Friday, November 28, 2008

On Chapter 9: The Waterfall Of Forgiveness

Caution Point 1: Joseph Prince (JP) thinks that “1 John 1.9 was written to the Gnostics, who were unbelievers. John was saying to these unbelievers that if they confessed their sins, God would be faithful and just to cleanse them from all unrighteousness.” (Italic added, p.106)

JP is making a very vague point here. The epistle was not written to the Gnostics. It was written to the Christians who were encountering some form of distorted teachings. This is shown in the epistle’s often clarification to its readers in 1 John 1.2-5,

“…the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (Emphasis added, ESV)

Here the author reminds the readers of the author’s faithfulness in transmitting the message to them. Then the author went on to clarify what the message is as different from the false teachings,

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (Emphasis added, 1 John 1.6-10, ESV)

Notice the many “if” used in this passage. This shows that the author was referring to some of the false teachings.

To illustrate this point, imagine your best friend heard a rumour that you do not trust her. And when she confronts you for explanation, you may prove the rumour false by affirming your genuine relationship with her by saying something like, “If I say ‘I don’t trust you’, I’m a liar…if the rumour is true, then I am really a good actor all this while…”

Though not a perfect illustration, I hope it brings out the point. And the point is the author was referring the readers to false teachings. This means that the epistle was addressed to the Christians, not the Gnostics. When you say something like that to defend your genuine relation, you are saying to your best friend, not those who spread the rumour.

Therefore at best, JP can say that 1 John is written to the Christians concerning the Gnostics, like how I have suggested above. But even if JP meant it this way, still there is a problem.

There is nowhere in the epistle shows that it was addressed to or concerning the Gnostics. At best, the false teaching resembles some form of Docetism, a false teaching that asserts Jesus Christ was not really a human, hence undermining his life, ministry, and ultimately, his saving actions. It seems that this group was spreading teaching that do not take ethical living seriously (1 John 1.6, 8, 10, 2.4, 6, 9, 4.20). We can also derive some of the false teachings from the epistle itself. See for eg. 1 John 2.29, 3.3, 4, 6, 9 etc.

The mentioned false teaching resembles some early form of, perhaps, Gnosticism but to assert that it is Gnosticism is over confident to the extent of getting out what is not found in the text.

Thank God that I adhere to JP’s advise on page 32 regarding reading JP’s own book, “Even as you read this book (Destined to Reign), I don’t want you to take my word for it. I want you to crack open your Bible and study the Word of God for yourself…”


Click here to go to the Contents page of this review series.

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Reference: John Painter's "1, 2, and 3 John" in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible edited by James D. G. Dunn and John William Rogerson

1 comment:

Concerned said...

There're many doctrinal errors JP made in his book, 'D2R' which I normally ignore for I think I'd rather use my time to 'save' some souls. But this is so erroneous and therefore dangerous that I cannot stand it anymore but to voice out.

Here goes my rant:

To say that 1 John 1:9 was written to the Gnostics (in other words, unbelievers) is simply unacceptable. Here's why:

1. When a person writes a letter to his friends, and in his letter, he uses the word, 'we', isn't it obvious that he's talking about people who's in the same circle? If he were to talk about people who's not in his circle, wouldn't he use the word, 'they'?

2. I remember somewhere in his book or a sermon of his, he quoted Jn 16:8 that says, "And He (the Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement;" JP said that the only sin (singular) the world, and of course unbelievers commit is the rejection of the Gospel. But in 1 John 1:9, the Apostle John says, "If we confess our sins". Notice the word, "sins" is plural? So who was it written for?

I think it's painfully obvious 1 Jn 1:9 was written for believers. And in the very first place, just why would the Gnostics read John's letters? In fact, during John's days, there's no email, do you think he'd 'cc' a copy to the Gnostics? Come on! Give me a break!

Further down his book, JP said that only in the beginning of 1 Jn 2:1 John addressed his audience, "My little children" and therefore, only from chapter 2 onwards John was writing to the Christians. This is another absurd claim.

Here's why: There are so many instances in the other epistles that the other Apostles interjected the words, "My brethren", "My children" halfway in their letters. Does that mean that the contents before they used those words are meant for unbelievers? Duh...?

And JP also stated that in 1 Jn 2:1, "... and if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father..." and therefore why is there a need to confess our sins? This is another dangerous error!

First and foremost, 1 Jn 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins...: and 1 Jn 2:1 says, "... and if anyone sins...". Guys, please note that there's a difference between "if we CONFESS our sins" and "if we SIN". 1 Jn 1:9 is saying that we have already sinned and 1 Jn 2:1 is saying that in case we sin.

Think about it, if a person commits a crime and he needs an advocate to defend for him, doesn't he have to first 'confess' what actually happened before the advocate can defend for him?

I know, the people in JP's camp will say, "But Jesus is all-knowing, so there's no need to tell Him what happened!" Yes. Then, in that case, we can also ignore Rom 10:9 that says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord..., you will be saved"; since He's all-knowing. Right? Again, duh...?

People who are in the JP's camp (which I once was), I adjure you guys to read the Bible as it is, not as the way you or JP want it to be. The Bible is so thick and so filled with words that one can simply 'pluck' out a couple of verses to support his belief. It's VERY VERY dangerous.

God bless!