February 5 - 11
John's Experience and Assurance of Salvation
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Mark 9:39-41; John 1:1-18, 29, 36; 3:18; 1 John 2:28; 3:23; 4:15-18.
MEMORY TEXT: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God. even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: John, the son of Zebedee. was reared as an unlearned Galilean fisherman. He and his brother James were called "sons of thunder," because of their combative and self-seeking nature. But John wanted to be more like Jesus. and through the transforming love of Christ, he became humble and unselfish. Through John, Christ communicated His deepest spiritual teachings of love and assurance.
A LESSON OF UNTOLD VALUE. Although Christ knows our personal character faults. He also discerns beneath our shortcomings the sincerity of our hearts. Christ wants to reveal through each person the transforming power of His love. He teaches that we must not seek to coerce the conscience of others. "He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 541. This week's lesson centers on how John became certain of his salvation, and how he explained the reasons of his faith in Christ as the world's Redeemer and as his personal Savior. john makes a unique contribution in this respect by stressing the redeeming love of God that "draws" all people to Himself He places his eternal security in the self-giving love of God as manifested in the sending of His Son. The love of God brought his greatest assurance of salvation.
What caused John to emphasize the love of God as the fundamental attribute of God's character? 1 John 4:7-12.
Although Jesus loved all His twelve apostles, He found in John the most receptive spirit for His teachings. As the youngest of the twelve, he opened his heart to Christ with the complete trust of a child. His soul readily responded to Jesus' teachings about the love and compassion of the Father. He discerned in Christ the glory, the grace, and the truth of God. "The beauty of holiness which had transformed him shone with a Christlike radiance from his countenance. In adoration and love he beheld the Saviour until likeness to Christ and fellowship with Him became his one desire, and in his character was reflected the character of his Master."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 545.
John was so surprised and appreciative of knowing God's forgiving love that at the end of his life he exclaimed: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1, NIV). For him the reality and experience of God's love brought him the certainty of being accepted as a child of God.
How did John initially show a lack of compassion for others? Luke 9:54, 55.
John's character defect became evident when he and his brother James saw how the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus. While Christ did not urge His presence on the Samaritans, John and James requested to bring down an immediate punishment on them. To their surprise Jesus rebuked them, saying: "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to Save them" (Luke 9:55, 56, NKJV). "It is no part of Christ's mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, who seek to compel the conscience."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 541.
How did Christ reprove John's judgmental attitude toward a believer who was not one of them? Mark 9:39-41.
John learned that he should not indulge in a narrow and exclusive Spirit, but rather must extend his love and compassion to all people.
John became known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 21:20, NIV). His baptism in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost gave him a fresh zeal and a God-centered motivation to preach Christ effectively to all classes of people. John stressed especially the new commandment of Christ, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). After he had witnessed the sufferings of Christ, His crucifixion, and resurrection, he had a better understanding of the nature of God's love.
How did John explain the source of his love for God? 1 John 4:19.
It is extremely important to realize that God does not love us merely because we love Him. John explains that it is the other way: we love God because He loved us first! Our love for God can be only our response to His love for us. This means that we can love God only when we come to know Him and His gifts to us, in particular the gift of His Son.
John proved his love for Christ during his time of testing before Emperor Domitian. He courageously witnessed to Christ's goodness and sinlessness when he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil and his life was preserved (see The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 569, 570).
According to John, what is the condition for being sure of future salvation? 1 John 2:28; How did he link assurance with evidence of a sanctified life? 1 John 3:2, 3; 2:6.
The key thought of John's important declaration of confidence in our future salvation is to "continue in Him." Faith in Christ is, not an occasional exercise, but a daily privilege and duty. "Day by day, in contrast with his own violent spirit, he beheld the tenderness and forbearance of Jesus, and heard His lessons of humility and patience. Day by day his heart was drawn out to Christ, until he lost sight of self in love for his Master."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 557.
John's transformation of character was the result of his daily communion with Christ. He taught that every Christian believer who lives in the blessed hope of Christ's appearance must also purify himself after the pattern of Christ. Love is not a law to itself, but the fulfillment of the law of God and of Christ. Christ is the perfect example of how the law of God should be honored. Christ's life, therefore, pictured the highest standard of a sanctified life. In Him we see the union of assurance and obedience.
