« PreviousContinue »
The Epistle of John has a peculiar character. It is eternal life, manifested in Jesus, and imparted to us. The life which was with the Father, and which is in the Son. It is in this life that believers enjoy the communion of the Father; that they are in relationship with the Father by the Spirit of adoption, and that they have fellowship with the Father and the Son.
God's own character is that which tests it; because it proceeds from Himself.
The first chapter establishes these two latter points : namely, communion with the Father and the Son, and that this communion must be according to the essential character of God. The name of Father is that which gives character to the second chapter. Afterwards, it is that which God is, which tests the reality of the imparted life.
The Epistles of Paul, although speaking of this life, are, in general, occupied with setting before Christians the truth respecting the means of standing in the presence of God, justified and accepted. The Epistle of John, that is to say, his first, shows us the life that comes from God by Jesus Christ.
Now, this life is so precious, manifested as it is in the person of Jesus, that the epistle now before us has, in this respect, a quite peculiar charm.
When I turn, too, my eyes to Jesus, when I contemplate all His obedience, His purity, His grace, His tenderness, His patience, His devotedness, His holiness, His love, His entire freedom from all self-seeking, I can say, That is my life.
This is immeasurable grace. It may be, that it is obscured in me; but it is none the less true, that that is my life. Oh, how do I enjoy it thus seen! How I bless God for it! What rest to the soul! What pure joy to the
heart! At the same time, Jesus Himself is the object of my affections; and all my affections are formed on that holy object.
But we must turn to our epistle. There were many pretensions to new light, to clearer views. It was said that Christianity was very good as an elementary thing; but that it was grown old, and that there was a new light which went far beyond that twilight truth.
The person of our Lord, the true manifestation of the divine life, itself dissipated all those proud pretensions, those exhalations of the human mind under the influence of the enemy, which did but obscure the truth, and lead the mind of man back into the darkness whence they themselves proceeded.
That which was from the beginning (of Christianity), that which they had heard, had seen with their own eyes, had contemplated, had touched with their own hands, of the Word of Life,—that was it which the apostles declared. For the life itself had been manifested. That Life which was with the Father, had been manifested to the disciples. Could there be anything more perfect, more excellent, any development more admirable in the eyes of God, than Christ Himself, than that Life which was with the Father, manifested in all its perfection in the person of the Son? As soon as the person of the Son is the object of our faith, we feel that perfection must have been at the beginning.
The person, then, of the Son, the eternal life manifested in the flesh, is our subject in this epistle.
Grace is, consequently, to be remarked here in that which regards life; while Paul presents it in connection with justification. The law promised life, upon obedience —but life came, in the person of Jesus, in all its own divine perfection, in its human manifestations. Oh, how precious is the truth that this Life, such as it was with the Father, such as it was in Jesus, is given to us. In what relationships it sets us, by the power of the Holy Ghost, with the Father and with the Son Himself. And this is what the Spirit here first sets before us. And obeve how it is all grace here. Further on, indeed, he
all pretensions to the possession of fellowship with
God, by displaying God's own character: a character from which He can never deviate. But, before entering on this, He presents the Saviour Himself, and communion with the Father and the Son by this means, without question and without modification. This is our position and our eternal joy.
The apostle had seen that Life, had touched it with his own hands; and he wrote to others, proclaiming this, in order that they also should have communion with him in the knowledge of that Life which had been thus manifested. Now that Life was the Son, it could not be known without knowing the Son, i.e., that which He was, entering into His thoughts, His feelings; otherwise, He is not really known. It was thus they had communion with Him — with the Son. Precious fact ! enter into the thoughts (all the thoughts), and into the feelings, of the Son of God come down in grace; to do this in fellowship with Him, that is to say, not only knowing them, but sharing these thoughts and feelings with Him. In effect, it is the Life.
