The ninth cycle of John’s first epistle brings us to the thesis of the second half. At Testing, instead of finding evil or temptation, celestial rulers or serpents, we discover that true Kingdom is love.
The Apostles never despaired that they could not see into the hearts of men. They understood that faith was something apart from being either a Jew or a Gentile, since throughout history there were both Jew and Gentile believers despite the circumcision. True faith will always express itself in genuine works as surely as smoke indicates a fire, and the heart of all good works is love.
we should love one another;
because love from God is;
and everyone loving (Word/Father)
The one not loving
has not known God;
because God is love.
- The first stanza is remarkable because not only does it see the Ethics stanza “bloom” into the Triune office, the role of Kingdom also becomes triune. At Pentecost, each individual believer who received the Spirit became a temple of God.
- Those who claim that the second birth was a corporate event, and thus minimise personal repentance and faith so that they might redefine the Christian identity as a social construct, have to do battle not only with John 3 but also with John’s first epistle. While they celebrate earthly fatherhood, Covenant history has moved from the sign to the reality: the Fatherhood of God and our Sonship in Christ by faith.
- The Apostolic warning is reflected in the Ethics: Prophecy line, and the fact that the Jews who rejected Jesus were judged because they did not know Him in the Sanctions line.
- Christ as the only-begotten, the firstborn from the dead, is the “tearing of the veil” in the Exodus/firmament stanza (Hebrews 10:20).
- The Greek μονογενής means literally “one of a kind,” with kind being used to describe a species or class, as in Genesis 1. However, the phrase is plural in the Greek translation of the book of Tobit (δυο μονογενεις) so in reference to the child or children of a particular parent, it simply means that there are no other children. Believers are only children of God in the Son of God.
- Line 5 relates to prophetic testimony, so the incarnation of Christ was first and foremost a legal witness concerning the love of God (Hebrews 1:1-2).
ETHICS: Priesthood (Leviticus/Ascension)
- The “Levitical” or Ascension stanza brings us to the crux of that legal testimony, the voluntary offering of Christ as a blameless representative for the sins of the people. Coming at the end of the history of animal sacrifice, men would understand the “freewill” of the offerer, but also be amazed at the voluntary submission of the sacrifice Himself.
- At the Firstfruits, a priestly representative of God’s firstborn (Exodus 4:22; Numbers 3:12), Christ made the entire people holy (Romans 11:16).
- The propitiation appears not at Sanctions but instead at Succession, highlighting the fact that Christ was cut off without children, like many of the evil-doers who were judged by God throughout the Old Testament. Jesus did not come to extend the old history of physical seed, but to found a new one of spiritual seed, a royal priesthood entered by a different birth. Paedosacraments are thus a grave and foolish error, despite being well-meaning. Baptism and communion are about representation, just like the Levites who stood in for the firstborn of Israel, or the bread and wine on the table which “incarnated” the firstfruits of the land and the womb, and not about cultivation.
ETHICS: Kingdom (Numbers)
- Just as Jesus told His disciples that they had seen the Father in the Son, so through our love the world sees the Son in us.
- Here, the architecture of the Tabernacle comes to the fore, so the central stanza is an expansion of the central line in stanza 1. By the Spirit of God, we are, both personally and corporately, a house in which God is pleased to dwell.
- Notice that the references to us loving one another correspond to the Bronze and Golden Altars, with the first alluding to the “external law” of the commandments and the second to the “internal law” of the Spirit. That is the difference between the Old and New Covenants, and their signs.
ETHICS: Prophecy (Deuteronomy)
- The prophetic stanza reveals that the reason for the history-changing Apostolic testimony was the sending of the Spirit by Christ after His Ascension. This becomes apparent when Israel’s festal calendar is aligned with the structure.
- Unlike the Old Covenant feasts, the Hierarchy here is not one of blood and birth (line 2) but one of Spirit. This is why the second stage in the Revelation is a Hierarchy of Gentile pastors who are presented as Lampstands over whom Jesus passes in order to purify them of minor sins before He judges Jerusalem as Sodom, Egypt and Babylon. The ironic switch is the result of a New Covenant based upon Spirit instead of flesh. A similar switch can be seen in Elijah’s judgment upon his unfaithful servant Ghazi who received the leprosy of the Gentile Naaman, and also in Elisha’s judgment of the children of Bethel and his healing of the wombs of Jericho, albeit in that case both concerned carnal Succession. Jesus hinted at such a reversal many times in His testimonies to the Jews.
- The word “confess” brings us to the Covenant Oath, and it is no coincidence that the baptism accounts in the book of Acts place the rite at step 6, after “legal qualification”, that is, a faithful response to the Word. Baptism is investiture with prophetic authority from God and voluntary submission to accountability to God via His people. God’s love for us is “objective” but salvation does indeed require a “subjective” response. As with the raising of Lazarus, if there is no response, there is no new life.
- If we overlay the first seven books of the Bible onto this stanza, we can see that at line 2 Israel was under the sword (in Egypt) but in line 6 Israel was the bearer of the sword (in Jericho). The shift is from childhood to maturity, from circumcision of flesh to circumcision of heart. When faith came, circumcision and uncircumcision became redundant because the requirements for priesthood changed.
God is love
and the one abiding in love
in God abides (flesh/Altar)
and God in him (Spirit/Table).
Ethics: Kingdom (Testing/Pentecost)
in the day of judgment,
that that even as he is,
we also are in this world.
- The final stanza reflects the “expanded” structure of the first.
- The confidence is the same as that referred to by Peter, who informed the fearful Jews that the baptism of the New Covenant delivered them from their obligation to the Law, and thus the imminent curses of the Law, upon Jerusalem and the unbelieving Jews (1 Peter 3:21). Their consciences were clear, and they had confidence before God because they were blameless in Christ, the perfect one-of-a-kind and once-for-all offering for sin. They were safe because the same Christ who died under the Law on their behalf would soon bring down the curses of that Law upon their persecutors (Hebrews 9:28).
- This truth is reflected in this final stanza, which describes the Apostolic Church as a “decentralized” temple filled with the Shekinah glory of God as a faithful testimony not only to all nations but also among all nations.
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