Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar: A Mandate for Global Evangelization


Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar: A Mandate for Global Evangelization

14Let God Be True and Every Man a Liar:
A Mandate for Global Evangelization

1 John 1:5-2:2

Main Idea: Jesus is our atonement and our advocate who reconciles us to God and sends us out to share the gospel message with the world.

  1. The World Must Know What God Says about Himself (1:5).
    1. We have a gospel message to announce.
    2. We have a basic truth to affirm.
  2. The World Must Know What God Says about Sin (1:6-10).
    1. Do not lie to others (1:6-7).
    2. Do not lie to yourself (1:8-9).
    3. Do not lie about God (1:10).
  3. The World Must Know What God Says about Jesus (2:1-2).
    1. Jesus is our advocate (2:1).
    2. Jesus is our atonement (2:2).

Why does the world need a Savior? Why do we need an advocate (2:1)? Why must there be a propitiation (2:2)? The answer is sin. Humanity has a sin problem. It is our most fundamental problem, and it affects everyone. Of course, not everyone agrees with this assertion. In 1973 psychologist Karl Menninger shocked modern sensibilities with his book entitled Whatever Became of Sin? Sin? What a quaint and outdated idea. In this book Menninger provided a scathing critique of modern-day preaching and the noticeable absence of the "S" word: "sin." In a chapter titled, "The Disappearances of Sin: An Eyewitness Account," Menninger wrote,

In all of the laments and reproaches made by our seers and prophets, one misses any mention of "sin," a word which used to be a veritable watchword of prophets. It was a word once in everyone's mind, but now rarely if ever heard. Does that mean that no sin is involved in all our troubles—sin with an "I" in the middle? Is no one any longer guilty of anything? Guilty perhaps of a sin that could be repented and repaired or atoned for? Is it only that someone may be stupid or sick or 15criminal—or asleep? Wrong things are being done, we know; tares are being sown in the wheat field at night. But is no one responsible, no one answerable for these acts? Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it? (Whatever Became of Sin?, 13)

Menninger went on to explain,

The very word "sin," which seems to have disappeared, was a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. It described a central point in every civilized human being's life plan and life style. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared—the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn't anyone sin anymore? Doesn't anyone believe in sin? (Ibid., 14)

He then asserts that what is new about our aversion to talking about sin is really the words we use to talk about it:

It is surely nothing new that men want to get away from acknowledging their sins or even thinking about them. Is this not the religious history of mankind? Perhaps we are only more glib nowadays and equipped with more euphemisms. We can speak of error and transgression and infraction and mistakes without the naïve exposure that goes with serious use of that old-fashioned pietistic word "sin." (Ibid., 24)

Obviously sin is not a popular subject in our day. People will go to great lengths to hide it, rationalize it, or deny it. But we must understand that when they deny their sin they call God a liar. They challenge His Word and question His character. They say sin is not serious and Jesus did not need to die. They fall in line with liberal feminist theologian Delores Williams (formerly of Union Theological Seminary in New York), who once said, "I don't think we need a theory of atonement at all. I think Jesus came to show us something about life.... I don't think we need people hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff" (Delores Williams, "Re-Imagining Jesus," 1:3-2). In one sense she is right: if we have no sin then we have no need of a Savior.

The apostle John has an altogether different understanding both of sin's severity and a Savior's necessity. He recognized the danger of calling God a liar and warns his "little children" (2:1) to be on alert. 16Find out what a person believes about Jesus and what he thinks about sin, John says. It will tell you a lot.

First John 1:5 is the basis for 1:6-2:2 and the foundation for 1:6-3:10, the first half of John's letter. First John 1:5-3:10 emphasizes the truth that God is light. The second half of the letter, 3:11-5:12, emphasizes the truth that God is love. Following his declaration in verse 5 that "God is light," John will weave together six "if" clauses and three "if we say" statements (1:6, 8,10) in 1:6-2:2. Nine times he will use the word "sin," and two times he will use the word "darkness." To think correctly about Jesus, you must think correctly about sin. When you see sin for what it is you will immediately see your need—the world's need—for Jesus as your advocate (2:1) and your "atoning sacrifice" (2:2 NIV). You will also avoid the error of calling God a liar.

