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Biblical Studies Journal Volume 4, Number 2

July 25, 2000

Grounded In Reason: The Christian Faith
An Introduction To I John

David Mayes provides this introduction to the first letter of the Apostle John. It illustrates the power of Christian faith over death.  How confident can the Christian be of the message of Jesus Christ? The ultimate questions, "Why am I here?" and "Where will I go when I die?" are answered by Christ.  If that answer is not acceptable or not grounded in reason then honest and deep thinkers are forced into the path of mad absurdities or the path to oblivion via suicide.  --ed.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Written in the late first century, I John could have been a very negative book. Consider the things that a Christian could have been negative about. John declared that "many antichrists have arisen" (2:18), and "many false prophets have gone out into the world" (4:1). Christians also had to deal with the hatred of the world around them. In this atmosphere, it would be easy to become discouraged. It would be easy to begin doubting. It would be easy to succomb to the deception of false teachers. Amidst the confusion, John's letter was a beacon of encouragement and assurance.
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A Quality Message: With Witnesses

Key words in I John are "know," "confidence," "seen," and "heard." John assures his readers that they know the truth (2:21). He reminds them of the message they "heard from the beginning" (2:24), and he affirms the trustworthiness of that message.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled . . . (1:1)

The good news about Jesus was vouchsafed by eyewitnesses, by men who knew Him intimately. They not only saw, heard and touched Him during His ministry, but were convicted of the truth of His resurrection by the same means. And it was from such men that the message had been given. Here is reason for confidence.

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The Unimpeachable Witness

Yet, even better than John's own witness is the witness of God.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. (5:9-13)

Isn't that a blessed assurance? God confirmed His message with powerful signs and wonders. God compelled John and the other writers of Scripture to set quill to parchment, and provided the words that He wished to be conveyed. God has preserved His Word through the ages. God has taken great care to ensure that His people have available His untainted truth.

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False Messages Identified

Already in John's day, much competition had arisen against God's message. Some stood in direct opposition, while others offered their own version of or additions to the good news. False teachers were trying to persuade John's readers that they had more to learn, that their knowledge was lacking.   But John told them that ". .. the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you" (2:27). Further, John assured his readers that those who taught untruth were easily recognizable.
By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (3:10)

Many who claimed to be wise and set themselves up as teachers had unpure motives of jealousy and selfish ambition. The love and obedience to God that is the hallmark of the Christian was not in them, regardless of how good their teaching sounded.

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Quintessential Faith is Tested Faith

"Test everything; hold fast what is good", Paul wrote the Thessalonians (I Thess 5:21). That means testing what we hold on to, Christianity will pass the test. When we begin to have doubts because of the conflicting words of the world around us, we must turn with confidence and trust to the original message preserved in the Bible. We may guage the veracity of what we are told by those who claim knowledge and wisdom by applying the tests of love, obedience, and God's Word.

        - David Mayes

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