The Apostle John, in his first epistle, set forth three simple theological propositions;
* God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all…(I John 1:5)
* God is Love…(I John 4:8)
* Jesus Christ has come,(and remains) in the flesh…(I John 4:2)
The apostle was seeking to call the children of God back to ,“that which you have heard from the beginning…”, the “old commandment which you heard at the first…”, because the false prophets had swept into the assemblies, with their super-spirituality, false prophecies, visions , revelations, spiritual elitism, and above all with their esoteric ‘knowledge’.
They were the ‘knowing ones’, the gnostics, who were elevated above ‘normal christians’ by their secret insights into the mysteries of God. They had a “new anointing”, greater than any ever seen before, (sound familiar? ).
Thus they intimidated and confused the early church,(as they do today), into thinking that somehow, simple faith in Jesus (Whom none of us have ever seen), and reliance on His Word(as committed to the apostles) , the confession of sin, repentance, the law of love and humility; was somehow an insufficient faith, compared to their mystical, sensual, self-exalting experienced based spirituality that they offered.
Therefore John would take us back to the basics. Who is God?
God is light and in him is no darkness at all. The Most High doesn’t merely have light, He is light itself! God is Holy. He is absolutely other than all of His creation. He is above us all. God hates everything that is sinful, rebellious, false and debased. He is everlastingly opposed to all that is evil.
He who is light exposes and judges evil in all of its forms. Our God is the ultimate Judge who will “by no means clear the guilty” but will right every wrong and punish every transgression to the infinite measure.
Yet, God is love. God is compassionate and merciful, He describes himself to Moses as “tender-hearted and of great mercy”, always willing to forgive. He is a Father who pities His children, in all of their affliction he is afflicted. God loves man, He wants to forgive, to redeem ,heal and to restore us. Can you see the problem of forgiveness?
But how can a Holy God forgive sinners? If an earthly judge simply acquitted a murderer because he felt pity for him wouldn’t we consider that to be corruption? How can a loving God truly punish iniquity? Would he deny the “holy part” of himself in favor of the “loving part”? The problem is that God has no “parts”, for God is One. He is not “part Holy and Part Loving” for God alone is truly indivisible!
The Holy God is Love, the God of Love is Holy. His love is Holy Love. His justice is an expression of His Love. Because God is Love, there is a Hell! God will never deny any of His attributes, He cannot deny himself, for to repudiate any aspect of His nature would be wrong, and God never does wrong.
If there is going to be any redemption or forgiveness for sinners among men, God would have to make a righteous way to forgive sinners, salvation would only be accomplished in a way that is consistent with God’s Holy nature.
How could the Holy God ever forgive me and make me His Son ?
This brings us to the third propositional statement, “Jesus Christ has come(and remains) in the flesh”… .
God became a man, because “by man came sin”... and death. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself…”, He took upon himself the human condition, and at the prime of his human life he offered himself to God as a sacrifice for our sins.
In the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the only man who fully pleased God in every respect, God’s Righteousness and mercy are revealed. Righteousness because, God didn’t “clear the guilty…”, He punished us, in the person of Jesus our substitute.
The cross is a revelation of the wrath of God against all sins and sinners. Jesus even wore the crown of thorns as an indication that this one was bearing the curse pronounced upon man in the garden of Eden. God did not “sweep sin under the carpet”, he has laid it bare, and bore full responsibility for (our) sins, punishing them in the death of the Son.
The Love of God also has been fully displayed , in the incarnation and the cross of Jesus. What Love!! That He would give us his only Son! “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…”. Wesley taught us to sing, “Amazing Love, How can it be? That Thou my God shouldst Die for me…”.
I think even our Muslim friends know in their own hearts, that the real God isn’t calling us to murder people to be saved. Rather doesn’t it ring true that God himself, would willingly lay down his life for us? He did this as an offering to himself, as a way to answer the charges that His own law rightfully brings against all of us lawbreakers, rebels and sinners? Paul said tat God has set Jesus forth “to declare at this time His righteousness, that He might be Just, and the Justifier of him which hath faith in Jesus…”.
The Heart of the Gospel is the heart of God himself, full of Love and Mercy, and Holiness and Judgment, none at the expense of the other. Psalm 85 declares,
I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.(Psalm 85:8-10)