Flutes and Funerals

a002b97f9c06b49145b2f77cd05086beLuke 7:31–35 (NKJV) — 31 And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying:

‘We played the flute for you,

And you did not dance;

We mourned to you,

And you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is justified by all her children.”

A group of children are sitting in the public marketplaces and calling to other children who are obstinate and unwilling to play games with them.  One game involves a happy event like a wedding.  Another involves a time of lament like a funeral.  But the onlooking companions refuse to participate in either game.

The wedding speaks to the ministry of our Lord Jesus.  The funeral speaks to that of John the Baptist.  One group of children represents both of the contrasting roles of Jesus and John, our Lord’s forerunner.  The second, non-participating of group of children represents the unresponsive, hardened Pharisees and the Jews who follow them.  The non-participants reject both games.  Even so, the Pharisees rejected both ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist.

The Pharisees seek to temper John’s stern preaching.  They don’t like their hypocrisy being put on public display.  As Herod proves when he takes the life of John the Baptist to satiate the bloodlust of his wife.  At the same time, they seek to impose strict legalism upon what they see as Jesus’ permissive ministry.  There is a great tension in this parable between legalism and licentiousness.

  1. Jesus’ message of forgiveness shouldn’t be dampened by legalistic restrictions.  Instead, it should be freely celebrated.
  2. John’s message of repentance shouldn’t be ignored.  Instead, it should be soberly measured.
  3. The truth of this tension between legalism and licentiousness is justified by those who hold to it.

The Pharisees are stubborn children.  They cannot be brought from the sidelines to play nice with the other children.  Flutes and dancing represent the joy of a wedding and the joy of mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Mourning and weeping represent the sober reality of sin’s just penalty:  death and the funeral.  But the Pharisees will not play that game either.

Jesus and the Good News Ministry

John the Baptist is the last of a long line of OT prophets who spoke of a time when the Messiah would come.  Prophets speak of what is to come.  But now the Bridegroom has come.  The best man takes a backseat.  John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord Jesus.  He is the forerunner of the Messiah who would preach the Good News of the glorious gospel.  Jesus confirmed His own preaching ministry with the miracles prophesied of in the OT by prophets like the Baptist.  He also gave the apostles the ability to work miracles to confirm their teaching ministry.  All was in place.  Nothing should have hindered the reception of the Bridegroom or His joyful message of forgiveness.

The Rejection of the Good News

However, that message was not heeded.  The Pharisees and those who followed them loved the letter of the Law but hated the spirit of it.  They were fine with the shadow but rejected the substance.  The road is indeed narrow which leads to righteousness.  Broad is the path to destruction.  The majority fill the broad way; the minority tread the narrow.

It shouldn’t be surprising that few receive the Good News today.  It’s the way it has always been.  A population tends to waver between legalism and licentiousness.  But that whole population is still on the broad way.  A lot of people think that they are Christians, but they don’t rejoice in forgiveness or repent in the face of serious sin.  Wedding or funeral – it makes little difference to them.  They won’t come out and play.  Believers say with the prophet Isaiah, ”Lord, who has believed our report?”

But recall that John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus were very convincing and powerful preachers.  A lot of people wouldn’t hear them.  Someone weird like John doesn’t really deserve a hearing from the Pharisees’ perspective.  The guy eats locusts and wild honey.  He lives an isolated life wearing camel’s hair.  He doesn’t have fun at all.  He doesn’t eat bread or drink wine.  He must have a demon.  He’s just so austere.  We can’t relate to him.  And Jesus is way too friendly.  Eating and drinking with anybody and everybody.  He’s a glutton and a drunkard.  There’s got to be something wrong with anyone who spends time as a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

Some people hate the glorious message of grace and forgiveness because of their legalistic sin nature.  Others hate it because of the way it cramps their style, calling them to Spirit transformation rather than world conformation.  They wouldn’t mind a Christ to save them, but they don’t want a Lord to master them.

Others don’t like a faith-only message.  “After all, what incentive would there be for righteous living,” they ask.  They are so works-oriented that they drive themselves and other to despair.  Their proselytes are two-fold the children of Hell.  They need a written set of laws and codes to live life by.  Anyone who preaches “by grace through faith” is offensive to these religious, constraining types.  To them, it’s a religion not a relationship.  It is indeed a way to control the masses.

These are hardened, stubborn children.  We look at the Pharisees and the Jews who followed them as being so foolish and churlish.  But we don’t see the legalism working within us that worked within them.  We don’t like it when our legalism is showing.  We like to justify it, but wisdom only is justified by all her children.

The Gospel is free …grace is free.  It’s too humiliating for some people to admit that.  They are too proud to receive it or believe it.  Self-righteousness and self-denial seems to make more sense.  But we have no righteousness of our own, and self-denial turns to self-indulgence in no time without Christ.  Even if we get to the point that we know the Gospel is true, we cannot get to the point that we are to blame for rejecting it.  We blame the messenger …we condemn the Gospel’s preachers in order to justify ourselves.

But the real problem is that we love darkness rather than light.  If Jesus’ message came to us from Him directly, we’d do the same thing the Pharisees did.  We would balk and act wounded and offended.  We’d use that as the reason to reject Him and His message.  But wisdom is justified by all her children.

Obedience and Faith

Hebrews 5.9.jpgThis afternoon I was thinking about these words in Hebrews 5.9:  “He [the Lord Jesus] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”

The Scriptures clearly teach that salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2.8-9).  Faith is not a work or a gift.  It is the reception of God’s gift in Jesus Christ, the author of eternal salvation.  Yet Hebrews 5.9 states that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  This is because only those who have first trusted in Christ are able to obey Him.

Our faith and obedience is the only “work of God” that will be accepted by God (John 6.29).  It is a work of God in that our belief and obedience are only possible because God alone has made it possible through the work of Jesus Christ, His Son.

As the Word of God spread, the number of disciples multiplied in the early church.  These disciples were obedient to the faith (Acts 6.7).  However, not all have obeyed the Gospel (Romans 10.16).  And yet we have purified our souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love (1 Peter 1.22).

But what is the writer of Hebrews getting at in this particular verse?  Hebrews 1.14 says that we shall inherit eternal salvation.  We receive the promise of an eternal inheritance in Hebrews 9.15.  Jesus is the author of this eternal salvation.  Does he mean that our salvation is so much more than deliverance from Hell?  I think so.  Our deepening trust and obedience through suffering is possible only because of Jesus.  And yet as we trust and obey, we find a greater reward when we see Him at the end of our lives.  This is truly the grace and mercy of God on display for those who trust and obey.

Pharisee or Publican: Which One Are You?

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28–32)

This parable parallels The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father has two sons. Just as one son repented of his wasteful life, the son in this parable will repent of his disobedience. The son that said he would obey and did not reminds us of the self-righteousness we see in the older brother of the Prodigal story. Here, one son says he will go and work in father’s vineyard but doesn’t. The other son says he won’t and he does after later changing his mind.

Jesus was aiming this parable at the hearts of the chief priests and the elders along with the tax collectors and harlots (21.23, 32). The tax collectors and harlots will enter the kingdom before the chief priests and elders. Actually, these tax collectors and harlots may enter the kingdom instead of the chief priests and elders. This fact will only change if the chief priests and scribes humble themselves and enter by grace through faith just as the tax collectors and harlots do. One group sees and feels its need while the other does not.

There are three important practical aspects to this parable: 1) God sends mankind forth to carry out His will; 2) Some promise to perform His will, fail to make good, and are rejected; 3) Others rebel against His will, later submit, and are accepted.

The Lord Jesus faced a hardened group of chief priests and elders. A full-on assault against them would simply drive them away. The Lord Jesus chose an indirect method of attack. These men confronted Jesus by asking, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21.23). Jesus answered their questions with questions of His own, “The baptism of John – where was it from? From heaven or from men” (Matthew 21.24-25)? They were in a quandary. John was counted as a prophet. If they answered from men, then they would be at odds with the populace who loved John. If they answered from heaven, it is obvious what Jesus would next ask: “Why then did you not believe him” (Matthew 21.25)?

