The Reality of Abiding
And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.1 John 2:28
This verse SOUNDS as if it says that YOU are in control of your "abiding" which in turn will determine whether YOU will have confidence or whether YOU will shrink away from Christ at His coming, doesn't it? Hey, I'm not going to pretend that I didn't think it said exactly that, for I saw no other way to look at it until I began to notice some discrepancies. Discrepancies, I say? Yes, for within the statement itself, as well as in the context of the whole letter, and also in view of the book of John there are too many things that just don't add up.
First, take a look at the grammatical structure of the sentence and pay close attention to how the abiding of those who received the letter ("little children") is connected to the confidence of whoever "WE" is. In other words the simple grammar says, "YOU abide so that WE may have confidence". Look at that again. Did you realize that it does NOT say, "YOU abide so that YOU may have confidence"? Now, is it legitimate to treat the "YOU" in the sentence as being the same as - or included in - the "WE" in the sentence? If not, then our traditional assumption has led us to TOTALLY misunderstand this verse!
Listen, John began his letter by saying,
What was from the beginning, what WE have heard, what WE have seen with OUR eyes, what WE beheld and OUR hands handled, concerning the Word of Life - WE have seen and bear witness and proclaim to YOU the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to US - what WE have seen and heard WE proclaim to YOU also, that YOU also may have fellowship with US; and indeed OUR fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ1 John 1:1-3
Guess who the "WE" is? None other than those 12 men Jesus had chosen to be His witnesses. These are the men who had been given the authority to declare the radical message of God's forgiveness and freedom through the finished work of His Son. These are the men of whom Jesus had said,
I do not ask in behalf of THESE alone, but for those also who believe in Me through THEIR wordJohn 17:20
It's not because they were so special ... no, no no! On the contrary, Jesus picked the most unlikely rag-tag band of men he could gather together so that NOBODY would EVER think that the life they preached had originated in them. But wouldn't you know it, we got around that and turned them into icons!
If you will read all the way through this letter and consider how the original recipients would have automatically distinguished the "yous" from the "we-s" and the "theys" from the "us'" and the "I-s" from the "yous", etc you might be amazed how that pattern continues all the way through the whole letter (By the way, I want you to know that this has EVERYTHING to do with understanding 1 John 2:28).
I'm not suggesting that the stuff written about the "WE" is not applicable to the "YOU" (or to the rest of us today), but, instead, that it IS 100% applicable since everything given to the apostles was ALSO given to those who have believed THEIR word.
Don't miss this, because this is the point: JOHN PRESENTED THE APOSTLES AS BEING THE AUTHORITIES WHO SPOKE FOR GOD SO THAT THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE TRUE PREACHERS OF GOD AND THE DECEIVERS WOULD BE OBVIOUS!
Did you catch that? You see, these DECEIVERS that John referred to were the ones who "walked in the darkness". Be aware that this designation would NOT have been considered negative by these men, as we might assume, for, instead, it may have been one of their OWN descriptions. How so? They viewed spirituality as a venture into the unknown in their search for "secret knowledge". More secret knowledge = more spiritual = higher level = closer to God, etc, etc. Their search for the "true God" was centered around secret rituals which would have been practiced most likely at night. So, what's my point? Simply that the student-teacher relationship between these self-proclaimed "authorities" of God and their pupils was that of superior vs. inferior. In other words, those who received the words of these teachers were not brought into the same level of "spirituality" that was supposedly given to the teachers.
Look closer at the contrast:
- The "fellowship" of the apostles: "you have received everything we received through Christ, which is the very life of the God who dwells in the light, and you know him just as we know him!"
- The "fellowship" of the deceivers: "You do not yet have what we have since you must seek out the secret knowledge of God from us in the darkness of the unknown so that you can come to know him as we know him!"
Now, take another look at the word "abide" in 1 John 2:28. It is used in a sense that implies the "imperative" (a command) as in, "YOU, do this.", doesn't it? Now, I find this rather interesting since the exact same Greek word in the previous verse (27) was translated NOT as an imperative, but instead as being a reality. "the anointing ... has taught you, you abide in Him." The thing that caused me to look this up in the first place was a marginal note in my NASB suggesting an alternate rendering of "abide in Him" instead of the one they used, "you abide in Him".
The difference? One says that we SHOULD abide in Him, while the other says that we DO! The KJV translates it, "the anointing hath taught you, ye shall abide in him". The KJV translators not only saw that "abiding" was a reality that God has taught us, but that this reality CONTINUES. But somehow, six Greek words later, the EXACT SAME word is translated as an imperative. Why? Does the Greek demand it? Obviously not. Here's what I'm asking: Does the Spirit of God teach us that we DO abide in Christ and then tell us that it is up to us whether or not we REALLY do?
Could it actually be saying, "Now little children, you (DO) abide in Him, so that when He appears, we (the true preachers of God) may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming."? But what sense does that make? As a verse, BY ITSELF, it wouldn't make any sense. But it doesn't stand by itself, does it ... except, of course, in the way we have learned to use it and quote it to support our fears? If it wasn't for our long history of having this misconception crammed down our throats this would stick out like a toothache (one of my current maladies which cannot be mistaken or ignored).
Listen to the flow of this in John's letter to these people.
There are deceivers among you. They try to convince you that you do NOT know the truth. They tell you that you do NOT know God. But I am writing to you because you DO know the truth. I am writing to you because you DO know the Father - just as we know the truth and know the father. You know Him because He has poured out His Spirit on you and has put Him IN you. What they tell you is a lie ... and you KNOW that. You know that because you have heard them deny the reality of Jesus Christ, for they deny that this man is THE ONE who has been born of God and is THE ONE in whom is the life of God. I tell you this because they are trying to mislead you. But you have been taught by the Spirit of God IN YOU, and you don't need any man to lead you into the knowledge of God, for He leads you into all truth. And what He has taught you is that you DO abide in Him just as we abide in him. And OUR confidence is found in the fact that YOU abide in Him. For if YOU are in union with Him then WE are in union with Him; if YOU are In Christ, all are EQUAL. No one has a secret claim on God or upon His knowledge. There are no levels of spirituality. I cannot lead you into this truth, I merely proclaim it ... I simply witness of Him. If you are in Him then you have as much of Him as I do. If even "the least of these My brothers" have not received ALL spiritual blessings in Christ, then NONE OF US HAVE.
Do you see the confidence John shared with his "little children"? God has given me the right to declare to you that you have and that you have been brought into the fellowship of the father and the son. Totally. Whether you feel it or not. That's GOOD news for you who think you got the short end of the stick, isn't it? That's GOOD news for you who are disappointed with what you see in the mirror, wouldn't you say? That's GOOD news for you who have been told that God has put you on the shelf ... yes? For these reasons and more ... it is GOOD news to ME, too!!
Until next time .....
the shovel (aka "Jim")