In the Flesh

2nd Epistle of John

2 John 7

The elect lady and her children, 2 John 1

This short epistle is written to “the elect lady and her children”. Most commentators believe “the elect lady” refers metaphorically to a congregation or church as whole, and “her children” are individual members within the church. Being a “child of God” was a consistent theme of 1 John (see 1 John). The children of God make up a family of those who believe the human Jesus is the Christ, and they are to love one another as brothers and sisters (1 John 5:1). In the last verse of 1 John 2 the author sends “the elect lady” greetings from “the children of your elect sister, i.e., from the believers of another congregation with children (see more comments about the “elect lady” in the REV Bible commentary).

The coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, 2 John 7

The verse that particularly jumps out at us in this epistle is verse 7:

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

We believe that “the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” means that the Messiah has come, and that he is the real human being, Jesus.

When John was writing there was already a teaching, today called Docetism, which claimed that Jesus wasn’t a real human being but only “seemed” or “appeared” to be a human. “Docetic” is from a Greek word meaning “an apparition, a phantom” and therefore Jesus only “seemed” to be human. According to this theory Jesus couldn’t be “flesh”, a real human, since the world and flesh are corrupt the “spiritual Christ” couldn’t be directly involved in it.

Traditional Christianity is not entirely docetic but tends toward Docetism since it claims that Jesus only “took on flesh”. If Jesus only “took on flesh” then he is not a real human being, not a real human person. Unfortunately, traditional Christian belief by definition denies that Jesus the Messiah is a real human person. Because, if Jesus is an eternally pre-existent God-person, he can’t be a real human-person, because then he would be two persons (a god-person and a human-person). So traditional Christianity beginning in the centuries after Jesus was on earth began to say that Jesus was a god-person who only “took on flesh”. But a pre-existent god-person who only “took on flesh” is not really a human person. He only “seemed” to be a human person.

John tells us differently. He emphasizes that Jesus is a real human person.

“Jesus” is the name of the child born in Bethlehem, not the name of a pre-existent deity. This Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) who has “come in the flesh”. “Christ, Messiah” is never a title for God himself in the Scriptures. It is a title for the “Anointed” one chosen by God.

Jesus didn’t just seem to have flesh (Docetism), and didn’t just seem to be a human person (Traditional Christianity).

Jesus the Messiah has real human flesh (now raised from the dead, glorified, immortal).

Jesus the Messiah is a real human person, not a god-person just dressed up in human flesh.

See our comments on 1 John 2:22 and 1 John 4:2 earlier this week for more description of what John did NOT say when he said that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”

“Don’t receive him into the house”, 2 John 10

2 John 10 is a verse that can easily be taken out of context and abused. “If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting.” A person can make up any false doctrine, and then say if someone doesn’t agree with it, “don’t receive him into the house”.  This is what Traditional Christianity has done. Traditional Christianity, denying that Jesus is a real human person, made up a false doctrine in the centuries after Jesus, claiming: “Jesus is pre-existent eternal God who took on flesh”. Then once that false doctrine was established, Traditional Christianity said: “Don’t let anyone who doesn’t agree with this doctrine into the house”. See our comments to 1 John 2:19 (this past Sunday) about many anti-christs who have come into the world.

God, and God’s Son, 2 John 3

The beautiful greeting that the author sends God’s children is also a fitting departure blessing.

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”  There is only One God, the Father. Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is God’s Son, and we as God’s children are Jesus’ brothers and sisters.

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

His Commandment

1 John 3

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The World’s Relation to God’s Children

This chapter mentions two ways in which the non-believing world reacts to the children of God:
1. The world does not know us (that we are God’s children) just as it did not know Jesus, that Jesus is God’s Son (3:1).
2. The world hates us (3:13). The world is like Cain, who hated and even murdered his brother.
Especially in 3:11-18, the author instructs us not to be like the world and hate our brothers, our fellow believers in Messiah Jesus.
Knowing what Love is, I John 3:16, the parallel to John 3:16

“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
This verse encouraged me (Stephanie), so much during the hardest time of my life, which was just after my husband came to the understanding of the one true God and His Messiah Jesus – and the mistreatment that followed in result of his faith. The verse really helped me to focus on what real love is – to think how Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. He was mistreated and ill spoken of; they even took his clothes away from him. That is how I know what love is, and I could take courage because of what Jesus went through and lay down my life for the brethren, disregarding the shame.

Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin, but to remove sin, 2:4-10
At first glance the author may seem to contradict himself. In 1:8-9 he says we sin, but in 3:6 he says “no one who abides in him (Jesus) sins”. I think what the author is saying is that believing in Jesus does not give people a license to sin. Believers may sin (and there is a way to forgiveness, 1:8-9) but a life characterized by continual sin is not one in step with abiding in Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin. On the contrary, the writer gives two reasons why Jesus “appeared”:
1. To take away sin.
2. To destroy the works of the devil
Jesus and a believers life in Jesus does not give license to sin, but rather removes and destroys sin.
Theme Verse
1 John 3:23 could perhaps be considered a good theme for the entire epistle:
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Bill and Stephanie Schlegel

Some observations from 1 John, chapter 2

1 John 2 1

“From the beginning…”

 

The phrase “from the beginning” which was used in the first verse of the book (1 John 1:1), is used 5 more times in chapter 2. In John 1:1 “that which was from the beginning” was that which they had heard, seen and touched, “the word of life”. This “beginning” refers to Jesus the Messiah and his ministry on earth communicating God’s word, not to the beginning at creation. The occurrences of “from the beginning” in chapter 2 are verses 7, 13, 14, and 24 (two times). It is important to keep in mind that “from/in the beginning” in the Scriptures does not always refer to the Genesis creation.

 

Context must help determine which “beginning” is meant. For instance, in the Gospel of John, the phrase “from the beginning” does not usually refer to the creation, but to Jesus ministry on earth. Note these references:

  • “For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him” (John 6:65)
  • “So they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning’” (John 8:25).
  • “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:24).
  • “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (15:27).

In each case mentioned above, from the beginning means the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

With only two exceptions (John 8:44 and 1 John 3:8 which refer to the devil) “from the beginning” in the Gospel of John and in the Epistles of John (1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13, 14, 24; 3:11 and 2 John 1:5-6) refers to the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. This may help us understand “In the beginning…” of John 1:1. Some One God believers see John 1:1 as a reference to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Similarly, Luke mentioned “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:2). Mark 1:1 mentions “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.”

 

“My little children”

 

Several times the writer refers to those whom he writes as “my little children” or “children” (2:1, 12, 18, 28). This should not be understood as if the writer is derogatorily chastising his listeners for being immature. Rather, these references should be understood as a terms of endearment and care, just as when he calls his listeners “beloved” (1 John 2:7, 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7, 11). As children of God (3:1-2), those that believe that Jesus is the Christ are a family, brothers and sisters, who must love one another (5:1).

 

An Advocate with the Father

 

The writer explains that we do sin, but there is a path to forgiveness (1 John 1:8-10). He writes to us “so that we may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our advocate, like a lawyer on our side. This should give us great encouragement. Jesus is the honest, righteous lawyer on our side. He is for us. As an expert lawyer, Jesus knows the rules. He knows how to take our case before the Father. He has access to the Father and successfully intercedes for us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 and Hebrews 8:1).

 

We lived in Israel and all our children were born there. Most countries do not grant citizenship to foreign children by virtue of being born in the country. Two of our young adult children applied to become citizens in Israel. They were denied several times over three years. However, not long ago a lawyer, an advocate, took up their case and presto, my children received their citizenship. The lawyer knew the rules, had the connections, authority and knowledge on how to present my children’s case, and succeeded. Jesus is our expert, righteous, successful advocate before the Father.

 

“Do not love the world…”

 

The author’s admonition to “not love the world or things of the world” are perhaps the best known verses of chapter 2 (vs. 15-17). He defines what “loving the world” is: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. It is a love of the way of the world, or of this world’s system. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have an appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of God’s creation, the work of God’s hands, which is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). After all we wait for the regeneration of this world, and indeed the regeneration of this world’s system (Matt. 19:28, Heb. 2:5).

 

“The last hour”  and “anti-christs”

The author says it is the last hour. What a long hour it has been! He knows that it is the last hour since many anti-christs had already come. Specifically, here he says that the anti-Christ (anti-Messiah) is anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah). The text does not say, as many traditional trinitarian Christians say, that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that God is the Messiah, or that the Messiah pre-existed as God. Rather, the text says that the anti-Messiah is anyone who denies that Jesus, the man Jesus, is the Messiah. “Christ” (Messiah) is never a title for God himself.

 

Of these anti-christs, the author says: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us…” (1 John 2:19). It is easy to see how a text like this could be mis-interpreted and mis-applied. Especially as centuries passed, anyone could use the text to condemn any kind of a reformer. For instance, Catholics could apply it against Protestants.  Today it is leveled against anyone who denies that Jesus is God. But in its original context it was directed against anyone who denied that the man Jesus is the Christ (Messiah).

 

The promise of God – eternal life

1 John 2:25 says that God has promised us eternal life (immortal life in the age to come). We can take comfort and joy that God is pretty good at keeping His promises.

