Reading through the Bible together

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

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First John 4 returns to the “sinless” liars who act in hatred and disdain toward their fellow church members, all the while claiming to love God. John doesn’t beat around the bush. “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. . . . This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also” (4:20, 21). So much for those who think they can separate the two Great Commandments of Matthew 22:36-40.

After reading 1 John (and his gospel) we have no doubt concerning the central core of the problem of the “sinless” liars. They have no “fellowship” with many of their fellow believers (1:9) and have hateful attitudes and actions (2:9). As a result, in spite of their “sinless” condition they do not have “eternal life abiding in them” (3:15) or Christ (3:14).

They may have been members of John’s congregation, but they had missed the boat in terms of what being saved and being a Christian is all about. Failing to realize that “God is love” (4:8), they had apparently conjured up a god in their own image.

John’s pastoral heart bleeds as he pleads with them to change their ways. “If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (4:12). The apostle couldn’t make it plainer.

Ellen White caught his message. “Christ,” she penned, “is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (COL 69). Readers have done some strange things with that passage in a misunderstanding of her intent. But the context makes it plain. In pages 67 and 68 it is obvious that she is in harmony with John when she notes that it is our “love” that will “be made perfect” as we “more and more reflect the likeness of Christ” and partake of His Spirit. That makes sense. After all, the core of the divine character is love (4:8). And God wants us to be like Him when Jesus comes again. Thus the witness of the final generation living on earth at the Second Coming “is a revelation of His character of love” (COL 415).

George R. Knight
United States