|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2007|
|You know and I know that our joy is found in a person and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. As we obey Him, as we cling to His Word, that is where our joy comes. It grows. It is an ever increasing joy as we focus our lives only on Him.|
We have introduced the book now for a couple of times and we want to get right into verses 1-4. I am going to take my title from verse 4, “That Our Joy May be Made Complete!” You know and I know that our joy is found in a person and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. As we obey Him, as we cling to His Word, that is where our joy comes. It grows. It is an ever increasing joy as we focus our lives only on Him.
The Apostle John was an eyewitness of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, if you will turn to the book of Luke with me, he would be included with those that Luke mentioned in Luke 1:1-2. Luke says as he begins his gospel, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus.” He speaks of those who became eyewitnesses and as a result, became servants of the Word, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a matter of fact, Jesus said something of those men who were eyewitnesses, those apostles. Look over in Luke 10:23-24. By the way, if you are studying and you just want something to thrill your heart, get into this passage and fill in the blanks. Oh, what a beautiful passage. The Lord Jesus says in verse 22, “‘All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.’And turning to the disciples, He said privately, ‘Blessed arethe eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.’”
The Apostle John was an eyewitness of all that the prophets had prophesied. He saw the Lord Jesus in human form, the Lord Jesus come in the flesh here to this earth. Now John must have been upset when he found out that the believers over there in Asia Minor were being deceived into something that denied everything of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn to 1 John 2:26. I want you to keep remembering why he is writing this epistle. It is very important. There were those who were seeking to deceive the believers and anyone else who would listen to them. In verse 26 it says, “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” That is in the present tense. It means that they are constantly, constantly trying to deceive and lead those people astray.
Here is the Apostle John, one who had both seen these people birthed into the kingdom and had ministered to them in Asia Minor. Now somebody is coming in and telling these precious believers and others who will listen that Jesus was not really a man, that Jesus was a ghost and you don’t need Jesus in your life. Can you imagine how upset you would be if somebody was doing that to people you had labored over and prayed for and seen birthed into the kingdom of God!
Evidently the false teachers of that day followed the New Testament pattern. Now let me explain. When you go through the epistles you begin to realize that false doctrine was something that everybody seemed to have to deal with. As a matter of fact, whenever you find a second epistle, it is usually dealing with false doctrine: 2 Corinthians, 2 Peter, all the way through. The whole book of Jude deals with false teachings. But there is something that is very common. There is a common denominator with all the false teaching that was going on during those days, and I want you to see it. We won’t look at all of them, but just enough to give you an idea.
Look at 2 Peter 2:1. The question comes to your mind and should come to all of our minds, “Were these false teachers, these Gnostic teachers, these followers of Cerenthus, were they in church? Were they among believers? Or were they out here someplace trying to lure the people out of the church?” I want to show you that the common thread, the pattern in the New Testament about false teaching is, it doesn’t usually stay outside the church. It comes inside the church. That is where you have to watch it. People will sit next to you and sing and cry at the right time. But as soon as they see you vulnerable, as soon as they see you open to what they want to tell you, they will pull in their error which will lead you astray and cause you to lose your joy in Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 2:1 reads, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
I am not going to take that passage and develop it, but I want to show you a few words out of 2 Peter 2:1 that will help us see the pattern of how false teaching was a constant problem among the Christians of that day. The word “secretly” there in verse 1 is the word pareisago. Para, means alongside, and eisago means to introduce or bring in. The idea is they bring in their error but you don’t see it. They are not out in a big tent trying to get people to be persuaded to follow them instead of Christ. Oh, no. They very secretly bring it in. They gain your confidence. They win your confidence. They join the church. They learn your language. They always have their error, and they will put their error right beside the truth. A false teacher will not say wrong things 100% of the time. He will say 90% of the right things and then take 10% of what is wrong and destructive and deadly and begin to mix it in. If I had a thousand bottles of milk and somebody poisoned one of them and I didn’t know which one it was, they may as well have just poisoned all thousand of them! That is the danger of these people. They may be 90% correct, but the 10% is the damnable, destructive, fatal thing that will lead you away from anything that will bring you joy in Jesus Christ. You had better be careful and know the gospel and stand upon those things that God has said. They secretly bring it in. When you are not looking, they lift up the error and you think it is truth and before you know it, your joy is gone and you don’t even know why.