On what historic fact did John base the certainty of God's love for sinful humanity? 1 John 4:9, 10.
While John wrote in his Gospel that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son (John 3:16), he now explains the nature of God's gift in Christ. God did not give His Son merely to visit planet Earth and to demonstrate that He cares for us. John now states that God gave His Son as an "atoning sacrifice." This means that God sent His Son to suffer not only human insults and rejection but also the divine penalty for the sins of the world. In this sense the final words of Jesus in John's Gospel may be understood, "It is finished!" (John 19:30, NKJV). The infinite price was paid.
What further evidence may we detect in John's Gospel that Christ's death was the fulfillment of the atoning sacrifices in the temple? John 1:29, 36. What, then, is the basis of John's assurance of God's gracious acceptance of sinners? John 1:14, 16.
The repeated pronouncement of John the Baptist that Jesus was "the Lamb" of God lay at the heart of his revelation of Christ to Israel. It is legitimate to hear in this symbolic expression a reference to Genesis 22:8, where Abraham assured Isaac that God Himself would provide the lamb for the burnt offering. John the Gospel writer grasped the fuller significance in the light of Isaiah 53:7, 10, and of the sacrificial lambs, the Passover lamb in particular (see Acts 8:30-35). We may, therefore, consider John's statement in 1 John 4:10 as a clarification of John 3:16. This means that salvation comes not simply from God's gracious self-disclosure in Jesus, or a demonstration of God's love on the cross, but from God's act of reconciliation in the atoning death of His Son.
The Christian faith does not rest on human philosophy or some speculative concept, but on a historical event, together with its inspired interpretation. God Himself came to humanity in Christ. What could God have done more convincing than that? John affirms both the deity and the genuine humanity of Christ. "John unveils the great idea at the heart of Christianity that the very Word of God took flesh for man's salvation."—L. Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1977), p. 102.
|What does the incarnation of Christ mean to your assurance of salvation?|
Divine love urges the heart to express the same compassion that Jesus manifested. Christ lived only to bless others. He explained, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35, NKJV). This implies that, to be able to love others, the Christian must first know the Lord personally and experience His forgiving and keeping grace. "The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 551.
How and to what extent is fear driven out when the spirit of love is experienced? 1 John 4:17, 18.
In the acceptance of God's forgiveness of our sins we are set free from their punishment! This means that we no longer need to fear the last judgment. As long as we maintain our union with Christ by faith we cannot be lost. Our salvation is not based on our good works, but on the faithful Promiser who has paid the all-sufficient price for our redemption. "Centuries, ages, can never lessen the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice."—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 552, 553. The only fear is, not of being lost, but of losing our communion with Christ now. John states that we may have "confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him" (1 John 4:17, NIV). This "confidence" or "boldness" is the outcome of abiding in Him.
How does John unite faith, love, and obedience as the basis for Christian "confidence on the day of judgment"? John 3:18; 5:24; 1 John 3:23; 4:15, 16.
For John, love reaches its goal in Christian conduct now (see 1 John 2:29) and also through confidence in God's presence at the Second Coming (1 John 2:28; 3:21). The one leads to the other. What does it mean that the confident believers are in this world "like Him"? Consider the words of S. S. Smalley: "It should be characteristic for every believer to reflect the abiding fellowship and love which exist between the Son and the Father; and, insofar as this is achieved, a complete likeness to Christ in the future is foreshadowed [represented] (cf. 3:2)."—1, 2, 3 John (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1984), p. 259.
|How does obedience to Christ, born out of love to Him and trust in Him, help us deal with the problem of fretting over trying to feel sinlessly perfect in our present situation?|
What is the divine foundation of our assurance of salvation? 1 John 5:6-12. What are the three witnesses, and what is the meaning of their symbolic testimony?
The testimony of God marks the difference between the believer and the nonbeliever (1 John 5:10). It has the power to give life, the same eternal life that Jesus as the Son of God possessed (v. 11). For "he who has the Son has life" (v. 12). Here is the certainty of life in believing in the Son of God. Notice John's emphasis that believers know that they have a present certainty. The goal of John's Gospel had been to lead doubters to become believers in Christ (see John 20:31). The goal of his first letter was to assure believers that they had eternal life.