The World Must Know What God Says about Himself

The World Must Know What God Says about Himself

1 John 1:5

The New English Translation renders verse 5 this way: "Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him." This translation captures, I believe, the heart of what John wants us to understand. We have a gospel, a "good news" message that the world needs. This message concerns Jesus Christ, who is identified as "what was from the beginning" (1:1), "the Word of life" (1:1), "the eternal life" (1:2), the Father's Son (1:3), the source of fellowship (1:3), and the source of joy (1:4). This is God's witness concerning His Son and our Savior. This is what He thinks about Jesus Christ. Having met this Savior in repentance and faith, we have a divine assignment that involves the proclamation of a specific gospel with a universal scope (2:2). This message is for the whole world.

We Have a Gospel Message to Announce

This gospel message is "what we have heard," and the perfect tense of the verb means this message is still ringing in our ears. Further, it is a message we heard from Him, from Jesus Himself. And it is a gospel message we continually "declare" to others. This message is one that has not changed and will never change. There is an abiding and permanent quality to this gospel. There also is an abiding and permanent mandate to get it to the nations, to all 16,500 people groups in the world, with 6,900 still unreached (JoshuaProject.net, accessed Feb. 10, 2014).

17That "God is light" is an embedded aspect of faithful gospel proclamation. It highlights the contrast between who God is and who we are without Him. The word "light" occurs in some form over 275 times in the Bible (95 times in the New Testament). It is a popular theme throughout the Scriptures.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom should I be afraid?

(Ps 27:1)

For with You is life's fountain. In Your light we will see light.

(Ps 36:9)

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you. (Isa 60:1)

Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance. (Isa 60:3)

The sun will no longer be your light by day, and the brightness of the moon will not shine on you; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your splendor. Your sun will no longer set, and your moon will not fade; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your sorrow will be over. (Isa 60:19-20)

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. (Mic 7:8)

The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:9)

Then Jesus spoke to them again: "I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

"While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light." Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them. (John 12:36)

I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness. (John 12:46)

God who is light and gives life has come to us as the light of the world in His Son Jesus Christ. The apostles saw this and they proclaimed it for all the world to hear. As Isaiah said, "The people walking in darkness 18have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness" (Isa 9:2).

We Have a Basic Truth to Affirm

An essential component of faithful gospel proclamation is an understanding of the nature and character of God. This is a theme that John will raise several times. For example, he teaches us that God is light (1:5), God is love (4:8, 16), and God is true (5:20). Here he writes, "God is light and there is not darkness in Him—none" (author's translation). The double negative is used to emphasize this truth. For us a double negative is bad grammar. However, it is excellent theology. As we just saw, the image of light appears often in the Bible in reference to God. Sometimes it points to God's holiness, moral purity, and goodness. Other times the focus is on truth and revelation. It is certainly possible John wished to communicate all these ideas here. But is any one of them the primary thought? Given how John uses the concept of "light" in his Gospel, I believe another idea may have been at the forefront of John's intention.

John 1:4 says, "Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men." And in John 8:12 Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life." In 1 John the statement "God is light" means God has as His very nature and being the source of life. In our God there is light that leads to life. There is not the slightest hint of darkness and death. Martin Luther said, "There is no darkness in him, not even the slightest" (quoted in Akin, 1, 2, 3 John, 69). There is no "dark side" in this God! Light in this instance equals life (cf. Job 33:28, 30). This light leading to life is found in the gospel message about Jesus (1 John 1:5) and proclaimed (1:3, 5) by those who have met Him in conversion, which is the new birth (3:9; 5:1, 4,18). In the light of God is the fullness of the life of God, and there is no lack of life in Him at all.