They are destructive heresies. The word “destructive” means damnable. It is the word apoleia, which means totally fatal. It is that which will take a believer and steal everything away from him that God wants to give him. It is that which takes a person who is not a believer and sends him straight to hell. That is what we are talking about. That is how destructive they are. They are not just something that will bother you for a while and go away. They are things that are fatal to bringing you joy in the person of Jesus Christ.
The word “heresy” means based on opinion instead of truth. Actually the word means to select, to choose. It is when someone will look in the Bible and say, “I like this verse, that verse and this verse and that verse. And I tell you what I am going to do. I am going to mix my opinion into that.” That is where you get the idea of what a heresy is. It is not as if there is no truth. It is polluted truth. They know 90% of what is right to say. The 10% is where you find the problem.
I want you to notice again in verse 1. He says, “But there were false prophets also among the people.” They will be in the body itself. It is not going to be just out there. Oh, they are out there. But they are going to come in the body. In Philippians 3:18 Paul says almost the same thing in a little different way. He is talking about people who are right there with them. He says, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even now weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” These people are all around us at all times.
Have you ever gotten to be friendly with somebody who doesn’t understand and believe the doctrine of the Word of God? They don’t adhere to what God says. After a while your friendship seems to develop and you are having a great time with them. Then suddenly one day you notice that your time alone with God has disappeared and your joy is gone. All of a sudden, even though you weren’t aware of it, you have been led astray. Watch out because these people are everywhere. They are rampant. They are among us, enemies of the cross, legalists, even those who would be like the Antinomians that Paul had to deal with. It is always somehow mixed in.
The licentiousness is there. The Gnostics said, “Since you can’t fight sin, join it. It doesn’t matter. You can sin a little bit. If you want to go out and drink on the weekend, it’s okay. Help yourself. It is alright. You can participate in immorality. You are just dabbling in it a little bit. It is alright.” All of a sudden your joy is gone because somebody has deceitfully and secretly and privately led you astray from what the Word of God says will bring you joy in your life.
Look at the book of Jude. The whole book is about false teachers. I want you to see again, they are among us. Now you are wondering why I am doing this and I’ll tell you in a minute. Verse 4 says, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” They have crept in! Secretly, they are among us. Next time you lose the joy in your salvation, ask yourself, “Who am I fellowshipping with? What do they believe? Have they somehow gotten me out of the will of God by their conversation, by whatever else they are doing?” Look out. The enemy among us is the person who doesn’t adhere to what this Book has to say.
You may ask, “Why are you bringing all that out?” I’ll tell you why. Because I think when John writes this, he has in his mind the knowledge that this letter is going to be read among the Christians there in the area where he is ministering. He knows that when he writes this, he is writing it to believers, the immature ones, the fresh ones born into the kingdom, the young men, those that are mature ones. We know that. But he also knows that when they stand up to read this letter to the believers, mixed in with them are going to be the false teachers and the converts to that false teaching. He is going to say some pretty powerful things before this book is over. “We know they are not of us because they left us. Had they been of us, they would have stayed with us.”
I really believe that is right because the pattern of false teaching in the New Testament is not out there. It is among us. John knows that. John also knows these letters were read to the believers in certain congregations. He knows when they are read, even though he is writing to believers, the false teachers are going to be out there. There is a contrast through the whole book of “This is a Christian and this is not a Christian.” There is a line drawn between the two. John is wanting to make sure that he nails that false doctrine to the wall. Anything that takes away from the deity of who Christ is automatically begins to lead a person astray from that which will bring joy in his life.
That kind of sets the scene for me. As I read this I am thinking, “John is writing this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God. He is thinking to himself, ‘Oh, they are going to be sitting out there. Watch this.’” You can almost sense when the people receive the letter and someone stands up to read it in their midst, all the false teachers, all of those who have been teaching stuff that is not right, all of those who have been leaving the service and talking about that which is not right, are standing there. The apostle writes a letter and they start to squirm because all of a sudden, what they have been saying is nailed to the wall as that which is false. Get that in your mind when you are studying 1 John. They are there listening. John has a word for them. I believe there is righteous indignation. Something has risen up inside of John. The Holy Spirit of God is directing the anger at the problem, not the people and he is writing this beautiful epistle that we see.
Well, let’s read verses 1-4: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life – and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write, so that your [not our] joy may be made complete.”
Those first four verses begin the attack on the false doctrine that is plaguing the churches to which John is writing. I want to just take three things from those verses. I am just going to work through the verses and let you see what John is doing.