But we cannot have the Son without having the Father. He who had seen Him had seen the Father; and consequently, he who had communion with the Son had communion with the Father; for their thoughts and feelings were all one. He is in the Father, and the Father in Him. We have fellowship, therefore, with the Father. And this is true, also, when we look at it in another aspect. We know that the Father has entire delight in the Son. Now He has given us, by revealing the Son, to take our delight in Him also, feeble as we are. And I know, that when I am delighting in Jesus, I have the same feelings, the same thoughts, as the Father Himself. In that the Father delights, and cannot but delight, in Him in whom I now delight, I have communion with the Father. All this flows, whether in the one or the
• The Life has been manifested: therefore we have no longer to seek for it, to grope after it in the darkness; to explore, at random, the indefinite, or the obscurity of our own hearts, in order to find it; to labour fruitlessly under the law, in order to obtain it. We behold it; it is revealed, it is here, in Jesus Christ. He who possesses Christ, possesses that Life.
other point of view, from the person of the Son. Herein our joy is full. What can we have more than the Father and the Son? What more perfect happiness than_community of thoughts, and communion, with the Father and the Son; deriving all our joy from themselves.
This is our Christian position here below, in time, through the knowledge of the Son of God; as the apostle says, “These things write we unto you, that your joy may
be full.” But He who was the Life, which came from the Father, has brought us the knowledge of God. The apostle had heard from His lips that which God was. Knowledge of priceless value; but which searches the heart. And this also the apostle, on the Lord's part, announces to believers. This, then, is the message which they had heard from Him, namely, that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness. With regard to Christ, He spoke that which He knew, and bore testimony to that which He had seen. No one had been in heaven, save He who came down from thence. No one had seen God. The Son of Man, who is in the bosom of the Father, had declared Him. No one had seen the Father, save He who was of God; He had seen the Father. Thus He could, of His own and perfect knowledge, reveal Him. Now, God was Light, perfect purity, which makes manifest at the same time all that is pure, and all that is not so. To have communion with Light, one must oneself be light, be of its nature. It can only be linked with that which is of itself. If there is anything else that mingles with it, Light is no longer Light. It is absolute in its nature, so as to exclude all that is not itself.
Therefore, if we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practise truth: our life is a perpetual lie.
But, if we walk in the Light, as He is in the Light, we (believers) have communion with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. These are the great principles, the great features of Christian position. We are in the presence of God without a veil. It is a real thing, a matter of life and of walk. It is not the same thing as walking accc-ding to the light; but it is in the light. That is to say, that this walk is before the eyes of God, enlightened by the full revelation of what He is. It is not that there is no sin in us; but, walking in the light, the will and the conscience being in the light as God is in it; everything is judged that does not answer to it. We live and walk morally in the sense that God is present. We walk thus in the light. The moral rule of will is God Himself; God known. The thoughts that sway the heart come from Himself, and are formed upon the revelation of Himself. The apostle puts these things always in an abstract way; thus, he says, " He cannot sin, because he is born of God;" and that maintains the normal rule of this Life; it is its nature; it is the truth, inasmuch as the man is born of God. We cannot have any other measure of it: any other would be false. It does not follow, alas! that we are always consistent; but we are inconsistent if we are not in this state; we are not walking according to the nature that we possess; we are out of our true condition according to that nature.
Moreover, walking in the light as God is in the light, believers have communion with each other. The world is selfish. The flesh, the passions, seek their own gratification; but if I walk in the light, self has no place there. I can enjoy the light, and all I see in it, with another, and there is no jealousy. If another possess a carnal thing, I am deprived of it. In the light, we have fellowpossession of that which He gives us, and we enjoy it the more by sharing it together. This is a touch-stone to all that is of the flesh. As much as any one is in the light, so much will he have fellow-enjoyment with another who is in it. The apostle, as we have said, states this in an abstract and absolute way. This is the truest way to know the thing itself. The rest is only a question of realization.
In the third place, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
To walk in the light as God is in it, to have fellowship with one another, to be cleansed from all sin by the blood; these are the three parts of Christian position. We feel the need there is of the last; for—while walking