the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Wells of Living Water Commentary Wells of Living Water
- 1 John
by Robert Neighbour
We are entering today into a most profitable study of one of God's great Books, The whole Bible has sixty-six Books, each with a special message, and yet each is a part of a perfect whole.
The Epistle of First John is written to saints in order to set before them those things by which they may know that they are saved. The expression, "We know," occurs in many verses throughout the Epistle.
First John, however, not only shows the believer how he may be saved by plain and positive statement; but it also shows contrasts between the saved and the unsaved, which tend to clarify the minds of believers as to their own acceptance with God.
All will grant us that there is a chasm deep, and wide, and impassable that separates the. righteous and the wicked, the saved and the unsaved. There is a chasm equally as deep and wide between Christ and Belial; between darkness and light; between truth and error; between love and hate.
We wish to urge that we for ever cease to federate where God separates. How can two walk together except they be agreed? What part hath the believer with the unbeliever; what concord hath Christ with Belial; what communion hath light with darkness; what fellowship is there between righteousness and unrighteousness?
Instead of seeking a common ground where saints and sinners may mix and mingle, we should be calling them to separation from a fellowship which can do nothing less than displease God and disrupt spiritual growth.
God has said, "The Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." He has also said, "And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean."
When a teacher, or preacher, or leader, calls evil good, or good evil; when he puts light for darkness, and darkness for light; when he says that the bitter is sweet, or the sweet bitter, God says unto him, "Woe!" Such men are prophesying falsely.
Balaam taught Balac how to cast a stumblingstone before Israel, when he incited him to intermarry the Midianites with the Israelites. We have within our churches many who are following the teaching of Balaam.
What God has kept asunder, let no man join together.
I. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE BELIEVER AND THE UNBELIEVER (1 John 5:10 )
Many have felt that believing is a very small matter. They have gone so far as to say that it is not right to place one's eternal life on so small an act.
Others have tried to insist that all believe and that therefore all are saved. One man told us, when we asked him if he was a Christian, "Do you think I am a heathen?" He was counting on his being raised in a Christian country, where everybody believed in. God, The truth is, that "believing" is no small matter. It is just as true, that disbelieving is no small matter. Faith pleases God, and unbelief is black with God's frown.
Paul went into a certain city to preach, and this was the result "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not."
In the city of Nazareth Christ could do no mighty works because of their unbelief.
Jesus said, "Whom He (the Father) hath sent, Him ye believe not." It was because of their unbelief that they had no life in them.
The contrasts between the believer and the unbeliever are made clear in many parts of the Bible.
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36 ).
"He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18 ).
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16 ).
Now we may look into our special text:
1. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself." What is this witness? It is the Spirit of God bearing witness with our spirits that we are the sons of God. It is the witness that gives us assurance that we have eternal life.
2. "He that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son." That record is made plain in the Word of God, and is emphasized in the preaching of men taught of God.
As we pass to our next thought, let us remember that believers have eternal life, but unbelievers have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.
II. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN DENYING AND ACKNOWLEDGING THE SON (1 John 2:23 )
This is just a step beyond our first consideration. We discuss it, however, because it makes so much stronger the contrast between the believer and the unbeliever.
The greatest question of the ages is this: "What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He?"
With what concern did Christ say to the disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" The disciples answered, "Some say, that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets."
In contrast with his former question, which emphasized the "Whom do men say?" Christ asked, "But whom say ye that I am?" * * Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
This contrast presents the great abyss that exists between the saved and the unsaved: the "men" and the "ye."
The sad fact of today is this: there are many now who are in the churches, and even in the pulpits, who would join with the unsaved, the "men" of Christ's day, in denying the Son of God. They are willing to clothe Him with raiment that marks superiority, but they deny Him the garments of Sonship.
Jude describes them as "Certain men crept in unawares, * * * * denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
We said on one occasion, that any man, be he of the laity or the pulpit, who denies that Christ is the Son of God, is lost and hastening to eternal death, A preacher took us to task, saying that we were either an ignoramus, or an impostor, to speak thus. We quietly said, quoting the words of Christ, "If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins."
III. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN CHILDREN OF GOD AND THE CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL (1 John 3:10 )
There is no mincing of matters with the Holy Spirit. Two men may walk together down the street; they may live side by side in adjoining houses; they may be riding on the same train, and yet one may be the child of God and one the child of the devil.
This contrast does not please men; but it is true. We stood at the Great Divide near Field B. C. It lies at the line that marks the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia. A drop of rain falling to the east of the great divide joins the rivulets, streams and rivers that rush on their long journey to the Atlantic. A drop of rain falling to the west joins the waters that go to the Pacific. Perhaps a falling drop of rain was swerved in its destiny from one ocean to another by a mere gust of wind that swept it from its natural fall.
Lives may seem closely allied and yet God's great divide is the line that marks between belief and unbelief, acknowledging Christ or denying Christ. The one life turns its long but happy way from earth to Heaven; the other passes out into blackness and darkness for ever.
Two little boys are playing together. As a stranger watches them, there seems but little difference. By and by, however, a call is heard "Willie, come here." Over the fence Willie goes goes into a home of wealth and plenty; while Jimmy, his playmate, turns toward his hovel doomed to penury and need.
Thus it makes all the difference, when the Lord comes and calls the saints to meet Him in the air, while the rest are left to wander in a world ridden by satanic power.
Before we pass to our next contrast let us note a few contrasts here.
The wicked are children of Belial, sons of wrath, cursed children, children of darkness, sons of disobedience, children of the wicked one.
The believers are called, sons of God, children of light, children of the Kingdom; children of the Bridegroom; obedient children; children of your Father which is in Heaven.
These contrasts may be studied with profit.
IV. A CONTRAST BETWEEN BEING OF GOD AND BEING OF THE WORLD (1 John 4:4-5 )
We have just been considering a contrast in sonship; now we are to behold the distinction in allegiance. Saints are of God, therefore they mind the things which are of God; the wicked are of the world, therefore they mind the things that are of the world.
It is not difficult to find out what we are, if we will only examine whom we follow.
If we discover which way the affections of our heart are leading us, then we will know whether we are of God, or whether of the world. The Lord said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." In the Epistle of John, chapter 2, we read, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
Those who are of the world, speak of the world, and the world heareth them.
Those who are of God, speak the things of God. They delight to tell of His love and mercy, and to bear testimony to His power and greatness.
When the Lord was speaking to the Pharisees and rulers, He said, "Ye are from beneath; I am from above."
The contrast here is very great. The believer lays his treasures up in Heaven. The unbeliever lays his upon the earth; the believer looks at the things which are not seen, the unbeliever at the things which are seen.
The Lord Jesus very plainly said that we are not of the world; because, if we were of the world, the world would love its own. Therefore, because we are not of the world, but He has called us out of the world, therefore, the world hateth us.
Let us not join with the many who are following the pleasures of this life, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Let us come out from among the world, and be a peculiar people zealous of good works.
V. A CONTRAST BETWEEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND THE SPIRIT OF ERROR WHICH WE FOLLOW (1 John 4:6 )
We have before us a contrast which is very vital indeed. Those of us who believe, know the Truth and the Truth has made us free. Those who believe not, have rejected the truth; and, as a result, God has allowed them to be led on by the Spirit of error.
In John's second and third Epistles, he continually speaks of the Truth. Such expressions as these are used: "Have known the Truth"; "For the Truth's sake"; "Walk in Truth," "Fellowhelpers to the Truth," etc.
In Second Thessalonians, the other side is brought out. There we read of strong delusions which God will send to the wicked, because they receive not the love of the Truth; for this cause they shall believe a lie, that they might be damned who believe not the Truth.
In Romans a similar passage occurs, where we read, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind."
Christians need not be surprised when they find men of the world so ready to reject the Truth and to laud error. The wicked have become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts have been darkened; professing themselves to be wise, they have become fools.
