Friday, August 14, 2009

1 John 2:1-2

V1-2 – 1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for [Or, He is the one who turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also] the sins of the whole world.

John begins this chapter by answering the error that claimed a sinless Christian life. But he doesn’t want his audience to think that he is promoting sinful living – for God has not only forgiven our sin and removed guilt; He has also begun the sanctifying process, which He will see through to completion (Philippians 1:6) – by denying the possibility of sinlessness, therefore, he says that he writes “so that you will not sin.” John wants holy living for followers of Christ, but not with despair over failure. Instead, John wants us to confess and repent and grow in grace, making progress in a lifestyle of holiness, for he knows, once again, that we are “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of” Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

John points us to Jesus Christ as our advocate, our defense attorney, but not before a judge that despises us. Rather the judge is biased in our favor due to the Person and work of our advocate, Jesus Christ. He is “the Righteous One,” who has paid our debt, our propitiation, which turns aside and satisfies the wrath of God. It’s critical that Jesus is righteous, because God is first and foremost just. Before mercy and love come justice and righteousness as characteristics of God the Father. Thus out of His righteous justice comes His love and mercy. And Jesus is not merely the One who satisfies God’s wrath; He is the satisfaction. He is not merely the propitiator; He is the propitiation. God was pleased to crush Him out of justice and out of love for us. So in response to the erroneous idea that we are sinless, John says, “Turn to Jesus.” He is to be the ground of our confidence in the fight against sin; He is the source from which our holiness flows; He is the basis on which our forgiveness rests.

Now the second half of v2 causes some controversy within evangelical Christianity. But all John is saying is that Jesus turns aside God’s wrath for any of, all of, and only those who know Him, who trust in Him for salvation from sin. It’s a claim of universal availability (Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female) but not universal effectiveness (exclusive to those who “know Him”); He is sufficient for all but not efficient for all. He is efficient for the elect, for those who by grace come to Jesus in faith for salvation. Some use this verse to promote universal salvation, realizing what John teaches, that if God pours out His full justice on Christ for the sins of the whole world, then He can’t in justice issue an additional punishment on the sinner. But the parallel passage, also from John, helps tremendously. We let Scripture interpret Scripture by reading John 11:50-52 alongside 1 John 2:2. In that passage the high priest Caiaphas says, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” And John explains, “He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.” Jesus was not only the propitiation for the sins of Jewish believers, or for the sins of believers of John’s congregation, but for the sins of all believers everywhere, “for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). Properly explained, this verse strongly promotes the view of the rest of Scripture, that of Limited Atonement.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Ultimate Proof of Creation

From the Answers in Genesis website (and from the book), "There is a defense for creation that is powerful, conclusive, and has no true rebuttal. As such, it is an irrefutable argument—an 'ultimate proof' of the Christian worldview. This book by astrophysicist/apologist Dr. Jason Lisle is a completely new 21st century guide to defending the Christian faith, emphasizing the Genesis account of creation. Engaging an unbeliever, even a staunch atheist, is not difficult when you use the proven techniques described here. The Ultimate Proof is applied to real-life experiences in answering real-life questions. You’ll learn how to move beyond simple circular arguments, spot logical fallacies, get to the real heart of the issue, and rationally resolve the origins debate. Discover The Ultimate Proof of Creation!

I just finished reading this book. I admit to being skeptical about the arrogant-sounding title, but Dr. Lisle does a very nice job showing that apart from the truth of the Bible, nothing makes sense. In other words, there is no reason for anything, nor can a person know anything, apart from the truth of the Bible. Evidence is interpreted by one's presuppositions and worldviews. But presuppositions must be proven once assumed, and only the Biblical worldview can make sense of those presuppositions. I'll be issuing an extensive book review, chapter by chapter, in the weeks to come, once my commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John is published.

1 John 1:8-10

V8-10 – 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.

