It is commonplace nowadays to criticize the church by associating actions of its members as reflective of the entire body. It seems that Jesus is okay but not the church or for some even organized religion. Anyone calling themselves a Christian is expected to lead a sinless, stainless life. But separating Jesus from his church has some problems. If not for the first century church, we would have never heard of Jesus. He would have been a footnote in history, known only as a teacher, healer and leader of another heretical sect claiming falsely to be the Messiah. The Apostles, in addition to the Disciples, included Paul, Luke, Stephen, Barnabus, Timothy, Silas and James. They literally gave their lives to continue the Gospel of Jesus. John was the last of these to leave the earthly life and the only Apostle to die a natural death. These Apostles, not Jesus, are authors of the body of work the world recognizes as the New Testament, or the oracles of the Christian faith.
John wrote, in addition to the Letters, the Gospel of John and Revelation. He lived into his 90s and is thought to have died in Ephesus in Asia Minor. It is likely that First John and the two letters that follow were written to the congregations there. Ephesus is also one of the seven churches written to by John in Revelation.
From the Wesley Study Bible, we have the following. "First John was a significant text for John Wesley's sermons, especially those exploring themes of sin, salvation and repentance. It speaks to believers about their relationship with God in light of the challenges they face from those who have left the community of faith, reminding those that holy lives are the proper response to God's gift of relationship and that the love of God makes holiness possible. This does not mean that believers will never sin but that while believers continue in complete fellowship with God, they will not willfully sin."
Our Bible study beginning this month will be on the three Letters of John. These are thought to have been written in 85 - 95 AD. The study completed last month was on Galatians, recognized as the first piece of Christian literature ever written, around AD 49. It is possible that the Letters of John were the last pieces of Christian literature written by an Apostle, as all except John were deceased at the time of its writing. We are privileged and blessed to be able to read, absorb and study the words of one whose life was touched personally by the Saviour.
From the Pastor
Greetings and Godís Blessings to you for 2018!
As we begin a new year, we have much for which to be thankful: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, loved ones, health; happiness; both the necessities of life and many of the comforts and so much more. We have these blessings through the GRACE of God.
Grace is mentioned 170 times in the Bible. We understand grace to be Godís unmerited favor. Grace is God doing good for us that we do not deserve. David Reagan discusses "grace and mercy as like two heads of the same coin. Mercy is God withholding judgment or evil that we deserve; grace is God giving us blessings or good that we do not deserve." Just think of mercy as God not judging our sins and because of Godís grace, we receive eternal life and a promise of heaven, though we do not deserve them. We do not deserve Godís mercy nor His grace, as we are a sinful people. However, we have both mercy and grace through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Another meaning of grace is Godís sufficiency or Godí fullness in the life of a believer. God told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. The grace of God in Paul enabled him and empowered him in his weakness. Godís grace working in us supplies the sufficiency whereby we may do good work. God is enough no matter what situation we may face.
We read in Ephesians 2:8: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. We are not only saved by the grace of God, we also serve the Lord and live the Christian life by the grace of God. We need Godís grace for living our lives in a Godly manner; as we live our lives we are the reflection of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. We may be the only Jesus others ever know or see.
May Godís Mercy and Grace be with you!