The first thing he does is take them back to the very beginning when they first heard the gospel. You know in John 1:1 and in 1 John 1:1 he uses the word “beginning.” I want to submit to you that in 1 John he doesn’t mean the same thing as in John. I’ll show you that in a moment. You see, what he is about to do is to say, “Guys, the message hasn’t changed. What I taught you, what I wrote to you has not changed one single bit. What are you doing listening to anything other than what I gave to you as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
Watch this: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life.” He gives you the subject, “concerning the Word of Life.” That is Jesus Christ. That is who we are talking about. It is God having come in the flesh. What you have heard about Him, concerning Him, from the very beginning has not changed one bit.
These folks knew John. It is obvious from the way he uses terms of endearment, “beloved, beloved.” You don’t use that for people you don’t know. He was very dear to them. You know good and well, if they knew him like that and he had such an effect on them, that they had read his gospel. Having read his gospel, then they would know what he said from the beginning. Let’s go to John 1:1 and show you what he starts off with. This is his gospel. They have read it. I was reading this and was thinking, “I sure wish he had said it a little clearer because you wrestle with it. It takes you forever to try to decide what he is trying to say.” To me it is so simple. He is just taking them back to the beginning. “Hey, guys, from the very beginning this is what I said. It hasn’t changed a bit. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. He came to this earth and manifested Himself as the God-man.”
Look in John 1:1. Here he uses the word “beginning” that encompasses all beginnings. He says “In the beginning.” In other words, before there was ever a beginning. Did you realize all the world had a beginning, but not the Word? The Word has always been. He said, “In the beginning was...,” imperfect tense. Imperfect tense means always had been, was then, is now and always will be. The Jehovah’s Witnesses get hold of this verse and don’t have a clue what it says. John was dealing with Gnostics, but we are dealing with other kinds of false teaching. This nails that doctrine to the wall. They say, “Jesus was just a man and was created.” Friend, Jesus is the Word. He is God. He has always been, imperfect tense.
He said, “In the beginning was the Word.” The word “Word” there is logos. The word means intelligence. In the beginning was the divine intelligence. Who do you think came up with all of this? God did. Nobody else could have thought it up. The divine intelligence. “And the Word [Divine Intelligence] was with God, and the Word [the Father and the Divine Intelligence] was God.”
That imperfect tense begins to move its way down through the verse. Look at verse 14. This Divine Intelligence was beyond what any man could fathom. Paul tells Timothy He dwelt in unapproachable light. No man can approach this Divine Intelligence who no individual human being can ever, ever, ever begin to fathom. This Divine Intelligence became flesh. John says, “From the very beginning it has not changed. What do you mean, listening to a man who says Jesus was a ghost. From the very beginning He has been. He came to this earth as flesh. He didn’t just dwell in a body of flesh. He became flesh.” We will come back to that in just a second.
The authority with which John has to speak here is as an eyewitness. That is what he says in 1 John, “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have beheld and our hands handled concerning the Word of Life.” Do you know what I believe he means by “we”? I don’t think that is some author’s privilege of using the term “we.” I think he is referring to the apostles. What he is simply saying is, “We all agree and you know that we agree. We saw Him. You didn’t see Him. We did. We beheld Him and we heard Him and our hands touched Him.”
I believe that is inferring even after He was resurrected because, remember, He told the disciples, “A spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones. Touch Me. See that I have flesh and bones.” Boy, that messed them up. Some people don’t believe He raised bodily, they say He raised spiritually. That is heresy. If He didn’t raise bodily, then we can forget our resurrection when the Lord comes back for His church. We can forget that. That is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15. We heard Him, we saw Him, and we beheld Him.
The word “beheld” grabs your attention real quickly. It is the word theaomai. It is the word from which we get the word “theater.” “We saw” and “we heard” are in the perfect tense. John is saying, “All this happened. We watched Him as if we were in a theater watching a drama unfold in front of us. But we saw more than just something on a stage removed from us.” Look back in John 1:14. The word “beheld” is used there and it shows you what they beheld about Him, not just His flesh. They beheld His deity. That is what John is trying to tell them. Verse 14 says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld [same word] His glory.” John says, “Man, we didn’t just see Him as some individual, a human son of Joseph and Mary. We saw Him as the divine Son of God of the Virgin Mary. He was God who became flesh.”