John gives the second error of the false teachings that he wants to address in this letter in v8. He says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” The false teachers claimed to lack a sin nature, but John says they are deceiving themselves and proving by their profession of perfection that the truth is not in them. In other words, the false teachers profess that there is no more sin nature for the believer. And John says that claiming to be without a sin nature, far from being a sign of spiritual superiority, is, in fact, a definitive evidence of self-delusion. Denial is delusional.

In v9, John explains the proper response to this form of false teaching: confession. Instead of denying our sinfulness, we confess it. John is teaching that consistent confession and repentance, not denial of sin nature, is a normal part of the Christian life. And notice the promise: God is faithful to forgive and purify. God’s faithfulness is so precious to the repentant sinner. But wait; that’s not all it says. God “is faithful and just…” How does God’s justice fit into this formula? In Romans 3:26, we read that God is both just and the One who justifies. If God has punished Jesus Christ in justice for our sins, then He would be unjust not to forgive us when we repent. So God is indeed just; He exhibits His justice in forgiving the sinner on behalf of His justice exhibited toward Jesus Christ on the cross. How glorious!

So we confess our sin (nature), realizing that God is faithful and just to forgive and purify. He has dealt with our sin in Christ, and we are free from bearing His wrath for our sin, thanks to Jesus. And God will continue to reform us in this way until the day of glorification at Christ’s return. One preacher gives five reasons to continually repent and confess your sin before God: First, “It is an experiential fact that is attested in Scripture that without confessing our sins to God we will never attain a divine sense of God’s forgiveness” (Psalm 32). Second, we still sin, daily, even after conversion. Third, repentance is meant to be an ongoing lifestyle marker of the Christian, as the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses declared. Fourth, God is displeased with sin, and we don’t want to displease our Father; so we apologize in confession and repentance. Fifth, we are en route not merely from deliverance from hell but also to conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And until we get there – glorification – we need to confess and repent.

John gives the third error of the false teachers that he wants to address in this letter in v10. He says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.” The false teachers claimed to have never had sinned. In other words, the false teachers profess that sin is impossible for a believer. So again, the three errors are: (1) sin doesn’t matter for the Christian, (2) the sin nature no longer exists for the Christian, and (3) it is impossible for the Christian to sin. I hope you can see the progression. This final error is so grievous that it makes God out to be a liar. The first error proves self-deficiency (lying); the second error reveals self-delusion; but the third error attacks God’s truthfulness. That’s why John declares that the one guilty of this error has no place for God’s word in their life. John provides the method for overcoming this third error in the first section of chapter two, which we’ll look at next.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mummified Dinosaur Skin Looks Young

I appreciate the following and title-linked article by Brian Thomas, M.S.

The remains of a dinosaur found in the Hell Creek Formation of North Dakota are so well preserved that some scientists are just “gobsmacked.”

The mummified remains belong to a hadrosaur nicknamed “Dakota” and were the subject of a recent study that appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.12 About the size of a hippo, the dinosaur is supposedly 66 million years old. But its skin says otherwise, a find that paleontologist and the study’s co-author Phil Manning called “absolutely gobsmacking.

Like many other young-looking dinosaur remains,3,4,5,6 this specimen was “extremely well preserved” and contained “soft-tissue replacement structures and associated organic compounds.” Using various advanced techniques, the researchers established the “survival and presence of macromolecules.”1 They were even able to compare the dinosaur’s skin structure with that of living creatures, finding that it is similar to the two-layered structure of modern birds and reptiles.

What is “gobsmacking” about this find is that given the millions of years this dinosaur has supposedly been dead, these soft tissue structures should absolutely not be there anymore. What is known empirically about Dakota, Leonardo,4 “B. rex,” and other dinosaur remains is that they contain organic molecules, including either intact or partially-decayed proteins from the original dinosaur.

