Why I am writing
I John 1:1-4 says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
This is why I am writing
Meaning can often be one of the hardest things to come by in our everyday lives. We often mistake a person for meaning something that they never intended to say. How many times have you walked away from a conversation with a couple of friends and say, “I can’t believe he would say…”. Your friend looks at you and says, “I don’t think that is what he meant.” I do this all the time, and, at times, I’m guilty of bad interpretation of meaning. I take something away from what someone says and that is never what he or she intended to say. I believe we have all been guilty of doing this from time to time.
When studying the Bible, we critically analyze every detail because we want to understand what the author means by what He says. With the Bible, we are wanting to understand what God means by all that He gave us through Moses, the prophets, through historical books, through poetry, and through the apostles. We diligently seek to understand Him and what He meant when He wrote.
At times, meaning is hard to come by; it takes a lot of work to discover. However, discovery of meaning in the Word of God is a rewarding pursuit. The Psalmist said, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18). Again, meaning is hard to come by, but John made it clear in this letter why he was writing.
On 12 different occasions, John told us his purpose for writing to these believers. He wanted to remain in fellowship together (I Jn. 1:3). He wanted them to have joy (I Jn. 1:4). He wanted to address the little children, the children, the young men, and the fathers to encourage them all (I Jn. 2:12-14). He wrote to them because they knew the truth (I Jn. 2:21). He wrote to them because there were false teachers trying to seduce them (I Jn. 2:26). He wrote to them so that they would continue to believe in Christ and be assured of eternal life (I Jn. 5:13). No doubt this was occasioned because the false doctrine being preached by false teachers.
Gnosticism then and now
It is clear in our opening passage that John was dealing with false teaching that taught Christ did not actually come in the flesh. This would become a very popular doctrine of the second century church. Seeds of this doctrine clearly began to infiltrate the church close to the end of John’s life around AD 90.
Gnosticism stated two primary beliefs:
(1) Supremacy of knowledge: Ordinary Christians could not possess this knowledge.
(2) Separation of spirit and matter: The body is evil but the spirit is impervious to defilement.
Out of this belief, they taught that Christ did not come in the flesh because His body would have been evil. John destroys this teaching by stating, “I heard Him, I saw Him, I gazed upon Him, I touched Him with my own very hands.”
This doctrine led men to believe that because the body is evil, then we do not have to deal with sin because the body is just evil. They taught that their spirit was perfect and could not sin. This is still around today in the hypergrace movement, which says, “Do not acknowledge sin because that is proof of lack of faith.” John very clearly destroys this mindset in the next paragraph.
The danger of false doctrine
It is clear that this false doctrine was very prevalent in the area that John was writing to. This doctrine infiltrates our churches today. In fact so much so that we don’t even deal with sin, let alone mention it in passing. We have to face sin head on. We cannot be bashful, and we cannot be afraid of offending. If we do not admit we have sin, then the Cross can do nothing for us. This will ultimately remove us from fellowship with believers and with God Himself. There is no joy in a life that does not deal with sin.
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