Light and Love in I John


“If love is understood in an abstract and fairly impersonal way, then it becomes difficult to see how, in the same God, such love can co-exist with wrath.  But the Scriptures treat God’s love in more dynamic ways…”  D. A. Carson, “Atonement in Romans 3:21-26” in “The Glory of the Atonement”, ed C. E. Hill and F. A. James III.

We struggle with how a God of Love just does not say, “forgive and forget.”  Some accuse the scriptures themselves of paganism, where sacrifices are offered to appease an angry God.  Yet it is God who initiates the work of Salvation – see John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he sent….”  Paganism was an attempt to appease a God or gods by human effort.  The Gospel is God satisfying God.

We find this in the book of I John. The word for Propitiation, or Atoning Sacrifice (Gk, hilasmos) is found in two places.  I John 2:2 and I John 4:10.  What is interesting is that I John 2:2 is tied to a statement about God, that “God is Light.”  This means something like God is True and God is Righteous, for the context of the passage speaks of truth and of sin.

In the particular passage, I John 1:5-2:2, the idea that God is Light and that we are darkness (sinful) is resolved by the blood of Christ (1:7) as part of being the atoning sacrifice (2:2).

I John 1:5-2:2

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

In I John 4:7-17, we find love.  We find the statement that “God is Love.”  This passage does not say that God thus decides that we are worthy of love or that his love is unconditional. Rather it is conditional upon the “atoning sacrifice” (v. 10) of Christ.  God’s love is resolved by his action of providing a sacrifice: “This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” v. 9.  Love is not in the Bible a cost free and general inclusion, but rather it is a costly sacrifice enabling inclusion.

This is exactly what Carson meant in the quote at the top. In the abstractions of Love and Holiness or Kindness and Justice we find questions such as” How could a loving God requrie blood sacrifice?”   In the concrete passages of scripture we find something else; we find an affirmation that the love of God is expressed in his own provision for us.  He sent his beloved son to be a sacrifice for sin.

I John 4:7-12

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Croutons – 5



October 5, 2013


Take some time to think about this.

“Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10

Compare  Matthew 22:34-40

34 After Jesus had made the Sadducees look foolish, the Pharisees heard about it and got together. 35 One of them was an expert in the Jewish Law. So he tried to test Jesus by asking, 36 “Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” 40 All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.

Submission in Ephesians 5 – More on Partnership

adam-and-eve-~-vmo0001Here is where we meet the fearful word “submit”.  Men for centuries looked at verse 21 and quoted to their wives, or sometimes to single women, “Wives submit to your husbands.”

I have two quick points.

1.  Submit is a general term.  The verb “to submit” is not found inverse 22, In the Greek language they would sometimes leave out word and you draw them down from the context.  The word submit is found in verse 21.  In the context of the Church as a whole, we are called to do some things, starting a verse 18.  Being filled with the spirit, speaking to each other in music, singing and making melody to God, giving thanks and submitting to one another…”

Submission is presented first as a general principle of Christian fellowship.  The church does not exist to submit to my needs and desires.  Copernicus in on the phone, and says that you are not the center of the universe!

In the church as a whole, submission is a way of life.  We look out for others and not just for ourselves.

2.  Submit is paired with Love.  Wives are called to submit to heir husbands, in the same way that submission is the expecting of Christian community at large.  Husbands are called to love their wives.

There are about 50 words in this passage addressed to Wives.  In Verse 22 she is called to “submit” which is the verse drawn from verse 21.  In verse 33, she is called to “respect”.  This word is actually in the text.

There are about 150 words in the s passage for Husbands.  Maybe it is because men are slow learners? Maybe it is because, if we understand this passage properly, men are being called to a greater sacrifice.  Wives are called to ‘respect” their husbands. Men are called to die for their wives.

I am a pastor. I tend to read the New Testament letters as pastoral words – word that are applied to real issues.  I think that women often have a hard time respecting their husbands – from what I sometimes hear women say in public, this remains an issue.  Men seem to have trouble with love – we do earning and watching sports, but love, real love is a challenge.

I have applied the word “Partner” to the marriage relationship.  If you are married, I encourage you to think of your spouse as a partner.  Respect him. Love her.  Work together.  Belong to each other.  Quit trying to win. If she wins then you do to. If he wins, you do too.


What does it mean to abide? – John 15

colored pencils

colored pencils

What does “abide” mean? says,

1.  to remain; continue; stay 
2.  to have one’s abode 
3.  to continue in a particular condition, attitude, relationship, etc.;  

Greek Dictionary says, of the verb meno

1. to stay, live, dwell, lodge

2. Figurative, not to leave the realm or sphere where one finds oneself

3. remain, last, persist, continue to live.

Now when we read the word in the context of John 15 we find an internal definition

  • “remain in me and I in you” compared to a branch remaining in a vine
  • “if you remain in me, you will bear much fruit”
  • “if you don’t remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away…”
  • “if you remain in me and my words remain in you.”
  • “remain in my love” 
  • “if you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”
  • “This is my command; love each other.”

Thus the metaphor is of a branch that derives its life from the vine – so our life is in connection with the Lord.

The application seems to indicate a personal connection and a knowledge connection: “remain in me“, “my words remain in you,” “keep my commands and remain..”

The result is “fruit”, which harks back to the vine metaphor.  This fruit is defined as “love” in the following paragraph, love is the word that dominates:  “Love each other” is at the top and the bottom of the paragraph.

A working definition: To abide is to  remain in a vital connection with the Lord by hearing and keeping his word, especially his command to love one another.

Note that the 1st and 2nd commandment (love God; love neighbor) are not separable.

Leviticus 19 – the two loves illustrated

So Leviticus 19 – no don’t change that channel.  This is actually quite interesting.

The chapter divides into 16 sub sections marked by the phrase “I am the LORD your God”, or “I am the Lord”.  The call is to be Holy because God is Holy – a theme picked up in the New Testament as well.  There is a randomness to the logical mind to these various teachings.  But life tends to come to us “randomly” if in fact we mean that some of these teachings have to do with the love of God and others with the love of neighbor.  What we see is the interconnectedness of concrete life – not the logical categorization of theoretical life.

think of your day – is it divided discretely between love of God and neighbor, or are they mixed.  Perhaps you thank God for life when you awaken, then brew coffee for your beloved, then drive safely to work, then answer your email, then encourage a friend at the water cooler, then leave a nice tip at lunch, and stop by the gym on the way home.   You see, mixed, not antiseptically divided.

The immediate context of the command to love your neighbor is verses 11-18, or v. 9 to 18.  (in the first we divide bc v. 1-9 uses “I am the Lord your God” as the section marker, but v, 9 and 10 by content seems to fit with love of neighbor).

To love your neighbor then includes:

  • Be generous with your harvest – v. 9,10
  • Be honest in business v. 11,12
  • Pay a fair and timely wage – v. 13-14
  • Keep justice without favoritism – v. 15-16
  • Don’t hate, but love your neighbor – v. 17-18

Also note that “neighbor” includes the resident Alien (v. 34) – which sheds light on Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan, which was told to answer the question “who is my neighbor” which really means “who can I get away with not loving” in the heart of the Lawyer who spoke to Jesus.

So, as we say, it preaches.