|Reading a letter - Treasures of the Bible (Early Church)|
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 John 2:18-29
TO CHEW ON: "These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you." 1 John 2:26
Though no author name is given, scholars believe the book of 1 John was written John, Jesus' disciple. It was written to the churches around Ephesus where he spent his latter years. One of his main concerns in this letter was to warn about false teachers and error. The specific error that threatened the church at this time was Gnosticism.
Gnosticism was the belief that spirit was good and matter was evil. A corollary of this belief was that a true god would never appear in a body made of evil matter. As a result believers in Gnosticism denied Jesus' incarnation insisting that His body was only apparent. And if He had no real body, the resurrection was also meaningless.
As we read 1 John with that in mind, we can see how from the very beginning, John tries to counteract these false teachings. Referring to Jesus, he begins:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled concerning the Word of Life" - 1 John 1:1 (emphasis added).
In other words, I was with Jesus and He was indeed real!
In our reading today John names two things these early Christians can do to keep from being deceived by heretical teaches:
1. Listen to the teachings of Jesus genuine apostles - 1 John 2:24.
These were people like Jesus' twelve disciples who had been taught directly by Jesus, had seen His miracles, and had heard Him refute the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. They were the ones who were present at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on each one, imparting boldness and insight. John confidently says to those he and the other apostles have taught: "Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning" - 1 John 2:24.
2. Open themselves to the anointed teaching and understanding imparted by the Holy Spirit - 1 John 2:27.*
How / When / Why does the Holy Spirit teach us?
- His teaching is part of our daily provision. Nehemiah, when explaining Israel's history to Jerusalem's returned exiles juxtaposes the instruction of the Spirit with God supplying daily manna and water - Nehemiah 9:20.
- The Spirit will teach us what to say when we're in trouble for our faith in Jesus - Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12.
- He will teach and bring to mind "all things" about Jesus - John 14:26.
- He will help us as we study the Bible "... comparing spiritual things with spiritual" - 1 Corinthians 2:13, or as the Amplified translates it: "... combining and interpreting spiritual truth with spiritual language..." 1 Corinthians 2:13 AMP. In this area, I believe, the Holy Spirit teaches us to spot false doctrines and religious teaching that contradicts the Bible, i.e. avoid deception.
- The Holy Spirit's teaching is heard by those whose ears are tuned to hear Him - Revelation 2:7.
I believe John's two guards against deception—becoming familiar with the teaching of the apostles as it is recorded in God's word and opening ourselves to being taught by the Holy Spirit—are still relevant to us today.
In the God's word department, think about the advantages we have over these early Christians. They had only parts of the apostles' eye witness accounts through personal contact and writing. We have the entire New Testament (in many versions and translations).
In the area of being taught by the Holy Spirit, let's get into the habit of listening for that still small voice that brings daily encouragement (like manna and water), that helps us remember Bible verses and songs, that gives us words to speak in discussions about our faith, that helps us see the connections in God's story, and that alerts us to teaching that is false.
PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit thank You for the Bible and the Your teaching. Help me to consistently tune my ears to Your voice. Amen.
*About John's statement "… you do not need that anyone teach you…" the writer of my Bible's study notes explains:
"To receive spiritual knowledge under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is to know truth in a way that human instruction cannot provide. The text is not an argument against the ministry of teaching (Romans 12;7; Ephesians 4:1) but an emphasis that only the Holy Spirit is able to bring revelation to the human heart (Ephesians 1:17,18)" Peter E. Prosser, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible" p. 1786.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible,
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Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)