Monday, 27 September 2021

Word for the Week 27/09/21 - Panic buying (and the most famous sermon ever)

The Word for the Week this week starts out at ... you guessed it ... a petrol station.


But that's definitely NOT where it ends up!


There's a touch over 10,000 minutes in a week.

If you can spare a touch under 10 of them, which is 1/1,000th of your week (see what I did there?) you could listen to the Word for the Week.

It MIGHT just help with the other 9,990 minutes you'll be called on to deal with!


(Click the pic!)







1 John vv 1-4 - The Way Back to Unity from Division

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         Introduction

We are living in a time when people are very suspicious of authority because they see authority as control and doing what YOU want is seen in our society as being the greatest and most desirable good thing.

This takes no account of the fact that human nature is very often its own worst enemy, making self-serving decisions that don’t turn out to be in our own best interests and that are often based on only a partial understanding of our situation.

Now make no mistake, that is NO argument for abusive parenting, husbanding or wife-ing nor authoritarian government!

It is, in fact, for freedom that Christ has set us free!

But a free world is not the same as a world where everyone does what they feel like or a world that has no authority, clarity nor over-riding true truth in it.

And if you have a problem with authority … and since the Garden of Eden onwards humanity HAS had a problem with authority … then John’s establishing his right to speak authoritatively in 1 John is going to be a battle he needs initially to fight with you.

We’re going to need to concede and acknowledge that he is in a position to speak authoritatively, because his case is compelling, but he’s going to have to set his case out for us first.

Now, he IS going to be engaged in sorting out some problems with our human nature in 1 John.

That’s the work God needs to do for us and in us … to sort us out so that we can live in fellowship with God once again, just the way humanity was made to do in the Garden before the issues of snakes and apples cropped up.

And it’s the work God has to do in us (through His servants like John, for example) to restore our fellowship with Him and with one another so that all our joy may be made complete.

GIven how things currently stand, then, to achieve this really useful and worthwhile purpose, John first needs to persuade us he has authority to speak.

And he is going to point out to us some really GREAT things along the way as he does so!

He starts by telling us what he is about … full disclosure builds trust … and he does this in a really powerful, moving and impassioned way.

Here’s what he is going to say (with an explanatory bit from v. 2 in brackets in the middle dropped out for the time being):

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … 

(that which we have seen and heard) we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 

4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

There is no verb until v. 2 … which emphasises heavily WHAT we proclaim and THAT we proclaim.

So let’s start there with John’s heavily emphasised statement of what he is both here and also habitually about.

                 What we do

That which was ‘from the beginning’ is what John first runs past his readers’ eyes.

He is staking his claim tothe authority that is born of authenticity.

This, John says, is what defines our activities as eye-witnesses and heralds of the Word.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life …” 

THAT’s what we’re talking about, says John, in his first verse.

What beginning is he talking about?

We’re working on the basis of the significant linguistic and stylistic evidence, as well as the interlacing themes of John’s Gospel and 1 John that the author of John’s Gospel is the same guy as the one writing 1 John.

And John’s Gospel, of course, begins in very much this way:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

He was in the beginning with God. 

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

(John 1:1-4)

Now, if we were looking at these verses in John’s Gospel rather than the ones from our text for today in 1 John, I’d be VERY quick to refer you to Genesis 1,

to THE beginning:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

 

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

Genesis 1:1-3

So, what ‘beginning’ is John referring to?

It’s an important question because John does this a lot.

He uses that phrase eight times in this rather short book (1:1; 2:7, 13,14, 24 twice, 3:8 & 3:11).

He goes on to use it twice in 2 John (vv. 5 & 6) and has done this already twice more in John’s Gospel (8:44 and 15:27, both times when the Lord is dealing with authenticity or inauthenticity)! 

But then in a number of those occurences of this phrase ‘from the beginning’ the context doesn’t allow for an ‘at the Creation of the world’ understanding of its meaning.

Generally it seems best to understand the term ‘from the beginning’ as an authentication claim, in any event, as opposed to some new fly-by-night idea or person that lacks the sort of reliability that an original and authentic eye-witness or seasoned campaigner can command.

That seems to be the intention.

From the start of the Messiah’s ministry, John says he’d witnessed it and as such he had received authentic testimony and truth to pass on.

He was now passing it on, but the benefit of those he passed it to would be found in holding on to the authenticity and to the authentic message that was being conveyed.

What we do, then, says John, is to proclaim to you the real deal … and what’s important is that the deal should be REAL.