The very presence of such materials counters the “millions of years” assigned to them. Nonetheless, scientists have tried to support long-age interpretations by inventing special caveats. This time, “the power of sediments” was hailed as a magical preservative of the tissues.8

But Dakota shows no signs of being 66 million years old, or even one million years old. The most logical explanation for the presence of preserved organic skin molecules is that these remains are from a creature that died relatively recently. Biblical data not only provides the timeframe for its demise in Flood deposits a few thousand years ago, but also a mode of deposition in agreement with what the study’s authors described as a dinosaur that “fell into a watery grave.”2


  1. Manning, P. L. et al. 2009. Mineralized soft-tissue structure and chemistry in a mummified hadrosaur from the Hell Creek Formation, North Dakota (USA). Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Published online before print July 1, 2009.
  2. Mummified dinosaur skin yields up new secrets. The University of Manchester press release, July 1, 2009.
  3. Criswell, D. 2006. How Soon Will Jurassic Park Open? Acts & Facts. 35 (6).
  4. Thomas, B. The Dinosaur Mummy. ICR News. Posted on September 25, 2008, accessed July 14, 2009.
  5. Thomas, B. Fossil Feathers Convey Color. ICR News. Posted on July 21, 2008, accessed July 14, 2009.
  6. Thomas, B. Hadrosaur Soft Tissues Another Blow to Long-Ages Myth. ICR News. Posted on May 12, 2009, accessed July 14, 2009.
  7. Thomas, B. 2008. Dinosaur Soft Tissue: Biofilm or Blood Vessels? Acts & Facts. 37 (10): 14.
  8. Vieru, T. Cell Structure Imprints Found on Dinosaur Fossil. Softpedia. Posted on July 1, 2009, accessed July 14, 2009.

1 John 1:5-7

V5-7 – 5This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But 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 [or, every] sin.

John in v6, gives the first error of the false teachers that he wants to address in this letter: “If we claim to have fellowship with [God] yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” The false teachers claimed to have fellowship with God, yet they walked in the darkness. So John calls them liars, and he says that they “do not live by the truth.” In other words, the false teachers propose that sin doesn’t matter, that we can walk in sin and still fellowship with God. John responds to their error with three statements. First, in v5, John says, “God is light,” not darkness. Second, in v6, John points out that the false teachers are liars, noted by their hypocrisy. And third, in v7, John says that the pursuit of holiness, walking in the light, along with the forgiveness of sins, is evidence of fellowship with God.

In v5, John reiterates the message, or more literally “the promise,” he’s been declaring, which he heard from Jesus: “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” In other words, God is holy. It’s the same terminology used in the prologue of his gospel. Light refers to moral purity and omniscience, leading to our need to confess sin and receive forgiveness. John’s point here is that the truth ought to define our behavior. God is holy, and we believe that God is holy, so we ought to live holy lives. “Be holy as God is holy” (1 Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 12:14). It’s a simple doctrinal declaration that demands an appropriate response. If you really believe that God is holy, then you will strive for holiness. Therefore, as one preacher noted, “To claim to have fellowship with a God who is light, a God who is pure, and yet to live in contradiction of that light in our own lives reveals hypocrisy.”

That preacher continued, “John is stressing is that a life bent in a godward direction, a life spent in the pursuit of godliness, a life which manifests a person’s heart desire to be holy, to be morally like his heavenly Father or her heavenly Father: that kind of life reveals God’s grace. And correspondingly, a life that is lived away from God, a life that has a bent toward sin, a life that does not manifest a concern for godliness or uprightness shows a lack of grace in the heart. Just as a life bent in a godward direction shows God’s work of grace in the heart, so also a life bent away from God shows a lack of God’s work of grace in the heart. And so [John] begins with whom God is in order to show us that anyone who says that you can live however you want in sin and in immorality and still have fellowship with God doesn’t really know much about the God of the Bible.”

