eluding our idols: 20 questions on 1 John 1.5-2.6

This coming Sunday (Dec. 14) at 9:00 a.m., some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue a study of John’s letters entitled Eluding Our Idols. To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, following is: (a) the text of 1 John 1.5-2.6 and (b) twenty questions and exercises go along with this reading.

receiving this word in our mind

1.5 This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” 6 If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. 7 But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. 8 If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. 10 If we claim, “We have never sinned,” we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

2.1 My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you don’t sin. But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. 2 He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world. 3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. 4 The one who claims, “I know him,” while not keeping his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this person. 5 But the love of God is truly perfected in whoever keeps his word. This is how we know we are in him. 6 The one who claims to remain in him ought to live in the same way as he lived.

wrestling with this word in our mind

1. In this text (1.5-2.6), underscore every use of the word “in.” What is “in” God, and what is not? What can be “in” us and what can we be “in?”

2. What sort of “claims” are made in this passage. To know, note every occurrence of the appearances of the word “claim” in 1.5-2.6.

3. There is “no darkness in him [God] at all.” (1.5b) What are some of the “dark” things you sometimes hear people claim God is about?

4. God is light (1.5) and we’re called to “live in the light” (1.7). What does someone look like if they’re “living in the light?”

5. Fellowship with God (1.6) goes hand-in-hand with fellowship with each other (1.7). It’s not a matter of the former being essential and the latter being optional. How so?

6. Blood is a tangible thing, but sin is not. (1.7) And so, when John says it is Jesus’ “blood” that cleanses us from sin, what is John saying? That is, are we to understand the word “blood” literally here or are we to take it figuratively, like a metaphor for something else?

7. There is no sin too big for God to forgive us of and he can cleanse us of all wrong doing. (1.7,9) What does this truth do for your heart and spirit as well as your outlook and perspective?

8. Who in their right mind would claim to not have any sin or to have never sinned?! (1.8,10) Further, study what commentators and scholars say about who is being spoken of in these verses.

9. We can sometimes deceive others, but how is it that we can “deceive ourselves?” (1.8) What does this tell you about the power of sin and the weakness of human beings?

10. What is “the truth?” (1.8; 2.4) Make sure your answer fits John’s thinking and usage in this context.

11. The Greek word translated “confess” in 1.9 is a present infinitive, which means John is telling us that confession is an ongoing, habitual, ceaseless action for the Christian; it’s anything but a ‘one and done’ sort of thing. How is it that confession is a necessary habit for a healthy relationship with God and others? And what sort of things need to be in place in a person’s spirit so that confession can happen?

12. John writes so that his readers won’t sin (2.1). Turn that around and ponder it: your weapon with which to repel sin and your tool with which to ramp up a life of holiness is to read. So, how are you coming along with that? Tell us a bit about your reading habits regarding Scripture and some of your successes and failures with such.

13. Jesus is Christ is our “advocate” with the Father. (2.1) With the aid of BibleGateway (biblegateway.com) or a similar site, compare the rendering of the word “advocate” here in the CEB with other English translations such as the NCV, NIRV, The Message, and The Voice. What image of Jesus Christ is being placed here before us? What does this image say about us? What does it say about Jesus and what he does/will do?

14. How is the phrase “… God’s way of dealing with our sins …” in 2.2 (CEB) translated in other renderings? Compare the GNT, NASB, NIV, and RSV.

15. After reading 2.2, consider this: how does the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ differ from the many sacrifices commanded of the Jewish people under the Old Covenant?

16. Jesus Christ is God’s solution for dealing with “the sins of the whole world.” (2.2) What does this tell you about Jesus Christ? Does this mean every person needs to be a Christian or does it mean that whoever God forgives and accepts, he does so on the basis of Christ’s work for them? Explain.

17. How do we know that we know God? (2.3)

18. No one can keep God’s commandments perfectly. And so, can we ever say that we “know” God or can God’s love ever be perfected in us? (2.4-6)

19. “… live in the same way as he lived.” (2.6) Really? How far is a person supposed to go with that statement? What phrase or concept in the immediate context of this statement serves as good commentary or definition of what John meant when he said “live in the same way as he lived?”

20. Our right standing with God isn’t based on our ability to make something like a plausible sounding claim of having no real sin in our life, rather that we have a keen sense of our dependency on the work and blood of Jesus Christ for us. How can a Christian nurture the development of such a mind as that?