Life-Study of 1, 2, & 3 John, Judeby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the foregoing messages we have considered two mysteries—the mystery of the divine life and the mystery of the divine fellowship. Although we have not covered these matters thoroughly, I believe that they have been somewhat opened to us and that we have at least received hints concerning how to delve into them further. In this message we shall begin to consider the conditions of the divine fellowship, that is, the terms that must be fulfilled in order to enjoy this fellowship.
If we would be in the divine fellowship, we need to fulfill certain conditions, terms, or obligations. Only then can we enjoy the divine fellowship. This matter of the conditions of the divine fellowship is revealed in the second half of chapter one and in the first half of chapter two (1:5—2:11). Only two verses speak of the divine life (1:1-2) and another two verses of the divine fellowship (1:3-4), whereas seventeen verses are related to the conditions of the divine fellowship. This indicates that, as far as we are concerned, the conditions of the fellowship are a very important matter.
The divine life and the divine fellowship are both on God’s side. However, the conditions, the terms, the obligations, by which we can enjoy the divine fellowship are on our side. It is simple to receive the divine life and to be brought into the fellowship of the divine life. But it is not a simple matter to maintain this fellowship and remain in it. For this reason, the apostle John does not pass over the conditions that must be fulfilled if we are to remain in the divine fellowship. As we shall see, there are two main conditions covered in 1:5—2:11: the confessing of sins (1:5—2:2) and the loving of God and the brothers (2:3-11).
The first condition of the divine fellowship involves both sin and sins. Sin and sins are a serious problem concerning our enjoyment of the divine fellowship, for they cause our fellowship with the Triune God to be frustrated and broken. Therefore, the apostle John devotes a number of verses to confessing our sins. Before we consider these verses, I would like to bring to our attention some matters that will help us to understand John’s writing concerning sin and sins.
According to the Bible, sin dwells within us, in our flesh. Romans 7:20 says, “But if what I do not will, this I do, it is no longer I that do it but sin that dwells in me.” The word “dwell” here indicates that sin is something living. Anything that is not living, such as a chair, cannot dwell anywhere. For example, you would not say that a chair dwells in your home. In order for a certain thing to dwell in a particular place, that thing must be living and organic. Hence, the fact that sin dwells within us indicates that sin is a living entity.
The sin described in Romans 7 is personified. The activities of sin are those of a person. Sin takes occasion through the commandment and works coveting in us (v. 8). Furthermore, sin may deceive us and kill us (v. 11). According to Paul’s word in verse 17, sin dwells in us and does certain things in us: “So now it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Moreover, Paul says that sin enters (Rom. 5:12), reigns (Rom. 5:21), lords it over people (Rom. 6:14), works death in us (Rom. 7:13), and is something that is quite alive (Rom. 7:9). Therefore, sin is not a lifeless element or substance. On the contrary, sin is a living thing that can dwell in us and do things against our will. This was the reason Paul could say that it was not he who did certain things, but sin that dwelt in him.
Some oppose us for teaching that sin dwells in our flesh and that this sin dwelling in us is something personified. However, this teaching concerning indwelling sin and its activities is altogether according to the Scriptures. We cannot deny what Paul says in Romans 7 regarding sin.
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