Today’s post will be covering 1st John (not the gospel of John). Since these are letters, the topics discussed will be short and many. As with all my posts, they are best read alongside your personal study. Especially so with the letters of the New Testament.
A little background on this epistle from the Bible Dictionary. The epistle emphasizes that Jesus has come in the flesh and it’s impact and relevance on the life of men. It was most likely written after the gospel (of John) because it assumes the reader has a knowledge of events the gospel records.
The Testimony of John
Interesting way to start the epistle. It immediately has a Joseph Smith Translation (JST). That changes the wording a bit. John is giving his testimony. Cross reference the similarity of the wording to the testimonies given at the beginning of the Book of Mormon and in the first presidency’s testimony of Christ in “The Living Christ“. John’s testimony covers four verses and is very good.
God is light and in him is no (spiritual or physical) darkness. First off, the cross reference is to John 8:12. Second, the implications of God being light are huge. Look at the footnote for 5a again. The perfection of God. If God is light then he is perfect. There is no spiritual darkness in him. This means he cannot lie, he cannot deceive, he cannot lead you astray, he cannot tempt you. Anything evil, he cannot do. If Jesus Christ is the light of the world then what is said in John 8:12 is also true. That is, if you follow him, you will not walk in darkness (spiritual) but shall have the light of life. You will not be left to the torment of sin, you’ll have Christ in your life and you will be strong. A foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall. The best part about this is it’s all true. All the ifs I have used are true. He is perfect. He is the light of the world. He died for our sins. He wants us to return to be with him and Heavenly Father. He loves us. He wants to help us. He lives.
Obtaining the Fellowship of Christ
I love verse 6 and 7. If we say we have fellowship with him, yet walk in darkness, we lie and know not the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in light, we have fellowship with another and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin. This reminds me of the verse, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
Contrast verse 6 with 7. In the first, you are saying you have fellowship with Christ. In the second, you are walking in the light, then you have fellowship. I think this verse underscores the importance of saying vs. doing. By their fruits, ye shall know them. Don’t say then do, do then say.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we say we have not sinned, we are a liar and the Lord’s word is not in us. But if we confess our sins, we are faithful and worthy to be forgiven and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness.
I just switched those last three verses around and clumped them by topic. It’s true though what it says about sin. If we generally say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. Maybe because we are too stubborn or prideful. If we have sinned but we say we haven’t, we are a liar and don’t know the word of God. Which is true because I was just going to paraphrase a few scriptures. The way to judge if something is good is if it invites you closer to God. To serve him and love him. Then it is a good thing. Everything else isn’t. This doesn’t severely limit what you are able to do in life, it enhances it. I have found that all things that bring you closer to God, make life more enjoyable and full. Examples include learning the scriptures for personal study, reading a book on a school topic, making dinner, hanging out with family. You may not realize it at the time but those all make life more enjoyable, memorable, and full. All at the same time bringing you closer to God.
When you mess up, you have repentance. When you keep an eternal perspective, repentance doesn’t become a hassle, but rather a blessing. I’m still working on repenting consistently (as is everyone) but I know it allows us to keep moving forward. A new chance to try to be a little better every day. When we confess our wrongdoings to the Lord, we are humbling ourselves, making us teachable, and more able to be resilient to further temptations. Repentance isn’t just going back to fix a hole in the wall that surrounds the castle, but fixing that hole, and then fortifying the rest of the wall in addition. Repentance is part of the growing process. It’s how we become more God-like.
An Advocate with the Father
Chapter 2 verse 1 JST. If any man sins and repents, they have an advocate with the Father. That means if we do sin and don’t repent, we don’t have an advocate with the Father. An advocate is someone who petitions on your behalf. Like a lawyer. Cross reference D&C 19. If they will not repent, they must suffer as I, which suffering, caused I, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble and bleed from every pore. He (Jesus Christ) is the one who fights on our behalf. He knows our sins, he knows how they felt, that is why He is our advocate. The advocate for the entire world.
