June 8 Bible Studies for Life: God is loving
Jun 5, 2014
By W. WILEY RICHARDS
1 John 4:7-12
In the more than six decades I have been a Baptist preacher, one recurring problem arises: namely people lack assurance they are saved. Some people have said that they gain assurance by being baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. After investigation, I made these conclusions: (1) The Bible gives no direction at all about how to receive that second blessing. As for being baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Bible says the experience occurs at the time of the new birth, at which event we were baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). (2) I was told it was given to an especially sanctified group. Yet, the Corinthian church, which practiced some form of speaking in tongues, was a carnal church (1 Cor. 3:1). (3) The Book of 1 John, written to give assurance, never mentions speaking in tongues or the second blessing, but mentions the word “know” 27 times. We can know we are saved.
We can know God’s love because it flows from the new birth (vv. 7-8). People get confused because they try to have faith in their faith. Faith is not a work. It is having confidence in the work done by Another, the atoning work of Christ on the cross (Rom. 5:5). In the words of John’s letter, love originated from God.
The fact that we love one another witnesses to the experience we have with God, because God is love (v. 8). This is John’s third affirmation about God’s nature. (1) God is not just a loving God; He is love. (2) God is light (1:5). Light speaks of His holiness. The fact that our fellowship with Him leads us to have fellowship with each other (1:6). (3) God is Spirit (John 4:24). Jesus spoke this profound truth, that God is the living God, to a Samaritan woman who was a social outcast.
The new birth is made possible because of God the Son’s sacrifice (vv. 9-10). We sometimes almost casually speak of our love for God, but the greater act consists of God’s love for us. Romans 5:8 highlights that act of love in that God loved sinners enough to send heaven’s most precious jewel, the Son, to die for the ungodly. Five times is the Son called the only begotten Son, here and in John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18. The words “only begotten” mean only one of its kind, hence, unique. In the fourth century, Arius, a man from North Africa, argued that Jesus was a created being. As Arius believed, time was when Christ was not. A furor ensued as Athanasius and others argued that the Son is the same substance as the Father. Because God is the Eternal Father, the Son also must be eternal. After decades of debate in conferences, the consensus was the Son is truly God and truly man, with two natures, divine and human, and two wills, divine and human, in one Person, Jesus Christ. He is the One who paid the propitiatory price for sin on the cross.
The words “only begotten” must not be confused with first begotten as in Revelation 1:5, meaning, first in time and place. We see an illustration in Psalm 2:7 declared by God, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” These words are quoted in Acts 13:33 and Romans 1:4, which declares Jesus to be the Son of God “by the resurrection from the dead.” Clearly, as the first born through the resurrection, He is the first as of an endless procession.
The Bible brings us to a climatic state about God the Father’s indwelling (vv. 11-12). John’s Gospel has a beautiful play on words in chapters 14-16. Chapter 14:2 records our Lord’s words about His preparing mansions for us, but literally, abiding places. Verse 23 states the promise of Jesus that He and the Father will make their abode with those who love Him and keep His words. Now, in 1 John 4:12, John wrote that the Father abides in us. That’s a staggering but literally true teaching that we are indwelt by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Men in the Old Testament beheld God’s physical manifestation as a burning bush or a still small voice. Yet, He is working through us to perfect His love in us. Not a part of the assigned text, verse 18 says we can know God the Father through His Spirit whom He has given us.
Wiley Richards is professor emeritus of theology and philosophy at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
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