 

Having confidence, and not shrinking back in shame

 

1 John 2:28 says that if we abide in Jesus, that is, live according to knowledge of who he is, we can have confidence so that when he appears, at his coming, we won’t shrink back in shame. Since we know who Jesus is — the Messiah of God the Father, risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand, appointed to rule the world, we can look forward to his return. There is a similar admonition in Hebrews 10:39: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.”

-Bill Schlegel

Through Faith

Galatians 3

Galatians 3 26

Paul has been summarizing different points of his life in his letter to the Galatians.  But it is not without a point.  He brings it back to them at the start of this chapter.  They have fallen into the same pattern that Peter and some other Jews had of believing that they were saved by works of the law, so Paul is needing to correct them to right thinking.  Like his reminder to Peter, he reminds them of that faith or belief.

6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

This is us!  We call ourselves of the Faith of Abraham or of the Abrahamic Faith.    God promises Abraham in Genesis 22 that through his offspring, all nations on earth will be blessed because of his obedience.  In God’s earlier promises to Abraham, He promises that his descendants will be blessed, but this takes it a step further and gives hope to those who did not come from a Jewish background.  It was through Christ’s sacrifice that we are able to be a part of the blessing given to Abraham by faith.

Paul tries to explain that we are saved by faith in another way:

16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

Usually when I think of the Old Testament times, I think of the law.  But Paul reminds me here that the promise given to Abraham was before the law and the law does not replace God’s covenant with Abraham.  Abraham, who we look to as an example, was before the law and God’s blessings were given to him.

Paul then summarizes with this encouraging message:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Our backgrounds don’t matter.  Our identity is in Christ, and he is our hope to be heirs to the Kingdom of God.  That is something to be thankful for!

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

He Has Conquered

JOHN 16

John 16 33

Theology is one of my favorite things to study. It’s fascinating because people have read the same 66 books for 2000 years and have created millions of different explanations for how it all fits together. For example, there is a belief in certain Christian groups that has been labelled “Christus Victor” or “Christ is the conqueror”. This view believes that our sin was atoned for by Christ being the ransom for our sin. By being killed and rising again to life – sin, death, and the devil lost all right to those who trust in Christ. This view has some strong language of support (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6). And of course, Christ’s victory is made clear in John 16:33.

 

It’s important to note the situation Jesus is talking about here. He is letting the disciples know that he is going to die. (John 16:16) Moreover, he is letting his disciples know that he is going to the Father. (John 16:28) And for the first time, the disciples get it. They are finally understanding what he is telling them. But he lets them know, “You will all desert me.” But even knowing they will all leave him, he has been telling them all these things, about the Counselor coming, about Jesus being the vine and the branches, about Jesus and the Father and the Spirit abiding in believers, he is telling his disciples this so that they would have peace.

 

The words of John are in Greek, but he thought like a Jew. In the Hebrew language, “peace” is shalom. Shalom is not an absence of conflict, but a flourishing of life (usually accompanied by an absence of conflict!). Jesus even makes this case himself, “so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world.” Right there back to back, we have peace and suffering. Shalom and conflict. Jesus is letting us know that we will have struggles. I may sound like a broken record with yesterday’s reading, but it’s important. When those people hate you for doing what is right and for trying to be like Jesus, then we need to find our shalom in him. We are called to take courage in him.

 

Why?

Because Jesus has overcome.

And this is before the resurrection.

 

The Messiah has beaten the system. Jesus in the Gospel of John is different, in some striking ways, from the Jesus of the synoptics in regard to his death. He insinuates that he is willingly going to the slaughter. He tells the people that he will lay down his life (John 10:15) and take it back up (10:18), as that is the missions given to him by his Father. Jesus is not afraid to die, asking God for it to pass, but knows that no one takes his life from him by force (19:11) but that he lays it down (15:13). Jesus knows that he is going to win; he says “if I am lifted up, I will draw all people to me.”(12:32) In this Jesus makes a pun about his own death: “lifted up” in the Greek could mean the metaphorical “lifted in Glory and honor” and also the literal “raised up, i.e., on a cross.” Jesus knows that his crucifixion, far from being the moment of defeat, is the moment of triumph and success. In his crucifixion, he removes sin from his followers as a sacrifice and he buys us, the slaves of Satan, as a ransom to become children of God.

 

I am not asking you to have the same unadulterated confidence; that would be too much. I am asking you to trust in the one who we already know was victorious. Jesus was asking his disciples to trust in him as he was about to be sentenced to death. How much more should we trust that Jesus will care for us knowing that he has been raised to life.

