“What is love?” Jay Adams and the Idea of Love

“What is love?”

How would you answer that?

Love is a feeling.

Love is an emotion.

Love is getting a dozen roses.

Love is….

We complete that sentence with all sorts of ideas and concepts. What it boils down to, however, is two philosophies: biblical love and unbiblical love.

I have been reading through The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling by Jay Adams. Though I do not agree with everything in Adams’ book, I found his treatment on love helpful. Regardless of whether you engage in biblical counseling, we need to have a biblical concept of love. This will benefit our lives as well as others. It will also dispel the clouds of confusion that so easily fog our thinking.

Unbiblical LoveBiblical Love
“The philosophy is that love happens. ” (150)“Love is giving–giving of oneself to another.” (151)
“Love is not something to work at; it just happens.” (150)“It is not getting, as the world says today.” (151)
“Love comes full blown from the head of Aphrodite.” (150)“It is not feeling and desire; it is not something over which one has no control.” (151)
“It’s the kind of thing that just is or isn’t.” (150)“It is something that one does for another.” (151)
“It isn’t something you develop, it isn’t something that grows, it isn’t something that you work hard to achieve, it isn’t a thinking thing, and it certainly isn’t something that you can will.” (150)“Non one loves in the abstract.” (151)
“It is something that happens. And when it happens, it happens in such a way that you know that it has happened!” (150)“Love is an attitude that issues forth in something that actually, tangibly happens.” (151)
Adams’ discussion of love

Obviously, this is not exhaustive (or, theologically rigorous). However, it does provide us with a great table to navigate in our discussions with people about love and the Scriptures.

What is love? Adams provides us with an excellent answer.

Ought everyone to believe there is a God?

QUESTION AND ANSWER TWO

The second question and answer of the Baptist Catechism is,

Q. 2: Ought everyone to believe there is a God?

A. 2: Everyone ought to believe there is a God; and it is their great sin and folly who do not.

Explanation

Last week we established that the beginning point for our life with God (and truly, all life) is God. Logically, the Catechism moves from that foundational thought to humanity. Because God is the first and chiefest being, then, what is humanity’s response to be?

This involves belief. The Catechism provides two supporting Scriptures for us to consider Hebrews 11:6 and Psalm 14:1. Let’s look at these Scriptures first, and then we can more effectively unpack the Catechisms teaching.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”—Hebrews 11:6, ESV

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”—Psalm 14:1, ESV

The verse from Hebrews is extremely profitable for our question and answer. If God is the first and chiefest being, then it makes sense that we must believe in Him. The author of Hebrews posts it in an even more significant way, informing us that without faith (i.e., belief) humanity cannot please God. It is impossible.

Furthermore, it is not enough simply to believe. The author of Hebrews says, “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he [God] exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (My emphasis). There are many that believe in God (or, perhaps more accurately, a god), but belief is as far as it goes. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that mere belief is not enough. Belief in God as first and chiefest being should change the way in which we live (i.e., that God rewards obedience positively and punishes disobedience negatively). Question 6 will address this idea further.

Additionally, if God is the first and chiefest being, it makes sense that humanity would want to be close to Him. We read in Hebrews 11:6, “whoever would draw near to God,” which implies that there are some who would not draw near (a point that is addressed with Psalm 14:1).

If God is the first and chiefest being, then yes, everyone ought to believe that there is a God.

We could say more about Hebrews 11:6, but now let us turn our attention to Psalm 14:1. Ought everyone to believe there is a God? Yes, but what about those who do not? The Catechism teaches us that this unbelief is a “great sin and folly.”

The psalmist offers much that helps us understand this great sin and folly. First, it is a belief that stems from the innermost part of the unbeliever’s being (i.e., the heart). Books, articles, and monographs have been written upon this subject, but at the heart (forgive me!) of the matter is that the Hebrew way of thinking about one’s heart concerned the entirety of the being’s mental and emotional decision-making factory.

Second, we see that the unbeliever’s life opposes God. “They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” In other words, they are depraved. Beeke and Smalley’s definition of total depravity is helpful, “Total depravity means that corruption infects the whole person and stains every act he performs.”[1] Correlation does not equal causation. However, there is a connection between a refusal to believe in God and act in accordance to His truth, and that connection is found in total depravity. Paul teaches us this in Eph. 2:1-3 and Rom. 3:9-18 (which also quotes our psalm).

APPLICATION

How can we apply this to our daily lives? I see at least three ways.

First, we must believe that there is a God. He is the first and chiefest being, therefore we should trust in Him (as stated in Heb. 11:6). Belief also requires knowledge. In other words, I cannot believe in gravity if I do not have any idea of what it is or what is means. We are working on the foundational knowledge that God exists and that He is the greatest being. Our goal, then, should be to expand this knowledge. We will deal with this in question three, however, we need to ask ourselves if we are developing our knowledge. If you believe in God, you will!

Second, our lives should demonstrate a belief in God. That is, we should live differently if we believe that God exists. We have already discussed this from a positive standpoint, so we will not reiterate this point again. However, we should apply this belief to our actions. If we say we believe in God, but our lives do not demonstrate this, then we are lying to ourselves and others. James tells it like this, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22, NRSV).

Third, we must guard our hearts against unbelief. While we rejoice in God’s goodness in allowing our depraved hearts to be regenerated, we also acknowledge that sin can find its way into our hearts in the form of unbelief. Solomon warns us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23, NRSV). Guard your heart against the great sin and folly of unbelief. This can be applied to a variety of situations. We can doubt God’s Word that He will provide for all our needs (cf. Matt. 6:33). We can doubt God’s Word that He will be with us all the time (cf. Matt. 28:20). The list could go on, but I think we get the picture. We must guard our hearts against unbelief.


[1] Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 404.

Who is the first and chiefest being?

(Originally posted at warriorcreek.org, used with permission)

Today we begin a new series through the Baptist Catechism. Unfortunately, when many hear (or, in this case, read) the word catechism they think of Roman Catholics. This, as I said, is unfortunate, for the Church has historically used catechisms to teach children and adults the theology of the Scriptures. (If you are interested in looking into the history of catechesis, I recommend this thesis: “A Historical Review of Catechesis: Development, Use, and Disuse” by John Kidd.)


Catechisms are structured differently. Some catechisms use the question and answer format (e.g., Baptist Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism). Others provide a detailed treatment of doctrine and practice (e.g., Catechism of the Catholic Church). Each week, we will look at one question and one answer (with the supporting Scripture). We will briefly discuss it, and provide a few suggestions for application.
I have a two-fold goal in working through the Catechism. First, I hope to increase our knowledge of the Scripture and the doctrine we derive from it. Second, I hope our lives increasingly conform to the holiness of God as revealed in His Word.

Without further ado, let us begin.

QUESTION AND ANSWER ONE


Question One: Who is the first and chiefest being?Answer One: God is the first and chiefest being.Supporting Scripture: Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; and Psalm 97:9
The question and answer provide the starting point for everything. We are introduced to God. He is described as the first and chiefest being. It is from God that everything else flows. Let’s examine this in a little more detail.


EXPLANATION

God is the First Being


God is the first, meaning He was present before anything else existed. Isaiah 44:6 and 48:12 both convey the same message: God is first and last. He existed before anything else, and He will outlast everything.


God is the Chiefest Being


Psalm 97:9 teaches us that God is “exalted far above all gods” (ESV). There is nothing that comes close to God. We will see the implications of this truth further into the Catechism (questions 47-86).


APPLICATION

This short question provides us with much to consider. Its brevity is profound because it packs a tremendous amount of truth into one question and answer (a theme that runs through the entire Catechism). We can ask ourselves if we truly believe this. How can we tell? Ask yourself the following questions:
· Does my life display that I believe God is the chiefest being? In other words, what do I spend my time thinking about, what do I do?· Does my life display that I worship Him? If He is the first and chiefest being, anything less than perfect worship and obedience is idolatry.


There are many more questions we could ask, but this is a great way to begin our look at the Baptist Catechism.

“But they should know better!”: A Lesson in Maturity and Patience

In Philippians 3:15, after a lengthy treatment discussing the supreme importance of following Jesus Christ, Paul writes, “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (ESV)

During my sermon preparation for Sunday, I was working through Calvin’s Commentaries and came across a much needed reminder, particular in the Church and the Academy. We need to display maturity and patience with others, regardless of their knowledge of biblical truth or lack thereof. (I am writing this now because, inevitably, someone will caution that this does not mean we should accept everything and be patient with false doctrine. I hope that this is self-evident, because Scripture does balance this out, for example, see Titus 3:9-11).

