1 John 1: the Word of life; the light and the tension of now and not yet

This first chapter is pretty short and punchy. (Which is good because I left this very late in the day!) It is only ten verses long; however, John still manages to fit in quite a number of theology truths and complexities.

John doesn’t reveal explicitly what or whom he is talking about. He reveals a number of facts about the topic:

  • it existed since the beginning (here, the beginning of time);
  • John (and others) have observed and touched it: it is present in the world and it is tangible;
  • it is connected to the concept of the Word of life;
  • it appeared to us;
  • it is one with the Father;
  • the proclamation results in fellowship between the hearers;
  • this fellowship is with God and Jesus.

Of course, if we know our scripture and the beginning of the Gospel of John we know what, or rather who, the topic is. It is Jesus.

In fact, the parallels between John 1 and 1 John 1 are pretty obvious.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 14

Here we see many of the same ideas listed above reoccurring. Even the theme of light comes later in 1 John 1.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:5

I love John’s descriptions of Jesus. It makes me realise how holy, marvellous and awesome Jesus is. We learn that Jesus existed since the beginning of time; John has observed and tangibly known Jesus; Jesus is the Word of life; Jesus came to us and is one with the Father. Through hearing about him we can be brought into a fellowship with other believers and, more significantly, the Father and Jesus himself.

The next part is somewhat confusing. In verse 7, we are purified of sin but in verses 8-10 we have sin. This, I think exposes the now and not yet tension of the Bible. Jesus’ work is complete; it is finished. He has forgiven our sins. But yet, Jesus also continues to do a good work in us and sanctify us. We commit to an eternal truth that will come to fullness on the day of judgment: we have no sin. But while we live on this planet, in our fallen state, we continue to fail and flounder. We have sin, yet we can constantly seek forgiveness and constantly ask Jesus to change and renew us.

Either way, for this to happen, we need to acknowledge our need for forgiveness and Jesus’ work in us. Through that process, we invite him into our lives and to indwell with us. If we do not do this, we don’t understand the crucifixion and how we are alienated from God. Therefore, we are unable to receive grace because we do not fully repent.

This is why the truth is not in us. It’s also why it concerns me that some leaders have publicly stated they do not ask for forgiveness. They do not bring God into the equation. This suggests that they are deceived and that they do not know the truth.

(The rest of) Ephesians 5

Yesterday, I started writing about Ephesians 5, but didn’t even reach past the first two verses. It got me bouncing around the books of John and 1 John as well as to the prayers in previous chapters of Ephesians. To summarise, it was this: we are loved, and in this knowledge we should be obedient.

This chapter then reiterates what is acceptable and what isn’t in a life of light:

  • no sexual immorality;
  • no impurity;
  • no greed;
  • no obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking;
  • no drunkenness and debauchery;
  • lots of thanksgiving;
  • being filled with the Spirit;
  • speaking with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit;
  • singing and music in our heart.

We are told we need to be careful.

Be careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

We are also told this in verses 8 to 10.

For you were once in darkness, but now you are children of the light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

I really like the last part of this passage, about finding out what pleases the Lord. It does conjure the image of a child making breakfast in bed or picking out a present for a parent of out love and affection for them. Also, to think that we can do things to please the God that made the universe. That’s like saying an ant could do something to please us. It’s baffling, but it’s true. Although we are tiny and insignificant in comparison, God delights in us and treats us with a significance that we don’t actually warrant. That’s just incredible.

The end of this chapter is the somewhat controversial passage about marriage. I say somewhat because I don’t have a problem with it. (Of course you don’t you privileged white male!) This passage talks about how both wife and husband devote themselves to each other in a compassionate, sacrificial way. It tells us that a man “must love his wife as he loves himself” and must be willing to give himself up as Christ did for his church. This is a fantastic command designed for the man to honour his wife. So, I think this passage is great.

What does make me sad is that it seems historically society were so bent on enforcing the instructions to wives in verses 22-24, that the men were too exhausted it seems to follow the instructions given to them in verses 25-33. I’m sad that because of this legacy of misogyny and misaligned patriarchal focus, that passages such as these are dismissed without looking more deeply into the design for marriage that God had.