As we teach our children about obedience, we try hard to keep it within a biblical framework. The other day I asked Josie, “Who gets to decided what’s right and wrong.” Her response was, “My heart.” That answer was clever, insightful, and most people would agree. However, it’s wrong and I told her that the Bible says, “Our hearts are deceitful and wicked (see Jeremiah 17:9).” Her next guess was “Daddy,” and I said that although she was getting warmer, that’s not quite right either. Finally, she said that “God” gets to decide right and wrong. I said, “Bingo.”
God is our heavenly Father who simply wants the best for his children. As a father of two, I have been somewhat surprised how much I want my girls to love one another. They’re both my children and I love them. I want them to share my love for each of them between themselves. Not only that, I want them to obey me because I want their absolute best, which does not always align with their wants. In the same way, God wants our obedience because He wants the best for us—not because he’s trying to ruin our fun. Likewise, we should love one another because He loves us, and we ought to love what God loves.
Verses 2 and 3 make this point, obedience enables believers to love God’s children, and loving God’s children is obedience. Obedience to God’s commandments are not “burdensome” (3). Rather, as children of God by faith in Jesus (5) we overcome the world (4).
Verses 6–12 might seem a little odd after reading verses 1–5. John starts talking about “water” and “blood” and how they, along with the “Spirit,” “testify” and “agree.” A discerning reader can see that these are terms used by the author in a very specific way, but on a casual read, something is missing. In these verses, John is attacking the false teachers.
Not long after the close of the New Testament, church history witnessed the rise of a heretical movement called Gnosticism. 1 John assaults the earliest teaching of gnostic ideas (as well as some other heretical movements). In fact, this passage alone addresses several heretical ideas that the Church had to squash. For example, one of the main tenants of Gnosticism is that spiritual things are good and physical things are bad. Gnostics could agree regarding the “Spirit’s” testimony, but they would cringe at the idea of “water and blood.” God created the physical world, and it is in the physical things that we remember the Creator. “Water and blood” most likely refer to Jesus’ baptism and death on the cross—the bookends of his public ministry. Both things are remembered, symbolized, and practiced by every generation of the Church through water baptism and communion. Gnostics could never accept physical elements pointing to spiritual realities.
Additionally, false teachers of every generation have denied either Jesus’ godness or manhood—they denied in some way the Church teaching that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man co-equal and eternal. John puts it in simplest terms, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” If Jesus isn’t 100% God and 100% man, then his sacrifice could not be 100% effective for humanity—something else must be done. But that’s the beauty of the truth, we contribute nothing to our salvation other than a willingness to receive it. There is nothing to do, know, or earn despite what the false teachers said and continue to say.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate