Who are Your Children?

3rd Epistle of John

3 John 4

The letter was written by “the elder”, the same author as 2 John. It is a personal letter to Gaius, who must have been a leader in a congregation. It is not possible to know if this Gaius was the same “Gaius” mentioned in other places in the New Testament (Act. 19:29, 20:4, Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:14).

 

No greater joy, 1:4

 

The author states: “No greater joy can I have than this, than to hear that my children follow the truth”. While it is a great joy for biological parents to know that their children follow the truth concerning God the Father and Jesus the Messiah (John 17:3), here the author is using the world “children” metaphorically to mean those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah (1 John 2:1, 5:1). The author most likely had a personal influence in these “children” coming to and then growing in their faith.  Like a parent who cares for their child, the author expressed his desire to be present with them (3 John 1:10, 13, cf. 2 John 1:12).

 

Support such men, practice hospitality, 1:5-8

 

The main purpose for the writing of the letter was to encourage Gaius and the congregation to support traveling Christian teachers. The author knew that these teachers of true doctrine were doing “God’s service”, and as much as Gaius and others could support these men, they would be “fellow workers in truth”. Practicing hospitality is a theme emphasized by other writers of Scripture:

 

Paul: “Share what you have with God’s people, and practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

 

Author of Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

 

Peter: “Welcome one another into your homes without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

 

As believers in the One True God and His Messiah, Jesus, we should be ready to open our homes to others of like-minded faith, especially to those who are ministering “for His sake”.

 

Diotrephes upbraided, 1:9-10

 

A certain man named Diotrephes was called out because he refused to practice hospitality to the traveling truth teachers. Diotrephes not only refused to give hospitality, but “stops those who would welcome them and puts them out of the church”. Diotrephes must have been a proud, selfish man.

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

 

(Editor’s Note: I am so glad I met Bill and Stephanie Schlegel at FUEL this past summer and had the opportunity to share a meal with them, during which time they agreed to write for this week.  I greatly value their love for and dedication to God’s truth.  The Schlegels lived in Israel for 34 years.  He is the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas: https://www.bibleplaces.com/satellite-bible-atlas-schlegel/ . This spring he will be leading an incredible trip to Israel: https://maranathatours.com/wp-content/uploads/brochure-website.pdf

For more great writing, podcasts, videos and testimonies about the truth in God’s scriptures, we welcome you to check out the website that Bill edits – One God Report: http://www.onegodreport.com/

In the Flesh

2nd Epistle of John

2 John 7

The elect lady and her children, 2 John 1

This short epistle is written to “the elect lady and her children”. Most commentators believe “the elect lady” refers metaphorically to a congregation or church as whole, and “her children” are individual members within the church. Being a “child of God” was a consistent theme of 1 John (see 1 John). The children of God make up a family of those who believe the human Jesus is the Christ, and they are to love one another as brothers and sisters (1 John 5:1). In the last verse of 1 John 2 the author sends “the elect lady” greetings from “the children of your elect sister, i.e., from the believers of another congregation with children (see more comments about the “elect lady” in the REV Bible commentary).

The coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, 2 John 7

The verse that particularly jumps out at us in this epistle is verse 7:

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

We believe that “the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” means that the Messiah has come, and that he is the real human being, Jesus.

When John was writing there was already a teaching, today called Docetism, which claimed that Jesus wasn’t a real human being but only “seemed” or “appeared” to be a human. “Docetic” is from a Greek word meaning “an apparition, a phantom” and therefore Jesus only “seemed” to be human. According to this theory Jesus couldn’t be “flesh”, a real human, since the world and flesh are corrupt the “spiritual Christ” couldn’t be directly involved in it.

Traditional Christianity is not entirely docetic but tends toward Docetism since it claims that Jesus only “took on flesh”. If Jesus only “took on flesh” then he is not a real human being, not a real human person. Unfortunately, traditional Christian belief by definition denies that Jesus the Messiah is a real human person. Because, if Jesus is an eternally pre-existent God-person, he can’t be a real human-person, because then he would be two persons (a god-person and a human-person). So traditional Christianity beginning in the centuries after Jesus was on earth began to say that Jesus was a god-person who only “took on flesh”. But a pre-existent god-person who only “took on flesh” is not really a human person. He only “seemed” to be a human person.

John tells us differently. He emphasizes that Jesus is a real human person.

“Jesus” is the name of the child born in Bethlehem, not the name of a pre-existent deity. This Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) who has “come in the flesh”. “Christ, Messiah” is never a title for God himself in the Scriptures. It is a title for the “Anointed” one chosen by God.

Jesus didn’t just seem to have flesh (Docetism), and didn’t just seem to be a human person (Traditional Christianity).