                      We proclaim, v. 3

So given that the deal must be real, then this, says John, is our core activity: we proclaim the authentic deal.

Now, your English translation probably has that verb translated ‘we proclaim’ repeatedly throughout vv. 1-4.

That’s because they think you can’t make sense of John’s powerful rhetoric in English the way those clever Greeks could … but this is Wales, so I reckon we CAN cope with this …

All the stuff John details in vv. 1 we PROCLAIM, he says in vv. 2 & 3

The verb is 

ἀπαγγέλλω

1) to bring tidings (from a person or a thing), bring word, report 

2) to proclaim, to make known openly, declare

This verb occurs in the Bible 44 times and it is all about bringing news, being a messenger …  ‘to tell’, ‘to announce’, ‘to bring news’, ‘to be a messenger Jn. 20:18 

Now, of those 44 uses of the word in the New Testament, some are really quite an ordinary ‘telling’.

Some are ‘tellings’ by unbelievers … so the word is not uniquely used of Gospel proclamation.

But it IS used of conveying. important information.

It is a word used of conveying definite, propositional, verbally communicated content.

And it does, according to the context, get pressed into service to convey a direct, definite verbal communication of urgent and/ or significant Gospel truth.

As believers, the apostolic band were not always about pulpits, auditoria, loud bands and big lights.

But what John says he’s about … and you can see the other apostles and early church leaders being about this too … is the announcement of propositional truth as their primary outreach and discipleship strategy, whatever the context that they did this in.

People do NOT become Christians because WE are nice guys but because we are honest about NOT being and because we announce or proclaim to people not simply this true truth about ourselves and the God-made-man Who died for our sin on the Cross and was raised to life for our justification at the bar of Heaven.

Be careful to notice here that this proclamation looks people in the eye.

                      We do this to YOU, vv. 2-3

This is clearly ‘to you’ in v. 2 and ‘even to you’ in v. 3.

This plain, clear, verbal communication which characterises the passion and the activity of John’s life as a servant of God is DIRECTED communication.

So, v. 2 says “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life …”

And v. 3 says “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard,”

Now this is terribly important.

You sometimes see a sheepdog in a field running around with a great deal of busy-ness and energy … possibly even yapping a bit … but for all the bounce and the energy the sheep aren’t moving at all because they are not of a mind to and they don’t take at all the message that dog is trying to convey (‘get through that GATE!’ … or whatever).

This is the time when you need a dog that will in a measured (not damaging) but deliberate (no messing) way get close in to those sheep, give them ‘the eye’ and advance, and in certain circumstances, with the recalcitrant sort of sheep, be ready to go right in close and GRIP them … without ever allowing those sheep the idea that turning away to ignore is an option.

FOCUS is what the proclamation requires, and the right response to its implications is the only reasonable option.

We look you in the eye and we tell you this definite content using words that are serious, that are rational and require action.

Having said that, what is the CONTENT of this real deal that you’re committed to proclaim as you look us in the eye then, John.

                       What do we proclaim?

Seen, heard, touched.

Signs seen, explanations heard, realities made manifest before their eyes … death, resurrection and changed lives as the Spirit gave birth to the multi-ethnic Church of Messianic prophecy as the times started to be fulfilled and all was ‘made manifest’?

It was in the light of the resurrection of Jesus that the full extent of the messianic promises was fulfilled … 

“The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 

regarding his Son, 

who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 

and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God 

in power 

by his resurrection from the dead: 

Jesus Christ our Lord.”

(Romans 1:4)

                       Our testimony … what we have seen, v. 1

First of all, says John, is what we saw.

Now, John’s Gospel has a few motifs running through it that sometimes get picked up by preachers and latched onto for preaching a series on John that doesn’t go through the whole twenty-one chapters verse by verse.

Famously, there are seven ‘I am’ statements in John’s Gospel where the Lord Jesus reveals key aspects of Who and what He is.

But there are also Seven Signs in there too …

 

·       Changing Water Into Wine (John 2:1-11)

·       Healing the Royal Official's Son (John 4:46-54)

·       Healing the paralytic at the pool (John 5:1-18)

·       Feeding over 5,000 with fish and loaves (John 6:1-14)

·       Walking on the water (John 6:15-25)

·       Healing a man born blind (John 9:1-41)

·       Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-46)

 

And these Seven Signs of the Saviour in John don’t so much DESCRIBE Who He is (the way the seven sayings do) but they DEMONSTRATE Who He is.

