“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother’ ” (Genesis 35:1).
When Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau, he came to a place called Bethel, the place where he first met God. It was there that he received both the land promise and the seed promise, and it was to this place that God promised He would bring Jacob back.
The fulfillment of that promise begins in Genesis 35:1. Jacob and his family are in deep trouble both physically and spiritually because they have allowed themselves to become immersed in many grievous sins where they are living. Jacob decides to go Back to Bethel in an attempt to correct the wrongs in which his family is involved.
Back to Bethel can metaphorically be a battle cry for us as we confront the challenges with which our world presents us—it can stand for “the place where we first met God” when we obeyed the gospel and turned our lives over to Him.
Even if our lives have become entwined with the grievous sins of our own day, with a concerted effort, we can find spiritual renewal and the peace that passes all understanding at our “Bethel.” Just as God stood with open arms to receive Jacob, He stands with that same posture to receive us today—all it takes is the right attitude and a firm decision on our part.
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted: but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
“Godly sorrow” comes because people are made aware that they have displeased God by sinning, and this realization causes them to decide to give up the sin—they repent. This repentance will lead to salvation. There is no regret because the end result is worth it.
The “sorrow of the world” is a sorrow brought on by fleshly reasons. The sinner may regret his sin, but he doesn’t repent and turn back to God’s ways. Rather, he may be sad because he has been caught or because he suffers as a result of what he has done, but he has no desire to change. This kind of behavior produces spiritual death or separation from God.
So, we have a choice. We can allow an awareness of our sins to lead us back to the path of righteousness and ultimately salvation; or we can continue in our sinful behavior, having no hope of being reunited with God. The choice is ours.
Fifth in a series of studies of 1 John 1:5-10
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
John gives a contrast in the above verses where he teaches against those who deny the existence of sin: here, he provides assurance and hope for Christians who are willing to open up to God and confess their sins.
The original word for “confess” carries with it the idea of “continuing to confess.” So, it is not a one-time action, but it is an activity that is ongoing in our communication with God. Since we will stumble along the way, we keep this open dialogue with God through prayer in which we humbly and sincerely ask for forgiveness.
Since God never breaks His word, He will forgive us as well as cleanse us: “to cleanse” means not just a temporary forgiveness, but it is a complete removal of sin as if it never happened. What a wonderful blessing God has extended because of His deep love for us as His children.
Fourth in a series of studies of 1 John 1:5-10
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Continuing his goal of refuting the notions of the Gnostics, John brings forth a major tenet of that group: they were above sin. They believed they could live in sinless perfection because sin and law did not apply to them.
John meets that claim head-on by labeling those holding such a belief as self-deceivers and dishonest. The scriptures make it clear that everyone has sinned, and the point of Christianity is that we do not have to remain in those sins nor even continue in the downward spiral of a sinful life.
Through the ages, there have been those who have made the same claim—that they can live a life with no sin in spite of the teaching here and in other places like Romans 3 where Paul writes, “all have sinned.”
The “truth” is we are all subject to the deceptive temptations of the devil, and we sometimes grow weak and stumble. Accepting that reality will go a long way in helping us develop a deeper appreciation for Jesus’ tremendous sacrifice that paid the price for our sins.
Third in a series of studies of 1 John 1:5-10
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Completing his contrast between those walking in darkness and those walking in the light, John presents the positive side of this picture. By continuing to “walk(ing) in the light,” not only do we have fellowship with God but also we have fellowship with one another.
Those who are walking in the light with God are those who have accepted a common set of spiritual values by obeying the gospel, culminating in baptism, and have made it their goal to live the kind of lifestyle prescribed in the New Testament.
John adds a component in this passage when he designates the atoning factor that makes this kind of fellowship possible: the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Without that blood, there would be no possibility of fellowship with God.
Second in a series of studies of 1 John 1:5-10
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6).
Having established the premise upon which the teaching found here rests, John begins a series of conditions that are irrefutable. Since God is light (righteous) and since light and darkness (sin) are incompatible, then the following designated truths are self-evident.
If one who claims to have fellowship with God—a baptized believer—makes it his practice to live a sinful life, he is not a truthful person. “Fellowship” means two parties have something in common—like purposes, like behavior, like feelings.
This verse could not refer to a Christian whose common practice is to live the righteous life prescribed in scripture but falls short occasionally. If so, the passages teaching us to practice repentance, confession, and prayer for daily sins would be pointless.
Rather, the contrast is between living lives dedicated to God’s way and lives immersed in sinful practices without a thought of changing—that is, walking in darkness. The message here is that if we truly have fellowship with God, we will not “walk in darkness.”
First in a series of studies of 1 John 1:5-1
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
Fully assuring his readers in the first five verses that not only had he heard about Jesus but that he saw Him personally, the Apostle John here moves his credibility a step forward by declaring that the message he is sending them has come to him directly from Jesus.
That message is intended to help them deal with the Gnostics, who believed they could have a relationship with God and live in sin at the same time. To refute that idea, John declares, “God is light,” then contrasting light and darkness.
Light is representative of purity, and darkness is representative of sin—the two are incompatible, thus demonstrating emphatically that the philosophy of the Gnostics is false. As “light,” God has “no darkness at all” or no sin at all.
To realize the absolute purity of God is to understand the kind of life God wants us to live. For us to have a significant relationship with Him, we must make it our goal to weed sin out of our lives and hold tightly to Jesus. Only then can we expect to spend eternity in heaven.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Having just declared that God had given Him all authority, Jesus here commands that His followers go into the world and make disciples in all nations by baptizing them.
Because of clear teaching in many other scriptures, we know by command and example that baptism is immersion, a process in which a person is completely submerged under water.
A second part of the command is “Teaching”—that is, the process does not stop with baptism. Those who have been baptized must be given instruction about all other commands in scripture, including acceptable worship and living a pure, moral life. The goal is to submit to Jesus’ word in this life so that we can reap the reward in the next.
Fourth of four Word Studies of 1 Peter 2:17
“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).
By “honor,” Peter means to give respect that is due to those in positions of authority. That we do not live under a “King” does not negate our responsibilities to keep this command. Those in authority have been put in power for our good; so, we “honor” them, even when their behavior does not appear to be deserving.
As God’s faithful children, we have learned from scripture that the best way to “honor” anyone is to obey his word—that is true in our relationship with God, and it also holds true in our relationship with secular authorities so long as they do not give a command that violates the law of God.
By being good citizens and by obeying the laws of the land in which we live, we, first of all, honor God, but, secondly, we serve as an example to others. Hopefully, our fellows can observe our behavior and be influenced to learn more about what motivates us to good citizenship, thus giving us an opportunity to tell them about Jesus.
Third of four Word Studies of 1 Peter 2:17
“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).
Unfortunately, we live in a world that pictures fear as a really bad thing when we are discussing our relationship with God. That’s an interesting idea in view of the fact that the Bible teaches repeatedly that we are to fear God.
“Fear,” as used here as well as in many other passages, refers to a reverential fear of God. It is a fear that “banishes the terror that shrinks from His presence.” And it replaces it with love, respect, and reverence for Him and with “a wholesome dread of displeasing Him.”
So, the kind of fear Peter teaches here is a positive stimulant for us as we navigate the Christian life, doing our best to maintain a healthy relationship with God as we look forward to eternal life with Him some day.