Jesus the Messiah has real human flesh (now raised from the dead, glorified, immortal).

Jesus the Messiah is a real human person, not a god-person just dressed up in human flesh.

See our comments on 1 John 2:22 and 1 John 4:2 earlier this week for more description of what John did NOT say when he said that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”

“Don’t receive him into the house”, 2 John 10

2 John 10 is a verse that can easily be taken out of context and abused. “If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting.” A person can make up any false doctrine, and then say if someone doesn’t agree with it, “don’t receive him into the house”.  This is what Traditional Christianity has done. Traditional Christianity, denying that Jesus is a real human person, made up a false doctrine in the centuries after Jesus, claiming: “Jesus is pre-existent eternal God who took on flesh”. Then once that false doctrine was established, Traditional Christianity said: “Don’t let anyone who doesn’t agree with this doctrine into the house”. See our comments to 1 John 2:19 (this past Sunday) about many anti-christs who have come into the world.

God, and God’s Son, 2 John 3

The beautiful greeting that the author sends God’s children is also a fitting departure blessing.

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”  There is only One God, the Father. Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is God’s Son, and we as God’s children are Jesus’ brothers and sisters.

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

The Son of God

1 John 5

1 John 5 5

This chapter was especially significant for our family about a year and a half ago when I (Bill) was coming to understand that God is One and that Jesus is His human Messiah. My wife points out the irony in the fact that while Trinitarians often go to the Gospel of John and the Epistle of 1 John for presumed evidences of the deity of Jesus, it was these two books that showed us that God is One person, and Jesus is God’s designated human Messiah.

1 John 5:1 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him.”

How tragic that people who believe that Jesus is God condemn those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They say that unless you believe that Jesus is God, you are “denying Christ”. What a strange twist of Scripture. The Scripture says that “anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) is born of God…”

This Scripture does NOT say you are born of God if you believe that Jesus is:

  • A God-Man
  • co-eternal (“pre-existing”) and co-equal to the God the Father
  • of the same substance as the Father.
  • One person of a trinity in a godhead

These are all human inventions.  We should not turn to human inventions (5:21) while abandoning God our Father’s revelation of Himself and His testimony that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). We don’t want to call God a liar (5:10) by twisting or distorting what God said, or by claiming God said something He didn’t.

“Jesus” is the name of the human person, born in Bethlehem. It is not the name of a pre-existent person of an eternal godhead. This human Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). This same human Jesus is the “Son of God” (5:2) a title which is parallel to and in many ways synonymous with “Messiah/Christ” (2 Sam. 7:14, Psa. 2:1-7). “Son of God” does not mean “God the Son”. There is no “God the Son” in the Bible.

The person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God. If you love God, you will love that person, God’s child. If do not love that person, or reject that person, or call that person a heretic, the implication is that you do not love God the Father. Because whoever loves God the Father loves God’s child (5:1).

To love God’s child (the person who believes that Jesus is the Messiah) is a commandment from God (5:2-3; 3:23).

1 John 5:20 is a verse that Trinitarians claim shows “the deity of Christ”. Such a claim shows the weakness of evidence for the “deity of Christ” in the Scriptures. Their claims depend on dubious interpretations of a handful of Scriptures. For instance, from the whole Book of Romans, Paul’s treatise on matters of great theological importance, Paul supposedly told us that Jesus is God in one verse (Romans 9:5)!

I don’t think so.

There is a better way to understand Romans 9:5, just like there is a better way to understand 1 John 5:20. Below is a translation (RSV) that gets it right. I have capitalized “Him” for clarity whenever the pronoun refers to Almighty God:

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

In short, “This is the true God” does not refer to Jesus Christ, but to the One who is called two times “Him who is true” (cf. John 17:3), who is the Father of Jesus. Jesus the Messiah is His son.

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

The Love Chapter

1 John 4

i John 4 11

This chapter starts out with an admonition to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God.” Not every teaching or spirit is true. There is a very important test which can be used to know if a spirit is from God, or not. “By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (4:2).  The test does NOT say:

  • that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and yet is fully God
  • that God has come in the flesh as Jesus Christ, taking on a human nature
  • that Jesus Christ came from some pre-existent state into the flesh.

We must be very careful to read the text for what it says and not read into it what it doesn’t say! The phrase “come in the flesh” means that Jesus the Christ (Messiah) is a real human being, not just dressed up like one.

1 John 4 is actually the “love chapter” in the Bible as love is mentioned 26 times, almost three times as many times as in 1 Corinthians 13 (9 times). A friend once read this chapter as a devotional thought on Valentine’s Day, and it stuck with me as the “love chapter.” So much so that when I read it last February 14th, I thought that maybe the children’s song could also go “Yes, God loves me, yes, God loves me… the Bible tells me so.”  Ultimately, it’s God’s love that ignites our love for others through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. A key verse that summarizes this chapter of love showing how love is of God is verse 9.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God took the initiative, motivated by love, to remedy our sin problem.

Knowing that “God is love” (4:8,16) should motivate us to love others. But the author is not calling for a hippie kind of “All you need is love, love”. He is admonishing us to a love of other “brothers” who believe that Jesus, the human Jesus, is the Messiah/Christ (5:1). This admonition to love is a call for unity among like-minded believers, because they are family as the children of God. The way we love other like-minded believers whom we can see demonstrates how much we love God, whom we can’t see. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (4:21).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (4:7)

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

His Commandment

1 John 3

IMG_0009

The World’s Relation to God’s Children

This chapter mentions two ways in which the non-believing world reacts to the children of God:
1. The world does not know us (that we are God’s children) just as it did not know Jesus, that Jesus is God’s Son (3:1).
2. The world hates us (3:13). The world is like Cain, who hated and even murdered his brother.
Especially in 3:11-18, the author instructs us not to be like the world and hate our brothers, our fellow believers in Messiah Jesus.
Knowing what Love is, I John 3:16, the parallel to John 3:16

“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
This verse encouraged me (Stephanie), so much during the hardest time of my life, which was just after my husband came to the understanding of the one true God and His Messiah Jesus – and the mistreatment that followed in result of his faith. The verse really helped me to focus on what real love is – to think how Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. He was mistreated and ill spoken of; they even took his clothes away from him. That is how I know what love is, and I could take courage because of what Jesus went through and lay down my life for the brethren, disregarding the shame.

Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin, but to remove sin, 2:4-10
At first glance the author may seem to contradict himself. In 1:8-9 he says we sin, but in 3:6 he says “no one who abides in him (Jesus) sins”. I think what the author is saying is that believing in Jesus does not give people a license to sin. Believers may sin (and there is a way to forgiveness, 1:8-9) but a life characterized by continual sin is not one in step with abiding in Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to give a license to sin. On the contrary, the writer gives two reasons why Jesus “appeared”:
1. To take away sin.
2. To destroy the works of the devil
Jesus and a believers life in Jesus does not give license to sin, but rather removes and destroys sin.
Theme Verse
1 John 3:23 could perhaps be considered a good theme for the entire epistle:
“And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

Bill and Stephanie Schlegel

Imitate What is Good

3 John

3 John 11a

Some people have virtually the same accent their entire lives, simply based on where they grew up. Others, like me, pick up accents faster than they can say the word “time.”

Right now, I am living in the South with people from Georgia, Indiana, Canada, Michigan, New York, and Ohio – to name a few. Needless to say, my accent gets confused a lot. The moment when I say time, house, and you guys in one sentence and it comes out in a Southern, Canadian, Michigander accent you know that it can be a little much sometimes.

The same goes for us as individuals. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Like my crazy conglomerate of accents, we all are influenced by the people we spend the most time with.

Have you ever noticed how you start talking like the people around you? How you pick up their behaviors? How you start saying those little phrases? You are imitating the people you spend time with – without even noticing you are doing so! This can be a great thing or a terrible thing.

If you hang out with people who always are making poor decisions, chances are you’ll eventually join in. On the other hand, if you hang out with people who are following God to the best of their abilities, chances are you will start changing as well.

Be purposeful in imitating what is good and in avoiding evil things.

Spend the most time with the people you want to be like, and imitate what is good.

– Madison Cisler

Walk in Love

2 John

pb marriage

“And wuv, twue wuv, will fowwow you foweva… “ – The Princess Bride (Shout out to my fellow Princess Bride fans!)

 

Wouldn’t it be great if true love would just follow us forever, like the impressive clergyman said in The Princess Bride? I mean, love would be so pure and effortless. That’d be wonderful!

 

Relationships are a lot of work. It does not matter if it’s between you and a friend, a significant other, a parent, a sibling, or even someone you may not be too fond of. These relationships can feel like sunshine and roses. But in every relationship, there will be some conflicts that rise, fights that break out, and anger that ensues.

 

It happens.

 

When those moments occur, we need to be prepared. Love is a decision and a commitment. We need to decide to walk in love, rather than expecting love to follow us. Because most of the time, love won’t.

 

Let me explain.

 

Some say that love is just a passing emotion. Love is weak. Love is a cop out for conflict resolutions. Love is just a feeling that should be stuffed deep inside. Love is only for your significant other. Love cannot be given to people who hate you.

 

Those beliefs could not be more incorrect. Because, if you don’t walk in love, you walk out of love, out of relationships, and out of God’s plan for your life. That is a dangerous path to walk, my friends.


