Paul J. Tillich

Paul J. Tillich, who until his death in the mid-1960s was one of America’s best-known theologians.  He established his career in his native Germany before coming to the US during the rise of Hitler and later becoming an American citizen.  He was a constant student of the Scripture; his students claimed that he could quote the entire Greek NT from memory.  On his deathbed he asked his wife to read to him again from his beloved Greek New Testament.  Yet Tillich was a regular user of pornography and repeatedly was unfaithful to his wife.  Furthermore, “The System,” as he called his theological beliefs, rejected the importance of the literal truth of Scripture or even the literal existence of Jesus Christ.  He played a major role in applying existentialist philosophy to Scripture and in so doing helped place a wedge between an entire generation of theological students and the God they studied.

The Holy Spirit brings about salvation in our hearts.  No amount of study will enable a man to know God apart from the Holy Spirit.

From my study in the BJU British Literature Curriculum

Rest Assured! God is Light!

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Light represents the power and presence of God in creation.  God said, “Let there be light!”  There was light, God saw it, and proclaimed it good (see Genesis 1-2).  Light also communicates the idea of delight and endearment.  The husband loving says to his wife, “You are the light of my life!”

All living organisms depend upon light for life.  Our perception of color and context exists because of light.  Light is the epitome of discovery and development.  Intellectually, light represents knowledge, truth, and revelation.  It connotes wisdom and comprehension:  “The lightbulb finally went on!”  We speak of the light at the end of the tunnel as a euphemism for hope and help.

While all these things are true, John emphasizes something altogether different in this verse. John writes, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  That is, God is morally pure and holy; He is Light.  He is right, good, and truthful.  There are three claims made in the context of 1 John 1 which are important and focus our understanding of light to mean God’s moral purity.

  1. If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1.6).
  2. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1.8).
  3. If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us (1.10).

Some may say a fourth claim exists in v. 9:  If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  But this claim is a claim to a promise not a claim to self-delusion.  It is the remedy not the problem.

Notice John uses the pronoun we throughout the passage.  It is possible for the Apostle John, the other apostles, and all first century Christians to make the claims above.  John is capable of wrong thinking as well as right thinking.  He is able to make self-delusive claims as well as claim the promise of cleansing.  All Christians are potentially able to do the same.

I believe this verse is John’s declaration concerning the moral character of God.  If we are to rightly relate with God, we must know that He is light.  There is absolutely no darkness in Him.  But we cannot make such a claim about ourselves.  There is darkness in all of us.  So we certainly have a common problem.

This is the Message

John saw with his eyes and handled with his hands the Word of Life (1.1-4).  He testified and declared to the church that eternal life was with the Father and manifested to him and the other apostles.  In turn he declares to the Asia Minor churches (perhaps beginning at Ephesus) and broadens the sphere of fellowship.

What is the message that Jesus revealed to John?  It is that which he heard from Jesus and declares to us.  This is foundational apostolic doctrine from Jesus Himself.  John and the other apostles are our link to Jesus and the truth He left for us.

When John writes, “We have heard from Jesus and declare to you” (v. 5), he use a perfect tense verb.  He is showing us that what was heard was heard at a point in time in the past while he was with Jesus, but it is not heard in the same way today.  But the truth once presented still stands to this day.  As a matter of fact, this good news is declared to you this day as you read!

God is Light

God is light in the sense that He is absolutely pure and holy.  There is absolutely no hint of darkness in God.  He is absolutely pure.  John writes later…

“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2–3:3)

When John speaks of walking in the light or walking in darkness, he means that we either walk in purity or walk in immorality.  This is why John communicates the need for believers to confess and seek cleansing at the hands of a faithful, just, and righteous God.  As believers, walking in darkness does not negate spiritual life, but God’s moral nature is not being expressed through our lives when we walk in that darkness.

1 John 1.5 is about purity and sin.  God is light; therefore, we must be characterized by light.  That means we should be sincere, truthful, righteous, and loving.  We fail to reflect the glory of God’s light when we express ourselves with deception, rebellion, and hatred of one another.  It is imperative that we understand the potential for this hatred in each of us.

Do you understand that our lack of holiness makes it impossible for us to grasp the moral purity of God?  This drives us to Christ seeking mercy.  We are dependent upon God to make us pure enough to relate to Him and He with us.

We pray many things, but God hears nothing when we regard iniquity in our hearts.  God demands holiness from each of us because He is holy.

God Sees Me 

“And there is no creature hidden from [God’s] sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)  God knows me and by Him my actions are weighed and found wanting (1 Samuel 2.3).  He sees the adulterer covertly managing his life to hide sin from his spouse and children.  God sees the thief rifling through his father’s wallet left on the dresser.  God is aware of the cheat who charges people for services not rendered.  But more than that, God sees the heart.  “Hell and Destruction are before the Lord; so how much more the hearts of the sons of men.” (Proverbs 15:11)

The Scriptures point out that God hates all workers of iniquity (Psalm 5.5).  He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1.13a).  God abhors the darkness.  There is absolutely no darkness in Him.  We must walk in the light as He is in the light.  That light comes through truth and manifests itself in our hearts purifying us.