John is taking them back and he is saying, “Guys, what are you doing? I am an apostle. We saw Him. We heard Him. What we told you from the very beginning has not changed. The gospel is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is not going to change. It is God’s Word. Jesus Christ is God.”
He goes on to say, “concerning the Word of Life.” There are two words for life that are so important. The word bios means the means of life. As a matter of fact, you can get into the business of life. Ask a Baptist what life means. “Oh, I have got the life, man, because I am busy.” That is not what John is talking about. The word zoe is the word he uses here. The word zoe is the word that means essence of life. He is the eternal essence of life. He is the eternal essence. Not only does He give it, He is eternal life. He is the Divine Intelligence. He is the Divine Essence of eternal life. He became flesh and we saw Him and we heard Him and we beheld that He was more than a man. He was the God-man. This has not changed.
If you are not real careful and you don’t adhere to what the apostles have given us in scripture in the New Testament and you sever yourself from what the apostles have said, you are going to enter into the most miserable life you have ever had in your life. There is no joy apart from what His Word says. There is no joy apart from what we know to be the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False teachers will say what you want to hear and then they will put their error right beside it. You will lose your joy so fast it will make your head swim. Your joy is always measured by your willingness to accept what the Word of God says and your allegiance and surrender to the God-man, Jesus Christ, in whom is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, who came and who lived, was born of a virgin. He didn’t appear as a ghost. He wasn’t the son of Joseph in the natural sense. He was birthed of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t ever lose that in your life or you are going to end up just like these people to whom John is writing. He starts them from the beginning and he basically is saying, “The message hasn’t changed. What we told you, stand on. We saw, we heard, we beheld, we even handled with our own hands.” That killed all that which Cerenthus was trying to say. It has not changed.
The second thing shows how it got from John to the people in Asia Minor. In other words, this is the normal plan of witnessing. This is the way it ought to be. Once we have experienced it, we go and proclaim. John simply says, “From the very beginning the way you found out about it was from us. Look at verse 2: “and the life was manifested.” I love this. The word “manifested” is phaneroo, which means to be put on display for all to see. The life was manifested. It goes on, “and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life,” pointing again to God in the flesh, “which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”
The interesting thing is God chose to manifest Himself, to put Himself on display. Now understand, even though we have come to understand Jesus and know Him, we don’t have a clue yet what all of God is all about. I hear people talk about this sometimes. “Oh, Brother, I have all of God.” Well, true, but in a sense you don’t quite understand. You have what God has apportioned to you. In other words, He has given you of His Spirit but you haven’t touched it yet. I believe a million years into glory we are going to be walking around saying, “Hallelujah! I didn’t know that.” Ten million years later you will be going around, “Oh, man, I will never be able to take it all in.” But God chose to make Himself small and become the Life in human form. Yes, He was the Life.
John 1:14 says He became flesh. I mentioned a moment ago that we would come back to this. What does “He became flesh” mean? The Gnostic would say, “Yes, we believe that. He became flesh the moment John baptized Him. Then He ceased to become flesh right before His crucifixion. That is when He left Him.” Oh no, you don’t understand, He became flesh. Are you with me? He didn’t just indwell flesh. He didn’t go around looking for a good body. He finds the body and says, “I am going to get in him.” He enters into it. That is not what it means. He was formed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became flesh.
I know some of you are saying, “I don’t understand that.” I want to say something back to you so profound...neither do I! As a matter of fact, if you can comprehend that, you have just proven to me that God is no bigger than our brain. God is so much bigger than anybody. It comes to the point you have to accept that by faith. You see, we don’t walk by sight. We walk by faith. Basically John is saying, “Hey, guys, we saw Him. We heard Him. We were appointed as apostles. We even touched Him and handled Him after He was resurrected from the grave. We have written to you. And what we have said has not changed. We proclaim it to you. We have seen it. We proclaim unto you. It was revealed to us. We didn’t think it up. It didn’t come out of a frustration with some church we were going to. God revealed it to us.”
Man does not discover what God hides. God has to reveal it to man. So he takes them back to the very beginning and says, “Hey, what was from the very beginning, guys, understand. We saw and we heard.” Then he says, “We saw, so therefore, we have proclaimed unto you. How do you think you came to be what you are? It is because of the Word based on what we saw and heard and what God has documented in our life.”
