“That you may know”: Our messages on 1 John

How can we know if we are in Christ? What beliefs and attitudes give proof to our claim to be a Christian? Pastor Oliver shares with us where we can find answers to these questions. 

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,
that you may know that you have eternal life.”
1 John 5:13 (ESV)

When I was a young believer, I had questions about my faith. “Did my sins this past week disqualify me from the faith?” Or “Has my inconsistent quiet time habits meant that I’ve failed God and was a ‘bad’ Christian?” I struggled to be certain I was a Christian. At meetings where the preacher asked that we raise our hands to show our desire to re-dedicate ourselves to Jesus, I was often among the first few to raise my hand. On the other hand, I also noticed some people who said that they were Christians but what they said and did seem to say otherwise. They consistently behaved in ways that were more at home with the world than with Christ. And yet, they seemed to be certain that they were Christians just because they said a prayer and walked the aisle many years ago. “Are they really ‘real’ Christians?”, I would ask myself. Have you thought of these questions before as well?

This is where the letter of 1 John could help us. The apostle John, the son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved, wrote the letter of 1 John. He wrote this letter from Ephesus (modern day Turkey) to the churches in Ephesus and its surrounding area. Most commentators would place its date as somewhere from mid-80s AD to 90s AD. John wrote to these churches where false teachers had infiltrated the church. As a result, some people seduced by these false teachings have left the fellowship of the churches (1 John 2:18-27). The letter of 1 John was written as what can be described as a loosely structured sermon to pastor these churches facing these challenges. 

John, an old man by then, had ample time to reflect on what Jesus Christ said and did. John had seen and heard Jesus personally – he was an eyewitness to the “Word of Life” and it had transformed him profoundly. 1 John is full of theological reflections on Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian. For those of us attempting to read and understand 1 John, the way 1 John was written is not strictly linear, John seemed to revisit topics again and again. The structure appears more like an upward spiral, with John adding more to the subject each time he re-visits.

The central theme in 1 John is how we can know if we are in Christ: what beliefs and attitudes give proof to our claim to be a Christian. Our church theme this year is “Believe, Belong, Behave.” 1 John has much to inform our theme. From 1 John, professing believers might test themselves to see the whether their faith is genuine. Also, true believers would be assured of their right standing with God. John does two things: he helps us to avoid presuming that we are Christians when we are not, and he helps us avoid uncertainty when we are indeed Christians. 

The three main tests of genuine faith that John wrote throughout his letter of 1 John are: firstly, the test of obedience. Do you obey God’s commands? Secondly, the test of doctrine. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? And thirdly, the test of love. Do you love God and His church? Obedience. Belief. Love. If we are genuine Christians, does our behaviour give evidence that we belong to God whom we believe? The letter of 1 John would help us to examine whether we are in the faith. And if we are, 1 John would help us to be sure that we are genuine believers and to “know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). So let us prepare to hear from 1 John! 

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This Sunday (12 Aug 2018) we will have a combined Thanksgiving Service for both the English Congregation (EC) and the Chinese Congregation (CC) at 10 am. There will be lunch provided after the service. There will be very few carpark spaces available, so please park your cars in the surrounding neighbourhood carparks instead. Do come and give thanks to our good God for His faithfulness together as one church this Sunday. 

We will start our messages on 1 John next Sunday (19 Aug 2018). We will have 15 sermons from the letter of 1 John. 1 John comprises 5 chapters and 105 verses. It is possible to finish reading it in one seating. So, we encourage you to read 1 John before our first message next Sunday. Pray for our preachers as we prepare the messages. Pray also for God to make our hearts to hear from 1 John and to heed the tests of genuine faith.