Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
For the next 6 weeks we will be preaching out of 1 John. It is a letter, but doesn’t look like the other letters in our NT: it has no opening address, no closing greetings, and yet when you read it, it obviously has an intimate, personal feel. You can tell that the man who wrote it had a specific situation and group of people in mind. It feels almost anxious, and definitely pastoral. William Barclay says it is “a homily written out of a devoted pastor’s love and care and concern for his people.”
I don’t think that anyone here could argue that we need more of love in our world. And that is what this short epistle is all about—love. What does love mean to each of us? What does love look like? Why do we need to think about it? What does God have to say about it? How do we DO it? I think everyone knows what it feels like to NOT be loved, but we are not always certain about the opposite of that.
Originally preached Sunday, April 8, 2018
This loving little letter was written a little after A.D. 100 in the city of Ephesus. That means that the Believers were in their 2nd or 3rd generation. The thrill of the first days and of the new discovery had passed, and Christianity had become a habit—probably not so different than it is for us. In Matthew 24, Jesus warns us about how easy it is to allow our hearts to grow cold when things around us get difficult or challenging. And in Revelation 2:4, our King Jesus, the Risen Christ, writes to this very city of Ephesus Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.
One result of this was that there were members of the church who found it challenging to keep to the fellowship of this family. It was just too hard for them—the word saints in the NT Greek is hagios, which translates to the word holy. What that means is DIFFERENT. The Temple was hagios because it was different from other buildings; the Sabbath was hagios because it was different from other days; and the Christian was called to be hagios because they were called to be different from other people.
This demand for holiness for God’s people meant that they (WE!) had to live in moral purity, a new kindness, a new service, a new forgiveness, and it was difficult. When the thrill of newness wore off, it became harder and harder to be different.
This writer, John, is now an old man and has been a pastor to this new “religion” since its beginning. He wants people to remember what is vital and important about the faith—this epistle is a distillation of what he has seen and heard and learned through the years of his ministry and devotion. We can believe him.
John and the other apostles were probably forced to leave Jerusalem by AD 68 due to the mounting persecution against the church and the Roman armies besieging Jerusalem.
IMPORTANT NOTE: nowhere in this loving little letter do we read that this church is being persecuted. When it was written, there was no violence threatening it. The danger that this church was facing was entirely from within it. The trouble which 1 John is facing does not come from people out to destroy the Christian faith—it comes from those who think they are improving it. Making it more respectable. More accommodating. More appealing. The danger came from those who wanted to “help” Christianity. Align it with contemporary thought.
Let’s visit with John and find out how to “be the church.”