For my Church Write-Up today, I will post items from the LCMS Sunday School class. The pastor was completing his series on I John.
A. I John 5:16 states: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is
not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that
sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he
shall pray for it” (KJV).
There is a sin not unto death, and a sin unto death. The pastor said
that the sin unto death was rejecting the faith. The reason that this
sin is unforgivable is that faith is the means to receive forgiveness
from God, so, if a person refuses that, he or she is shutting himself or
herself off from forgiveness. We cannot judge who has committed this
sin, though, because only God knows the heart. Even someone who appears
to have rejected the faith may have some flicker of faith that the Holy
Spirit can fan.
I asked the pastor to explain the part about praying and not praying
for people who sin. Christians are encouraged to pray for those who have
committed non-mortal sins, but John denies saying that Christians
should pray for those who have committed the sin unto death. The pastor
offered two explanations. First, Christians can pray that God might
forgive those who have committed non-mortal sins, but they are offering a
futile prayer if they pray that God might forgive those who commit the
sin unto death. Why? Because as long as those who commit the sin unto
death shut themselves off from faith, they cut themselves off from the
possibility of forgiveness.
Second, the pastor suggested that John may have had a pastoral
concern here. The church had suffered a huge split, as numerous
followers of the Docetists left the church and rejected the Gospel that
Christ came in the flesh and died for people’s sins. The church was
trying to move on from that. John was recommending that they focus their
prayers on those who sin yet stay in the faith, for it is too painful
for them to pray for those who left the faith.
B. The pastor shared some illustrations. First, as he did before, he
illustrated the church split in John’s day with the split that occurred
in the Lutheran church in which he grew up. A charismatic movement split
the church, resulting in the loss of half of the deacons and half of
the children’s Sunday school class. That does sound rather jarring.
Second, the pastor talked about an LCMS pastor who left the pastorate
and his family to live with a man and was assuming the role of a Messiah
to the gay community. I don’t know what the full story is there, but,
after that pastor left, an elder told the church that the church is not
its pastor, for the gifts and the forgiveness that they have are from
God. John is making a similar point after his own church had undergone a
C. The pastor talked about the Johannine Comma, which appears in I
John 5:7: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father,
the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (KJV). The KJV
has this verse, but most other modern language versions lack it, and the
pastor explained why. I was familiar with the Johannine Comma, since I
grew up in a non-Trinitarian church, and it said that the passage was
inauthentic and was lacking in the earliest manuscripts. But I had not
studied the details about this. The pastor said that the Comma was in
Greek and Latin manuscripts produced later than the fourth century CE,
and that it was probably added in response to an anti-Trinitarian heresy
known as Priscillianism. After the eighteenth century, however,
scholars had access to even earlier manuscripts, dating to the late
third-early fourth century. One was a Greek New Testament in the Sinai
monastery, one was in Alexandria, and one was in a Russian library. They
lack the Comma.
Carroll D. Osburn’s article on the “Johannine Comma” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary
goes into where the Comma appears and where it is missing. It was
controversial before the eighteenth century, for it was lacking in many
Greek manuscripts and Greek fathers, those one would expect to appeal to
it if it was authentic. Priscillian is mentioned in the article: “The
earliest uncontested use of the Comma is the Liber Apologeticus (1.4) of
Priscillian, a 4th century bishop in Spain.” I will not do a research
project about this right now, but I do wonder why Priscillian quoted it.
What point was he trying to make? This and this source both state that Priscillianism was accused of being non-Trinitarian.
D. I John 5:8 states: “And there are three that bear witness in
earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree
in one” (KJV). How do these three things bear witness on earth? The
pastor offered two interpretations. First, the passage may be about the
death of Christ. Jesus gave up the spirit at death (John 19:30), and, on
the cross, water and blood came from his side (John 19:34). John 19:35
affirms the testimony of the person who saw this. Jesus’ death was
significant in I John because John was combating the Docetists, who
denied that Jesus was a flesh and blood human being who literally died.
Second, the pastor said that the Spirit, water, and blood are witnesses
on earth in a saving sense: they relate to the believer’s burial and
resurrection with Jesus, as well as the reception of the Holy Spirit, at
E. John concludes his letter by saying: “Little children, keep
yourselves from idols. Amen” (I John 5:21). Why? The pastor said it was a
summary of John’s overall message: if John’s church is to take away
anything from the letter, make sure it is this. Worship the true Jesus,
not the false, idol Jesus of the Docetists.
Bonhoeffer, Ethics, and “Scruples”
1 hour ago