The chief priests and elders wouldn’t give Jesus a direct answer to His question. So Jesus, knowing the hardness of the men didn’t directly answer them. But He did answer them. That’s what our parable is all about.

The Conduct of the Two Sons

The tax-collectors and harlots are represented by the son who refused to comply with the father’s command to go out and work in the field. Later reflection brought the son to his senses and he went. When John the Baptist preached his message of repentance, many who heard it were obvious sinners. They had no hope. They had shown contempt for the Word of God. When facing the fact that they were lost and undone, John preached a message of hope and mercy. When they submitted to the baptism of John, they did so with grateful, sincere hearts.

The chief priests and the elders had pledged obedience to the Father’s will, but didn’t do the work assigned to them. They fulfilled a religious agenda; just not God’s agenda! These men had their phylacteries and religious robes …they feigned respect for God but only to be seen of men. They thought in their self-righteousness that if anyone was prized by God among men, it was them. They wouldn’t work in the Father’s vineyard because they were too busy with their own vineyard. Are you sure you’re not putting together your own vineyard?

Both sons are surely representative of all mankind. We go out and speak with people and find that at first blush they could care less about God’s sovereignty and authority over their lives. They say with the psalmist, “With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us” (Psalm 12.4)? But then God’s grace convinces them of their sin. They seek for mercy and hope in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, which gives them both. Others are serious-minded about religious things. They are outwardly moral and say that they respect and obey the Word of God. And yet theirs is a form of godliness with no inner power or substance. They turn away from external sinfulness and run toward external self-righteousness. It will be a rude awakening for the self-righteous to learn that in Christ they find all their righteousness. Only sin-sick people need the Great Physician.

The first son who refused to obey his father certainly had terrible character. But repentance transformed his character. Obedience coming from the heart of gratitude pleases the Father. The second son was only a hypocrite …devoid of any kind of character at all. His promise to obey just strengthened his worthless and hypocritical heart. This leads us to three conclusions about this parable:

1.  Many religious people will be confirmed in their self-righteousness and enter Hell.

We must be thankful that the populace around us doesn’t manifest its godless heart to the degree that it did in the days of Noah. It will always be better to live in a moral society rather than an immoral one. However, the big danger for the moral, self-righteous man is that he never comes to the end of himself. I am thankful that I don’t have a brothel down the street from my house. Yet in the final sum of things, there is no difference between the customers inside of a brothel and the self-righteous congregants inside of a Baptist, Catholic, or Mormon Church. Either Christ is sufficient or He is not; there is no in-between. It’s easier to preach the Gospel to people who truly believe they are lost. They do not have to be convinced of their need. What they find incredulous is that they would be able to receive grace. But a self-righteous generation is “pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness” (Proverbs 30.12).

2.  Godliness is determined inside-out.

Godliness is indeterminable by what a person says. Godliness works itself in and through a person. The end result is obedience and fulfilling the Father’s will. Many people have agendas. They say, “I go, sir!” But do they really go? It’s like a boss asking an employee to fulfill certain job requirements, but he has his own agenda for his job. You can say you’re loyal to Christ all you want. You can say that you serve the Lord all you want. The real test is what you do and the spirit in which you do it. Do your works deny Christ when you insist you live for Christ? Those humbled and obedient are right before God. All the rest are hypocrites; they are like the deceitful, self-righteous son. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

3.  Many ungodly people will repent of their sinfulness and enter Heaven.

Those who turn from their sinfulness and self-righteousness find hope at the foot of the cross. God has a vineyard in which you are able to work. Access that vineyard by grace through faith. Do that which God purposed you to do even before time began. You may think that you cannot serve God because of the sin of your past. Let me remind you that that too is self-righteousness. Do you really think that if you lived a certain way in the past that that would qualify you for Heaven or for service to God? None of us are righteous. All of us are insufficient to live godly lives. Our default position is ungodly. God “will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds [He] will remember no more” (Hebrews 8.12). Once we are justified not only do we access Heaven one day, we have access to God today! We are accepted in the Beloved One. The very Pharisees who reject harlots will find their place in the Lake of fire which burns forever. Many long-term church-goers will burn right beside them. Still others will enter the Heaven after being saved upon the 11th hour of their lives.

Let us all go to work in the Father’s vineyard today. Let us glorify God rather than ourselves. Don’t simply say, “Lord, Lord!” but do the will of your Father in Heaven!

The Debt You Cannot Pay

It’s hard to love people who feel entitled to your love. I guess you’re just supposed to be grateful to bask in the presence of one so loveable. When a person feels that he is God’s gift to the world, that person has very little to give the world. But when a person who is needy and desperate finds genuine love, that person will truly reciprocate with undying gratitude and affection.

The Lord Jesus had relationships with a self-righteous religious Pharisee named Simon and a notoriously sinful woman (see Luke 7.36-50). The Pharisee watched the woman bring a heavy heart and an alabaster flask to Jesus and express love and gratitude. He thought to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7.39). You can almost imagine him spitting those last five words out in his thoughts.

Instead of calling fire down upon the self-righteous man’s head, Jesus confronted him with a parable:

“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”” (Luke 7:41–42)

There is an obvious parallel between this parable and the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15.11-32). The debtor who owed 50 is like the older son; the debtor who owed 500 like the younger. The creditor could certainly be the father who desires to welcome back both his self-righteous son (Simon the Pharisee) and his wayward prodigal (sinful woman).

Jesus asks Simon, “Which of them will love him more?” The obvious answer to the question will be a self-indictment for Simon. It is similar to what the LORD did to David when he confronted his murder of Uriah to cover up adultery with the man’s wife. God sent a prophet named Nathan to tell a story about a little ewe lamb.

“There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1–7)

Like the debtor who owed 50, those forgiven little love little. Like the debtor who owed 500, those forgiven much love much. But the creditor forgave both. God forgives the vilest of sinners among us only if such a sinner comes by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ. But all of us are sinners. All fall short of the glory of God. Human perspective leads us to falsely conclude that some of us are better than others. Paul wrote, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)

The fact is that you may be a self-righteous religious person or you may be a licentious, bar-hopping sinner. But all of us are guilty before God. All fall short of the glory of God. If we draw a comparison with someone, let us attempt to compare ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. You will conclude as I have that none of us have cause to boast. No matter how much or how little we owe, we cannot pay our sin-debt.

But God is willing to forgive. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Jesus “Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Since this is true, we cannot have anything to do with our salvation. It is all in accordance with God’s mercy and grace. Therefore, no man can claim to be especially loveable to God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only One worthy of the Father’s words, “This is My beloved Son!”

If you attempt to justify yourself by your supposed goodness or by some law or standard you’ve kept, you have fallen from grace and have become estranged from Christ (see Galatians 5.4). God is willing to forgive, and He invites sinners to come to His Son’s Person and work believing. If you trust in Christ alone for your eternal life, you have much for which you should be grateful.

Your debt is not small. It cost the Father the death of His Son: Jesus’ lifeblood shed for you. Self-righteous people have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. They are truly hypocritical and pretentious. Formerly self-righteous people experience the grace of God and delight to see Christ high and lifted up!

Your debt is not too great. There is a zeal that Christ will own. Romans 12.11 teaches us that we should not lag behind in our work for the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to be zealous and fervent in spirit when serving the Lord. When zeal is directed by the Word and motivated by gratitude, then we shall be vindicated even though the world forsake us. Pray and seek power to honor and glorify God. If you live this way, then you shall hear the Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

No sinner will be turned away when he turns to Christ! Jesus forgave the unwelcome woman’s sin. Only God can do that. Her story reminds us that God’s mercy is not only present in our own story, it is dominant. Jesus paid the debt we could not pay. Therefore, we must “owe no one anything except to love one another!” (Romans 13.8a)


A Godly Father’s Relationship with His Sons

There are three main characters in the well-known Parable of the Prodigal Son.  First, the prodigal (wasteful) or younger son parallels all broken believers who have retreated from the Father only to return and be well-received by Him.  Second, the Pharisaical son parallels those who claim to be a part of God’s family only to demonstrate self-righteous anger when the Father extends His grace to the undeserving.  Third, the protagonist in this story is the father in my understanding.  He parallels our heavenly Father who demonstrates how all who turn to Him receive undeserved forgiveness and love.  The younger brother is undeserving, but so is the older brother.  This is the parable in a nutshell.

