This is the first part of my script from my talk at RUCU last night:
We’re going to be looking at 1 John in the main CU team meetings this term. And I’m excited for you. 1 John is a book that can be disturbing for Christians to read, especially with it’s very clear view on sin in the Christian life in chapters 2 and 3. That’s not why John wrote it though as it’s main aim is reassurance of great Christian truths. The author is the same John wrote the fourth Gospel, 2nd and 3rd John and Revelation, John the apostle.
John Stott has written that ‘John’s Gospel contains signs to evoke faith, Johns letters tests by which to judge it’. These tests are brotherly love, a righteous life and faith in Jesus as God Incarnate. These are the three poles around which John’s first letter is written. Though this letter is meant to strengthen the church and has much to say to help strengthen Christians, it’s also written against a background of heresy. That heresy was called Gnosticism and taught that the material, the fleshly was bad, and only the spiritual was good. This obviously causes problems for anyone who believes that Christ came in the flesh and that He was good! This is why John focuses so much on the incarnation of Jesus. Gnosticism was probably the biggest heresy to threaten the church in the first four centuries AD until the rise of liberalism in the 18th Century.
So let’s turn to the first part of the first verse and see how John turns his guns against the heresy of the time. ‘That which was from the beginning’ he starts off. Immediately we are reminded of the beginning of John’s Gospel, ‘in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ and of the beginning of the Bible itself in Genesis ‘in the beginning God…’. John is turning the minds of his readers to what they already know about Jesus in an attempt to help them walk through the Gnostic mire.
It doesn’t matter what new thing they think they’ve come up with…what do you know about Jesus? You know that He is ‘from the beginning’. You know that there was never a time when Christ was not, and of course by implication, never a time when God was not. How ever far back you go, there is Father, Son and Holy Spirit loving each other with perfect love. That’s who God is. Isn’t that brilliantly reassuring? For an eternity past, forever and ever and ever and ever past there was God. And there was Christ out Saviour. There is nothing…NOTHING beyond or behind Him. He is the ultimate cause; He is the effect of nothing. There was no explosion that started Him. He is from the beginning. And he will be until the end. Now innate in this we see the supremacy of the Gospel over any other world view. Christ is from the beginning…is post modernism? No. Is Gnosticism? No. There’s no reason to trust these things. I’m sure that the reason for so many sins and struggles in my own life is due to a deficient view of the sheer vastness God.
Did you know your heart was made for greatness? It wasn’t made to be satisfied by sexual impurity, or entertainment or leisure. It was made for greatness. That’s why we are thrilled by snow topped mountains, or the Grand Canyon or beautiful art or a great friendship. Because they echo something of the greatness that the heart was made for. It’s only in knowing, and getting to know Christ better, that we will know boundless satisfaction.
And that’s not the only, or even really the main reason why those three words are important in this context. We’ve already touched on it briefly but the pre existence of Christ starts to shatter the Gnostic heresy that was being proclaimed at this time. Christ’s eternality indicates inherent superiority. This is the first gun against Gnosticism.
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