What does John mean by stating that Jesus Christ came by water and blood? 1 John 5:6.
If we understand the "water" as meaning the baptism of Jesus and the "blood" as signifying His atoning death on the cross, John speaks here of the beginning and close of Christ's earthly ministry. He thereby affirms the truly human nature of Christ, as well as His divine nature, which gives eternal life (1 John 5:20; 1:1, 2).
The testimony of these three stands or falls together in confirming that Jesus is Messiah and Son of God: "the three are in agreement" (1 John 5:8). 1 John 5:9 stamps God's own authority on the truth of the gospel. It is superior to all human testimony.
|How did the Spirit attest to the divine Sonship of Christ at His baptism? John 1:32-34. How does the Spirit still testify to us about Christ? John 7:38, 39; 15:26, 27.|
FURTHER STUDY: Study John 1:14, 16; 21:20-25; 1 John 3:14-16; 4:11-13; 5:18; Galatians 5:6, 22. Read 1 John in one sitting. Chapters 53-56 (53, 54, 55, 56) of The Acts of the Apostles are devoted to John the beloved, describing his character transformation till he "could talk of the Father's love as no other of the disciples could."
"Evil temper, the desire for revenge, the spirit of criticism, were all in the beloved disciple."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 540.
"James and John had thought that in checking this man they had in view the Lord's honor; but they began to see that they were jealous for their own. They acknowledged their error, and accepted the reproof."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 544.
It is instructive to consult not only the SDA Bible Commentary but also other reliable commentaries, such as those of R.E. Brown in the Anchor Bible, S.S. Smalley in the Word Biblical Commentary, and of J. R. W. Stott in the Tyndale NT Commentaries, on 1 John. Their exegetical scholarship brings to light that John's first letter teaches that Jesus did not come just to enlighten sinners about the love of God. but specifically to redeem humankind through His sacrificial death. This is the most fundamental truth of the gospel for John.
SUMMARY: John the Beloved was the most receptive disciple of Christ, and he appreciated the divine attributes of the Lord to such an extent that he increasingly reflected Christ's character. His certainty of faith was based on a correct understanding of Christ's person and mission and was anchored in God's truthful testimony about His Son.
Jardslaw Wajik, a popular rock band musician in Poland had everything he wanted. Everything but peace. He had grown up attending church, but his life had become a tangled nightmare of tobacco, drugs, alcohol, and sinful living. He knew that his lifestyle was killing him Depression set in, and one night he sat on a street curb and cried.
He was admitted to a mental hospital, and slowly his life began to change. Following his release, he married a former Adventist woman
who helped him recover his health. His music career soared, and his records reached the top of the charts. In spite of success and financial security, Wajik still felt lonely.
When one of his band members announced that he intended to stop smoking, Wajik, who smoked 70 cigarettes a day, replied, "If you are still clean in two weeks, I will stop smoking too." Two weeks later Wajik knew he must keep that promise. He asked God to take away his hunger for liquor and tobacco. God came close to him and answered his prayer.
Then one day Wajik's wife announced that she had been rebaptized. She wanted a new life for herself and their daughter. Wajik did not object. One day he picked up a Bible and, in his words, "The Lord opened it to Exodus 20." He read the Sabbath commandment and realized that the church of his childhood was not following all the commandments. He stopped performing in rock concerts on Sabbath.
He attended Adventist evangelistic meetings but did not take a stand for God. Several months later at a youth camp meeting Wajik felt the Holy Spirit touch his heart. He gave his heart totally to God. At his baptism Wajik testified that "My old life was buried in the water, and Jesus has given me a new life. I am still a sinner, but I have a wonderful Friend, Jesus Christ."
God impressed him that he needed to use his influence and popularity to help others. He dropped out of his band and set his heart on free objectives. He wanted to have a relationship with God, a God-honoring family, and to be involved in some exemplary type of work. He had no idea how hard that would be.
Wajik began writing songs for a new musical group. He wants to show people the way out of sin, the way to joy and hope. He prays that the thousands who purchased his earlier albums will purchase the new one and find in it the joy that Wajik has found in his new life in Christ.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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