Of course, we may learn from all three perspectives in the parable.  First, we direct ourselves to the lesson of the prodigal son.

The Perspective of the Prodigal Son


The perspective of the younger son’s retreat is the most common focus when approaching this parable.  Most are able to relate to it.  Certainly the tax-collectors and sinners related to the younger son.  His retreat begins at a point in his life where he has everything; it ends when no one gives him anything – no food, no relief, not gratitude, no compassion …nothing!

If our children depart from the presence of God to do life their own way, they do so because of a perception that they are not free but long to be so.  They wish to cast off the restraint of parental and pastoral authority and do their own thing.  They increasingly take for granted the grace, mercy, and compassion that God affords them.  They will direct their energies, time, money, and abilities to sinful, wasteful living.  They may not sin to the extent of the prodigal son, but they operate under his perspective of life.

Time reveals to the true child of God the same acute disappointment that the prodigal son experienced.  God loves us too much to allow us to retreat from Him.  He will do what is necessary to break our resolve to do our own thing in life.  No one can return to God until they realize just how empty life is without Him.  As parents, that leaves us dependent upon our heavenly Father to deliver our retreating children.


The prodigal son was not a reasonable man when he was running away from such a compassionate dad.  Sin is never reasonable.  But the Bible does say that at last this man came to himself.  He begins to think of his father’s house.  There are steps he takes which lead to his return.  First, he reflects upon how foolishly he has behaved and upon the much more satisfying life he could have with his father – even as servant!  Second, he resolves to return to his father for forgiveness; however, in so doing he finds freedom under the father’s restraint and authority.  Go figure!  His resolve to return came at a time when all hope was lost for him.

When we see how foolishly and wickedly we behave as backslidden believers …how wretched and deplorable the circumstance of our sin is, it makes us long for a time when life was once satisfying.  We come broken and contrite.  We are humbled by our illusory attempt at freedom.  We are now ready to return to the throne of God’s grace for freedom.  There we ask for mercy.  The props are kicked out from underneath us.  We’ve come to the end of ourselves.  We see that there is only satisfaction in an all-sufficient Savior who has given us His all-sufficient Word.  So, we return.


When the prodigal son returns, his father is waiting and watching.  He runs to his son with open arms and recognizes him from afar.  A father’s compassion knows no bounds.  I speak as one who knows.  It will be demonstrated by his actions.  He doesn’t even allow his son to say what he has rehearsed.  Signs of lavish affection are abundant in the story.  When we are really meditating upon this story, we cannot help but be moved to tears.  The best robe, shoes, a ring, the fatted calf – indeed, all is well!

We find the same reception when we return to God.  We don’t deserve it because of our initial retreat.  And yet, our Father receives us with joy.  There is no “I told you so” attitude here.  There is only love, mercy, and compassion.  There is only forgiveness for the broken and contrite son.

If we are to expect such a reception, then we must return broken and contrite before the Lord.  We must cry out for His mercy as miserable prodigals.  The more accurate our perception of our broken relationship, the greater the joy when we understand the acceptability we have before the Father because of the Son of God.

You may be afraid to return to God because you’ve retreated a great distance.  But no child of God is beyond the reach of the reception we see in Luke 15.  As a matter of fact, how much better it is to realize that we have retreated and then return to the Father.  Then, we too, may experience a lavish reception.  But why does a long period of time need to pass?  I have retreated and returned in a space of five minutes.  Are you actually trying to pay for your sinfulness by remaining in the wilderness?  Didn’t Jesus pay it all?  He has said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7.37) … “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28).

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?