John’s letter heavily emphasizes assurance of salvation. Writing to those who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and been faithful to it he has been encouraging the worried. Coupled to his encouragements, though, have been exhortations unto godly living. While he is patting them on the back, he is not changing the message or giving any excuses for bad behavior.
In last week’s lesson, we spoke of a necessary command: the love command. John emphasized that this was not a new command but an old one and then semi-cryptically said it was not an old one but a new one. Newness was stressed to emphasize that the light of God’s love was part of forever, the happily-ever-after. God’s way of love is already shining (1 John 2:8) in the church. That forever newness is an injection of hope for the present. The oldness was stressed to distinguish John’s teachings from the false teachers who had gone out from the church.
The false teachers were a force with which John was reckoning. We see this all throughout this letter:
- They had gone out from the church (1 John 2:19). They did not just go to a different Christian church down the street, but they formed a new belief system. Since they left and made something else, some commentators call them successionists or successionist opponents.
- These denied that Jesus was the anointed one of God (1 John 2:22; 4:2)
- They had a low view of sin (1 John 1:8 and 10)
In 1 John 4:5 John says these breakaway groups taught from the viewpoint of the world. W. Hall Harris III of Dallas Theological Seminary indicated that their teachings were two-fold: the life of Christ was less important than his birth, and morality was not crucial. John was saying that God’s truth required us to walk in love and light. A life of love is not an easy one, and moral laxity in some manner seems to be easier than the daily vigilance of self-control. The splintered groups may appear all sparkly and new, but by denying the connection between sin and spirituality, they prove their allegiance is not with God.
Throughout 1 John there are couplings of assurance and encouragement to the daily priority of godliness. In verses 7 & 8 the assurances of God’s true light shining were coupled with the exhortation to love their fellow man. In today’s lesson, the help Go! Go! of verses 12-14 are joined to the call for propriety in the goals of life. “You have done well,” John says, “but don’t quit!”