Abiding in Christ
If you know him, you keep his commandments. If you say you know him but don’t keep his commandments, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. I know we’ve already said this but the principle of repetition is also found in the scriptures. If we are obedient, the love of God is in us. We know that God loves us. Because of this knowledge, we realize all that we need to do to return to him. We understand our relationship between God and us. We know that we are in him. Cross reference 2 Corinthians 5:17. If you are “in him” you become a new creature. Old things are passed away and all things become renewed. That is something you have to think about. What old things have passed away since becoming obedient or more obedient? Sins? For sure. Habits? Yep. Maybe certain friends or activities you do during the day? Uh-huh. But all those old things that pass away as a result of being obedient are worth it. The reward far outweighs trouble. You get a reinvigoration of spirit and a desire to follow Christ. You have a desire to follow the spirit and thirst after the scriptures. And when you do read, you feast off them.
He that sayeth he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked. I think this is saying that if you are abiding in him you need to walk the walk. You need to do things. I think most people who profess to abide in him are walking as he walked. Try to follow him. This scripture has one more level to it that I thin is more important than the one I just described. It focuses on walking as he walked. That entails more than we realize. We have to not only follow him but also be willing to experience the things he did, at least in part. That means going through times that are very hard for us. Salvation never was and never will be easy. There will not be anyone in Heaven who is there by accident. But just like the Savior was not left alone in the garden during that great sacrifice on behalf of all mankind, so to, will we never be left along during our hardest and most difficult times.
There are just JSTs between verses 7 and 8 so read those. I’m going to focus on the latter end of verse 8. “The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” Cross reference Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. “The night is darkness just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming!” That’s a completely different topic, but that’s what it reminded me of. The Greek translation of the last part of 8 changes “past” to “passing away”. So let me rewrite that last part with footnotes “The spiritual darkness is passing away, and the true light now shineth.” The true light is the glory of God or that which is of God. His church, his gospel, his intelligence. The spiritual darkness is passing away and the glory of God is shining. It may not seem like it right now but it is. We only see the bad things on TV but I know there is equally, if not more good things in the world. I guess that is part of our hope in Jesus Christ. That there is good in the world and that one day, it will shine out the clearer. Now I’m mixing Lord of the Rings quotes with scripture. Whoops.
Being in Light Vs. Darkness
He that sayeth he is in light but hateth his brother is in darkness. Man, there has been lots of talk about deceiving yourself with stuff like that. Was that a big problem back then? I don’t know. But I think it is now. People are saying, “All is well in Zion.” I have all the gospel I need. I’m perfect, I’m doing all that I should and life is just dandy.” NO! Don’t get lulled into false sense of security.
If you love your brother, you abide in light and there is no occasion of stumbling in you. Again, a doing before saying scripture. There shall be no occasion of stumbling in you. Does that mean verbally? You can straighten up and say you love your brother and people will believe you? The footnote says love within the family. It is weird when there is the spirit in the home and everyone is generally onboard with gospel principles. I love my family. Everyone in it is super cool. But is hasn’t always been like that. Yes, I’ve always loved them but maybe loved some less than others. As we have physically and spiritually grown, through family prayer, family scriptures study, going to church, all those things, the wrinkles are ironed out in our relationships. Even the dogs act better! The song is true, “Home can be a heaven on Earth when we are filled with love.” Of course, we aren’t perfect, we still have our problems. Struggles in school, work and such.
Contrast this with the next verse where he that hateth his brother abideth in darkness and doesn’t know where to go because he is blinded. I have seen families where this is true. People have hard feelings for each other all the time. They look for excuses to fight and let them know exactly how they are feeling and how unfair life is. Indeed, they do not know where to go because they are blinded by hate, dislike, or grudges. They can’t see any other path because hate is the only one they know.
John Addresses Fathers, Young Men, and Children
John writes unto the fathers, young men, and children. To the fathers, he writes that they have known him that is from the beginning. I just want to stop and look at each one of these and the importance of what he congratulates them on.