This is a non-negotiable tenet in faithful theology and faithful gospel proclamation. This is a message we must be passionate to share with the world. We who have received the light must be a light to the world (cf. Matt 5:14). It must become a central intention of all of our lives to take this light into the darkest of places. As John Falconer said, "I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light" (in Sills, The Missionary Call, 181). C. T. Studd would add, "Some want to live within 19the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell" (Hannah, "C T Studd").

The World Must Know What God Says about Sin

The World Must Know What God Says about Sin

1 John 1:6-10

In a real sense, the essence of sin is our attempting to take the place of God. We want to be in charge. We want to establish the ground rules and lay out the playing field. And we want to provide our own definitions of what is right and what is wrong, what sin is and what sin is not. John, on the other hand, is not interested in human opinions on the matter of sin. Divine revelation will set the bar and establish the truth. John seems to be telling us, "Let's hear God's mind on the matter." We will discover that He takes sin very seriously. John rhetorically uses three "If we say" statements to help us see sin as we ought, to see sin as God sees sin. In the process, a healthy theology of lying is addressed.

Do Not Lie to Others (1 John 1:6-7)

Using an inclusive "we" (to indicate anyone, anywhere, at any time who takes this position, as well as John himself), John makes a negative assertion (1:6) and a positive observation (1:7). If we say we have fellowship with God—that God is our intimate friend, known in light and life—yet we walk in darkness—in death and all that accompanies spiritual death and darkness (cf. Eph 2:1-3)—we lie and do not practice or live out the truth. The verb "walk" is in the present tense and speaks of a continuous and consistent pattern of life. In essence, we say to others, "I know God," but our beliefs and behavior contradict our words. By denying that Jesus is God in the flesh and downplaying the seriousness of sin, we lie to others about who we are.

In contrast, verse 7 says that if we live our lives in the realm of light, as God is in the light, we indeed have fellowship (intimate friendship) with one another (1:3-4), and the blood of Jesus his Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin. I love what Martin Luther said about Christ's cleansing blood:

It is strange that although we preach about the blood and the suffering of Christ every year, yet we see so many sects bursting forth. Oh, the great darkness of the past! But if we cling to the Word that has been made known, we have this treasure, which 20is the blood of Christ. If we are beset by sins, no harm is done. The blood of Christ was not shed for the devil or the angels; it was shed for sinners. Accordingly, when I feel sin, why should I despair, and why should I not believe that it has been forgiven? For the blood of Christ washes sins away. The main thing is that we cling simply to the Word. Then there is no trouble. (Luther, Lectures, 228)

Do Not Lie to Yourself (1 John 1:8-9)

Those who live in death and darkness do not just lie to others, saying one thing while believing and living another. Eventually they lie to themselves, becoming self-deceived. Their internal spiritual and moral compass goes haywire and their conscience is, as Paul said, "seared" (1 Tim 4:2).

John then introduces his second "If we say" statement. Here we discover what appears to be a claim of sinlessness, a declaration that we are free from the guilt and penalty of sin. This spiritual posture says, "I have no sin and I do not need Jesus as an advocate or atonement." John's judgment on such persons is quick and pointed: they deceive themselves and the truth is not in them. John's message is clear: "You say you have no sin, but God says you do. You say you have no need of a Savior, but God says you do."

John then follows up with the positive and correct theological antidote in verse 9. It is one of the most beloved and memorized verses in the Bible. A free paraphrase of it may help us capture afresh the heart of its marvelous truth: "If we are characterized as those who are continually agreeing with God about our sin, both its nature and its acts, God is both faithful and just (true to Himself) to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all our wickedness." It is as if John were saying, "Look! There are some who cover and conceal their sin. They are liars. There are also confessors who acknowledge and admit their sin. They are forgiven." Proverbs 28:13 reminds us, "The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy." The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon got it exactly right:

The idea of having no sin is a delusion; you are altogether deceived if you say so; the truth is not in you, and you have not seen things in the true light; you must have shut your eyes to21 the high requirements of the law, you must be a stranger to your own heart, you must be blind to your own conduct every day, and you must have forgotten to search your thoughts and to weigh your motives, or you would have detected the presence of sin. He who cannot find water in the sea is not more foolish than the man who cannot perceive sin in his members. As the salt flavors every drop of the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. (Spurgeon, "Honest Dealings with God")

It should be noted that the apostle John does not deny our need to be seen as sinless. He simply notes that we cannot find it in ourselves. We need an advocate. We need an atonement. We need another.

