This is my sermon from August 31, a continuation of my series on the damnable doctrine of equality, particularly as it is currently manifested in the “gay rights” and “marriage equality” movement. This movement has occurred not in a vacuum, but as a natural outgrowth of the same Jacobin principles that spawned the Abolitionist, Women’s Suffrage, and Civil Rights movements, as shown in earlier messages. This is perhaps the most dangerous of all the egalitarian movements, and the most likely to spark the persecution of God’s people. Therefore we must be most clear and most firm in standing without yielding upon the Word of God, in the face of a wicked and corrupt culture.
A word ought to be spoken upon that title of Christ: “the Word of Life.” John, more than any of his fellow apostles, delighted in applying the title “the Word” to Christ. He is the divine Logos, the complete expression of the will and the love of the Father. There can be little doubt that in calling Christ “the Word” John would hearken back to those innumerable instances in the Old Testament where we read such lines as, “The word of the Lord came to Him.” I do not think it at all far-fetched to assume that such cases are an indication that it was the Son of God, the essential Word, who dealt with the prophets and saints of old. The Jewish writers often transposed over Old Testament references to God the title “the Word of the Lord.” John took a title very familiar to them, and applied it to Christ, that there should be no mistake that “the Word” of Whom He spoke is both God and man, as well as being the true Messiah.
Here, he calls Christ “the Word of life.” The language is much akin to that used in the first chapter of his gospel, where he said of the Word, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Christ is “the Word of life” because He is the One Who brings life to men. Apart from Him, eternal life is entirely unobtainable. Apart from Him, those who came into this world enemies of God, dead in trespasses and sins, will remain in that lamentable state. He is the Author and Dispenser of eternal life. He has life in Himself, being of the nature of God, and being commissioned to that end by the Father for His saving work. Thus, He could say of His sheep, “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” He is the Author both of physical life, being the Creator, and also of spiritual life. He it is Who sends the Spirit of God to create life in a man’s soul, where before there was naught but death and stinking corruption.
John would remind his readers, then, of the personal acquaintance that he and his fellow apostles had of the real, historical Jesus. They had heard Him speak. They knew the true doctrine of Christ, because they had heard it from His own lips. They knew what the Saviour had taught concerning Himself, His person and the nature of His saving work. They knew what He had taught concerning the duties of His people towards God, and towards one another. They knew the false doctrines He had warned against, the prophecies He had uttered about the false teachers who would seek to undermine His church. In all John’s writings, he was ever mindful of the doctrine he had heard from his Lord when he followed Him throughout Judea. He desired his readers to know that they ought to defy the apostate liars who sought to destroy their faith, because they knew not the Lord Jesus. They had never heard the word of His power, had never heard His marvelous teaching. But the apostles had heard it all, and were faithful ambassadors of the same truth which Christ Himself preached. Therefore, they must be believed, and their doctrine of Christ received. Anything that would run contrary to it must be rejected and thrown aside as a lie from the pit of hell.
They not only had heard the Saviour, they had seen Him, had looked upon Him. To the natural eye, Jesus appeared as just another man. He had no halo glowing over Him, there was nothing so extraordinary about His physique that indicated His divine original. Yet, the disciples, who saw Him every day and observed His works, perceived in Him the glory of the everlasting God. They saw Him touch a leper, and instead of contracting the loathsome disease to His own skin, the leper’s flesh healed immediately. They saw Him command dead men to rise, and they instantly sprang to life. They saw Him touch blind eyes, and those who had been for years, in some cases even from birth, without sight, saw clearly. In all this, John reflects, they had seen the glory of the only begotten Son of God. They had witnessed the power of Him Who was from the beginning, the same glorious Being Who in the beginning had created the heaven and the earth. Their near acquaintance with Jesus convinced His disciples that this was not just another man, but that He was in fact the promised Messiah, and that He spoke the naked truth when He declared , “I and My Father are one.”
Moreover, John had been privileged to look upon Him both in His moments of greatest glory and greatest consternation. John, along with Peter and James, had accompanied Him to the crest of the mountain, where He was transfigured before their astonished eyes, and appeared in glory with Moses and Elijah. They heard God’s voice speaking from the excellent glory, declaring Himself well pleased with His Son, and commanding the disciples to hear Him. They also heard the Father, in answer to the Son’s prayer that He would glorify His own Name, declare, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12:28). John had been there in the upper room when the Lord and Master had girded Himself with a towel, and washed His disciples’ feet, thereby setting an example that the beloved disciple would remember to the day of his death. John had been there when Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper, breaking the bread which would represent His broken body, and distributing the wine which represented the blood of the New Covenant. There in the upper room, John had rested His head on the Master’s bosom, enjoying a privilege of intimate communion with the Lord even greater than that His brethren had.