On this verse, Calvin writes, “Let us in the mean time learn also from this passage, that we must bear for a time with ignorance in our weak brethren, and forgive them, if it is not given them immediately to be altogether of one mind with us. Paul felt assured as to his doctrine, and yet he allows those who could not as yet receive it time to make progress, and he does not cease on that account to regard them as brethren, only he cautions them against flattering themselves in their ignorance.” (Calvin, Philippians, 104)

Several points deserve our attention.

The Mature

First, consider the maturity of Paul, and those who accept his teachings. It is assumed that their life and doctrine are inline with Scripture. It makes sense, then, that those who know and live God’s Word would be the most patient with others. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some individuals who are highly qualified (intellectually speaking) are some of the most impatient and hard people. Intellectual capacity does not bring maturity. Maturity includes a grasp of the doctrines of Scripture and a life that matches (cf. Ezra 7:10).

The Patient

Second, consider the patience displayed by the mature. Paul does not berate them for failing to understand his teachings (even Peter had a difficult time, 2 Pet. 3:16). He simply assumes that, as they grow, their knowledge of the Scriptures (as evidenced by Phil. 3:16). When we have grasped a certain doctrine, or view of Scripture, we need to be patient with those who may have a harder time (or, slower, as the case may be). It is a common joke (though true, all-to-often) that when individuals embrace the Doctrines of Grace that they become “cage-stage-Calvinists.”

That is, they want to convert everyone to their views and display little patience for those who view Scripture differently. We need to follow Paul’s example and be patient with people. It takes time for people to mature with regards to their lives and their grasp of biblical doctrine. There is a reason that men and women of godly character disagree. We are finite, fallen creatures glorious saved and wisely grown in this life, with various backgrounds, cultures, and educational opportunities. As a result, it changes how we view Scripture. Just as we did not believe everything in Scripture immediately upon our salvation, we should not expect any different from others.

The Trusting

Third, and finally, maturity and patience is strengthened by God. Paul says, “God will reveal that also to you.” Paul was displaying faith, not in his ability to communicate, nor in his hearers’ ability to comprehend, but in God. He trusted that God would do with His children what He thought best and when He thought best (Phil. 1:6). When discussing differences in theological views, let us trust that God will grow us as He sees fit. While we still engage in theological discussion (Prov. 27:17), these should be engaged with, you guessed it, maturity and patience, all the while displaying faith that God will grow us.

Where do we go now?

We have looked at Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. We looked at Scripture, discussed the practicality and biblical essence of each mark. Now what?

We need to heed James’ advice, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV) In other words, we need to get busy!

How can we do this? What practical steps can we put in place to begin this journey to a healthy church? Here are a few practical things we can do, generally speaking.

First, begin by addressing one mark now. Do not wait to do it, start now! There truly is no time like the present. Part of what you do will depend on your position. If you are a deacon, you will have a greater responsibility (and ability) to further healthy change. Whatever your position, you must do something. It may involve you studying Scripture and sharing it with others. It may be asking questions in a meeting. Whatever it is, start now (and start with one). There is a biblical precedent for this in 2 Pet. 1:5-8.

Second, seek to master one mark. What do I mean? If you desire to renew a commitment to biblical church membership, read books about it. Study the Scripture passages that discuss it. Be a “church membership” expert. What this will do is provide you with the knowledge to help others (a biblical concept as well, see 1 Tim. 1:5, 4:6).

Third, challenge others! The writer of Hebrews states it like this, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24, NASB). They may desire to focus on another area of church health (such as biblical theology). That does not matter, cheer them on to search it out!

We asked at the beginning, “Can a church be healthy?” I hope that it is evident, now, that the answer is “YES!” The church can be healthy. Now the question before us is, “Is my church healthy?” You can answer that with a “YES!” as well, but you have to get to work!

Can depression be spiritual?

introduction

“There is no soundness in my flesh…there is no health in my bones…My wounds stink and fester…I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.”—David (Psalm 38:2-10, ESV)

Many people, upon reading David’s words, would assume that he has depression.  In fact, if a doctor heard these words, they would probably start filling out a prescription for antidepressants.[1] In fact, in one study, researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found that “the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988-1994 and 2005-2008).”[2]

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While I am not against medication, I think it is unfortunate that many people simply assume it is a physical problem without addressing any other potential issues.[3] This is a failure on part of our physicians and pastors (and, believers in general). What do I mean by that?

We have been discussing depression, and our last discussion focused on physical issues related to depression. Science and Scripture, rather than disagreeing with one another, actually demonstrate the affects our bodies can have on our emotions. But this does not address the whole issue, because human beings are more than simply physical bodies.

In this post, we will introduce the spiritual aspect of depression. We covered this briefly in another post, but for now I want to describe the spiritual make up of humanity, because it has enormous ramifications for how we understand and “treat” depression.

Back to the Beginning

We read about the creation of the first man, Adam, in Genesis 2:5-7. God used “the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” and as a result, “the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7, ESV). We see that human beings are comprised of body (physical) and soul (spiritual).[4]

Photo by Ono Kosuki on Pexels.com

There are, then, two sources of depression to the human being: physical and spiritual. In other words, we fail to address depression fully if we neglect the spiritual. Turning our attention back to David, we fill in the dots and find an interesting addition to our understanding.

2 For your arrows have sunk into me,

and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh

because of your indignation;

there is no health in my bones

because of my sin.

For my iniquities have gone over my head;

like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester

because of my foolishness,

I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;

all the day I go about mourning.

For my sides are filled with burning,

and there is no soundness in my flesh.

I am feeble and crushed;

I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;

my sighing is not hidden from you.

10  My heart throbs; my strength fails me,

and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

Do you see the difference? While it is not always the source of the depression, in many cases, sin lies at the root of human depression. In David’s case, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, lied to his friend Uriah, and ultimately had Uriah murdered (see 2 Sam. 11-12). His sin brought about this severe depression. I agree with Adams’ sentiments when he writes, “Sin leads to guilt and depression, sinful handling of sin further complicates matters leading to greater guilt and deeper depression, ad infinitum.[5]

Depression can definitively be spiritual. In our next post, we will discuss sin in greater detail. We will examine what sin is and then look at how to address it. Finally, we will look at the way sin brings about and contributes to depression specifically.


[1] On a personal level, my wife, who was taking antidepressants at the time, went to talk with her doctor about weaning herself off the medication. When my wife began telling the doctor about her struggles with depression the doctor interrupted her and said she could prescribe her some antidepressants. She would be wise to review Proverbs 18:13 (the doctor, not my wife!).

[2] Peter Wehrwein, “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans, Harvard Health Blog, 20 October 2011, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/astounding-increase-in-antidepressant-use-by-americans-201110203624, accessed 17 March 2021.

[3] I disagree with Jay Adams at this point. He writes, “The hope for depressed persons, as elsewhere, lies in this: the depression is the result of the counselee’s sin.” See Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 378. I believe that Adams fails to consider the fallen aspects of the human body, with the resulting corruption of our emotional states. Though not exhaustive, a pastor friend of mine, Ryan Davidson, has written on this topic. See J. Ryan Davidson, Thinking Through Anxiety: A Brief Christian Look (Warrendale, PA: Ichthus Publications, 2017). I also found Dan Wickert’s comments helpful, “A second question I consider is, ‘How are you handling life on the medication?’ Are they handling the normal problems of life in a biblical, God-honoring way while they are on the medication? If not, then taking them off the medication usually will not help the counselee to please God.” See Dan Wickert, “’Mary’ and Paralyzing Fear,” in Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2015), 121.

[4] For a brief discussion of the division of human beings (i.e., dichotomy or trichotomy), see Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, 9, footnote 2.  

[5] Ibid., 377.

What is church growth?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word discipleship? I am sure that there are many different images that pop into the minds of those considering this thought. Perhaps there are some who envisage a Buddhist monk with his disciples in the mountains alone. Or, there may be some that think of a cult, where the leader is surrounded by her faithful devotees. Whatever picture comes to your mind, it is important that we consider this question in light of the church.