Look at verses 3 and 4. He begins to explain to them the motive behind telling them all this. He is going to go in other directions. But he is letting them know something here. Look at what he says: “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” I have never wrestled over anything as much as I have this verse. Now think with me. Let’s see if we can make it simple. John said, “Hey, guys. We are apostles. Who are we? The apostles. We have told you and what we have said all fits together. None of us contradict the other. We want you to participate in what we know and have said. We want you to have fellowship with us. But guys, you can’t have fellowship with us if you are going to sever yourself from what we have said because our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son, Jesus Christ.” The moment I sever myself from what the apostles have given me in the Word of God concerning the Word of Life is the very moment my joy is gone. My privileges are gone, and His presence is no longer here. You must adhere to what this Book says and only what this Book says, or you will never have what you are looking for.
Do you understand what he is saying? He is writing to believers and saying, “Hey, guys, if your fellowship is with Him, then your fellowship will be with us and you will be saying the same thing we say. Not only that, you are going to recognize if somebody says something different from that which we have said.”
Look at Acts 2:42. I think it has a bearing on this. “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” There is a hint of a warning here. “Guys, you had better shape up. If you want to have fellowship with us, you had better find your fellowship first with God, the Father and with His Son. Not some apparition, not some ghost, not some imaginary doctrine. You find your fellowship with Him, your koinonia with Him. Once you find it with Him and you have settled on that, you will find yourself fellowshipping with us.”
A person who is wide open to false doctrine is a person whose focus is not on the Lord Jesus, the Son, in full surrender and abandonment to what His Word has to say. When that happens watch him depart from the Word of God. That is just something that hit me as I was studying. Somebody who is not walking with a surrendered life is wide open to false doctrine.
We have dealt with it so much in the past 13 years at Woodland Park. I wish I could tell you what we have had to deal with. Sometimes in a message I come across so hard on something. I mean I nail it. No, I don’t just nail it, I drive it in the ground and bury it. The people probably think, “Wow, he is wired tonight.” They don’t know what we knew was beginning to seep into the body as doctrine that doesn’t hold itself accountable to the Word of God.
If you are not walking right with Him, if there is an area of your life that is disobedient, somewhere there is false doctrine in your walk. Somehow you have embraced the idea that you can sin and get away with it because God doesn’t care. Somehow legalism or something has gotten into your life. Look out because your joy is going to go with it.
The apostle says, “Hey, if your fellowship is with Him, it will be with us.” He uses the word “fellowship” three times – in verse 3, 6 and 7. Now verses 6 and 7 have a totally different meaning altogether. But we haven’t got there yet. I think what he is saying right here is, “You want to fellowship with us? You find it with Him first. When you find it with Him, you will have no trouble with what we say. But you had better focus on Him first. Then the doctrine will take care of itself.”
In verse 4 he completes his thought: “And these things we write, so that your joy may be made complete.” The word “complete” means that it might be fully accomplished, that you might be filled to the very brim with the joy that is rightfully yours in Jesus Christ. Don’t let false doctrine get you off the track. Don’t let what someone says about Jesus lure you away from what the Word of God documents.
One of my dearest friends went to the same seminary I did two years before me. Virginia is not known for being the most conservative state in the world. He went there wanting to preach the Word of God. He got in the classroom of a man who didn’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ and didn’t believe in the virgin birth. It began to erode his mind by tearing down the things he had thought he believed all these years. He left seminary, wrote all his friends a letter and said, “I am going out into the world to preach what is really truth.” He has so embraced the New Age movement that there is no way of knowing how far out he has really gone.
Where did it start? Sitting in a classroom, listening to somebody who was supposed to be intellectual, lead him astray from what the Word of God simply says. Do you want to do that? Go ahead, but I can guarantee you, you will lead the most miserable life you ever had in your life if you walk away from what the Bible has to say, not just concerning Jesus but whatever it says. If you ever add anything to it or take anything away from it, you have just done yourself the biggest injustice you have ever done in your life. You must stand, not on what I say; you must stand on what God says.
John says, “Listen, I told you. This is how it all got started. It hasn’t changed any from the very beginning. We saw and we heard. We perceived, we understood, we handled Him with our hands, and we proclaimed it to you. Now we write these things to you so that your joy might be made complete. Don’t listen to them.”
This is a great book. If we are not documented on what salvation is by the time we finish, it will be a great time just to get saved. This thing is going to take us from A to Z in what justification is and what a Christian is.