So walk in love. Make the commitment to love intentionally. Yes, relationships will be frustrating, and sometimes you will want to just throw some punches – physically and/or emotionally. Although it is hard work, walking in love is God’s command.

 

That’s easier said than done. Because to walk in love you must do the following things (and more!):

 

Forgive those who harm you. Encourage. Apologize. Express gratitude. Smile. Be Patient. Serve. Have compassion. Listen.

 

Walking in love is not just a feeling; it’s a decision, an action, and a major commitment. Are you up to the challenge?

 

– Madison Cisler

2 John 6a

Genuine Prayer

1 John 5

1 John 5_15

 

Hello, my friends!

Isn’t it strange to think this greeting that was written at 8:30am on the 31st of January got to you sometime today – or even later?

That is how communication works between people sometimes: it takes time, it’s not immediate, but it’s likely to reach you eventually. Some people won’t even receive my special salutation, because they did not read the devotion today. And that’s ok.

In fact, if I yelled as loud as I could right now, you will still not be able to hear me.

HELLO, MY FRIENDS!!

Did you hear me? No? Shocking. You’re human, therefore you could not. Let me try something else…

Hi, God.

Guess what? He heard me. You know what is even better? He can hear you too. Our prayers don’t take time to reach Him. They are delivered immediately, and they will never be lost in the mail. God hears you.

Therefore, when you pray, pray genuinely.  Don’t hold back. You can trust that God is listening. God loves you so dearly that He wants you to pour out your heart to Him. He wants to hear all about your day, the ups and downs, concerns, visions, everything. Lay it all at His feet, because He can take it. To top it all off, He never gets tired of listening.

To be honest, sometimes it feels like God can’t hear our prayers. Sometimes it feels like God isn’t present in our lives. Sometimes it feels like God won’t care about us, let alone what our deepest desires are. But those are just feelings. God does hear. He is present. And He certainly cares.

Therefore, pray genuinely – even when if feels like God can’t hear you, even when life is perfect, and even when everything seems to be falling apart. People may not always be there for you, and they certainly won’t always hear you. But God will always hear your prayers. So pray like you mean it.

– Madison Cisler

Godly Listening

1 John 4

Can YouHearHimNow_

I listen to the radio when I drive. I have three stations that I rotate between, depending on when there are commercials. In an attempt to avoid commercials, I flip between those stations in search of music. If there is music on one of those stations, I’ll listen to it instead.

 

Some of you may gravitate towards talk show hosts or only listen to news and traffic alerts on the radio. You may skip the radio altogether and instead plug your phone in for a completely customized driving playlist. Perhaps, you listen to your GPS, because it tells you where to go.  

 

Needless to say, we all choose what we listen to in the car. In fact, I can make that sentence even simpler:

 

We all choose what we listen to.

 

You see, we have a choice to make.

 

You can choose to listen to the world – to it’s lies and it’s deceptions. Or, you can choose to listen to God – to His truths.

 

1 John 4:4-6 says, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore, what they say is from the world and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.”

 

You have a choice to make. Will you listen to the words of men or the words of God? The choice is yours.

 

– Madison Cisler

Children of God

1 John 3

1 John 3_1

I have been told I am a lot like my dad. We have the same sense of humor; we both have blue eyes; we have the same voice inflections. We have a deep compassion; we both are extremely persistent; we both don’t get embarrassed.

Sometimes when people are talking to me they will give me a weird look and say, “You sound just like your father.” I take that as one of the highest compliments, because my dad is my hero.

Some of you can fully relate to what I just said; some of you, not so much. Some of you have a difficult and complicated relationship with your dad – or even a nonexistent relationship. One that is not your fault. One that is full of hurt and heartache. If that is you, I am so so sorry.

The thing is, we all have an even greater Dad than the one we have on this earth. For some, it’s seems hard to believe anyone could come close to being that awesome. For others, it might seem impossible to have a dad who actually cares.

Take a look at verse 2:

“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be like has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.” (HCSB)

If you’re like me the first time you read that, you think to yourself, “Aww, how cute. We believers are just one big, happy family. What great warm fuzzies on the inside.”

But then it hit me. We are going to be like God.

Let that sink in.

We are God’s children. We will be like Him.

Woah.

God loves us so much that He wants us to be a part of His family despite our sin, our brokenness, our bad days, our deepest and darkest secrets. He wants us to be a part of His family even when we don’t want that for ourselves, even when we run away, even when we don’t trust, even when we don’t deserve it. God loves us so much that He wants us to be made perfect and be like Him.

It doesn’t matter if you are fourteen years old or forty. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what your past looks like, but only your future.

Because God loves you. So live like it. Live so then people notice that there is something different about you. Live like you’re a child of God.

– Madison Cisler