Yesterday morning we continued our series through 1 John and I had the privilege of preaching 1 John 2:18-27. In John’s typical style, he bounced back and forth in a compare and contrast method to establish the clear difference between real and false Christianity. As people were attacking the deity of Christ in his day, John warned about those who seek to deceive and he likewise pointed to the clear doctrinal roots of such deception.
When I was a boy, my grandmother once shared a little rhyme with me that still to this day has stuck in my head. She said, “Birds of a feather flock together.” This is true on general levels among social groups in our culture, but it’s also true regarding true Christians. One of the clear ways to see the difference between real and false Christianity is based on the associations of people. Those who love Christ will love the local church and be committed to the people of God. Those who deny Christ and walk away from the true gospel will be those who are outside the local church or those who are on the peripheral who try to lead others astray.
Five different times in one verse (1 John 2:19), John makes a clear distinction between “they” and “us” as he points to the reality that those who are antichrist in their thinking or have been influenced by the false doctrines of those antichrists who have gone out into the world will walk away from the church. John uses the word “us” five times to reference the necessity of the local church for the Christian community.
John likewise pointed out that the true Christians possess knowledge (1 John 2:20). This body of knowledge is the clear doctrines of Christ and the clear doctrines of the faith. Apparently the true Christians in John’s day were characterized by their knowledge. Compare that fact with the lack of knowledge that many professing believers in the evangelical church today possess. Today’s evangelical church is far more excited about going and doing as opposed to reading and learning. When the average cult member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses knows more about their cult than the average evangelical does about the true gospel—there’s a serious problem.
Too often we see churches getting all organized and excited about social gospel service projects:
- Digging wells
- Providing shoes for the poor children in Africa
- Purchasing school supplies for an entire school district here in America
Often those same churches are far less excited about learning biblical truth. When we stop and evaluate the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, we see that Christianity has always been a preaching and teaching ministry. Jesus’ ministry is often believed to be a healing and miracle ministry, but as you read the Gospels, it’s apparent that he spent much time preaching and teaching the Word of God.
Mark 1:21 – And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
Mark 1:39 – And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Mark 1:27 – And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
Mark 2:2 – And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
Mark 2:13 – He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them.
When we read the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20, we see that Jesus sent out his followers to make disciples of all nations and to baptize those disciples in the Trinitarian formula. However, the commission doesn’t end there. It goes on to say that we are to be teaching the disciples of Jesus. How can one be a disciple if he refuses to be a learner? John makes a clear point in 1 John 2:24 as he writes, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.” All true Christians will continue in the true doctrine of Christ—to the end.
Doctrine matters. God has revealed himself to us with words, sentences, and paragraphs in a book. To know God involves time to study and discern true biblical doctrine from the text of holy Scripture. This knowledge does not produce arrogant “big headed” Christians who are so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good. Instead, the knowledge gained from the pursuit of knowing God will produce passionate Christians who desire to love God and love people — including those within the church and those who need Christ outside the church.
Zeal without knowledge is merely a train wreck waiting on a place to happen. Knowledge without zeal is abnormal and not healthy. True Christians will learn to balance the knowledge gained from pursuing God and their zeal to go out and serve Christ faithfully. Before we can rightly serve God we must first rightly know God. Doctrine matters. True Christianity is not fueled by a mindless approach to following Jesus.