God has called, equipped, and empowered His children to carry out the Great Commission. This mission entails the church going and making disciples. That is, after all, the last command of Jesus before His ascension. “Go therefore,” he said, “and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:18, ESV)
As we consider the health of the church, discipleship and growth are part of the purpose of the church. Mark Dever gives us the importance of this to the health of the church when he writes, “A healthy church is characterized by a serious concern for spiritual growth on the part of its members. In a healthy church, people want to get better at following Jesus Christ.”[1]

Unfortunately, many churches have forsaken this key aspect of their existence in favor of programs, or shows, and many other issues. If we are to be a healthy church, we need to focus on discipleship. That means people coming and growing. Dever writes, “In the New Testament we find the idea of a growth that involves not just more people but people who are growing up, maturing, and deepening in the faith.”[2] He cites Ephesians 4:15-16, where Paul writes, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (ESV)
As all want our churches to grow, but as we seek numerical growth we must work and pray for spiritual growth. This does not happen because of one pastor (the Scriptures actually teach that each church should be led by multiple pastors, or, elders, but that will come at another time), it happens because the church works toward that purpose. Notice Paul’s words, “we are to grow up in every way….by every joint….when each part is working properly…” These are not statements referring to one individual. They are collective terms. This brings up several questions we should all consider:


· Am I helping others grow?

· Am I consistently attending and pouring into others’ lives?

· Am I open to correction and rebuke when necessary?

· What gifts has the Lord blessed me with to build His church?

There are many more questions we could ask, but spend time thinking and praying through them. It will help the church, fulfill the commandments of Jesus, and help us all grow.


Dever also provides what he terms “A biblical practice of growth.”[3] His list includes the following: expositional preaching, biblical theology, a biblical understanding of the gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of church membership, a biblical understanding of church discipline, and a biblical understanding of church leadership.[4] Since we have already discussed many of these before, I will not reiterate them.


However, I hope that you can see how each one is like a piece of the puzzle. They are all necessary for the church to be healthy, and they are all interconnected and mutually dependent. How can we hope to work on all of these simultaneously?


I would venture to work as a physician. They do not tell a patient with multiple areas of concern to start everything at once. They begin with one thing and then move on from there. That is good advice for us in the church context. While all of these are important and necessary, it is too overwhelming for us to do all of them at once. I suggest that you pick one that you would like to focus on personally, and then the Lord will work as He sees fit.


Let us grow, and seek to grow, for the rest of our lives, all for the glory of God!


[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 198. [2] Dever, 202. [3] Ibid., 205. [4] Ibid., 205-211.

What is church discipline?

(Post originally published at Warrior Creek Baptist Church. Used with permission.)

Paul, after describing an incestuous relationship permitted in the church, tells the Corinthian believers, “When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 5:4-5, ESV)

This word from Paul bites the ears of the present-day believer. It is unimaginable to the church growth guru. It is unthinkable to the civilized, well-to-do churchgoer. It is detestable in our inclusive culture. What is Paul thinking?

Paul is thinking about church discipline. Not unlike a doctor setting a bone, the church works to keep the holiness growing. Along similar lines Mark Dever writes, “Church discipline sounds like a pretty negative topic, I admit…When we hear of discipline, we tend to think of correction or of a spanking; we think of our parents when we were little…We should all, without hesitation, admit our need for discipline, our need for shaping…Once we have come to that admission, however, notice that much of discipline is positive discipline, or as it is traditionally called, ‘formative discipline.’”[1]

Dever is absolutely correct about our aversion to church discipline. But if desire to be a healthy church (i.e., a biblical church), we do not have a choice regarding discipline. We need to understand that it is, indeed, biblical. From there we can see how churches can practice discipline. As we work through the Scriptures, please keep in mind Dever’s distinguishing remarks. We are engaging in formative discipline, which aims at restoration and growth (a biblical goal, by the way!).

THE BIBLICAL BASIS OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE

In his chapter on church discipline, Dever lists the following references: Heb. 12:1-14, Matt. 8:15-17, 1 Cor. 5:1-11, Gal. 6:1, 2 Thess. 3:6-15, 1 Tim. 1:20, 5:19-20, Titus 3:9-11. We cannot look at all of these (well, I guess we could, but statistics show that you would stop reading before we were halfway through!). We will use one to demonstrate the biblical basis for church discipline.

Matthew 18:15-17 (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-11) provides the direct commandments of Messiah Jesus for handling offenses (i.e., sin) in the church context.


15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that atthe testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. (NET)

Several key points stand out:
· It is in the context of Christian relationship (i.e., “brother)· It involves sin· The goal is restoration (“If he listens to you, you have regained your brother”)· It involves consistent refusal to repent (one on one, one plus one-to-two witnesses on one, church on one) The other passages cited by Dever either branch off of this basic treatment or expand it. For example, for the goal of restoration, after warning against fellowshipping with an unrepentant offender, Paul tells the church “Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Thess. 3:15, NET)

The Scriptures are unanimous on the need for, the goal of, and the manner in which church discipline is to be practiced.

THE PRACTICE OF CHURCH DISCIPLINE


How, then, does a church actually discipline? This is a great question, and it requires a lengthy response. To begin with, as we discuss church discipline, we must always keep in mind the restorative aspect of it (or, what Dever refers to as “formative discipline”). It is not meant to be a mace with which to bludgeon church members. If we forget this, then we risk practicing a biblical tenant in an unbiblical way.
Second, the majority of churches (well-established churches in particular) have some form of discipline written in their constitutions and/or by-laws. I have been a member at eight churches, and each church lays out the process of church discipline. This is excellent for at least two reasons. First, it provides the biblical plan for church discipline prior to the need to practice it. Second, it protects the church from potential litigation.
Third, and this is key, churches must practice church discipline. Though churches desire a growing membership and attendance, they cannot ignore the biblical need for formative discipline. The church has been commissioned by the Lord Jesus to make disciples (see Matt. 28:18-20). A failure to practice church discipline is a failure to make disciples. Of course, this is unacceptable. However, churches that fail to practice church discipline, besides disobeying their Lord, also weaken the membership. “A little yeast affects the whole batch,” Paul writes to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 5:6, NET). In other words, a little sin affects the whole church.

Where do we go from here? I think it would be helpful to provide teaching on the matter first. In other words, address it from the passages in which it appears, make mention of it through conversations, and ensure the leadership understands its importance and necessity. Second, begin actively discipling now. In other words, if churches were more concerned about the spiritual health of their members then many of the issues requiring discipline would be prevented. Third, actually practice it when needed.
A church that disciplines, in a biblical and healthy way, is a healthier church.


[1] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 168-169.

The Hermeneutical Triad: A Case Study of Κοσμος in 1 John

THE HERMENEUTICAL TRIAD: A CASE STUDY OF Κόσμος IN 1 JOHN

By Bobby Howell

Introduction

In their monumental work, Köstenberger and Patterson discuss what they call the “hermeneutical triad.”[1] This triad, the authors claim, provides the interpreter with a framework through which proper interpretation can take place, and from which theological consistency and doctrinal substance can spring. They remark, “While discerning the spiritual message of Scripture—theology—is the ultimate goal of biblical interpretation, an appreciation of the historical-cultural background of a particular text and a proper understanding of its literary features are essential.”[2] In other words, theology, as it is connected with biblical interpretation, is not possible without the hermeneutical triad.

What these two men are discussing is the importance of considering three aspects to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).[3] These three features are history, literature, and theology.

The Importance of History in Interpretation

It is vital to grasp the historical setting if one is to interpret Scripture correctly. Köstenberger and Patterson write, “In order for the interpretation of Scripture to be properly grounded, it is vital to explore the historical setting of a scriptural passage.”[4] The books comprising the Scriptures are historical. They were written by individuals at particular points of time, in exact cultures, at precise moments of antiquity. Thus, “every book in the Bible also has historical particularity.”[5]

Without a proper view of the historical context in which a text has been given, it is impossible to interpret it accurately. For example, without considering the historical setting of Philippians 4:13, one can easily attempt to apply Paul’s statement to any difficult situation one may face. Understanding that Paul was a prisoner of the Roman empire in a position in total dependence on other’s generosity helps one understand his point. He needed to be content in “whatever situation I am” (Phil. 4:13, ESV).[6] The context also limits the application, however, this in no way diminishes the importance of historical data.[7]

The Importance of Literature in Interpretation

“In keeping with the bedrock hermeneutical principle of interpreting the parts in light of the whole, we will proceed from the larger canonical framework to the literary genre and from there to specific linguistic features of various passages of Scripture,” write Köstenberger and Patterson.[8]

Their threefold division of literature importance can be illustrated in the table below:

Division of Literature for Biblical Interpretation
CanonGenreVarious Passages

            There are three aspects of this step within biblical interpretation. The first deals with the canon of Scripture. This step is helpfully defined by F.F. Bruce. He describes this step as “the interpretation of individual components of the canon in the context of the canon as a whole.”[9] Thus, one work (e.g., John’s first epistle), is interpreted in light of the rest of Scripture. Berkhof’s words are helpful at this point, “The Bible was not made, but grew, and the composition of its several books marks the stages of its progressive development. It is, in the last analysis, the product of a single mind, the embodiment of a single fruitful principle, branching out in various directions. The different parts of it are mutually dependent, and are all together subservient to the organism as a whole.”[10] The first step seeks to interpret the specific passage in light of the grand theme of Scripture.[11]

            The second step addresses the literary genre of the individual book or passage.[12] This step of the interpretative process examines the genre in which the passage resides. Köstenberger and Patterson state, “…these features—biblical genres or types of literature—are historical narrative, poetry and wisdom, and prophecy in the Old Testament, and historical narrative, parable, epistle, and apocalyptic in the New.”[13] Vanhoozer provides a brief definition, “A ‘genre’ (from the Latin genus, ‘kind’) is a species of literature.”[14] Utilizing the analogy of a map, Vanhoozer describes the importance of understanding genre, writing, “Each genre has its own ‘key’ and ‘scale.’ The ‘key’ explains what a text is about…. each genre has its own ‘scale,’ that is, its own conventions for thinking and its own manner of fitting words to the world.”[15] In other words, one must know the genre of the passage (i.e., poetry or narrative) to understand a said passage.