Fellowship and Acceptance

God provides fellowship and acceptance as we conform to His holiness.  Many look at the glory and pursuit of holiness as something to be avoided …something that removes joy from life.  Yet holiness is the gateway to fellowship with our Maker.  Our dependence, diligence, and obedience please God because we are in Christ and behaving like Christ.  God makes Himself known to us in a way that He does not make Himself known to the world.  His love is shed abroad in our hearts.  We are privileged to call God our Dearest Father.

Holiness also provides acceptance before God.  We are no longer like the unsaved sinner.  Our sins are gone!  The blood of Christ continuously cleanses us from all sin (1.7).  His blood cleanses us 24-7 so that we may serve God acceptably.  That blood is able to keep you from falling away from God.  It will present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).  When we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship and acceptance.

Faith and Works

Some strive for holiness through their works and disregard the finished work of Jesus Christ.  Others believe that faith will save them but then that faith never produces holiness.  Both of these are deceptive tools of the devil.  We cannot be holy unless we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead.  But faith without the work of holiness is dead.  The devils believe and shriek back in unholy fear at the name of Christ.  Faith will always produce holiness in the believer.  Holiness is evidence that our faith is genuine. Thereby, we walk in the light as He is in the light.

Duty and Delight

We carry out our duties as believers not with drudgery but delight.  We shouldn’t expect the world to think that the pursuit of the glory and holiness of God would bring delight.  They find delight in the darkness of sin.  Delight in life is found for us in our fellowship with God.  And yet fellowship cannot be without conformity to His holiness.  That’s why delight does not rest in a full bank account or a clean bill of health for us.  We delight even in the face of death.  We do so knowing that our pursuit of holiness will finally be perfected when we draw celestial air into our glorified lungs!

God has qualified us as believers to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (Colossians 1.12).  We long for the glory of our inheritance in Heaven, but that’s not true for unbelievers.  Unregenerate people would not be happy in Heaven.  They love the darkness and there is only light in Heaven.  They hate God and God’s people; we love God and God’s people.  They would clamor to tear God away from His glorious throne if at all possible.  But we stand amazed in worship before that throne and will forever.

Unbelievers don’t want God to exist and feel great relief when they mistakenly prove to themselves that He doesn’t.  But we revel in the God who is.  This is the message!  There is no other.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”           (1 Peter 2:9–10)

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:11–14)

Rest Assured! Life, Fellowship, and Joy

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:1–4)

Jesus Is Our Eternal Life

The opening four verses of John’s first letter to the churches in Asia Minor (perhaps initially Ephesus) provide two of the five stated reasons John wrote the letter:  1) So that readers might have fellowship with God and one another and 2) So that the readers’ joy might be full (1.3-4).  The kernel thought in the passage may be reduced to the following sentence:  We declare to you that which we have seen and heard.  Of course, John speaks not of a concept but a person. 

Knowing Christ is eternal life.  Eternal life is more than a place or duration.  Eternal life is tied to a Person and His work on our behalf.  That Person is Jesus.  As a matter of fact, we cannot have fellowship with one another apart from Jesus. 

Jesus Is the Word of Life

Revelation 19.13 reveals that when Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, His name will be called The Word of God.  He told Martha in John 11.25, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Thus Jesus is the Word of Life.  But He is also the true God and eternal life (1 John 5.20). 

The existence of Jesus as the God-Man was being denied by the false teachers of John’s day.  John clearly confronts it in these opening verses of the Letter.  John walked with Jesus before His crucifixion.  He saw Jesus after He arose from the dead and walked the earth for 40 days.  When terrified at Jesus’ sudden appearance, John heard the Savior say, “Why are you troubled?  And why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself.  Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24.34).  The Word of Life is Jesus. 

Jesus Is Our Fellowship

Our text reads, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”  There is no fellowship without the Person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said through John in his Gospel:  “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”  That is the intimacy and fellowship John speaks of here.  How do we access this fellowship and rest assured together?  We do so through faith. 

The fellowship we enjoy as believers is a privilege we have received because we first received the testimony of God respecting His Son.  We believed that in Jesus is life.  We believed; we live.  This cannot be altered.  But the privilege of fellowship may be forfeited by sin and rebellion.

Jesus Is Our Joy

Verse four says, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”  The result of our trust in Jesus is full joy.  It really is inexpressible the joy Jesus brings into our lives.  Fellowship and access with God, fellowship with all the saints, and redemption and reconciliation – that is joy!  And we simply believed.  We ceased from our striving and believed.  Gary Derickson sums up the opening of John’s first letter in the following way:

We will see in this epistle that it matters what we believe about Jesus. Here we have been introduced to Him as life incarnate. A part of mature faith in Christ is recognition of Him as our life, not just life giver. At the same time, we remember we are not eyewitnesses, but among those more blessed than Thomas who believe without seeing (John 20:29). We are dependent on the eyewitness accounts to know in whom our faith is placed and to know the right things to believe. Thereby our faith is in the real Jesus, who saves, and not the invention of our minds or of the minds of others who would create a Jesus in their own image.  [Gary W. Derickson, First, Second, and Third John, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012). 1 Jn 1:4.]