John might conclude here, “Don’t tell me that you believe the truth; instead show me by doing the truth.” He sounds a lot like James (James 2:14-16); and it’s no wonder that Martin Luther called Satan the “prince of darkness.” John wraps up by declaring that the pursuit of holiness proving our fellowship with God (and with one another) must necessarily involve the forgiveness of sin, which comes through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:22-28). Therefore, if you have truly trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel (not some fictitious Jesus), if you have been saved by grace through faith in Christ and not by your own deeds, then your life will exhibit consistency with what you have professed to believe. Now this life won’t be flawless, and John will address that erroneous teaching next. But, as Calvin points out, for us, “Integrity of conscience is alone that which distinguishes light from darkness.” We strive to please God; unbelievers do not.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

1 John 1:1-4

The first chapter of 1 John is only 10 verses in length, but we can discern here from the style and language that the author of John’s gospel is also the author of this letter. The writings begin in the same way, speaking of the beginning, and end in the same way, giving the reason for writing as so that the audience may believe the gospel and have assurance of salvation (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13). The middle of John’s gospel and this book share much in common as well. And here in this chapter, John will introduce three errors of – and provide answers to – the common false teaching of the day. Since the answer to the third error falls in chapter two, we’ll also consider the first couple verses of chapter two. Let’s take a look:

V1-4 – 1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. 4We write this to make our [or, your] joy complete.

John begins this epistle similarly to the way he commenced his gospel, speaking of the beginning. And he’s basically laying out themes that he will re-address throughout the letter, just as he did in his gospel. He begins by speaking of the pre-eminence, the superiority, the eternality of Jesus Christ. In fact, the incarnation was to John as significant as creation itself. John speaks of “that which,” and his language makes me think of some thing, not some one. But his proclamation of the message and his proclamation of the Messenger are one and the same. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14), and both He and His gospel have existed from the beginning (or, existed in the beginning). Jesus is eternal; the gospel is eternal. Jesus is unchanging; the gospel is unchanging. Even with this opening verse, John is teaching against the false teachers, who are coming with something new. John says, “No, the gospel is not new. The truth is old, and it never changes like the false teachings.”

John testifies that he knows the truth about Jesus and His message. John heard Jesus; he saw Jesus with his own eyes; his hands had touched Jesus. These vivid verbs and their repetition also refute the false teaching of docetism that denied Jesus’ humanity. And so John’s testimony about Jesus, called “the Word of life,” is trustworthy. John calls Jesus “the eternal life,” which appeared after having been with the Father (v2). And John saw Him. John’s apostolic authority is powerful to override false teachers. And the fact that John speaks of life ought to excite us to desire it, for what is the enemy of humanity except death? Calvin says of life, “It is an incomparable good, ought to rouse and inflame all our powers with a marvelous desire for it, and with the love of it. It is said, indeed, in a few and plain words, that life is manifested; but if we consider how miserable and horrible a condition death is, and also what is the kingdom and the glory of immortality, we shall perceive that there is something here more magnificent than what can be expressed in any words.”

In v3, John declares the reason for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. He says it is for the sake of fellowship. Later, in 1 John 5:13, he will say that his writing is “so that you may know you have eternal life;” but that eternal life is truly nothing more than perfect fellowship “with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,” and with one another (v3). This fellowship is both human and divine. John is saying that the only way to eternal life, to this perfect fellowship with God and with the people of God is to believe and cling to the message of the gospel, Jesus Christ Himself. Life is in Christ, through Christ, with Christ. The gospel, Jesus Himself, was sent, as one preacher noted, “for the creation of a fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ in which we share life, we are mutually committed, we are mutually accountable, we believe that same truth, we are committed to the same mission, we are in love with the same Lord, we are trusting the same God, we are proclaiming the same gospel.” Mere conversion is not the goal of evangelism. Discipleship and fellowship and unity as the Body of Christ must be the goals of evangelism, as the apostle John portrays them here.