Do Not Lie about God (1 John 1:10)

In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky writes,

The one who lies to himself and believes his own lies comes to a point where he can distinguish no truth either within himself or around him, and thus enters into a state of disrespect towards himself and others. Respecting no one, he loves no one, and to amuse and divert himself in the absence of love, he gives himself up to his passions and his vulgar delights and becomes a complete animal in his vices, and all of it from lying to other people and himself. (The Brothers Karamazov, 45)

John says something similar but more simply: lie to others (1:6) and lie to yourself (1:8), and soon you will lie about God. In fact you will actually call God a liar.

John introduces his third "If we say" statement. Again the theological claim he is addressing is that we now live in a state of sinlessness. We claim to be right with God, to believe the truth, and to live without sin. John says with a double punch we are twice wrong. First, we make God a liar because He says we are sinners. Second, His Word is not in those who claim they have no sin problem. Someone else's word says we have no sin problem. But God says we are sinners and need a Savior. False teachers say we are not sinners and need no Savior. The differing claims are clear aren't they? Which are you going to believe?

The World Must Know What God Says about Jesus


The World Must Know What God Says about Jesus

1 John 2:1-2

Modern studies on the historical Jesus can be fascinating. They can also be deceiving and disappointing because they are so far removed in truth and time from the Jesus revealed in the Bible. In a book entitled The Historical Jesus: Five Views, it is noted that modernist options include:

[A]n eschatological prophet, a Galilean holy man, an occultic magician, an innovative rabbi, a trance-inducing psychotherapist, a Jewish sage, a political revolutionary, an Essene conspirator, an itinerant exorcist, an historicized myth, a protoliberation theologian, a peasant artisan, a Torah-observant Pharisee, a Cynic-like philosopher, a self-conscious eschatological agent, a socioeconomic reformer, a paradoxical Messianic claimant and, finally, as one who saw himself as, in some sense, the very embodiment of Yahweh-God. (Beilby and Eddy, The Historical Jesus, 53)

I would argue that it is the last one that matches up with Scripture. And this one who is "the very embodiment of Yahweh-God" is both our advocate and our atonement in His work of redemption. Who could ever have imagined or made up anything like this? This Jesus may not be a Jesus we can be comfortable with, but He is the Jesus we need and the whole world needs! In the Chronicles of Narnia one of the Penvency children asks of the great Lion-king Aslan, "Is he safe?" The answer: "No! But he is good!" Oh how true that is of the Lion-King of Judah!

Jesus Is Our Advocate (1 John 2:1)

For the first of seven times in this letter John uses the phrase "my little children." It is a term of endearment and fatherly concern. John sees himself as their spiritual father and they as his spiritual children. They stand in striking contrast to the liars of chapter 1. John says, "As a spiritual father, now a spiritual grandfather (cf. Deut 6:1-9), I am writing to you these things, the things of 1:5-10, so that you may not sin." John has made it clear that in this life we cannot be sinless (but note again the future promise of 3:2!), but he does believe we can sin less because we are now in intimate fellowship with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (1:3).

We will still sin until we are glorified. What do we do when we sin? Well, in 1:9 he told us to confess our sins. Now in 2:1 he tells us to flee23 to our Savior who is our "advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One." The word "advocate" is parakletosin Greek, or paraclete. The word occurs five times in the New Testament (John 14:16, 26; 15:25; 16:7; 1 John 2:1). Four times it refers to the Holy Spirit. Only here is it a reference to the Lord Jesus who is able to be our advocate because He is "the Righteous One." Isaiah 53:11 may be echoed here. There our Lord is called Yahweh's "righteous Servant." This advocate is sinless, undefiled, and spotless in His nature and in all of His actions. There is no one else like Him.

