We live in an uncertain world, a world where it seems everything is up for grabs, for reinterpretation or disregarding. Things that have been norms for generations are being cast aside. Sadly even in the church, even the ‘evangelical’ church (that part that used to be certain of what it believed), uncertainty has been making inroads. Once the domain of the so-called liberal churches we now find it among those who would say they are evangelical.
Certainty is something which is found in that which is true, can we still know it? Can I be sure of my faith? How do I know what is true?
Today relativism plays a larger part than revelation. Truth is relative to the individual. Truth is your truth, if that’s what it means for you, then so be it. If it works for you thats ok.
Sadly within the church there are those who desire a more ‘generous orthodoxy,’ an embracing of questions rather than answers, an exploration rather than a destination. There’s a world of difference between times of doubt (which all Christians experience at some time or other in their lives), and making doubt an act of faith.
In many ways nothing has changed. Since the Fall, truth – ultimate truth – has been under attack. Human history is littered with such questioning, and time and again it has reared its ugly head in the church which should be the “pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim 3:15). Have we forgotten that we have an enemy who knows the truth of truth and the power of it and therefore hates it and wants to destroy it. Much of the New Testament is written to help believers counteract false teaching which frequently leads to wrong living and to be confident of their faith and how to work it out in daily life.
In 1 John that is exactly what John is doing, writing to the church/es, a church under attack, experiencing division because of false teachers that had arisen among them and now gone out from them. There are those wavering in their understanding Jesus. There are those who are losing their confidence in the gospel. There are those who are not sure of the Father’s heart. There are those who struggle with sin. There are those who think it’s ok to sin. There are those who are struggling with others in the church. There are those who have no assurance.
John, their pastor, writes to them, he’s getting on in years (in today’s world age is an issue, in God’s world it’s not), he has seen a lot of life, a ‘son of thunder’ and not afraid of confrontation, he wanted to call down fire on the opposition, his mother was pushy and wanted him and his brother to sit either side of Jesus in eternity. He knows a thing or two about life, about suffering for Christ, and he’s a different man to what he was. He’s suffered for the gospel, he’s been transformed by the gospel, and in his later years he was known as the apostle of love, and when he writes, he writes with great affection, great tenderness.
But one thing that has not changed or diminished in any way is what he knows and believes about Jesus and the gospel (1 John 1:1-4). After all the years, after all he has seen and been through, he can still say, “We proclaim to you…” Years on he’s still heralding the gospel! His knowledge of Jesus is as certain as the day he encountered him, and he wants them to know and be sure of who he is. He didn’t appear to be God in flesh, he was God in the flesh, the divine didn’t come on him for a season and then leave him before his sufferings, he was God from the beginning, God in flesh, and God suffering and dying.
John says, its Him we proclaim! Anything less or other is not the real deal…. And to know him dear children is eternal life. And he writes that they may know JOY! Truth robbers are joy killers. There is no joy in doubt and unbelief.
John is never more certain and throughout his letters writes in a series of contrasts, light and darkness, new and old commandments, loving the Father or loving the world, Christ and antichrist, truth and lies, children of God or children of the devil, eternal life or eternal death, love and hatred, true prophecy and false, love and fear, having life or not having life. Johns faith, after much trial is as strong as ever, you either know or you don’t know, you are either in or you are still out. And for those who believe they may be absolutely sure, and have confidence before and with God…
And one thing he is sure of is that it leads to new life. A life of fellowship with God. (1:5-10), and fellowship with one another. Sin has snared mankind since the fall, it has cut him off from God, by whom and for whom we were created, and has snared human relationships. But God has worked mightily to save. John proclaims that Jesus didn’t just die because he loved us, or to influence us to live better, or to defeat the powers of darkness, he died in our place, he bore Gods judgment on our sin, his death was propitiatory (1 John 2:2; 4:10) – as much as it seems so foreign to modern sensibilities, any other death leaves us without a Saviour and still dead in our sins. I need more than an example, or someone who has defeated the powers, etc. I need a Saviour, and so do you.