24. The Liar

Meditations in 1 John : 24 : Beware the Liar

1 John  2:22,23   Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

John is an upholder of the truth. He has reached old age and probably he is now the only remaining one of the original twelve apostles. The Gospels have been written but time has passed by and the enemy has raised up a variety of forms of Christian truth but which are not the truth; they are heresies. There is a battle going on and John still wants to play a part in it. He has declared that he is an eyewitness to the Son of God (1:1-4), he has reminded us that there is a difference between light and darkness and that affects our behaviour as Christians (1:5-7), he has reminded us that confession and forgiveness are at the heart of our faith (1:8-10), he has reminded us that Jesus is there interceding for us when we get it wrong (2:1,2), but he has challenged us to realise that obedience is at the heart of faith (2:3-6).  This obedience is vital and is an expression of our love for God (2:7-11). As spiritual children, fathers and young men, we’ve experienced God and His love in a variety of ways, which act as anchors for us. (2:12-14) The ways of the world are foreign to us (2:15-17) but they are expressed in those who are anti-Christ in this world who distort the truth (2:18,19). Yet we Christians have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth and so we will know and hold to the truth (2:20,21)

In all of this John is battling against the enemy who seeks to destroy the truth, and John does it by declaring the truth boldly and encouraging us in it. When there are disagreements over principles, doctrine or truth, accusations are made, challenges are brought. Who IS the one speaking the truth? If two people declare opposite ‘truths’ one of them must be wrong. It is in this vein that John now speaks.

“Who is the liar?”  This isn’t being unkind but someone in such a situation is not telling the truth, i.e. they are lying about the truth, they are wrong! So in this climate, where new versions of the truth are springing up all over the place, who is speaking the truth and who is telling lies?  John’s standard of measurement, in this latter area at least is, “It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ.”   If you have some theologian or philosopher who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the One sent by the Father to redeem the world, then he is the liar. He is not speaking what is truth. He denies what is true.  Be quite clear, there were such men around at that time and they had started in the church and now they were declaring that Jesus was a mere man and that the incarnation had never occurred.

If you didn’t take it in the first time, he repeats it in another form: “Such a man is the antichrist–he denies the Father and the Son.”  Yes, he’s also referred to many anti-christs coming and he simply means anyone who is against Christ. If you deny Jesus is the Christ, the messiah, the anointed one of God, then you are against Christ – you are an anti-christ – and, says John, you therefore deny God as well as the Son.

In his second letter John says the same thing: “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 Jn 8,9) Do you see in both letters the link between Father and Son?  Jesus came so clearly revealing the Father that if you deny that Jesus is the Son of God, you also deny who God is. Now we may take for granted who God is as revealed in the Bible but if you investigate other world religions you will find that their ‘God’ is portrayed very differently.

The whole point of Jesus coming was twofold: to reveal the Father and to redeem the world. Of the former task, Jesus declared, the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me,” (Jn 5:36) and “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father,” (Jn 10:32) and “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (Jn 10:36-38)  Again and again Jesus explains that he has come to reveal the Father through the things he does, and these things in turn testify to who Jesus is.

It is a hard hearted person who can read the Gospels with an open mind and not marvel at who Jesus is and at the things he did, and subsequently see who the Father is and what He is like.

When you come to that place of seeing and realizing who Jesus truly is, then you come to a place of calling on the Father, and out of that comes the relationship that Jesus died to bring. Thus it is that John can then say, “whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”   The Father and Son are inextricably tied together. This is the truth that John declares and anyone who says to the contrary, he says, is a liar. Strong words but needed to counter the distortions of thinking that were coming about then, and which still appear today!

1. We Know

Meditations in 1 John : 1 :  We Know!

1 John  1:1   That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

I like the opening of 1 John in the same way I like the opening of Luke 1, for both of them are so down to earth. Luke wrote, Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account.” (Lk 1:1-3) Luke spoke of eyewitnesses who had passed on what had happened involving Jesus. John goes one step further and is  basically saying, “I was one of those eyewitnesses!”

After the first chapter, John uses the word ‘know’ 33 times! John writes near the end of the first century and if persecution was often a problem for the early church in the first three hundred years of its life, the growing presence of heresies in that part of the world was possibly even a greater enemy to be resisted. Truth was thus a primary currency of the early church and they considered it vital to pass on the truth about Jesus and to resist the perversions of the truth that a variety of heretics sought to bring.

One particular group of heretics were the Gnostics who majored on having special knowledge. For them knowledge was all important but their knowledge declared that matter was evil and because of that God could not have existed in a sinful human body, i.e. the incarnation could not have happened. Their knowledge was that of a special group, not given to the world at large. John combats this by declaring all these things in his letter openly, for anyone to see and know. Christianity was to be a faith open to all; all it needed was repentance and submissions to God.

And so, even with the opening of his Gospel, John has this slightly mystical  or philosophical feel to his writing which would appeal to many of his era: “that which was from the beginning”. This beginning was not merely the beginning of Christianity but the beginning of everything. In his Gospel he had begun, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (Jn 1:1-3) For John there was no doubt about Jesus: he was with God and was God and had been God from beginning of time, and had been part of the godhead bringing creation into being.