The word "advocate" means helper, one who is called to come alongside in a time of need. This helper helps us when we sin. He is the cleanser of sin (1:7), the forgiver of sin (1:9), and the helper when we do sin. Isn't the gospel amazing? We have a helper in our heart (the Holy Spirit) and a helper in heaven (Jesus Christ the Righteous One). Or as Paul says, we have an intercessor in our hearts (Rom 8:26-27) and an intercessor in heaven (Rom 8:35). As a result, no sin can "separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Rom 8:39).

Jesus Is Our Atonement (1 John 2:2)

John now informs us why Jesus can be our advocate. It is because He made a "propitiation," an atonement for our sins. The word "propitiation" is a very important word in the New Testament. It is the Greek word hilasmos. The word and its variants occur in the context of the work of Christ in four crucial texts: Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10. The word carries the idea of satisfaction. Jesus Christ, by His bloody sacrifice on the cross, satisfied God's holiness and turned away His righteous wrath from sinners. The wrath that should have been poured out on sinners was poured out on Jesus. The judgment that should have been experienced by sinners was experienced by Jesus. The hell that should have been experienced by sinners was experienced by Jesus.

All this was done to accomplish God's purpose. Second Corinthians 5:19 reveals that through this propitiation, "in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself." Therefore feminist theologian Delores Williams is wrong when she says, "There is nothing divine in the blood of the cross" (Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, 61). And Episcopal bishop John Spong misses it when he says, "Neither do I want a God who would kill his own son" (quoted in Ash, "Bishop Will Retire But He Won't Stop"). Steve Chalke is also in error when he says the orthodox understanding of the cross is a form of cosmic child abuse, "a vengeful 24father, punishing his son for an offence he has not even committed ... [a] twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith" (Chalke and Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, 182-83). No, the work of atonement accomplished by Christ on the cross is where God's holiness and God's love meet, where God's judgment and God's mercy kiss. Yes, it pleased the Father to crush His Son and put Him to grief (Isa 53:10), and it pleased the Father to highly exalt Him and bestow on Him "the name that is above every name" (Phil 2:9).

And it is important to note that there is a universal component to this atoning work: it is "for [the sins] of the whole world." No one is beyond its reach. No one. A universal provision has been made so that as the redeemed so awesomely sing in Revelation 5:9, "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation."



The wonderful Church Father Augustine (ad 354-430) well said,

For we could not be redeemed, even through the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, if He were not also God. Now when Adam was created, he, being a righteous man, had no need of a mediator. But when sin had placed a wide gulf between God and the human race, it was expedient that a Mediator, who alone of the human race was born, lived, and died without sin, should reconcile us to God, and procure even for our bodies a resurrection to eternal life. (Enchiridion, ch. 108)

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) would add,

I have conscientiously looked far and wide, inside and outside my own head and heart, and I have found nothing other than this man and his words which offers any answer to the dilemmas of this tragic, troubled time. If his light has gone out, then, as far as I am concerned, there is no light. (Seeing through the Eye, 106)

Thankfully, the light has not gone out. It has come in the person of Jesus Christ. So, let us flee to it. Then, let us take it to the world, a world for which He and He alone is the propitiation, the perfect atoning sacrifice.

Reflect and Discuss


Reflect and Discuss

  1. How has our culture come to take sin lightly? How do we do this in our own lives?
  2. Why is it important to realize that the gospel message has not changed?
  3. Light is a common theme in Scripture. How does the image of light help you understand who God is?
  4. How does the truth that Jesus is "the light of the world" fuel missions around the world?
  5. Why is it important to get our idea of sin from what God says rather than from our culture?
  6. What is the relationship between belief and action according to John? What do your actions say about your relationship with Christ?
  7. Why should Christians be marked by continual confession of sin?
  8. What are some options about Jesus' identity that you have heard? How do they match up with Scripture?
  9. Because all men are sinners, what does John say about Jesus that gives us hope? How does Jesus fulfill the roles of advocate and atoning sacrifice?
  10. How does Christ's coming mandate global missions?