Unwrapping the sandwich – our obedience and God’s message through us

1 John 3: 11– 4: 21

Monday, July 1, 2013

Unwrapping the sandwich – our obedience and God’s message through us

THIS week we return to our 1 John series and this is where we see some real, tangible, practical outcome from this study. If you are reading this I can make some assumptions. You want to see prayers answered. You feel frustrated sometimes when it seems that the enemy has the power and we don’t – there’s too much possession of the ball in our half of the pitch. And you know that God has a better strategy than any we can come up with.

To leap forward for a moment, the final verses of the letter say this:
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true – even in His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5: 19-20)

We’re taking a long passage this week, from 1 John 3: 16 (and referring back further) to 1 John 4: 21. What is not immediately obvious is that it is a sandwich. You have come across sandwich passages before – think of the way 1 Corinthians 13 is set between 12 and 14, the great passage on unconditional love set centrally between teaching on gifts. Some of the psalms use a kind of ‘bracket’ at beginning and end to frame what goes in the middle e.g. Psalm 103.

Here the teaching is about spiritual authority, set in a substantial frame of relationships – loving one another. Through the letter, we learned who God is, who we are in Him, in particular as children of God, and here John, addressing situations where false teaching is prevalent, does his version of “by their fruit you will know them”.

He puts it differently: 1 John 3: 11 “This is the message you heard… we should love one another.” This is expanded in 4: 11 – “…since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The ‘ought’ and ‘should’ sound to us like legalistic demands – consequences of obligation. However, these two words can also show consequences of association; the ones who heard the message and know they are in God’s love would be the ones likely to be living it out.

By contrast, someone who doesn’t love others can hardly claim to love God (4: 19-20).

Who are the people you can trust? Who are the people of God, of the light and truth, not leaning to the viewpoint of the world? It is the people who know they are in God’s love, and model what they are receiving.


Read this long passage and think about the ‘sandwich’. What is God beginning to say to you about who you are, how you are and what spiritual authority you carry? Find another Christian you can share this with, someone who will give you some perspective on this.

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