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Luke Miller
Twin Cities, MN.
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Jesus: The Way, The Truth, and The Life
1 John 5:20-21
John concludes his epistle by pointing readers to Jesus Christ, the source of true revelation and redemption. Why look anywhere else?
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#Jesus
#Christology
#Idolatry
Published April 10th, 2016
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οἴδαμεν δὲ
Now we know
ὅτι ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἥκει
that the Son of God has come
καὶ δέδωκεν ἡμῖν διάνοιαν
and has given us understanding
ἵνα γινώσκωμεν τὸν ἀληθινόν,
in order that we might know the true One.
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καὶ ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ ἀληθινῷ, ἐν τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ.
And we are in the true One, in his Son Jesus Christ.
οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀληθινὸς θεὸς καὶ ζωὴ αἰώνιος.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων.
Little children, protect yourselves from false gods.
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5:20 — After two “we know” statements, John concludes with a third and final one. John offers his hearers, plagued by theological controversy, a rock upon which they can stand. In a world of confusion, it is a great consolation to be reminded of such things. What is this rock? It is in the incarnation of the Son of God. Jesus was with the Father in eternity past, but he became manifest to the world through his incarnation (1 John 1:2). He did this in order that we might understand and know the one true God. This is the theme of the conclusion to John’s great Prologue in his Gospel: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV). If ever we have question about the true character and nature of God, we need do nothing more than look to Jesus (cf. Heb 1:1-4). “In Christ himself we have God manifested in the flesh…Thus it is that the face of God in a manner appears to us in Christ; not that there was no knowledge, or a doubtful knowledge of God, before the coming of Christ, but that now he manifests himself more fully and more clearly” (Calvin). Jesus has not only made God known to us; he has united us to him. Because we are in Christ, we are in the one true God. Kruse comments that this “denotes a new and real spiritual existence that believers enjoy, which is effected through the agency of the Spirit.” Through the work of Christ and his Spirit we have the deepest possible communion with God. This is the fellowship to which John invites his readers in 1 John 1:3. And who is Jesus? He is God, and he is eternal life. John’s Christology could not be any higher. Although he always maintains a distinction between the Father and the Son, he is clear that the Son is God. Thus, he is the source of eternal life too. Full, abundant life is only found in and through him. Nothing else will satisfy the longings of the human heart. 5:21 — In light of this high Christology, what is John’s exhortation? Defend yourselves against idolatry! Protect yourselves against the ruinous effects of a false god—whether a statue, false teaching, or misplaced worship. Jesus is the true God—looking anywhere else for life is completely vain. Wesley summarized it well: “[Keep yourselves] from all worship of false gods, from all worship of images or of any creature, and from every inward idol; from loving, desiring, fearing anything more than God. Seek all help and defense from evil, all happiness in the true God alone.” Jesus is the true God and eternal life; why look anywhere else? Unfortunately, we do, so John must include this exhortation. We would be wise to heed it — for our sakes and for the glory of God. Précis — “What could be clearer than these words? What could be sweeter to the ear? What could be a more powerful weapon to use against the heretics? Christ is the true Son of God. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the true God. The eternal Son of God has come into the world of time, and he came only in order to save us, so that we might come to know the true God. For no one can come to eternal life without a knowledge of the true God. All these things John just keeps repeating over and over again” (The Venerable Bede).
Implications
1) Even though we don't know everything, we can have epistemic certainty through Jesus’s incarnation. 2) Jesus is the climactic eschatological revelation of God. Theology, then, must always be done in light of his person and work. As Calvin wrote, ““As soon as we depart from [Christ], we necessarily become vain in our own devices.” 3) We can enjoy the deepest possible interpersonal relationship—oneness—with God through Jesus. 4) Jesus is what satisfies the human heart. 5) Letting our hearts be drawn towards anything other than Jesus is our fundamental problem.
Bibliography
Colin Kruse, The Letters of John : http://www.amazon.com/Letters-John-Pillar-Testament-Commentary/dp/080283728X/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= Gerald Bray (Editor), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Volume XI : http://www.amazon.com/James-Ancient-Christian-Commentary-Scripture/dp/0830814965 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles : http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom45 John Wesley, Wesley's Notes on the Bible : http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/notes
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Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.