If you are going through a trial, something that the world is throwing at you, keep this in mind: Jesus has already won. Not could win, not even will win.  JESUS HAS ALREADY WON.

 

Christ is, for now and forever more, the conqueror. 
-Jake Ballard

Peacemakers

blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God

The older I get, the more I realize I’m an exact replica of my mom. We like the same movies, we think (and overthink) the same things, we’re both textbook ISFJ’s, and we both spend hours looking at houses for sale that we’ll never afford. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” If we’re children of God, we should strive to be like God, reflecting His character. When people see us, they should see the love of God in our lives.

In the face of conflict, it’s hard to be love. We often want to be right more than we want to be love. Jesus, however, is the perfect example of how to be love in the face of conflict. We often overlook that he was a human just like us; his challenges, even 2,000 years ago, are a lot like our challenges. This week, we’ve tried to answer how Jesus resolved conflict to give us insight into how to deal with our own conflicts.

Jesus resolved conflict with great urgency. Stop running away from conflict no matter how overwhelming or scary the problem may be. Don’t let unresolved conflict fester; instead, deal with it directly and quickly.

Jesus was a persistent diplomat. Jesus gave us a three-step plan to dealing with sin and conflict within the church. First, go to the culprit alone, then bring another trusted member or two of the church with you, and finally bring the conflict to the church as a whole. We don’t have the power to save people, but we can be patient, loving, persistent, and cover them with prayer.

Jesus saw each conflict as an opportunity for grace. Jesus preached that if someone hits you, don’t hit back; instead, turn your other cheek. We have the chance to be love to someone who may have never truly experienced how intense and whole God’s love is. Sure, they might not deserve grace, but neither did we.

Jesus disciplined out of love. Ah yes, Jesus flipped tables and even fashioned his own whip. Love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies; sometimes, it’s a harsh slap to the hand. As brothers and sisters, we’re supposed to refine each other so that we may all follow Jesus a little closer every day.

Jesus embodied forgiveness. Just as you have experienced the joy and freedom that forgiveness brings, give that same joy to someone else. Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Jesus submitted to God’s will even when it was hard. Jesus’ submission led him to the cross. God has prepared a cup for you, too, representing His will for your life. Will you be obedient to what God has filled your cup with?

My prayer is that you feel encouraged and equipped to tackle the conflicts in your life with love just as Jesus did.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Children of God – Keep Learning

learn

Sunday I talked about listening like a child, Monday was trusting like a child and Tuesday was seeking comfort like a child. Today I am going to talk about learning like a child. Have you ever witnessed a child learning something new, or watched them captivated by something they have never seen before? When I am working with the toddlers, there is always something that amazes them. They are amazed by the fake ice cream, that can really be scooped, and stays on the ice cream cone. (It’s a feat achieved through the use of magnets.) They are amazed by how well I can braid their hair. They love learning how to read their name, etc. They learn in earnest, they are open to instruction, they are in nearly constant wonderment by the things around us.

 

The passage in Matthew that talks about having faith like a child is this, Matthew 19:13-15 “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

 

When I picture this passage, I think that the children must have been curious about Jesus, and they wanted to know him. Jesus sees that in these children and he welcomes them. This is a beautiful picture that I think we need to emulate in our own lives, no matter our age, when we are learning more about our God and his son Jesus. These children wanted so much to see Jesus, and they wanted to know, what was going on around them. They were aware, and they were open to what they were going to learn. There was no prejudice, or judgement, or reservations. They wanted to meet Jesus, begin a relationship, etc.

 

I have also spent time teaching children at church camp, and some of the most amazing things is watching how impressed, or surprised the children are with the littlest things. They are amazed that God created butterflies, they are in bewilderment that God created flowers, they are captivated by the stories about Jonah, and Noah, and many other important people in the Bible. Children consume these stories with a deep desire to know more, and develop an understanding, and I think when we grow up we sometimes lose this passion and fire for learning. We think we know it all, or we are scared of how little we know and become overwhelmed by the thought.

 

Now think about your own life, do you have a passion for learning more about God? Do you have a desire to learn as much as you can about almost anything and everything, especially in regards to God, and his plans for us? I know that I do not always feel like I want to learn, I do not always feel like taking the time to study, and practice and learn from people wiser than myself. However, we should always try to find this fire for God’s word, this passion and earnest for learning in general, just like the children in our lives who are learning and wanting to learn about almost everything. They are our example, in having a deep faith. They may not realize it, and you may not either, but children are an example, we should give this example more credit and pay attention on how to apply this idea to our own lives.

 

A song for today is “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBD18rsVJHk

 

~Jana Swanson