Although he does not name Jesus in these verses it is clear that this is who he is referring to. At the end of verse 2 he calls him “the Word of life.” Referring to Jesus in his Gospel he declared, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (Jn 1:4) and to make sure no one misunderstood, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14). A word is a part of communication and this ‘Word’ was God’s communication to us, His Son.

But with John there is nothing mystical in all this. Their experience of the Son of God had not been some weird experience induced by drugs. No, it has been in daily experience: “we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched”.  This is why I said this is all so down to earth. God isn’t found in strange and mystical experiences. Eastern religions are so often like certain modern philosophies that demand some ‘special out of body type of experience’ to authenticate or make sense of life. In his book Kim, Rudyard Kipling has his young hero, Kim, encounter a holy man in India who is seeking some such experience. Eventually the old man, short on food and drink, falls into a water-filled ditch and has his ‘experience’. That is the sort of weird and wonderful deception the enemy seeks to bring to the world and it is a far thing from Christianity which is based on factual history.

This is why we have the Gospels, factual accounts of the things that happened in time-space history. John, writing near the end of that first century, is aware of the tendency of human beings who like the strange, the weird, and the spectacular. Yes, there is the divinely supernatural at the heart of Christianity but it is not to exalt man; it is simply the working of Almighty God. The same sort of thing was seen in unbelieving Naaman when he was sent to Elisha to be cured of his leprosy and was told by him – via his servant! – to go and wash in the Jordan seven times. Naaman was furious: “Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.” (2 Kings 5:11,12)

No, our faith is based upon facts of time-space history and we respond to the God who brought all things into being and who, in the course of time, sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. It all happened back there in history and John saw it, John had been there with Jesus and had travelled with him for three years. Oh yes, John knew, and he wants to pass that knowledge on to us to act as a foundation for our faith. Let your faith be built as you read God’s word intelligently.

Church History

REVELATION OF GOD Meditations No.10 of 10

1 John 1:1-3 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.

As we are still very much aware today, the ongoing history of the Church is an ongoing battle. Those who do not want to submit to a sovereign God speak out and do all in their power to destroy Christianity. In the early centuries of the life of the Church there was tremendous persecution that went on against the Church, which went on for the first three hundred years of its life. In some measure or other that persecution has carried on throughout the whole period of Church History and in some parts of the world is just as terrible as ever. The skeptic would do well to consider why such a pointless religion (as they see it) should evoke such terrible violence and horror against it.

There was also a battle against heresies throughout those early centuries, those teachings that sought to distort the historical truths of Christianity. In the beginning of the 21st century we see a resurgence of many of those heresies. What those who refuse to study these things fail to see, is that the traditional Christian beliefs are clear cut and free from the ‘weird and wonderful’. The New Testament accounts and teaching is free from mystical or weird teaching. It is very simple and straight forward and can be understood by anyone coming to God through Jesus Christ. There is no ‘special’ or ‘mystical’ knowledge required as the variety of heresies have demanded. The testimony of John in his letter that we have above, is that this was all about the eternal Son of God who had come, and who they had seen, heard and touched. This was as down to earth as is possible to get!

Possibly the biggest struggle that the church has had is within itself, with what the Bible calls ‘sin’, that tendency to self-centredness and godlessness. Thus the further history moved on from the life of Jesus and the early apostles, the greater the distortions and variations and mishandling by men involved in leadership in the Church. Thus we had one part of the Church growing up with a central focus at Rome while the eastern part grew under the focus at Constantinople. Eventually came what was referred to as the Great Schism where the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church split apart to go their separate ways.

Through the Dark Ages, abuses eventually so upset Martin Luther that we had the Protestant Reformation, the start of a return, away from tradition and abuses, back to Biblical Christianity. At various times in Church History in various places around the world, different areas experienced ‘revival’ where the sovereign working of God brought many people to know Him, often accompanied by signs and wonders.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, while much of the Church was suffering the ravages of liberal theologians, God came by His Spirit in California with the start of the Pentecostal wing of the church, emphasising the use of the gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Cor 12), now a strong worldwide movement. In the latter part of the twentieth century came a fresh emphasis on the teaching that the Church is the body of Christ. With this came charismatic renewal and the so-called restoration movement. In each of these movements can be seen, by those with eyes to see, the ongoing revelation of God to and through His church, confirming and affirming all that is found in the New Testament. 

The history of the Church has included:

a) a struggle to arrive at the truth of what happened two thousand years ago

  • in and through the life of Jesus Christ,
  • and its effects for us as human beings,
    by the early Church,

b) a diluting of that truth by the formation of human institutions and ideas of men, over the centuries,
c) a recovering of the biblical truths through the protestant reformation,

d) a recovering of the biblical life of the Spirit, by a variety of moves of God over the past hundred years.

In these notes we observed the gradual revelation of God through the first two books of the Bible which is echoed throughout the Old Testament. We briefly considered the greater revelation of God through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the effects of that on mankind. The ongoing battle is to hold onto the truth of the revelation of God through the Bible, and to counter the many distortions that we, the sinful human race, seem to manage to come up with about God, that are contrary to the Biblical revelation.