by Jeffrey Hagan
(Tacoma, WA)

1,2,3 John and Jude

1 John: Lesson 1 - we fail.

1:8-10, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

First, the Apostle tells us that we have a means to be cleansed from sin. The second half of verse 7 says "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." God knew that we could not serve him sinlessly. It's impossible. But he arranged a means to have us cleansed and covered from sin through the blood of Jesus. This simply means we have to believe that our sins will be forgiven, and we can be accepted by God in Christ Jesus. When we recognize a sin we confess and pray for forgiveness through Christ. Does that mean we should accept sin as a normal part of our lives? Of course not. We acknowledge it, but we wage war against it. We should see it as an abnormal part of our lives and and never make peace with it. When we sin, we should take heart 1 John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).

However, we are to strive diligently to be obedient to God. Such obedience will bring joy and peace to us and cause us to know the love of God which is behind every commandment.

2nd John: Walk in truth and love.

The word “truth” is found five times in this short letter as is the word “love." Truth and love are inseparable. We must test all teachings by the standard of the Scriptures “for the truth’s sake” (2 John 2) Our experiences need to be tested by the Word of God, but we never test the Word of God by our experiences.

The truth John is talking about is from above, the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. We are to walk in the truth, not simply admire it. When we do so we will “love one another” (2 John 5). This love is genuine and not subject to change. “...the love of Christ controls us...” (2 Cor. 5:14). The proof of our love is in our walk: "...that we walk according to his commandments..." (2 John 6).

3rd John: Imitate godly examples.

In verse 11, John addresses Gaius, exhorting him not to imitate what is evil (in this case the bad example of Diotrephes), but rather what is good (the positive example of Demetrius). Diotrephes was in the role of a leader in a Christian church. He must have had some sort of following, or else John would not have written this warning. The point is, we all need godly examples to follow, but we must be careful in choosing those examples. Even those who are recognized as Christian leaders may not be good examples to follow. A mere glance at the news of our time will show this to be true.

How do you discern whether a person is worth imitating or not? Look for the fruit of the Spirit in their character. Look at their deeds (v. 11). Then, look at the person’s reputation. In the case of Demetrius, "everyone" testified that he was a godly man. Those who are walking with God will agree about the character of a godly man.

Jude: Contend for the faith in both your heart and what you do.

In Jude 3-4 we read, "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."

Much can be said about contending for our faith against false teachers. Here I want to look at contending for the faith in a different way, in our hearts and what we do.

Our faith is more than just mental assent. There is serious danger in thinking of faith as an intellectual pursuit. Remember, faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26) We must grab ahold of the gospel and never let go. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). We are not saved by our own effort or good works. (Rom. 10:9)

However, with that said a renewed heart is demonstrated by a renewed life. Never perfect, but always humbled, surrendered and growing toward the image of Christ. (Rom. 12:1-2)

Our faith is shown to be genuine when we desire to live in obedience to Christ. The grace of Christ, which covers our sin, is not a license to continue to sin or sin even more. If that is one's mindset, one has to wonder, have they really met Jesus? How we live matters. (John 14:15).

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