            The final step in the hermeneutical triad deals with the specific passage. There is much that factors into this step.[16] Briefly, the interpreter addresses the discourse, words, and their relationships to arrive at the intended meaning of the author.[17]

The Importance of Theology in Interpretation

            The third point in the hermeneutical triad is theology. Köstenberger and Patterson express this step as “the third and crowning aspect of the hermeneutical triad, theology.”[18] The authors make it clear that this third step applies what is learned from the first two steps in the form of doctrine. They write, “Doctrine is often viewed as a lifeless listing of a creed or confessional statement and contrasted with a vital spiritual first-hand experience of God….it is vital that we make sure that we derive our theology from the Bible rather than imposing our own preferred viewpoints onto Scripture.”[19] There is a need, then, to interpret the Scripture in light of the Scriptures. As the two authors note, “biblical theology is theology that is biblical, or, in other words, theology that is derived from the Bible rather than imposed onto the Bible by a given interpreter of Scripture.”[20]

            The third point, biblical theology, must maintain, at the very least, “two considerations.”[21] These are that it must be “historical” and “on its own terms.[22] Biblical theology develops doctrines organically, as Vos helpfully remarks, “It [biblical theology] exhibits the organic growth of the truths of Special Revelation.”[23]

Summary

            The hermeneutical triad developed by Andreas Köstenberger and Richard Patterson is “a compass will ensure that Bible students stay on track in their interpretive journey.”[24] With this brief introduction to the hermeneutical triad, it is now time to apply it to a book of Scripture, namely, 1 John, and in particular, John’s use of the word κόσμος.

The Hermeneutical Triad: A Case Study of Κόσμος in 1 John

Having discussed the major points of the hermeneutical triad, it is now time to apply these principles to a case study. John routinely uses the word κόσμος in his literature.[25] Not only will this result in a right interpretation of John’s first letter, as well as Johannine literature in general, but it will also yield further fruit in the theological understanding of κόσμος from a biblical-theological point of view. The apostle John wrote the first epistle that bears his name “somewhere between a.d. 85 and 100.”[26] Though this is debatable, it helps narrow the composition of this letter to the later part of his life. This allows the interpreter to discover the historical setting of the book. John, though unnamed in the epistle, discusses a variety of issues, such as assurance of salvation and the outworking of salvation.[27]

At the time of John’s first epistle, the church has been through a period of growth and persecution.[28] As the gospel expands beyond the boundaries of Israel, the church strives against physical persecution, but it also fought against theological errors.[29] Thus, many letters were written by the apostles encouraging endurance in the face of persecution as well as adherence to the apostolic faith.[30] John’s letter has several purposes, as noted by Akin, “To promote true joy in the child of God,” “To prevent the child of God from committing sin,” “To protect the child of God from false teachers,” and “To provide assurance of salvation for the child of God.”[31]

Furthermore, John was Jewish, the son of a fisherman.[32] His writings, in both his gospel account and his letters, demonstrate a knowledge of the Jewish faith.[33] Additionally, John demonstrates a deep understanding of the complexities of the faith.[34]

All of this information factors into one’s understanding of John’s letters, specifically 1 John. Köstenberger and others describe the letter in this way, “Since 1 John does not refer to specific names and places, contains little mention of specific events, and is general in its teaching, it seems that John focused on important truths of brad relevance to address as many believers as possible.”[35] This general destination, then, allows the reader to understand John is broadly addressing doctrine and warning.

Κόσμος in Johannine Literature

            A brief examination of the historical setting and genre of literature has been offered. It is now time to address the third point of the hermeneutical triad: theology. The focus is on the word κόσμος. To begin with, what does κόσμος mean? It is found frequently in John’s writing, one hundred and five times, according to Enns.[36] There are eight possible definitions presented by Arndt and Gingrich.[37] These range from a simple “adornment” to “the planet upon which we live.”[38]

It seems that there are four primary usages in John’s literature. In several instances, John uses κόσμος to describe “the world as the earth, the planet upon which we live.”[39] This usage is used in a general sense, to describe “the habitation of mankind,” and “in contrast to heaven.”[40] John also uses the word to refer to “mankind,” in a universal way as well as a comprehensive way.[41] A third way that John uses κόσμος is “as the scene of earthly joys, possessions, cares, sufferings.”[42] The final and fourth way that John uses this word is to describe “the world, and everything that belongs to it appears as that which is at enmity w. God, i.e. lost in sin, wholly at odds w. anything divine, ruined and depraved.”[43] These usages, and select references, are displayed in Table 2.

The Four Usages of Κόσμος in Johannine Literature
Κόσμος as planetJohn 6:14; 9:39; 11:9, 27; 16:21, 28a; 18:37
Κόσμος as humanityJohn 1:29; 3:17b; 8:12; 9:5; 17:6; 1 John 4:14
Κόσμος as material possessions1 John 3:17
Κόσμος as opposition to GodJohn 12:31b; 14:30; 16:11; 1 John 4:4; 5:19

This list is not exhaustive. However, it does offer a wide range of usage by the apostle. With this foundation laid, it is time to evaluate the word as found within the first epistle. From this research, the theological implications can be displayed following the entirety of the Scriptures. As a result, the hermeneutical triad will be displayed in the research.

Κόσμος in 1 John

            From Table 2, one can see that there are four usages of κόσμος in the first epistle of John. Each occurrence will be examined to determine which definition is intended. After this examination, the findings will be summarized within this epistle. Theological implications will then be presented. After this, a framework for understanding the entirety of Scripture will be offered with pertinent examples.

1 John 2:2

1 John 2:2 describes the atoning death of Jesus “not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Colin Kruse offers a helpful summary of John’s thoughts, “In the present context it [the world] means the unbelieving world. Christ’s atoning sacrifice was made not only for ‘our’ sins (i.e., believers’ sins) but also for the sins of the unbelieving world.”[44] This usage will fall under the second category in Table 2, “κόσμος as humanity.” According to Ardnt and Gingrich, this would be classified as “the world as mankind…gener.”[45] While this is much debate surrounding the extent of the atonement, for present purposes, John’s usage of κόσμος refers to humanity.[46]

1 John 2:15-17

The next occurrence of κόσμος is found in 1 John 2:15-17. John warns his readers, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” Κόσμος appears six times in these three verses. There is one usage as will be shown.

John uses κόσμος to refer to that which opposes God. This is seen in all three verses.[47] W.E. Vines provides another definition of this usage, stating it refers to “the present condition of human affairs, in alienation from and opposition to God.”[48] Two key points help clarify the legitimacy of this rendering. First, the context demonstrates a contrast between followers of God and what Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles refer to as “secessionists.”[49] MacLeod further clarifies this when he writes, “He has been writing to them [i.e., God’s children], not about them. He is addressing his readers as genuine believers who possess a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”[50] John’s letter has contrasted the children of God with those who oppose God regularly. Table 3 demonstrates this contrast through the first two chapters of this epistle.

The Contrasts of God’s Children with those who oppose God in 1 John Chapters 1-2
Description of God’s ChildrenDescription of Those Who Oppose God
Light (1:5)Darkness (1:5-7)
Confessed Sin (1:9)Unconfessed Sin (1:8, 10)
Keep God’s Commandments (2:3, 5-6)Failure to Keep God’s Commandments (2:4)
Love Brothers and Sisters (2:10)Hates Brothers and Sisters (2:9, 11)
Love for the Father (2:15)Love for the World (2:15-16)
Faithfulness to God (2:19)Unfaithfulness to God (2:19)
Anointing by the Holy One (2:20)Denier of the Holy One (2:22-23)
Authentic Faith (2:27)Counterfeit Faith (2:26-27)

It is apparent, then, that John is using κόσμος in contrast with God.