Is Jesus everything?  Truly?

Do You Really Fear the LORD?

Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. He himself shall dwell in prosperity, and his descendants shall inherit the earth. -Psalm 25:12–13

Psalm 25 generally teaches us that if we commit ourselves to God in prayer and cast our care upon Him, He will provide all the comfort and support we need.  The two verses above remind us of the blessing that belongs to those who fear the LORD.  But first…

What does a person who fears the LORD look like?  

Let’s suppose I ask, “Who in our church really fears the LORD?”  What particular person would come to mind?  We’re all Christians.  Christians are supposed to fear the LORD.  So it shouldn’t be too difficult.  But it is.  If we were to name someone, we ought to spend a lot of time with him or her.  They are promised the blessings of this passage.  What Christian does not want to be taught in the way God chooses?  Who doesn’t want to dwell in prosperity or goodness?

Look at your heart.  Check your conscience.  Do you fear the LORD?  If you do, come close to me.  I want to find what you’ve found.  “Who is the man that fears the LORD?”

  1. Do you respect God’s authority?  Do you know that all things are working toward a certain goal?  “When all things are made subject to [the Lord Jesus], then the Son Himself will also be subject to [God the Father] who put all things under [Jesus], that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15.28).  God is to be all in all; therefore, He must be respected and feared.  If you submit yourself to God’s authority, you fear Him.  Nobody who disregards the authority of God fears Him.
  2. Do you dread God’s displeasure?  Our sin is repugnant to God.  All of us have sinned and have, therefore, deserved the wrath of God.  What brought us to salvation was a realization that we deserved punishment …that we are not good.  Past sin provokes in us the need of God’s mercy.  It’s not that we think about our past activity with regret sometimes.  It’s more than that.  We are broken over our sin.  We know poignantly the displeasure of God.  We know what it is like to be without hope or peace in this world.  We feared the displeasure of God and found refuge in Jesus!
  3. Do you tirelessly pursue God’s will?  Every day, do you wake up and say, “God, I want your will to reign supreme in my life?”  Do you fear God enough to know that your own will destroys you?  You say, “Well, surely I’m going to blow it, Pastor O!”  But I’m not asking you if you’re perfect.  I’m asking if you are pressing toward the will of God!  I’m asking if you are pursuing the glory and joy of ministry in the will of God!

Now you might think that you’re a prime candidate for a person who fears the LORD.  But do you really seek out the will of God daily?  Are you so determined to do the will of God that nothing distracts you from it – no hobby, pleasure, or person?  When someone shows you that you are not in the will of God, how does that work itself out for you?  Are you ready to humble yourself and obey?  Are you ready to face trial and struggle to have the will of God?  Well if you are a person who truly fears the LORD, here’s what God has in store for you…

What blessings are in store for those who fear the LORD?

  1. The LORD shall teach you in the way He chooses.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Once you receive Him, He empowers you by His Spirit to walk in Him.  “You shall be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abound in it with thanksgiving” (Col 2.6-7).  Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’  Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6.45).  God “will guide [you] with [His] counsel, and afterward receive [you] to glory” (Psalm 73.24).
  2. You shall dwell in goodness.  Consider that you deserve the wrath of God but instead you shall dwell in prosperity.  Your sins are forgiven you.  You have been justified by your faith.  You shall have peace with God.  2013 holds challenges, trial, and temptations.  A retrospect over 2012 should indicate that had God not enabled you, you would have fallen to many temptations and discouragements.  They would have overwhelmed you.   “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1.12).  The LORD “will keep [you] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on [Him], because he trusts in Him” (Isaiah 26.3).  “When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34.29)  The NKJV has a marginal notation for prosperity.  It is literally goodness.  You shall dwell in goodness if you fear the LORD!

Who fears the LORD?  If you do, God will teach you in the way He chooses.  He will make you to dwell in goodness!  If you don’t, you will remain in the dark and dwell in that darkness until you do.  Let us labor this year for that which endures unto everlasting life …not for that which will perish.

Matthias’ Place

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.  – Acts 1:23–26

All we know of Matthias is recorded in four verses.  He took Judas’ place as an apostle.  Others were named apostles after him (e.g., Paul, Barnabas, Andronicus, and Junias).  Tradition says he preached in Judea and was stoned to death by the Jews.

I’d rather be in Matthias’ place than Judas’ place.  Both met with brutal finishes in this life.  Both were privileged to follow Jesus from baptism to ascension.  But one is a child of perdition while the other is in Heaven with the Lord.  Stability and joy are results of a clear conscience, the approval of God, and the esteem of His children.

Judas gave these up for silver and went to his own place.  Every man has a place in eternity.  Jesus said that many dwelling places are in His Father’s house.  Matthias has a place there.  He’s enjoying it now.  Where’s your place?