Week 52 Devotion
This first epistle of John neither begins nor ends like your typical epistle. Normally, such letters begin with a typical greeting where the author makes himself known to a specified audience and will also include the specific circumstances which called for the letter to be written. Not so with John’s letters. He opens 1 John by drawing our attention to the glory of Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God.
But it doesn’t take long for us to find out why John is writing. This is a letter of encouragement and reassurance, sent to a group of Christians who have been confused and discouraged by recent happenings in their assembly. We know from the early church fathers that John was an Elder to the seven churches in Asia Minor that are all referred to in the Revelation. We also know that John was, prior to his exile, a pastor to the church in Ephesus, which was the intellectual center of Asia Minor.
We know that this letter was written late in the first century close to AD 90. and most commentators agree that John writes this letter to oppose a type of false teaching that Paul warned the Elders of Ephesus to watch out for. In Acts 20 Paul has called together the Elders of the church and warns them sternly to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock...I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you…and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them.”
John has been allowed by God’s grace to live to a ripe old age that he would be able to strengthen the churches in Asia to stand against the newest heresy and the false teachers who are spreading what amounts to a distortion of the true gospel. These false doctrines primarily denied the full deity and humanity of Christ and these false teachers were troubling to the church, because they had separated themselves from those whom they had formerly claimed to love.
John is writing to Christians who are discouraged, confused and likely broken hearted over the loss of those they trusted were true brothers. But, in the midst of their difficulty God calls upon this elderly apostle to write this letter to strengthen the church as the last living flesh and blood witness to the reality of Christ.
This week we will read Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy which is a bold call for Timothy, and every minister of the gospel to persevere in spite of the suffering that will come for those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus. This is one of Paul’s very last letters before he was martyred in Rome under Nero.
We will also be reading 2 Peter which was likely written while Peter was in Rome and it too is the last thing he wrote before his martyrdom.
Jude is a book that the author didn’t want to write and he says so in the opening of the letter. He wanted to write about a letter celebrating our common salvation but instead he felt it necessary to encourage the church to contend for the faith. The gospel was under attack and this letter was aimed to help the church defend it.
The last book that we will read this week is the book of the Revelation of John, literally the Apocalypse. With all that is going on in the world, including the spread of false teaching, the persecution of the church and the martyrdom of Christ’s apostles; the people of God need comfort and this Revelation is aimed to give that to them. This letter is written to show that God is in control of the events of human history and even the terrible things that are taking place in the world, will result in the growth of the church, the triumph of the gospel and the glory of God.
Something to discuss…
There are two things I want us to discuss as we read Johns’ letters and they are statements made about God. The first statement tells us that, “God is light and in Him there is no darkness.” What does this mean? Is this a statement about God’s physical glory, like the shekinah glory cloud that enveloped the temple? Or is this is a statement about God’s righteousness in contrast to the darkness of sin in the world?
I’m not 100% sure but I think the answer is…yes! God is light is a reference to His unique glory that shines so bright that we can’t look upon Him and live. It is a reference to the holiness of God that makes it impossible for man to come into His presence and survive. But this is also a moral statement and we know this is true because God’s light is something that we are called to walk in (I John 1:5-10).
John wants us to view our lives through the lens of God as light while all the world is in darkness. For the truly regenerate believer, the light that is God, has shone into our dark hearts making known the truth and beauty of Christ’s gospel; and now as those who have been called from darkness to light we are compelled by the glory of the light to walk in the narrow way that it illumines for us.
But there is another statement about God here and it is that, “God is love…” This is the message that we have heard from the beginning and it is a message that changes the way we live. God is love and His love has been shown to us through the fact that He sent His Son to die in our place. Christ came to be a tangible display of God’s great love and this truth is meant to not only change our hearts but also our lives.
Since God is love and has loved us, we ought to love God and love others. Love flows from the heart of God and into our hearts and then through our lives to touch the lives of others. The facts that God is light and that God is love are meant to change everything about us. So take some time this week to not only read about these truths but also discussing these truths with others. Discuss how God’s light and God’s love are good news for us but also discuss how God’s light and God’s love are good news through us.
Something to meditate on…
The Revelation (not “Revelations”) is perhaps the hardest book in the Bible to understand, but it is not intended to be difficult. This book makes some things incredibly clear but it does make use of some interesting literary devices along the way. This book falls into the category of Apocoplytic literature and this means that it makes us of highly imaginative symbolism to communicate its message.
There is no denying that this book is difficult to understand and I suggest you keep a good study bible on hand as you read, or even a good commentary. My favorite book on the Revelation is a book titled More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen. It has helped me more than anything else to understand how to read the Revelation and how to understand its key message.
And what is the key message of the book? The purpose of the book is to comfort the church in its ongoing struggle against the forces of evil in the world. God wants to help us to have assurance that even when life is terrible, our prayers are heard and even our death for the sake of Christ will be precious in the sight of God.
But the theme of the book is the thing that brings the most comfort. The theme is that Christ and His bride, will have victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. Even when the world celebrates the seeming demise of God’s people, this book shows that their rejoicing is premature. In reality, it is the believer who triumphs because even in death we win.
The book closes with a picture of Christ’s final victory and the restoration of all things. Sin is removed. The world is remade. The enemy has been vanquished and God once again dwells in the midst of His people. The end of the book marks the beginning of eternity when all things are put right and we will live in the presence of God forever.
Something to pray about…
The letter of Jude (or Judah) starts by charging the church to contend for the faith. Along the way, Jude points out the problems that have crept into the church and he gives them instruction on how to address those problems. But toward the end of the letter Jude encourages his readers to pray.
He is warning the reader to remember the gospel and to avoid falsehood and then he writes:
V. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
In our battle to stay faithful to Christ and the truth of the gospel there are some clear things that we must do. We must build ourselves up in the faith, studying the scriptures and growing in our knowledge of the truth. We are to keep ourselves in the love of God, waiting on his final mercy to be revealed. We are to show mercy to those who have doubts about the faith and we are even to snatch some of those doubters out of the fire.
But notice that a big part of our response to false teaching is prayer. All of these actions are to be couched in our active prayers in the Holy Spirit. So, while we are working, we are also praying that God is at work in us. Let’s not wait until things get hard, let’s pray now that the Spirit of God would build us up, grow our love, keep us in God’s mercy and enable us to lead those with weak faith into confidence in Christ.
 F.F. Bruce The First Epistle of John pg. 25