Finally, here in v4, the result of the message and the fellowship is joy (Psalm 16:5-6; Matthew 6:21). One preacher says, “The mutual accountability that comes from membership in the body of Christ, [which] leads to shared life and fellowship brought into being by the gospel, is a life of consummated joy” (see Psalm 16:11). So, in the midst of false teachers prescribing new ways to joy, John is saying that fullness of joy is found in mutual fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who share life with the triune God, united to one another and to Jesus Christ by faith in Him. If you trust in Him, fellowship with Him, and fellowship with His people, you are already a participant in the full life of joy; in His presence is fullness of joy and pleasure forevermore. Everything else is rubbish (Philippians 3:8).

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Introduction to 1 John

The apostle John, the one whom Jesus loved, one of the inner circle of three along with his brother James (together called the sons of thunder, the sons of Zebedee) and Peter, is the author of this five-chapter letter. John also wrote the Gospel of John, as well as 2 and 3 John and Revelation. John, a most-important apostle and early church leader, is also mentioned in Paul’s writings, as well as in Luke’s Acts. Taken together, 1, 2, and 3 John are pastoral in nature, with some doctrinal teaching in 1 John, leading to the application of that teaching in 2 and 3 John – mainly with regard to loving one another in the truth by showing hospitality to those engaged in sharing the gospel and refraining from hospitable care toward those who are attempting to spread a false gospel.

The doctrinal nature of 1 John follows closely the pattern of John’s gospel, showing great concern for the true identity of the Person of Jesus Christ. Some false teachers were denying that Jesus had truly come in the flesh (1 John 4:2-3), a view called docetism that taught that He only had seemed to die and didn’t really, because He wasn’t really human; and John, as an eyewitness, wants to correct and dispel that erroneous teaching. The clear reason for writing – “that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13) – provides an equally clear date range for the book’s copyright date. It was certainly written after John’s gospel (70-90 AD) but before later writings of Polycarp and Ignatius (110 AD).

While 1 John is usually considered a letter, it lacks the common signs of New Testament epistles; nevertheless, John addresses his “little children,” possibly the congregation at Ephesus if akin to 2 John, or the congregation of Gaius if akin to 3 John, with some profound ideas laid out in loosely tied-together strains of thought. The book is difficult to outline given the writing style, but the language is not difficult to understand. John speaks of light and darkness; believers are to show that they live in the light by obedience to God and love to the brethren. John speaks of living in righteousness, loving one another and guarding against Satan and his fruits. John speaks of love, perfected in us, living in God and God living in us, living the Christian life. One commentator says, “John shows that true sonship, far from simply being a passive state in which we subjectively enjoy the glorious fact of our adoption in Jesus Christ, that true sonship mobilizes us for service, for love, for obedience, for belief.”

We’ll study John in five sections. In chapter one, through v2 of chapter two, we have an introduction, followed by mention of three erroneous teachings and answers to those teachings, as well as comments on walking in the light as a result of the forgiveness of sin through the work of Jesus Christ. In chapter two, beginning with v3, we see three tests of authentic Christianity – moral, relational, and doctrinal – and we learn to exhibit the fruits of forgiveness, which include repentance (turning around and obeying God’s commands), loving one another, overcoming the world, the flesh (sin), and the devil, and persevering to the end in righteousness. In chapter three, we heed John’s instruction on righteousness, guarding against sin and the devil, loving instead of hating, loving by being generous, and the blessed assurance of salvation. In chapter four, John teaches us to know the Spirit of God contrasted against the spirit of antichrist, he dwells on the fact that God is love. Finally, in chapter five, John reminds of belief leading to obedience and life in God through prayer. Perhaps if we had to outline the three main points, John would give us three tests of authentic Christian faith – the moral test, the doctrinal test, and the test of fellowship. Let’s take a look at 1 John.

DC 301 Wrap-Up

We finished DC 301 this morning, wrapping up several weeks of solid teaching on the Ten Commandments and the book of Judges. We have a month break from regular meetings, but we read the prophet Ezekiel during this break - that's 48 chapters in 30 days. We'll consider a DC 401 preview after Labor Day...