Akin reminds the reader of a second important factor that it is important to consider John’s use of κόσμος, writing, “The difference is found in the way John uses the term kosmos in each instance. Contextual considerations are crucial.”[51] As has been referenced (see Table 2), the context provides the reader with the necessary information in determining his intended usage. Hiebert notes this as well, writing, “The term basically denotes order, arrangement (the opposite of chaos), and hence an orderly system. It could be used to denote the earth (John 21:25), or the world of mankind (John 3:16) in its various organizations and systems. But because of the fallen nature of the human race, the term predominantly has an ethical import, the human race in its alienation from and opposition to God.”[52] Without dismissing the general idea, Hiebert focuses on the contextual usage.[53]

1 John 3:1

            In 1 John 3:1 John writes, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”The greater context of this epistle provides insight into the continual use of comparison between the children of God and the “secessionists.”[54] Again, the use of the hermeneutical triad provides immediate benefit to the work of the interpreter. One is reminded of this at the beginning of chapter two, “In order for the interpretation of Scripture to be properly grounded, it is vital to explore the historical setting of a scriptural passage, including any culture background features.”[55]

            However, it is equally important to consider the grammatical clues that limit the definition to a singular focus. Berkhof reminds readers of this important step, writing, “The interpreter must determine whether the words are used in their general or in one of their special significations, whether they are employed in a literal or in a figurative sense.”[56] John is contrasting the children of God and “the world.” At least two grammatical indicators limit his usage to that system that opposes God. In this verse, “ὁ κόσμος” is functioning as the subject of this clause. First, the usage of the phrase “διὰ τοῦτο” indicates a causal clause.[57] In other words, John explains why “ὁ κόσμος” fails to “know” God, as demonstrated in the failure of “ὁ κόσμος” to know the children of God. Though “a difference of opinion exists as to the antecedent of the pronoun in dia touto (‘for this reason’ or ‘on account of this’),” this in no way obfuscates John’s intended usage of “ὁ κόσμος.”[58] He is clearly describing a group of individuals living in opposition to God.

            Another significant grammatical clue that demonstrates this usage is the surrounding context. Akin rightly states, “This latter view appears to be more appropriate in the immediate context. The child of God is unknown by the world because they have different fathers (i.e., God and Satan).”[59] This discussion of two fathers takes place in 3:7-10. John describes the origins of the two groups (i.e., children of God and children of the devil) with the repeated use of “ἐκ.” That preposition is used four times in 3:7-10. Once it is used in connection with the devil, while the other three occurrences connect to God.[60] Concerning the phrase “ἐκ τοῦ διαβόλου,” which in verse 8 is used as a predicate nominative, Wuest writes, “‘Of’, is ek, ‘out of,’ used with the ablative case, gives us the ablative of source. That is, his sinful propensities, issuing from his totally depraved nature inherited from Adam, find their ultimate source in the devil who brought about the downfall of our first parents.”[61] John’s usage, then, seems clear. He is referring to the group that opposes God.

1 John 3:13

            In this verse, connected to the overall context of chapter three specifically, and John’s epistle generally, the apostle exhorts his readers to not be surprised “εἰ μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ κόσμος,” literally, “if [he] hates you [plural] the world.” Structurally, this is a first-class condition.[62] Though this has obvious implications, the focus remains on John’s use of “ὁ κόσμος.”[63] Contextually, it is connected with the surrounding context (see notes on 1 John 3:1). Akin connects this usage of the world with those who oppose God, writing, “John uses the word “world” (kosmos) here as he did in 2:15, indicating that evil is an organized system in opposition to God and under the control of the devil.”[64] Furthermore, the verb that John uses to describe the connection between “ὁ κόσμος” with “ἀδελφοί,” is powerful. The verb is “μισεῖ,” is a present, active, indicative, singular verb. It means “To strongly dislike or have aversion toward someone or something that usually results in separation between the one who hates and the thing hated.[65] It was noted above that the world has an innate hostility toward God.[66] Again, by following the guidelines within the hermeneutical triad, the interpreter is enabled to see the intended meaning by the apostle John.

1 John 3:17

            Continuing his discussion on love and hate (3:11-15), John begins a new section joining the love demonstrated by Jesus (vs. 16) with the love expected of His followers (vs. 17). John writes, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17) This verse presents several important issues to consider.

            To begin with, one could attempt to link John’s usage of “τοῦ κόσμου” with his usage in 3:7-10 and 13. That is, the interpreter could view this as a connection with the world as a system opposing God. However, this would be a fallacy. One must be careful not to engage in the “word study fallacy.”[67] Carson correctly notes, “the heart of the issue is that semantics, meaning, is more than the meaning of words. It involves phrases, sentences, discourse, genre, style.”[68] This is another instance of the importance of engaging the hermeneutical triad. The interpreter must consider the literature of a given book, and even within that book the differences in style and structure. To be specific, this involves syntax.[69] Through a study of John’s usage of κόσμος, one can readily see that, even in this brief epistle, John uses it in at least four ways (see Table 2). This eliminates the potential rendering of the world’s system.[70] However, returning to John’s statements, one can see another syntactical piece of information that provides further clarification to his particular usage. “Tοῦ κόσμου” is in the genitive case. Although there are difficulties in interpreting this case, one can see that John’s use here is not as problematic to determine.[71] “Tοῦ κόσμου” is modifying “τὸν βίον,” functioning adjectivally in an attributive way.[72] In other words, “it is goods of the world,” or “worldly goods.”[73] Furthermore, the context makes this clear. This demonstrates that John is referring to material possessions.

1 John 4:1-6

            This section provides six occurrences of κόσμος. It is found in verse 1 (once), 3 (once), 4 (once), and 5 (three times). These will be addressed in order. John writes in 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How does John employ “τὸν κόσμον”? The case he uses is the accusative case. One immediately notices that it is the object of the preposition “εἰς.” Since εἰς only takes accusative objects, one needs to determine why John is employing this prepositional phrase. Considering the entire sentence (4:1), the only possible usage is spatial.[74] In other words, it is the location to which the “many false prophets” go.

            The question remains, “Which usage is John utilizing?” It seems material possessions can be ruled out easily. This leaves three possibilities: the world as the planet, the world as humans, and the world as the system opposed to God. Barker seems to have the world as a system in mind.[75] Akin provides additional details when he writes, “These false prophets have the world, that evil system under Satan’s control that opposes God, as their stage; and the scope of their influence and work includes all of humanity.”[76]

            Considering these two sources, it seems probable that John is referring to the world as that system opposed to God. But are there grammatical or syntactical clues that lead to this conclusion? There are several issues to consider. First, the context mirrors John’s comments in 2:18-28.[77] The parallels are as follows:

Parallels of 1 John 2:18-28 and 4:1-6
1 John 2:18-281 John 4:1-6
Antichrist is coming and antichrists have comeSpirit of antichrist is coming and false prophets are already present
Antichrists eventually separate from true believersFalse prophets have gone out into the world (i.e., separation)
Antichrists deny Jesus as MessiahFalse prophets do not acknowledge Jesus
Believers know God through the anointing of the SpiritBelievers demonstrate saving relationship through acknowledgement that Jesus is from God

Structurally, then, it is evident that the same line of thinking is present in chapter four as it was in chapter three.[78]

            Second, another key indicating factor is John’s use of “ἐξεληλύθασιν.” The word means “go out; come out.”[79] It is significant considering John’s constant employment of the preposition “ἐκ.” John uses ἐκ to draw a distinction of origin between the children of God and the children of the devil (3:7-10). It would seem that grammatically speaking, John is again distinguishing between God’s children and children of the devil. However, care must be taken not to draw too much from this point. In fact, rather than strengthen the view of several scholars, it seems that John is using “τὸν κόσμον” to refer to the humanity, and specifically lost humanity.[80] Kruse confirms this when he writes, “This [gone out into the world] is an allusion to those who left the community, the secessionists, who deny the incarnation (cf. v. 2; 2:18-19,22), and it implies that their affinity is now with the unbelieving world, not the Christian community.”[81]

            After writing about the test in verse 3, John then provides additional information about the spirit of the antichrist in verse 4. This spirit, as he writes, “is already in the world.” John uses the prepositional phrase “ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ” to define the location of the spirit’s presence. It seems evident that John is using this phrase in a “spatial” manner.[82] As with his use in 4:1, one must determine which world to which he is referring. Similar grammatical and syntactical clues are present in 4:3 as they were in 4:1. Kruse provides a clarifying statement, “The spirit of antichrist, the devil (cf. John 12:31), who is active in the inhabited world.”[83] Thus, he takes John using “τῷ κόσμῳ” to refer to the “inhabited world,” as in the world of humanity. Akin does not address this specifically. John Anderson describes this usage in two ways: the system opposed to God or the collective of humanity.[84] While that is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, it seems more likely that John is using this to refer to the inhabited world, including both God’s and the devil’s children.[85]

            Verse 4 contrasts “the one who is in you” and “the one who is in the world.” The difference lies in John’s consistent distinction between God and the devil. He does so by using similar wording and order.

ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν

ὁ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ

To which world is John referring? There are two possibilities: the world as the system opposed to God and the world as humanity. One key aspect to determine the usage is the two uses of “ὁ.” They are distinguished by the modifying prepositional phrases, “ἐν ὑμῖν” and “ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ,” respectively. It is used in its “spatial” sense.[86] The contrasts that have appeared in John’s letter also provide further evidence that John is discussing, not only two sources (i.e., God and the devil), but also two people groups (i.e., children of God and children of the devil). Anderson notes, “It [τῷ κόσμῳ] refers to all that is hostile to God. The word is used here in its moral sense rather than as a location.”[87] While Kruse takes a broader definition, it seems clear that, from the specific distinction between God’s and the devil’s people.[88] Akin seems to agree with Anderson when he writes, “The world is the devil’s domain, and its philosophy is an expression of his values and agenda.”[89]

            The next verse provides additional information for the false prophets. John writes, “They [i.e., the false prophets from 4:1] are from the world and therefore they speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” This verse provides two uses of κόσμος. The first use, which is found in the first two appearances (“ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου” and “ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου”) refers to the world as a system opposing God. Within the specific context (i.e., 4:1-6), the false prophets are distinguished from the children of God. This, in turn, provides a greater degree of certainty that this is the worldly hostility to God. Anderson provides a detailed overview when he pens, “It is a metonymy for the customs, culture, and philosophy of unregenerated mankind, who live in the world and who are hostile to the concepts from God. It is the sinful principle found in sinful mankind. It is all that is ruled by the devil.”[90]

            In other words, the origin of the false prophets is that system in complete opposition to God.[91] Likewise, their speech reflects this hatred toward God. Anderson notes, “It indicates that the source of their ideas comes from the viewpoint of the culture and philosophy of the world around them.”[92] “They speak continually (lalousin, present tense) from the world,” writes Akin.[93] While the children of God hold to the incarnation of Christ, the false prophets operate within the realm of the world.

            Those inhabitants of the world “listens to them.” This is the second usage referring to humanity, specifically unsaved humanity.[94] There is a circular line of thinking that John presents. The people of the world speak in the worldly language to the inhabitants of the world, all reflective of the hatred toward God.

1 John 4:9, 14, 17

            In verse nine, John describes the salvific effort of God by sending Jesus through His incarnation. This takes place in a physical location, i.e., the world. There are three possibilities. John could be using this word to describe the inhabited world. Likewise, he could also use it to describe the planet. Finally, John could use it as that which opposes God.

The third interpretation is unlikely. First, John adds the phrase “that we might live through him.” John includes himself with the believers, separating themselves from the unsaved world.[95] Second, it seems evident that considering John’s consistent comparison of the children of God and the children of the devil seems to rule out any savable aspect of this system of the world.  This leaves the first two definitions as possibilities.

Though the earth is possible, the general context of 1 John seems to rule this usage out of place. Though the creation will be restored (cf. Rom. 8:22-25), the primary focus of Scripture in general, and 1 John in particular, is on God’s people.[96] Thus, John is employing “τὸν κόσμον” to refer to the inhabited world (i.e., humanity).

This same usage is found in verse fourteen as well.       Barker adds clarity to this, writing, “Therefore, since there is such a close connection between seeing and testifying and the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is likely that the author meant his words to include his readers and to be applied to all Christians throughout history.”[97]

The inhabited world of humanity is also found in verse seventeen. John writes, “In this world we are like Jesus.” Though there is debate on what John meant by “we are like Jesus,” the intended meaning of “τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ” is clear.[98] It is the inhabited world, the location of human existence.

1 John 5:4-5

            In the final chapter of John’s epistle, there are four final usages of κόσμος, three appearing in 5:4-5. These two appearances have the same wording in verse four, “νικᾷ τὸν κόσμον” and “ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον.” The differences are in the controlling verb and verbal. “Νικᾷ” is a present, active, indicative, third person, singular verb. The verbal, “ἡ νικήσασα,” is an aorist, active, participle, singular, nominative, and feminine. The general idea is “conquer; overcome; prevail.[99] While there are implications for the verb and verbal, the focus is on the accusative noun found twice, “τὸν κόσμον.” Both uses function as direct objects of the verb and verbal, respectively.[100]

            This provides the grammatical foundation for understanding John’s usage as relating to that system that opposes God. There is conquering and there is the one conquered. The one conquered is that system in opposition to God.[101] Barker refers to it as “the kingdom of death.”[102]This same idea is present in verse five. The victory, “ἡ νίκη” is the belief in the incarnation, life, and ministry of Messiah.[103] That system, led by Satan, followed by unsaved humanity, and displayed through rebellion against God, will be overcome. That is John’s intended idea.

1 John 5:19

            There is one more appearance of κόσμος in this letter. John writes, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” In this section, John is issuing concluding comments summarizing his letter.[104] Continuing the distinguishing of believers and unbelievers, John once again discusses the origins of individuals and implications for life (5:18-20). The believer originates from God while unbelievers “[are] under the control of the evil one.” John uses “ὁ κόσμος” to describe them. There are at least two reasons to accept this usage.

            First, there is the contrast directly mentioned by John. There are children of God and children of the world.[105] There is a clear peculiarity between these two groups.[106] Second, the statement “the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” provides additional clarity to John’s intended meaning. The only two viable options are the world as humanity (limited to unsaved by the contrast), and the world as the system opposed to God. While the system has some potential, ultimately John ties the word to unsaved humanity.[107]

Conclusion

            Utilizing Köstenberger’s and Patterson’s hermeneutical triad, one can properly understand the varied uses of ὁ κόσμος in John’s first epistle. By briefly examining the historical background, the interpreter understands the regular contrast between God’s children and the secessionists. This information helps the interpreter also understand the diverse use of ὁ κόσμος. By discussing the genre, syntax, and grammar, additional clarification was gained. Finally, weaving the theological implications throughout the study offered further insight into the four-way use of ὁ κόσμος. By utilizing the hermeneutical triad, students of biblical interpretation can rightly understand the Word of God. This important task is highlighted by the authors when they write, “In the area of hermeneutics, this translates into fallacies arising from the neglect of the context, prooftexting, eisegesis, improper use of background information, and other similar shortcomings.”[108]

            Furthermore, the triad also provides insights into understanding ὁ κόσμος throughout the rest of Scripture. While there are four different ways John uses the word, the following two examples will focus exclusively on the world as a system opposing God.

            Beginning in Genesis chapter ten and running through the Scriptures until the book of Revelation, Babylon is used to describe the enemy of God. Mackintosh writes, “Not that we are to look upon the Babylon of the Old Testament Scripture as identical with the Babylon of the Apocalypse. By no means. I believe the former is a city; the latter, a system; but both the city and the system exert a powerful influence against God’s people.”[109] There is no doubt that historically speaking, Babylon was an ancient city.[110] However, as one employs the theological point of the triad one can see that the world is present, even in the first book of the Bible.[111]

            The second example is Egypt. Scripture demonstrates the importance of the Exodus event in the nation of Israel.[112] Scripture also contrasts God with Pharoah as representative of Egypt. Ryken, at the beginning of his treatment of the book of Exodus, displays the fruits of the hermeneutical triad when he writes, “This part of Exodus is about Satan’s opposition to God’s plans and promises for his people.”[113] Ryken is using the concepts of the world developed by John to view the nation of Egypt and the oppression by Pharoah of the people of God. Thus, while conducting the necessary historical background research and necessary linguistical investigation, Ryken not only gleans theology but biblical theology.[114]

            The incorporation of the hermeneutical triad will, as the authors posit, provide the student of Scripture the necessary tools for right interpretation and application of the Word of God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Akin, Daniel L. 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary. Nashville: TN, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

Allen, David L.  Hebrews, The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010.

