July 27, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First John 5:1-5
The Person Born Of God
1. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the messiah is a person born of God," (verse one). That's what's written in John's epistle which was read in today's second reading. It states that when you believe Jesus is the messiah, that is, the Christ, you are already a person born of God.
2. We have gathered together because we believe in Jesus as the messiah, the Christ. That's the reason we are the church. Whenever we do not believe in Jesus as the messiah, we are no longer the church of Christ. Just today we expressed the faith with "We believe in our Lord Jesus Christ." We certainly do believe in Jesus, that he is the Christ, that is, Jesus Christ.
3. Therefore, we must have a definite recognition of who we are. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the messiah is a person born of God." We are not merely "persons who go to church." We are not merely "persons who have accepted certain doctrines." We are not merely "persons who belong to a specific organization." If we go by God's Word for today, we are "persons born of God."
4. The act of having the faith that believes in Jesus Christ is not a mere psychological change. The act of receiving baptism upon believing in Jesus Christ is not a mere ceremony for joining [the church]. It is one event. Just as a person's being born into this temporary world is one decisive event, becoming a believer in Christ is one event, but it is greater than a person being born in this world.
5. To say that a person is "born of God" is to say that God is a parent. It is to say that God is [one's] true parent. Please think about when we were born into this passing world. Each of us were born as child of our own parents. We were born into a parent-child relationship with a specific parent. That's the first birth. But, we have another birth. It is the birth where we are born into a parent-child relationship with God. We have been born that way and now thus we are. Just as Jesus prayed, "Abba, oh father!" while on this earth, we too can call out [to God], "Abba, oh father!" We pray, "Our father who art in heaven." We not only worship God as "the Creator of heaven and earth," but we worship him as "the Almighty Father." In that way then, we have come to live as persons born of God. When we're born again, that's what happens. It is a spiritual event, a spiritual thing that happens.
6. I repeat. The faith is not a mere psychological change. It is a greater event than our having been born upon this earth. This same event is indeed "our faith" of which the scriptures speak.
7. And then we must remember that this is being expressed as "being born." The relationship of a parent and a child in this world is not something that we acquire on our own power. It is given to us from one direction. We're born as [helpless] babies, unable to do anything. In that way then, the relationship of parent and child is given to us. Supposing we were born as the child of a king, while we're helpless, we're already a prince. If we were to try as hard as we can to look princely, we cannot have ourselves made into a prince. It is a matter of being "born" from a certain parent. Similarly then, we are "born" from God. By making ourselves look like a child of God, we cannot have ourselves made into a child of God. It does not come from the efforts of which humans can be responsible. When it comes to "being born" we are entirely passive in it. It comes from God's grace. It is grace from one direction [alone]. A person only believes and then just receives that grace.
Loving The Brothers [And The Sisters]
8. Thus, as a unilateral gift of grace from God we are born of God and made as children of God. Therefore, what should be the most important thing among us? We are to love God as [our] true Parent. But the act of loving God the Father is not merely just a matter of "I really like God a lot." Hey everybody, the act of "liking or loving [in the sense of enjoying]" is not necessarily "love." We might understand it from these stalker types out there in society. No matter how much you like [someone], you are getting like some kind of stalker if you just desire someone only the way you want and for your own satisfaction. That's obviously not love.
9. When you truly love [someone], you know what the person values and you also are highly likely to want to value the same things. You are highly likely to want to know what that [special] someone wishes for and then make it happen for [him or her]. With love, "the other" is the main focus, [your] center. I think the same thing could be said about this matter of loving God. The scripture puts it like this. "Loving God could be defined as keeping God's commandments," (verse three). The expression of "keeping [God's] commandments" has a very austere feeling to it, and in effect, it is about "doing what your father wishes."
