depths or scale the heights of God. But while we cannot know Him fully or in His fullness, we can know Him and we can know Him truly. We can because God desires for us to know Him and He has gone to great lengths to make Himself known in creation and in the special revelation of Himself in His Son and in His Word. From Scripture we can learn that God is one God in divine essence and three distinct persons. Furthermore we can learn that God in the three persons of His being is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that the Father is unbegotten; the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Our texts and many like them are some of the most difficult in Scripture. Let’s see what we can take away from them.