Anderson, John. An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 2nd ed. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008.

Austin, Bill R. Austin’s Topical History of Christianity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983.

Barker, Glenn W., Lane, William L., and Michaels, J. Ramsey. The New Testament Speaks. New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1969.

________., “1 John,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994. 1077-1109.

Bates, William H. “The World: An Inductive Exegesis and an Exposition,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 68, no. 269, (Jan. 1911), 105-131.

Beeke, Joel R. and Smalley, Paul M. Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020.

Berkhof, Louis. Principles of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1950.

Brannan, Rick. The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Logos Bible Software, 2011.

Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church Revised and Enlarged. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 1981.

Carson, D.A. Exegetical Fallacies Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. “For Whom Did Christ Die?” Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 105, no. 417 (Jan. 1948), 7-35.

Conniry, Jr., Charles J. “Identifying Apostolic Christianity: A Synthesis of Viewpoints,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Volume 32, no. 2 (June 1994), 247-261.

Duvall, J. Scott and Hays, J. Daniel. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology Revised and Expanded. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008.

Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

________. , New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors Revised Edition. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Gentry, Peter J. and Wellum, Stephen J. Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants 2nd Edition. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018

Gibson, David and Gibson, Jonathan eds., From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.

Goldingay, John. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Pentateuch: Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020.

Hart D. G., and Muether, John R. With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship. Phillipsburg, NJ: 2002.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 3: An Exposition of 1 John 2:7-17,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 145, no. 580 (Oct. 1988), 420-435.

________., “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 5: An Exposition of 1 John 2:29-3:12,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 146, no. 582, (Apr. 1989), 198-216.

________., “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 8: An Exposition of 1 John 4:7-21,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 147, no. 585 (Jan. 1990), 69-88.

Hodges, Zane C. “Hebrews, 1, 2, and 3 John,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by the Dallas Seminary Faculty New Testament Edition. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 1983.

Kline, Meredith G. “The Old Testament Origins of the Gospel Genre,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 38, no. 1 (Fall 1975), 1-27.

Köstenberger, Andreas J., Kellum, L. Scott, and Quarles, Charles L. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009.

_____., Merkle, Benjamin L. and Plummer, Robert L. Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament Rev. Ed. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020

Kruse, Colin G. “1—3 John,” in D.A. Carson, gen. ed., NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974.

Mackintosh, C. H. Genesis to Deuteronomy: Notes on the Pentateuch. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1980.

MacLeod, David J. “The Love That God Hates,” Emmaus Journal, Vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1995), 3-20.

Niemelä, John. “Finding True North in 1 John,” Chafer Theological Seminary, Vol. 6, no. 3 (July 2000), 25-48.

Owen, John. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 2007.

Patterson, Richard D. “Contours of the Exodus Motif in Jesus’ Earthly Ministry,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 66, no. 1 (Spring 2004), 25-46.

Robinson, Adam. “Abhorrence,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Ryken, Philip Graham. Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.

Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology: A Popular Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999.

Schreiner, Thomas R. The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.

Stott, John R. W. The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 19, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Tan, Randall K. J. “A Linguistic Overview of 1 John,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol. 10, no. 3, (Fall 2006), 68-76.

Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1994.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Is There Meaning in this Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II: The Writings of John, The Gospel, The Epistles, The Apocalypse. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, nd.

Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2017.

Wright, N. T. The New Testament and the People of God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992.

Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader Volume Four: Golden Nuggets, Untranslatable Riches—Bypaths in These Last Days. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966.

Yarbrough, Robert. “1 John,” in Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary Volume 4: Hebrews to Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

Zuck, Roy B. Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth. Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications, 1991.


[1] Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregal Academic, 2011), 67.

[2] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 68.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is from the New International Version.

[4] Ibid., 93.

[5] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 21, emphasis theirs.

[6] Though presenting their thoughts in a different way, J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays offer a helpful example of the triad on Philippians 4:13. See J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 237-246.

[7] See Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications, 1991), 76-90.

[8] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 151.

[9] F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 291.

[10] Louis Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1950), 53.

[11] See Köstenberger’s and Patterson’s remarks, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 151.

[12] This will be determined by the passage chosen. For example, 1 John is a letter (or, epistle) and must be interpreted as a letter. The book of Acts, however, has several literary genres. For a brief discussion of these genres, see L. Scott Kellum, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Acts (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 6-10.

[13] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 237.

[14] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is There Meaning in this Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 342.

[15] Vanhoozer, Is there Meaning in this Text?, 343.

[16] See, for example, Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 575-576; Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament Rev. Ed. (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2020), 441-469, 483-497; and Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, 67-109.

[17] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 575; Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 152-161, 164-168, and 170-180.

[18] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 693.

[19] Ibid., 694.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 698.

[22] Ibid.; see also Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 2017), 16. For an example of how this works, Beeke and Smalley offer a biblical-theological development of the image of God, see Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 161-174.

[23] Vos, Biblical Theology, 17.

[24] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 66. It should be noted that though the term “hermeneutical triad” is original with Köstenberger and Patterson, the authors acknowledge these aspects are not new. See page 24.

[25] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology Revised and Expanded (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008), 138-139.

[26] Daniel L. Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: TN, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 27; see also Robert Yarbrough, “1 John,” in Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed., Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary Volume 4: Hebrews to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 177.

[27] Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 792-795. Though the apostle does not sign his name, conservative scholarship, in general, adheres to his authorship. Ibid, 783-790.

[28] Bill R. Austin, Austin’s Topical History of Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), 43-55; Earle E. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church Revised and Enlarged (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 1981), 55-85; N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 450-452.

[29] For the physical persecution, see: Acts 4:5-22; 5:17-42; 6:8-15; 7:54-8:3. Many other references could be cited. For the theological errors affecting the church, see Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 419-420, 792-795.

[30] The letter of Hebrews is an excellent example. Allen remarks, “Historically, the most common purpose advocated suggests the author is attempting to dissuade his Jewish Christian readers from a relapse into Judaism brought on by increasing persecution and a desire for the stability of the old faith.” David L. Allen, Hebrews, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 79. See Jude 3 for one reference to the apostolic faith; see also Charles J. Conniry, Jr., “Identifying Apostolic Christianity: A Synthesis of Viewpoints,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Volume 32, no. 2 (June 1994), 247-261.

[31] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 32. Stott discusses a different opinion, though he does not differ with Akin’s summary in any significant way. See John R. W. Stott, The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 19, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 43-55.

[32] See Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:2-11; and John 1:35-42; see also Glenn W. Barker, William L. Lane, and J. Ramsey Michaels, The New Testament Speaks (New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1969), 397-400.

[33] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 305-325, 800-804.

[34] Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 135-144.

[35] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 791.

[36] Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 138. According to Logos Bible Software,

[37] William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 446-448.

[38] Ibid., 446-447.

[39] Ibid., 447.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Colin G. Kruse, “1—3 John,” in D.A. Carson, gen. ed., NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 2260.

[45] Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon, 447.

[46] For a discussion on the atonement from a definite atonement perspective, see: David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, eds., From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013); John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 2007); for a discussion from an unlimited atonement perspective, see: Lewis Sperry Chafer, “For Whom Did Christ Die?” Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 105, no. 417 (Jan. 1948), 7-35; Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1994), 241-242; Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 367-373; and Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 841-858.

[47] For an expositional discussion of these verses, see Andrew David Naselli, “Do Not Love the World: Breaking the Evil Enchantment of Worldliness (A Sermon on 1 John 2:15-17),” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol. 22, no. 1 (Spring 2018), 111-124.

[48] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Tetament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1981), 233, s.v. world.

[49] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, 793.

[50] David J. MacLeod, “The Love That God Hates,” Emmaus Journal, Vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1995), 3-20.

[51] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, vol. 38, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 108.

[52] D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 3: An Exposition of 1 John 2:7-17,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 145, no. 580 (Oct. 1988), 433.

[53] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 575-576; Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 191-195.

[54] Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles, The Cradle, The Cross, and the Crown, 792-795; Colin G. Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2255.

[55] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 93.

[56] Berkhof, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, 74.

[57] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 369; cf. Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 402.

[58] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 134.

[59] Ibid.

[60] John will continue this contrast with a brief discussion on Cain, whom John refers to as one “who belonged to the evil one” (1 John 3:12). Interestingly, John uses the Greek phrase “ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ,” demonstrating origin or source. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 371.

