Lessons From the First Epistle of John
Mrs. E. G. White
The knowledge that men and women must have in order to be "followers of God, as dear children," is clearly defined in the Holy Scriptures. "That which was from the beginning," writes John, the beloved disciple, "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; ... that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." The apostle here refers to that which every soul may experience. "These things write we unto you," he declares, "that your joy may be full."
What is sin? John tells us in plain, decided language: "Sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of man was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."
The apostle thus refers to our union and communion with God. Communion with God is the life of the soul. It is not a something which we can interpret, a something which we can clothe with beautiful words, but which does not give us the genuine experience that makes our words of real value. Communion with God gives us a daily experience that does indeed make our joy full.
Those who have this union with Christ, will declare it in spirit and word and work. Profession is nothing unless, in word and work, good fruit is manifest. Unity, fellowship with one another and with Christ,—this is the fruit borne on every branch of the living vine. The cleansed soul, born again, has a clear, distinct testimony to bear. With unfaltering accents he bears the message, We "declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
He who lives a cold, selfish, halfhearted life, reveals that he is not walking in the light. He knows not the truth; he does not practise its principles. Deceived by the enemy, he leads others out of the right way. If the truth interferes with the promptings of an unsanctified heart, he does not hesitate to disobey it. He does not make it his rule of conduct in all his dealings. Kindness and unity and love are not the fruit that he bears. His defects are plainly condemned in the Word of God. Plain reproofs come to him, but he justifies his course of action, and denies his wrong. Such a man lies against the truth. He will not humble his heart to confess his sin.
This is the course that Satan followed in the heavenly courts. He justified every movement that he made. There are those who, though they know that they are wrong, will throw over themselves the robe of righteousness. Such ones use Scriptures when they see a possibility that it will cover up misleading statements.
"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he can not sin, because he is born of God."
To know God is, in the Scriptural sense of the term, to be one with him in heart and mind, having an experimental knowledge of him, holding reverential communion with him as the Redeemer. Only through sincere obedience can this communion be obtained. Where this communion is lacking, the heart is not in any sense a temple of God, but is controlled by the foe, who is working out his own purposes through the human agency. Such a man, whatever his profession or claims, is not a temple of the Holy Spirit.
The experience is perfected by fruit-bearing. He who does not bear good fruit in words and deeds, in the strength of elevated, ennobling principle, is like a bad tree. The fruit that he bears is unpalatable to God. His professed knowledge of Christ is a falsehood, a deception.
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he can not sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."
The light is all contained in the great commandment of love. In the light of the love of Christ, the gospel is an open book. This is the true light, which Christ came to bring to the world. The Saviour's true disciples have received this love, and they do not perform one deceptive action. They do not, to gain advantage for themselves, make movements that would place others in a position of sore trial.
From the light that God has given me, I know that one great danger of those who claim to be followers of Christ, is in being self-deceived. Satan is watching his chance. He will come to men in human form, and will speak to them most entrancing words. He will bring against them the same temptations that he brought against Christ. Unless their minds and hearts are filled with the pure, unselfish, sanctified love that Christ revealed, they will fall under Satan's power, and will do and say and write strange things, to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect.
"He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes." Not long before his crucifixion, Christ said to his disciples, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
Why was this called "a new commandment"? The disciples had not loved one another as Christ had loved them. They had not yet seen the fulness of the love that he was to reveal in man's behalf. They were yet to see him dying on the cross for their sins. Through his life and death they were to receive a new conception of love. The command to "love one another" was to gain a new meaning in the light of his self-sacrifice. In the light shining from the cross of Calvary they were to read the meaning of the words, "As I have loved you, that ye also love one another."
Following Christ's example of unselfish service, trusting like little children in his merits, and obeying his commands, we shall receive the approval of God. Christ will abide in our hearts, and our influence will be fragrant with his righteousness.