Then John had accompanied his Master on the path to the Mount of Olives, heard the Lord’s high priestly prayer, and then, with Peter and James, followed Him to the seclusion of Gethsemane, where the Lord wrestled in prayer with His Father, engaged in such an intense spiritual struggle that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground. John beheld His Lord’s agony, heard Him pray, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” John saw his Lord arrested, and followed along at a distance to see what would become of Him. We find John also there at the scene of the cross, perhaps the only one of the disciples to witness the Lord’s dying agony, when He made an end of transgression. To John the dying Jesus committed the care of His beloved mother. John heard Him cry with a loud voice, “It is finished!” John was there to witness the confirmation of Jesus’ words, that He laid down His life of His own accord, contentedly committing His spirit to the Father’s keeping. John remained there at the cross to see the spear driven into the Saviour’s side, to witness the blood and water that gushed from His pierced heart. John looked upon Him Whom they had pierced, and would often recall to mind that gory scene, of which he will later write, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” John saw the bloody sufferings of the Redeemer, witnessed the great act by which He achieved salvation for His people. He looked upon Him, had touched Him, had reclined on His breast. Perhaps John had taken part in His burial.
John saw that no man took Christ’s life from Him, but He laid it down of Himself. But three days later, He also saw confirmed that word of Jesus, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” John heard the message of Mary Magdalene on Sunday morning, he saw the empty tomb. John was behind closed doors when Jesus appeared to the ten, then was there again eight days later when Jesus returned to confirm the faith of doubting Thomas. John saw Jesus by the Sea of Galilee, helped to draw in the draught of 153 fishes which the Lord gave them. John looked upon the resurrected Lord of glory, and saw Him ascend into heaven. The beloved apostle was transformed by what He saw of Jesus, and could never again be the same person. Surely, a man so privileged, a man so influenced by His witnessing of the works, sufferings, and glory of Christ, is a man to be envied, and a man to whom we ought to hearken. This man was specially commissioned by Christ to be a witness of His resurrection, and also to preach the doctrine of the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles. He was a minister of the apostolic doctrine, of that band to whom the Lord committed the establishment of His church. Along with Matthew, Peter, Paul, and Jude, we must hearken to John, and obey His doctrine. The apostles were specially commissioned to see, hear, touch, and handle “the Word of life,” and given grace to be faithful witnesses for all generations.
The beloved disciple John begins his first epistle in much the same vein as he began his gospel, by establishing everything that will follow upon the primacy of the person of Christ. It is evident, from the style of all his writings, that John had no higher intention than that his readers understand that the man Jesus Christ is also God, and must be accepted and worshipped as such. John was fully persuaded that there was no salvation for any soul outside of this unique, glorious person, Who had all the attributes of humanity, while at the same time being “God over all, blessed forever.” If we would have fellowship around the doctrine of the apostles, which ultimately is fellowship with God Himself, then we must receive and worship this Christ that John proclaimed. There is no other Christ that is a Saviour. False teachers have posited many Jesuses throughout the ages. Paul warned against those who would come preaching “another Jesus, Whom we have not preached.” Any church, any preacher, any individual, who would present a Jesus who is something less than fully divine and fully human, in one unique person, teaches a Jesus that never existed, and a Jesus that cannot save. If we hunger for eternal life, then we must be certain that we embrace the Christ of Whom the apostles wrote. This was an uppermost concern in the mind of John, for already deceivers abounded, who confessed not that Jesus Christ was come in the flesh. This viper’s brood of deceivers and antichrists has not died out, but proliferates even now, and doubtless will until our sovereign Lord returns to destroy all His enemies.
The very first words of this epistle refer to the Lord Christ, without actually calling Him by name. But the text makes very clear that “that which was from the beginning” is the Saviour to Whom John would direct the faith of his readers. John, who was doubtless an ancient man by this time, very likely the final surviving apostle, would point the believers of every age to the personal knowledge that He and His fellow disciples had of Christ. He speaks of Jesus, and then says, “Which we have heard.” The we here could legitimately be understood in a variety of ways. It could possibly be taken as a royal we, the plural being put for the singular, as sovereigns sometimes do in their royal decrees. More likely than this, it could be pointing to John and his companions in the faith, some of whom may possibly have been witnesses of Christ in the days of His flesh. The most likely supposition to my mind, and that upon which I will operate in my interpretation of this epistle, is that we points to John and his fellow apostles. It appears that John is placing great emphasis on the doctrine of the apostles, who were specially commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel, and some of them to author or at least oversee the writing of the books of the New Testament. Ultimately, John would have his readers to know that whatever doctrine they might hear which did not measure up to the standard of apostolic teaching, must immediately be discarded.