10. What is there at the center of the father's wishes? Actually, just before the passage we read today the text reads as follows. "The person who loves God ought to love the brothers also. This is the command [we] have received from God," (4:21). We are supposed to remember this as a matter of course, as children who love [their] father. In the second half of verse one that we read today, the text goes as follows. "And everyone who loves the One who has given birth also loves the ones born from that One." This is a general statement. It could be said that even in this world if you love [your] parents you love your own brothers [and sisters] born from [your] parents. That's the way we're supposed to be by nature. Thus, as something clear from what can be said on a general level, it is said in verse two as follows. "Just as is clear from this, when we love God and we keep that command always, we love God's children," (verse two).
11. [We] love God. As a result, we also love God's children born from God. This sequence and logic are significant. First we love God the Father. It is not "each other, us" whom we love first. We're going the wrong way even if we start from "Let us love each other!" It won't work right even if we start from the position of saying "Quarreling is not nice. We should love each other." If our eyes are just on each other, it will be hard for us to live loving one another. No matter how much we say, "Let's be one!," we shouldn't expect to be one if [we] children, indifferent to the father, are assembling.
12. Let us be children who think of [our] father! "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the messiah is a person born of God." Let us be even more consciously aware that [you yourself are] a person born of God, a child of the true Parent. When we do, then we can see that other people are also "persons born of God." We can see that they are children of God whom God will never stop loving. We can see that they are first-rate children of the father, so valuable to the father. What will happen is that "Everyone who loves the One who has given birth also loves the ones born from that One."
13. In this way then, [we] are born of God and then the space between God [and us] is connected by the parent to child bonding, and each one of us born of God are joined by the brother to brother bonding. That is this faith of ours. And this same faith is the faith that overcomes this passing world, says John. "The victory that overcomes the world is our faith."
The Victory That Overcomes The World
14. Well, when we hear the words "overcome the world" here, we just might be reminded of a scene. It is the scene of the last supper Jesus had with the disciples, that night when he was about to be arrested. After the Lord said many things to the worrisome and fearful disciples, at the end, he spoke as follows. "I have stated these things so that you will obtain peace through me. You will have hardships in the world. But, have courage. I have already overcome the world," (John 16:33).
15. [It was] Jesus who said, "I have already overcome the world." What is "the world?" This "world" [coud very well] be defined as "the world" which arrests Jesus, gangs up on him, and is willing to crucify him. It is "the world" that hates Jesus and is willing to raise a bloodbath on the cross. It is "the world" that ends up putting such things into practice. It is "the world" in which hate seems to get the victory more than love does. It is "the world" in which death seems to get the victory more than life does. It is "the world" in which the devil seems to get the victory more than God does. Isn't this world just such a "world?" In this such a world people who believe in Jesus also live. Having faith doesn't [mean] one is to become a hermit. Jesus knew that when [his disciples] would live in this such a "world" they would have hardships. Therefore, he said, "Have courage. I have already overcome the world."
16. When Jesus himself was arrested and was willing to be crucified, he was thinking of his disciples and told them, "Have courage." With "I have already overcome the world," Jesus announced the victory in a ringing voice. Where did this strength of Jesus come from? Where did the strength of Jesus lie? Jesus himself clearly spoke about this. "Nevertheless, the time is coming when you will be scattered and return to your homes and leave me all on my own. Indeed, it is already here. However, I am not alone. For, [my] father is with me," (John 16:32).
17. That's right, the true strength which Jesus showed us is the strength in which he could make the claim, "[My] father is with me" everywhere [I go]. It was strength as a child of God. And he has put us also into a fellowship with the same father. He has made it so that we too can make the claim that "[My] father is with me."
18. We are persons born of God. We have been born again into the family of God. We have a true father. We have a true father who is greater than this world. We have the son of God Jesus who has overcome the world. We have the strongest brother who says to us, "Have courage!" And we may have weaknesses in the same ways, and yet there are other children [among us], who have been given to us so that we might live with love for each other. We have brothers and we have sisters who look to God with us.
19. Therefore, we are undefeated. We will never be defeated by the world. Nor will we be defeated by any of the hardships in the world. Nothing whatsoever can destroy God's children. "The victory that overcomes the world is our faith."