[61] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader Volume Four: Golden Nuggets, Untranslatable Riches—Bypaths in These Last Days (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), 148; D. Edmond Hiebert, , “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 5: An Exposition of 1 John 2:29-3:12,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 146, no. 582, (Apr. 1989), 214.

[62] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 690; Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 418, Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 156.

[63] For example, John Anderson writes, “It is viewed as an already existing condition [Alf, Lns, My, Ws]. However, although hatred is a fact, individual Christians do not always encounter it [AB].” See John Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 116. See also Akins comments, where he writes, “presents this hostility not as a potential or foreseeable threat but rather as a present reality, a reality that is to be expected.” Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 156.

[64] Ibid., 156.

[65] Adam Robinson, “Abhorrence,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), emphasis original.

[66] See note 42.

[67] D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), 27-64.

[68] Ibid., 64.

[69] Gordon Fee defines syntax as “the arrangements and interrelationships of words in larger constructions.” Gordon D. Fee, New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors Revised Edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 92

[70] One could also use logical reasoning to determine that the God-hating world is not intended here.

[71] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 586-587; Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 73-74; Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 89-90.

[72] Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer, Going Deeper, 92-93.

[73] Cf. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament Volume II: The Writings of John, The Gospel, The Epistles, The Apocalypse (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, nd.), 352.

[74] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 369.

[75] Glenn W. Barker, “1 John,” in Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 1099.

[76] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 171.

[77] Ibid., 169.

[78] Akin draws a similarity in 3:13-24 as well. See Akin, 169. For an expansive treatment on the similarities within Johannine literature, see John Niemelä, “Finding True North in 1 John,” Chafer Theological Seminary, Vol. 6, no. 3 (July 2000), 25-48.

[79] Rick Brannan, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2011), s.v., ἐξέρχομαι.

[80] Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon, 447.

[81] Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2263.

[82] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 372.

[83] Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2263.

[84] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 141.

[85] Considering the context, in which John is encouraging his readers to test the spirits, this conclusion seems to be strengthened.

[86] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 372.

[87] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 142.

[88] Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2263.

[89] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 174.

[90] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 143.

[91] D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: 2002), 28-30.

[92] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 143.

[93] Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 174.

[94] Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 143.

[95] Barker, “1 John,” 1101; Zane C. Hodges, “Hebrews, 1, 2, and 3 John,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by the Dallas Seminary Faculty New Testament Edition (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 1983), 899.

[96] For an in depth treatment of this concept presented through the covenants, see Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants 2nd Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018); Thomas R. Schreiner, The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013); for a covenant theological perspective, see Guy Prentiss Waters, J. Nicholas Reid, and John R. Muether, eds. Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Perspectives (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020). For a discussion of the restoration of creation, see Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, 387-392.

[97] Barker, “1 John,” 1102.

[98] Barker, “1 John,” 1103; Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 900; and Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2264; and D. Edmond Hiebert, “An Expositional Study of 1 John Part 8: An Exposition of 1 John 4:7-21,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 147, no. 585 (Jan. 1990), 83-85.

[99] The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Logos Bible Software, 2011).

[100] Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 179-181.

[101] Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 901; Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 192-193. For a brief discussion of what it means to overcome the world, see Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 192-193; Anderson, An Exegetical Summary of 1, 2, and 3 John, 171.

[102] Barker, “1 John,” 1104.

[103] Concerning the NIV’s rendering of as “victory,” Akin writes, A translation that keeps the root the same in English would read: ‘For everyone born of God conquers the world. This is the conquering that has conquered the world, even our faith.’” Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 192. See also Barker, “1 John,” 1104-1105.

[104] Barker, “1 John,” 1108-1109; Kruse, “1—3 John,” 2258 and 2265.

[105] Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 373.

[106] For a thorough study of this, see Randall K. J. Tan, “A Linguistic Overview of 1 John,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Vol. 10, no. 3 (Fall 2006), 72-74.

[107] William Bates argues for this, though in a different context (i.e., Satan as the god of this world). See William H. Bates, “The World: An Inductive Exegesis and an Exposition,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 68, no. 269 (Jan. 1911), 112-114; see also George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 612-613.

[108] Köstenberger and Patterson, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation, 61.

[109] C. H. Mackintosh, Genesis to Deuteronomy: Notes on the Pentateuch (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1980), 56.

[110] John Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Pentateuch: Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020), 182-184, 186-190.

[111] Gentry and Wellum connect this method of interpreting the Old Testament. See Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 132.

[112] See Richard D. Patterson, “Contours of the Exodus Motif in Jesus’ Earthly Ministry,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 66, no. 1 (Spring 2004), 25-46; Meredith G. Kline, “The Old Testament Origins of the Gospel Genre,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 38, no. 1 (Fall 1975), 1-27.

[113] Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 27, 29-30.

[114] This is precisely the benefit of the hermeneutical triad, specifically the biblical theology aspect. See Vos, Biblical Theology, 17-18.

How does evangelism help or hinder the health of the church?

Post originally published at https://www.warriorcreek.org/pastor-s-blog, used by permission.

In his small book titled, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, J. Mack Stiles defines evangelism as “teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[1] As we consider the health of the church, we cannot ignore evangelism, that form of communication with the goal of reaching people for Jesus Christ.
It is the execution of Jesus’ words to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20, NIV)
The command of Jesus has enormous implications for the church in general and for the health of the church specifically. In this post, we are going to briefly discuss evangelism and how it can help or harm the health of the church. In his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever asks four questions in regards to evangelism:
· “Who should evangelize?”· “How should we evangelize?”· “What is evangelism?”· “Why should we evangelize?”[2]
Who should evangelize? Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Obviously, this does not mean that every disciple of Jesus will evangelize. In fact, I think it could be argued that most disciples of Jesus do not evangelize. This, however, is irrelevant. Every disciple of Jesus should evangelize. Mark Dever captures the reasons why so well as he writes, “Christians often leave evangelism to “the professionals” out of a sense of inadequacy, apathy, ignorance, fear, or simply feeling that it is inappropriate for them to do it.”[3] I am sure that we all have experiences with one or more of these. However, we should never use these as excuses not to evangelize.
How should we evangelize? This is important, and one that deserves more treatment that we will offer here. However, there are a few points we should keep in mind. First, we must understand the gospel (remember Mack Stiles’ definition). Greg Gilbert provides the essence of the gospel in four words, “God, man, Christ, response.”[4] We build upon these four core concepts, but without them we cannot communicate the gospel. In addition, we should use “our lives and our lips.”[5] That is, our life styles should reflect the teachings of the gospel. They should conform to the Word of God. In addition, our we should evangelize with our lips. That is, we need to vocalize the whole God, man, Christ, and response truths. Learn what the Scriptures say about these four concepts. Develop different ways to articulate them. That is how we should evangelize.
What is evangelism? We have already answered this with Stiles’ definition, and I think it bears repeating. “Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade.”[6] Stiles develops this definition by adding several key points. We seek to teach the Gospel specifically (again, think of Gilbert’s four concepts). Stiles describes his own process, “No matter where or with whom, the process is simple: we read the passage [of Scripture] and talk about what it means.”[7] We teach the Scriptures. However, we do not simply fill people’s heads with knowledge about the Bible. We “aim to persuade.”[8] “Our aim helps us remember that much is at stake: to see people moved from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom. Aiming for something bigger helps us know which fights to pick and which to avoid,” writes Stiles.[9] This helps us understand what evangelism is and how to evangelize.
The final question we must ask is, Whys should I evangelize? To this question, Mark Dever offers three helpful and biblical reasons:
· “a desire to be obedient to the Great Commission”· “a love for the lost”· “a love for God.”[10]
These are excellent reminds of the importance of our mission. We seek to obey our Lord in fulfilling His Great Commission. In addition, if we love the lost (i.e., people who are not disciples of Jesus Christ) we will share the only hope they have of being found. Finally, and as Dever notes, “preeminently” we should evangelize because we love God.[11]
Summary
Evangelism is a key aspect of the Scriptures, of the Christian life, and it should be a mark of the church. If evangelism is found in the church, then that church is on its way to health. How are we, individually, doing with evangelism? How is our church engaging in evangelism? Obviously, it is difficult in the midst of this pandemic. However, a pandemic is not permission to avoid evangelizing. We need to be a healthy church, and to be healthy we need to evangelize. [1] J. Mack Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 26. [2] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 120. [3] Ibid. [4] Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 32. [5] Will Metzger, Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly By Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly 4th Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press, 2012), 56. [6] Stiles, Evangelism, 26. [7] Ibid., 31. [8] Ibid., 26. [9] Ibid., 35. [10] Dever, 9 Marks, 138. [11] Ibid.