The process of obedience to the Great Commission does not cease with a profession of faith, and baptism in the Name of the sacred Trinity. The disciples must be taught the ordinances and the discipline of Christ. Everything that the sovereign Master has left for His churches to observe, whether in personal or ecclesiastical life, is to be scrupulously observed by those who have professed faith in Him. This was the duty of the apostles, and it is the duty of all ministers in Christ’s church, to teach all things that He has commanded us. The sacred principles of conduct, such as He delivered in the Sermon on the Mount; the design and techniques of evangelism, such as He enunciated in chapter 10; the sacred observation of the ordinances, even the Lord’s Supper, as He commanded before His death, and baptism as He enjoins here, are to be faithfully taught and practiced by every church of Jesus’ disciples. We have no right to leave out one of His commandments, even be it the smallest, but are faithfully to teach them to others, and practice them ourselves. To conceal certain elements of Christ’s truth because it might grate on our hearers, or it might run contrary to the culture in which we live, is to be disobedient to the Great Commission. “All things” comprehends every last item of the doctrine of Christ. Like Paul, we should hold back nothing which is profitable for the churches, but strive to teach all men everywhere the saving truth of repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, our sovereign Lord reveals His gracious nature in making a promise to comfort His people in the face of their hardships in every age: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” The presence of Christ, in the person of His Spirit, is perpetually with His blood bought church. He gave His disciples a message which must have seemed strange to their ears, telling them that it was expedient for them that He go away, because if He went not, then the Comforter would not come to them. But more mysterious than that was His expression of personal unity with the divine Spirit, by saying, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you.” And thus is fulfilled the promise that our Saviour will forever be with His blood-bought possession. This is certainly an expression of Christ’s deity, for what mere man could say, not only that He would be with eleven men who would often be going separate ways, but that His presence would accompany them even unto the end of the world? This makes the promise stretch far beyond simply the apostles. It is His expression of love and care for each and every one of us who know Him.
Christ’s people may perhaps be tempted to think He has abandoned them when they fall under fiery trial and severe persecution. But very often, this is when He has most clearly manifested His gracious presence to His beloved saints. I have often read of believers who were hiding from marauding cannibals, or suffering in a dungeon, who asserted that they never had such sweet communion with their Master as during those harrowing hours. Many of Paul’s sweetest expressions of the love of Christ were penned while He sat bound in a Roman dungeon. Christ’s kingdom is not necessarily at its low ebb when His saints are hounded and slaughtered like foxes in the forest. When they are weak, then they are strong, because the power of Christ rests upon them.
This is a promise which every individual believer, and every church body should cherish. Our Saviour is always with us when we meet together in His Name to worship, even if there be but two or three of us. He is with us when the world mocks and scorns, or even tortures and kills us. He is with us in life, He will be with us in death. He will guide us with His counsel, and afterwards receive us to glory. Amen.
I am no great admirer of Ann Coulter, but I think this article on the Ferguson, Missouri fiasco brings out an important point. There are very few who are interested in pursuing genuine justice in the death of Michael Brown. The violent mobs (most of them being out of towners, like the Civil Rights demonstrators who preceded them by 50 years) want revenge, not justice. Neither they, nor their media cheerleaders, want to find out if the shooting of Michael Brown was justifiable or not. It is simply an attempt to fan the fames of racial hostility for political purposes. As we have come to expect, the villainous attorney general Eric Holder has done nothing except to pour gasoline on these flames, utterly careless of the facts of the case.
Christians should not be interested in political or politically correct outcomes, but in justice. If Brown was shot unjustly, then the police officer should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If he fired in self-defense, then he should go free, without having to fear the rest of his life for his own and his family’s safety. One thing Coulter’s article makes very clear, is that if the facts turn out to support the officer, the mainstream media who was spurred on the agitation will slip quietly out of town without so much as an apology or an admission of error.
The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the devil. The preaching of Christ is the thunderbolt, the sound of which makes all hell shake.