What do you rely on to get through your day? The things we rely on are also what define us—our family, education, job, accomplishments, money. For the apostle John, nothing defined him more than the love of God in Jesus, and that is what he relied on every moment of every day. In 1 John: Relying on the Love of God, Scotty Smith takes readers through a study of 1 John that shows how a rich understanding of the love of God prepares his people to thrive in times of great stress and strengthens us for every season of life.
Scotty talks to us more about his study on 1 John in this interview.
Q: Can you introduce this study of 1 John by giving your summary of the biblical letter’s message? What are our biggest misconceptions of eternal life?
When most people hear the phrase “eternal life” they think about living forever after they die. First John show us that eternal is a quality of life before it’s a quantity. It’s a life of responding to the love of God revealed in the gospel—a life of learning to relish and rely upon the love of God in every area of our lives.
Q: How do you think your Bible study may help many believers see some of the difficult passages in 1 John in a new and fresh way?
Many people have only read 1 John wearing the lens of performance—salvation by merit, not grace. So rather than hearing John describe the “fruit” of the gospel—the evidence of salvation, they think John is describing the “root” of the gospel—the way to gain salvation. My goal has been to show just how gospel-saturated and grace-centered 1st John actually is.
Q: What does it really mean to rely on the love of God? What does it mean to truly know him?
Relying on the love of God is not supplemental grace—it’s essential grace. Or in other words, it’s a total abandonment to the riches and resources of God’s love for us in the finished work of Jesus. But we don’t just rely on God’s love for entrance into heaven, but also for every aspect of life in this world—especially our relationships. We love others because God first loved us.
Q: What are the three strands that are woven throughout 1 John that are vital aspects of knowing God?
There are more than three, but a few that stand out to me are (1) knowing for sure we have already received eternal life; (2) knowing the great love the Father has lavished on us in Jesus; and (3) knowing how to rely on God’s love for everything we need between the resurrection and return of Jesus.
Q: How can John say that God’s commands are not burdensome? after all love is the greatest command, but to love the way Christ loved can feel a bit like a burden.
God’s commands aren’t burdensome because Jesus has born the burden for us. This means he alone obeyed the commands of God (the law) perfectly. And he did so as our substitute. His perfect obedience is credited to us. So now we obey from the love of God, not for the love of God. Yes indeed, the call to love well is hard work and heart work; but it is resourced with the love God has lavished on us in Jesus.
Q: On a practical level, what does loving one another as Christ loved us look like?
In the gospel, we learn to forgive, accept, and forbear others as God has forgiven, accepted, and forbears with us. Loving others always flows from the indicatives of God’s grace (who we are in Christ, by Christ) to the imperatives of love—our calling to offer others a palpable taste of how we know we are loved by our heavenly Father.
Q: You write about how there are false teachers in every generation that seek to lead believers astray. Are there specific teachings that are currently running through the church today that we need to be especially aware of?
Most of the current false teachings in the church today are just repackaged old ones, such as trying to make Jesus fit into a prevailing ideology, philosophy, or politic. In John’s day, that was Gnosticism—a world view stating physical substance was evil, and only the spiritual part of man matters. In our day, this translates into a privatized experience of Jesus disconnected from our call to engage in the world. Every generation also has to contend with the false, even anti-gospel of human merit as the basis of our acceptance with God.
Q: What are some of the most misunderstood truths about spiritual warfare found in 1 John?
Few appreciate John’s bold affirmation about Jesus coming into the world to destroy the works of the devil. On the cross, the devil was defeated, and now awaits his eradication at the return of Jesus. If we fail to grasp the significance of the defeat of Satan on the cross, we can drift into all sorts of bad teaching about spiritual warfare, most of which fuels more fear than faith.
Q: What are the elements of each lesson, and how is the study designed to be used?
This small group guide with leader’s notes includes ten in-depth lessons for one-to-one discipleship, small group, or large group settings. With rich discussion questions, exercises, and articles to encourage thoughtful responses to the text, this study guide helps readers see the gospel more clearly in 1 John. Studying with others allows group members to not only benefit from what God is teaching them, but what others are learning in the process.
Q: Your 1 John study is a part of the Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible series. What other studies are available in the series?
1 John: Relying on the Love of God is part of The Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible series published by New Growth Press in partnership with Serge. Each book in the series examines how the gospel story is revealed throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
The other studies in the series include:
- Ecclesiastes: Life in the Light of Eternity by David Gibson
- Psalms: Real Prayers for Real Life by Barbara Juliani and Patric Knaak
- Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies by Jeff Dodge
- Ruth: Redemption for the Broken by Jared Wilson
- Jonah: Grace for Sinners and Saints by Iain Duguid
- Ephesians: The Love We Long For and
- Revelation: Hope in the Darkness which I wrote
The Gospel-Centered Life for Students series includes studies of Exodus and Mark.
1 John: Relying on the Love of God
For the apostle John, nothing defined him more than the love of God in Jesus, and that is what he relied on every moment of every day. Scotty Smith takes readers through 1 John and shows how a rich understanding of the love of God prepares us to thrive in times of great stress and strengthens us for every season of life.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash