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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who confess Jesus as Lord of their life said … AMEN!
This is becoming an overwhelming issue for Christians in a pluralistic society. John’s words are more important today than ever. Many people acknowledge Jesus, but few really see Him as Lord of their life. John’s epistle is dated to the end of the first century, about sixty years after the crucifixion and resurrection. The church of Christ has grown, it is catholic at this point, that is universal, there are many kinds of people, in many different places that profess Jesus and worship with fellow Christians. The world today may be difficult in our post-Christian world, as compared to the world which until recently was at least culturally Christian. People in the world today often do not think of themselves as “Christian” as those of us who are in the Christian church. They may see Jesus as a “great teacher, etc”, but not as who He truly Is, that is the Lord of those who confess Jesus as He who died for our sins and was resurrected to give us the assurance of our resurrection into eternal life in the perfect New World. As much as the world has become very alien and antagonistic, or at least indifferent to Christianity today, it’s not hard to imagine how much more the world was that way to the church at the end of the first century. There was “gods”, beliefs, philosophies across the board, a supermarket of beliefs for anyone to choose whatever they wanted. With few exceptions, there was very little integrity in any of these beliefs, groups and teachings were organized to support anything you could want ranging from love of money, love of self, epicureanism a system that taught how to live the so-called “good life”, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. And of course to beliefs that were entirely about us and our works.
John is the last of the original disciples. There are bishops, even some regional assemblies that guided the church, but if there was an ultimate head of the church on earth he would have been John. He is very elderly at this time, probably around 90 years old, very much revered as a teacher. Unlike most people at this point, John’s “been there, done that and certainly has the t-shirt”. He was the disciple who was closest to Jesus, unlike the rest he was right there at the crucifixion and was at the resurrection and was involved in the church for the last sixty year. At this point in history, there are many heretical beliefs that are creeping in to Christianity. You often see other “Christian” beliefs, today with churches, who question the need for Christian doctrine, “it’s all about love”, they claim, that’s all you need. It is doctrine that gives us what it means to be truly Christian and to counter all the false teaching out there which were there from the beginning and are out there today. As we’ve discussed many times, the word “love” is very subjective, the word we use today, has about four different words in the original Greek. John uses the word frequently in this epistle. He starts the letter with the word “beloved”, the Greek word is avgaphto,j we’ve talked about the Greek word avgapa,w In a Christian context it is the love that Jesus showed to us, it is a love that is to all and under all circumstances, that is self-sacrificing, concerned with the best welfare of those who God leads us to, to be in relationship with. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading talks about us all being a part of the same vine. We are all branches, we have the same source, the same relationship, being part of the same organism. Jesus said I am the “true vine”, there is no other authentic vine, only Me and only those who are branches of Me, the true vine. We abide in Him as a vine, an extension of Him and because of that He abides in us. The Greek word me,nw not just to be a part of, but to wait with, endure with, and as Jesus says to bear fruit and of course part of that fruit is that selfless, sacrificing love that we have for Him and brothers and sisters in Jesus. We have that love toward all we encounter, all people who the Holy Spirit brings us in contact with. But especially means to endure and to enhance the vine. To be fruitful and faithful to the vine and all the branches. In today’s world, we too often see that as being a little too soft, lacking discernment.
John calls those he writes to beloved, those who are the favorites and we are favorites, we have been chosen to be part of the vine, so we are very favored, also dear, important, close, part of the same vine, the same Body. Also esteemed, since we are so highly favored, each of us who are baptized in Jesus, we should think of each of us baptized in Him as special and important. Edward Englebrecht writes: “One story says that the congregation asked John to say a few words to them. By then, the aged apostle could not put many words together, but he would say repeatedly, ‘Little children, love one another”. We are all part of the same vine, the same body, our first priority, the great commandment is to love the Lord, the “true vine”, but to also love our neighbor. How much more of a neighbor can we have then the branches that we are a part of and surround us, the branches of the true vine of Jesus Christ?
But the world continues to push on us, which is spiritual warfare that John is warning us about. We are to test the spirits, and spirits can come to us in many shapes, forms and ways. What you see on the internet, the movie you watched last night, the people you encounter on the street, on and on. We are to treat them with respect, love, that they are dear to us, they are made in God’s image. But we are always to test those spirits, if they show themselves to be of Christ, that they are baptized and take the Body and Blood of Jesus, they are a brother or sister and should be esteemed and treated accordingly. But if they do not confess Jesus, if they do not produce the fruit of the Spirit, we need to remember that as we relate to them. The world claims there are a lot of things that are “truth” that do not have anything to do with Jesus. John saw many false prophets in the first century and it is no less today. People who are teaching things that either straight out reject Jesus, or just ignore Him and profess things that have nothing to do with life and life more abundant as Jesus promises us and as a part of that vine that is all about Jesus.
Take that journal out. How do you test the spirits? It is not difficult, when we interact someone, it’s all about how what they say fits with what Jesus tells us. If they make a claim that doesn’t result in Jesus being Lord of our life, as Dr Martin Luther wrote: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”
If what you hear conflicts with what Dr Luther wrote, it’s not of Christ, it’s wrong. How do you address what you hear or see in faith to Jesus?
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom
 Edward Englebrecht “Concordia’s Complete Bible Handbook for students” p 438
 Martin Luther’s Large Catechism