Fathers: Why is it important to know God, even he who is from the beginning? The thing this makes me think of is the world’s first father, Adam. He knew God. If you know someone, you know what they are like, their likes, dislikes, what they expect of you, and how you are supposed to act around them. Can you see the relation yet? Fathers are the ones who preside over the household. If they do not know God, how can they lead their families in righteousness? If you don’t know God, how can you receive revelation concerning a job offer or what to do with wayward children? If a father does not know God, how can he expect to be righteous and be a good example for his kids? He can’t. It is essential for fathers to know God.
To the Young Men
Next, young men. He writes to them because they are strong, the word of God abideth in them, and they have overcome the wicked one. This is very admirable and something every young man must do. The teenage years are some of the most volatile and turbulent times of your life. It is very easy to slip up because you aren’t yourself. You’re turning into a man and in the process, you’re body goes crazy. But these men have been ok. Much like the youth of today. They are strong, they have a testimony, and they want to do good. The fiery darts of the adversary are being hurled at them more so than during my parents’ time. The cream of the crop is being saved for the last days.
He says that all that is in the world is of the flesh and eyes, and the pride of life. This is not of God. The world and it’s lusting will pass but the Lord won’t. He that abideth in the Lord abideth forever. I know this is applicable in his times because he wrote it, but it seems so much more relevant today. Lusts of the flesh, you can indulge yourself quicker today than in any other time in history. We not only have incredibly easy access to all types of information around the world, but we are richer, more fat, more everything fleshy generally speaking, than at any other time in history. Especially lusts of the eyes. You can watch movies or videos, indulge in glittering jewels, porn, all things pleasing to the eyes easily today. Things and desires that if we allow ourselves to indulge in, will overcome and destroy us.
Pride of life. Seeking to show off what you have and what your life is like. Very bad. Putting yourself above others because of what you own. We are all born with self-indulgent desires, and it is through Christ, and yielding to the enticings of the spirit that we overcome these desires. If you are able to overcome these and abide in the Lord as John says, all the worldly things will pass, but God won’t. Your reward for following Go will be much much greater than anything you could own on Earth.
To the Children
Ok, back to what John says about children. John tells them that this is the last time any antichrists shall come. I’m wondering why he is talking about anti-Christs to the children? Maybe the children were wondering why people were talking bad about Christ and pretending to be a prophet? I think that is a legit reason. Or maybe friends of the kids’ family leave the church and start talking bad about it to people and they want to know why?
John says something rather interesting when pointing our that the anti-Christs come from the members. “If they had been with us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” It makes me think that these people left and started being anti because they wanted it to be known that they weren’t with us. Cross reference a talk by Boyd K. Packer called something along the lines of, “Finding Ourselves in Lehi’s Dream“. An interesting point he talks about is the use of the word, “after”. There are many places it has examples of this but the one I want to point out is that after they had who had made it to the tree of life and partaken of the fruit, which is the love of God, they looked around and began to be ashamed. This is describing exactly what is happening in 1st John. People, church members, have partaken of the fruit, that’s sweet beyond all other things, but looking around and seeing their friends at the great and spacious building making fun of them, begin to be ashamed and cross over to join them.
He says he is not writing to them because they don’t know the truth, he is writing to them because they know the truth. That’s beautiful. I think sometimes we get confused that because someone is teaching you something, they assume you don’t know it. That isn’t true always. In church, we are taught nearly the same thing every year. It isn’t because we don’t know it, it’s because we already know. The Lord wants us to be reminded of the things we know so we don’t forget them and corrupt them. Cross reference a scripture about speaking kind words. When you speak of Christ and kind words, both are edified and rejoice in the truth together.
Verse 27 is interesting. He is building off and earlier verse (20) that I didn’t want to write about because I didn’t know what to say. Verse 20 with the Greek translation added says that the children have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things. At first, I thought it was children under 8 are alive and are without sin. But after reading verse 27, my mind was changed. So the anointing that he is talking about that came from Jesus Christ is the gospel or the truth they know. They were anointed or bestowed with truth. And this truth is in them. They no longer need to be taught of man because this anointing teacheth you all things (the holy ghost?) and is truth. No lies. Even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him.
He says finally to the children, abide in him that you may have confidence in him at the last day and not be ashamed. If you are righteous, ye are born of him.
We’ll be starting 1 John chapter 3 next time. Stay tuned.