Now, interestingly, as soon as the storyline in John’s Gospel as said and demonstrated that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, the signs stop … but the sayings carry on.

The point is, the signs in John’s Gospel illustrate the crucial thing or things about Who Jesus IS.

John then SAW a lot more.

He appears at the Cross.

He appears at the Empty Tomb.

He was probably around for the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost and would have seen and understood that the Spirit was now empowering the early church that was now doing the works of the Messiah after His return to Heavenly Glory an the sending of the Spirit as prophesied in the upper room discourse in John’s Gospel.

John has SEEN!

And he is now telling them about it, proclaiming it to them.

Not just having witnessed these things happening, as v. 2 says:

“the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us”

1 John 1:2

Now when you first stumble across those TWO references to the sense of sight, you might just wonder what’s going on.

But the first verb is one that clearly refers to ‘seeing with your own eyes’, whereas the second one can also be used of something that is ‘above and beyond what you merely see with your eye.

This suggests the author is referring to ‘seeing’ the true significance of the phenomena observed seeing behind the signs to grasp what was signified.

It’s as if John is referring not just to what was seen but also the significance of what was seen.

Now, you and I know that if a room full of people see a miracle, only SOME of thiose folks actually come to believe.

They’ve seen the sign but not its significance, you see?

And that’s how every other time this verb is used in John’s Gospel and in these three shorter books that come behind it.

The spiritual truth of the Gospel, you see, is NOT just the doctrines and not just the facts of Jesus’s person and miracles.

The spiritual truth of the Gospel only comes to roost when the SIGNIFICANCE of Jesus’s teaching, miracles, life , death and resurrection is laid hold of.

There’s a difference between being an observer and a seeing person!

It’s what our eyes have shown us and our minds have interpreted and recognised accordingly, says John.

And that seeing with significance arises very definitely in John’s Gospel alongside hearing the teaching that informs it.

                       Our teaching … what we have heard, v. 1

Having seen the phenomena and their significance depends on the background of Old Testament teaching and it’s New Testament unpacking and explaining, as well as on the new revelation from God that Jesus’s ministry brought.

Again the idea of verbal proclamation and announcement crops up.

The message has to be heard for faith to be born, or so it appears, by one means or another.

Now, we have to grasp that the hearing may be through the ears or through the eyes as the written word conveys the message of a voice written down, but still …

There is that personal verbal communication that must needs take place and John says ‘we have heard’!

In short, you can’t work it out fo yourself … you definitely need to be told!

‘Natural religion’ can certainly make you hunger for and long after God.

There are definitely things you can learn from Creation, and to some extent from thinking deeply about God or the way things are with the world.

Romans 1:18-20 alludes to this:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

As Paul puts it in Romans 10:14-15

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? 

And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? 

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

However much it might be at odds with the spirit of our age or of any age … people need telling or they are not going to get it.

And John - here’s the thing - got it from JESUS.

He got his teaching from as reliable source.

So these guys who are dividing the churches John writes to really ought to listen up.

But there’s one more crucial issue that John is about to highlight …

                       Our experience … what we have actually TOUCHED,v. 1

What we have seen, what we have heard and now what we have touched, says John, forms the basis for the authority with which we speak.

John is highlighting the tangible reality of all he bears witness to in order to authenticate and authorise what he is teaching.

To touch here is ψηλαφάω (psēlafaō) 'to touch'

to touch, handle.

It’s not a common word - I had to look it up - it occurs in the Bible just 4 times.

I thought immediately of course of the incident where Thomas (absent the first time the resurrected Lord appeared) declared that unless he touched the Lord’s hands and feet and felt the nail holes and spear hole he wouldn’t believe.

Thomas does finally see Him about a week later, of course, so there was a happy ending … 

But the point is that the standard of ‘proof’ and authentication of the claims of Christ arose in that incident from the opportunity (apparently not taken up in the event) to TOUCH and see the reality of the faith that Christ was raised from the dead.

Now … frustratingly perhaps … the word used in the Thomas incident is NOT the word used here!

(I did say it was a rare word!)

But this word is used in Hebrews 12:18 with reference to Mount Sinai back in the Old Testament at the giving of the Law to Moses when God revealed Himself with such plain manifestations of Himself that they could be felt or touched.

John is claiming the authority he needs to teach them on the basis that he’s been so close to the Lord and to His Word and His signs that John could, as it were, reach out and touch the truths that he now upholds to them.

And then in v. 2 John … as a rhetorical device … ‘amplifies’ (do you remember that word from last week?)

