Don Carson began by talking about the many ways in which the love of God is spoken about in the Bible. We are both always loved by God and commanded to keep ourselves in the love of God. We must not over-emphasize either of these. The Bible speaks about the love of God being general and sufficient for all. And it also speaks about the love of God being specific to those who are elect. Christ loved the Church and intentionally gave himself for her. It is definitely for those who are his people by eternal choice. But it is also, as here in 1 John, “for the sins of the whole world.” We cannot make absolutes of one or the other. It isn’t enough to say that here all is all without distinction rather than all without exception. No, here it says Christ’s death was for the whole world. God did die particularly and specifically for his people (see, for example, John 6), but here the emphasis is on the potential benefit for the whole world.
Don then read from 1 John 2.
We see here in this chapter a number of antitheses.
- The first contrast is obedience versus disobedience. The test here is not feelings, but obedience. There are a number of verses where John says, “We know that we know him.” Don will target all of these together on the last day to look at Christian assurance. Is it God’s love for us that is completed by obedience? Or is it our love for God that is demonstrated by obedience? If we are a friend of Jesus we will do everything he commands us. Knowledge and experience have their place. But high intellectual or mystical claims without corresponding obedience are just spiritual humbug. We can’t claim to be in him unless we live like him.
- The second contrast is between love and hate. Jesus did not avoid the cross. Through his love, he suffered for us. We must follow him. We do live in a battle, but if there is no love, how can we claim to be of God?
- The third contrast is between God centeredness and man-centeredness. Christians come to know God, not because we earned it, but because we have been forgiven. People fritter away their lives running after other things. Whether old or young, it is shocking not to be focused on God. God loves sinners not for their evil. We do not love the world in the sense of admiring their sin. We are meant to love the world in a missionary sense. It is not that we are to hate creation. It’s just that we are to despise sin and godlessness. What we treasure will then determine where we end up. So treasure God and he will draw your heart. What do you talk about with friends? This world is passing away.
- The final contrast is between Christians and antichrist. “The last times” characteristically refers to the entire period of Church history, i.e. between Christ’s first and second comings. Jesus is already reigning. This is the age of conflict. Christ and antichrists, which can be both against Christ or in place of Christ. There are those who claim to be redeemers. Teachers are not special mediators. Carson explained that he is not teaching because he is a special Levite.
There is only one way to God. We are either in or out. We are either on the rock or the sand. We must keep coming back to the cross. Eternity is drawing us.