The righteous who follow the spirit of Truth, walk in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in them. They possess an anointing of the Spirit, and they need not that any man should teach them. The Spirit shows unto them the deep things of God. Their eyes are anointed with eye salve so they can see.
The wicked, on the other hand, have their understanding darkened. They have eyes which see not, and ears which hear not. They are blind, leaders of the blind. Have you never read that the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving?
Let us not become discouraged at the denials of the faith indulged in by the worldly wise. They are led by the spirit of error, and they cannot receive the spirit of Truth, because the natural man knoweth not the things of God.
VI. A CONTRAST BETWEEN WALKING IN THE LIGHT AND WALKING IN THE DARKNESS (1 John 1:6-7 and 1 John 2:9 )
This contrast naturally follows the one we have just studied. We who believe, walk in the light, because our God, who is truth, is the God of light. On the other hand those who do not the truth, walk in darkness. This is the statement of 1 John 1:6 .
How striking the contrast light and darkness! How glorious it is to walk in the light; how terrible to walk in darkness! Let us follow the contrast a little deeper. The path of the just is as a light that sinneth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. The path of the wicked is in darkness, there is no light in them.
God, who of old commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined the light of His glorious Gospel into our hearts and lives: the devil, who is darkness, hath cast the wicked into darkness for he is called in the Bible the ruler of darkness.
The final abode of the righteous is a City, where God and the Lamb are the light thereof. "There shall be no night there." The final abode of the wicked is darkness. We read, They "shall be cast into outer darkness." Again we read, "To whom is reserved the blackness or darkness for ever."
Men may love darkness rather than light, but if they do, it is because their works are evil.
Little children are fearful in the night. They shrink from the darkness, but they delight in the glory of the breaking day.
We who love the light, will come to the light, for the True Light now shineth.
VII. A CONTRAST BETWEEN THE HEADS OF THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD (1 John 4:4 , l.c.)
The part of the verse we wish you to read, is this, "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." It is not at all difficult for us to discern the two personalities which lead the children of God, on the one hand; and the children of the devil on the other.
Christ has come in, to take up His abode with us. He has told us, also, that the Father will come in and take up His abode. In addition to this we read that the Spirit of God dwelleth in us.
The truth is that if the Triune God does not dwell within our hearts, we are not the children of God. Is it not a sweet promise, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father?"
It is just as true that the devil is in the world. He is called the god of this world, and the prince of this world. The Bible says that, "The whole world lieth in the evil one" (R. V.). This leader of the world is also its energizer. We read in Ephesians 2:1-22 , that "The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh (that is energizes) in the children of disobedience."
It may not be pleasant to the ungodly, to know that the wicked one has taken them captive, and is driving them whithersoever he listeth, yet this is true.
The contrast with which we close, is the basis of all which has preceded. Let us ask ourselves, Who is our Lord? Our Prince? Our King? Remember this that no man can serve two masters.
An Illustration of Contrasts
Alberto Morales had a violent temper. He was only fourteen years old, but could swear. The missionaries had tried for months to get him interested in his salvation. He not only refused to come himself but kept others away. Then came that night at Logan's camp. The Mexicans had come in hot and tired from the cotton-fields. Crowded around the small organ, which the missionaries used in their outdoor meetings, they sang many hymns in Spanish and listened quietly while the missionary again told them of how Jesus had come to save sinners. He had scarcely finished his talk when Alberto pushed through the group and came forward. Tears rolled down his cheeks.
Between sobs be said: "Jesus spoke to me tonight. He said, 'Alberto, I want you to be My boy, I want you to be good and help other boys to be good.' And I said, 'Jesus, I will.' So I want to be baptized."
The next Sunday afternoon Alberto and three others were baptized. After this he was the happiest boy in the cotton-fields and the most faithful.
When cotton-picking season was over, and the Mexicans had moved back to town, Alberto's influence was felt for good in the mission neighborhood. He was not satisfied to have Jesus for himself alone, but lived and worked that his friends might love and know Him, too. Ina Shaw.