                      (By the way, this is how that came about), v. 2

‘By the way’, he is saying, ‘this is how that came about …’

“concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us

Life is a big theme in John’s Gospel, and it’s about to become one as we read 1 John.

John’s major concern here is to proclaim authoritatively what he knew about the Word of Life to his readers and hearers.

Just as in John’s Gospel, John LOVES to spark thought using phrases gthat ciould mean a couple of things.

Here this ‘Word of Life’ could be a reference to the Lord Jesus Himselfg as the living Word of God (as in the beginning of John’s Gospel).

Or it could be ‘the message of life’ or ‘that gives life’, which is all about Jesus and that is proclaimed about Him.

Which?

Yes.

Probably.

All of that.

John uses being vague to expand our thoughts and our understanding … ‘go think about that’, he seems to be saying.

But just before you do, let’s be clear what this is all for.

Here is WHY we do what we’re doing as a matter of settled practice and habit …

We proclaim our message for this reason:

                 Why we do it

                      So that fellowship happens, v. 3d

We do this firstly so that FELLOWSHIP happens!

v. 3 “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”

And that fellowship which John seeks to re-establish in these divided churches that he is addressing by proclaiming the essential Gospel truths that will follow has two dimensions … its a two-dimensional objective which the preaching of the Gospel produces as standard …

                     Fellowship is established with us, v. 3

“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us”

Spot the purpose clause there … the authenticated Gospel creates fellowship with God’s authenticated people.

Period.

Full stop.

Not ecumenical initiatives.

Not church political manoeuvring within the structures of ‘Church’ where the Gospel has been lost or even compromised … not that because it is the very Gospel they have lost which is what PRODUCES unity and fellowship (there’s no acceptance here of the idea that a church might be a good boat to fish IN rather than the boat to fish FROM!)

Not those things, but proclaiming essential Gospel truth … THAT’s what rallies those who God then unites by His Spirit, THAT is what creates the unity Goid is restoring in His broken and fallen creation, and that’s how we struggle to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace … as John then goes on to spell out … 

                      Because of …, v. 3

Fellowship established first with God creates this fellowship and unity with one another …

“ so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”.

THAT’s where your felloship starts and finishes! 

Why are you doing this AUTHENTIC Gospel proclamation thing then, John?

So that the eternal plan and purpose of God in Christ is fulfilled as sin is atoned for and the Fall is turned back in order that the fellowship God longs for both WITH His people and AMONGST His people should be created, and second so that JOY happens.

The pagan world around John’s churches live for pleasure … which it calls happiness.

But what John is aiming at for himself, for these people and for Heaven itself is JOY …

          Fellowship with the Father

          Fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ

                      So that JOY happens, v. 4

But we maintain this focus, this passion and this pre-occupation with the proclamation of the true, authentic Gospel secondly (says John) so that JOY happens.

v. 4 “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

                 Conclusion

Unity in Scripture - regaining it and re-creating it after the division and disunity brought about by the Fall (‘the woman gave it to me and I ate it’) - is brought about by proclaiming the truth … which John reassures the divided people in these verses that he has himself in reality seen, heard and touched.

And unity is really important because as John recorded it in his Gospel, it was the Lord Jesus’s high-priestly prayer when the hour had finally come, in 

John 17:11, 21 & 22

“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

 

“… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

 

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

 

As Paul then picks up and points out in Ephesus 1:11, this is in itself the goal of the eternal plan and purpose of God in Christ, to bring all things together again under the headship of Christ.

Well, if THAT’s the case, why didn’t John just say to these believers in the house churches he was leading around Ephesus: ‘Look guys, not to worry, just play nice and … we’re all different, y’know … let’s just agree to disagree and …’ 

Why not do that?

Because Christian unity is NOT achieved in Scripture by accommodation but (as John has been showing us) by proclamation of accredited truth on these big issues, not by accommodating heretical opinions within the body of God’s Church.

The process of bringing this unity about is described in what looks almost like an aside in the middle of that high priestly prayer, in the midst of all this praying for unity we’ve been alluding to there in John 17 where Jesus prays:

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

So when these churches are divided John powerfully and highly motivationally establishes his credentials to present them not with a peace plan he’s cobbled up but with God’s peace plan for humanity … and John calls his people back to that.


Word for the Week 27/09/21 - Panic buying (and the most famous sermon ever)

The Word for the Week this week starts out at ... you guessed it ... a petrol station. But that's definitely NOT where it ends up! There...