Series: A deep dive into 1 John
Theme: Sin versus Love
Bible Reading: 1 John 1:8 – 2:14
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Date: 26 December, 2021
As we slow down for the summer break, we are jumping back into our ongoing 1 John sermon series with our next block of the book. In this sermon we will be exploring how John addresses the question of sin but not from a judgemental point of view but rather as an inhibitor to love and spiritual growth.
A few months ago we started a series on 1 John were we doing a bit of a deep dive into this letter. Back in November we did weeks 1 and 2 and today and next week we are doing the next 2 sermons in the series. If you missed the first two, let me catch you up. The author of this letter is John – the apostle John – who also wrote the gospel of John. This is important because they have similar ideas and themes about love and the abundant amazing life that Jesus came to reveal and offer us.
John says about this abundant life … We have seen it, touched it, experienced it … and said that we can have it too. John calls us to step out of the darkness, to not get sucked into the world’s illusions but rather walk in the light.
We are not complete sure whom John wrote the letter to … it doesn’t say. And as we talked about last time … the original receivers of this letter probably copied it and passed it around to other churches anyway – so it became a letter to the whole church. However we imagine that John originally wrote it to a group of people or a church that was very special to him. Did you notice some of the language in today’s bible reading…
- 2:1 My dear children
- 2:7 Dear friends
- 2:12&13. Dear children
It is clear that John not only knew these people well, but that they were dear to him, like family. But this family were not having a good time. The letter hints at some sort of a disagreement or tension within this early church or community of faith – this disagreement is causing so much trouble that it could even lead to a church split.
Our bible reading hinted today that this argument seems to be about sin and salvation. There seems to be three different arguments that were misguided and John addresses with his letter of 1 John.
Firstly, there was a group of people suggesting that there was no such thing as sin. That the idea of a universal moral code of right and wrong just didn’t exist so it didn’t matter what you did – anything goes. “I do not have to repent because I have there is no such thing as sin”
There were others were saying that sin did exist but that they didn’t sin. Sins were the issue of really bad people like murders, not good people like them. “I do not have to repent because I have not sinned”
And lastly there were people who said that sin exists and yes they sin, that everyone sins, but it is no big issue. That sinning has no impact on them or on their relationship with God. “Because of God’s grace … my sinning is irrelevant, it makes no difference if I sin or not”.
If we are honest, we might have thought these things at one point or another. And as a church, we often don’t like talking about sin. It is much easier to talk about love and life and light. Talking about sin seems confrontational and makes us uncomfortable. We get worried that talking about sin might make people feel judged or condemned and so we edge away from it. But John doesn’t. John knows about these three groups of people and in the first part of our bible reading John looks them clearly in the eye and makes three massive statements about sin.
To the first two groups – to the ones who don’t believe in sin or don’t believe that we have sinned, John says in verse 10
If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
John is saying “Look at everything God has said and done in the history of salvation and through the cross of Jesus. God has done all this to save us from our sins. If we claim there is no sin or that we haven’t ever sinned then we are saying God doesn’t know what God is talking about. That God is a liar.
John is clear that sin is real. Verse 8 – If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
But the good news is that if we admit that we have sinned, then God has provided an answer for us. Verse 9 – If we confess our sins, then God is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from all our unrighteousness.
It is as simple as this. When we sin, if we confess, God WILL forgive us and cleanse us. Amazing, life changing, profound truth.
However, this is the statement that lead to the third group’s thinking. If God is so gracious, so ready and willing to forgive, then there is no real reason not to sin. Whether I sin or not makes no difference or impact on my relationship with God.
Or does it? If we flip over to the first verse in chapter 2 we see that John address this. Does John talk about God’s grace to encourage us to keep sinning? NO 1 John 2:1 “Dear Children, I write this to you so that you will NOT SIN.”
John’s aim or goal in all of this is that we get to a point where we less tempted to sin and more focused on walking in the light, in living the Zoe life that Jesus has come to reveal to us.
John goes on, in verse 3, “We have come to know him if we obey his commands.” What command is John talking about here? He has not mentioned any commands yet in 1 John … but remember that 1 John is linked with the gospel of John. Does the gospel of John mention any commands from Jesus? YES.
- John 13:34,35 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
- John 15:12-14 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for their friends.
- John 15:17 – This is my command: Love each other.
The command that John is talking about in 1 John 2:3 is the command to love one another. It is the same in verse 7. “Dear friends, I am not writing to you a new command but an old one [an existing one]”. And then in verse 9 & 10, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light …”
Back to verse 4. “The person who says, “I know him [Jesus],” but does not do what he commands [namely to show love] they are a liar, and the truth is not in them. But if anyone obeys his word [namely shows love], God’s love is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Jesus: Whoever claims to live in him must walk [or live] as Jesus did.”
So John is trying to link these ideas together. This abundant ZOE life that Jesus came to reveal to us, is somehow linked with Jesus command to love. And when we show love, this zoe life, God’s love is somehow made complete in us.
Now this word complete is a very interesting word in Greek (which I have mentioned before in a previous sermon at TUC) – teleÑw Tel-e-ious which means mature, full, lacking nothing, achieving purpose, reaching a goal.
Teleious sometimes get translated as perfect which is probably not the best word because we have these static images of perfect meaning nothing can be added to it but Teleious is both a state of maturity and it is a process. Teleious is both arrival and the journey.
At my last church there was a huge oak tree outside my office window. It was a magnificent tree – huge branches, amazing foliage. Now I would say that the oak tree is Teleious – fully mature, complete … but at the same time, that tree is still growing. It is at the same time both fully mature and yet still growing. It is Teleos
And John is brilliant linking this idea of spiritual growth, to love. God’s love in made teleos in us, made complete in us only when we respond to God’s love by showing love ourselves! When we love, that act of loving somehow makes our lives, our faith, our relationship with God, … complete. Not lacking anything.
But there is one thing that can hinder this growth … and this is where we do the full circle and come back to sin. To this third group of people who are suggesting that God’s grace and forgiveness means that sin does not impact on our relationship with God … John is saying that it DOES impact on our growth towards Teleos. Sin may not break our relationship with God but it can hinder our spiritual growth.
I know it is boxing day and we are quite relaxed this morning … but I hope that you can see the picture that John is painting in these verses.
God through the law and the bible has given us a way of living which leads to life. And sin is what happens when we stray from that way. Let’s not pretend that sin doesn’t exists or doesn’t effect us but instead embrace the good news that God offers us – If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
But lets also commit to grow in our spiritual maturity – in our Teleos. And John also hints on how we do that … to focus on how we love God and love one another.
Sort of sounds a good goal as we stand at the beginning of a new year. May this next year be a time to focus on our love for God and how we show love to others. Amen.