It's easy to mistake personal for private and public for superficial. But what happens when we do this with our view of the Bible and the Church? You might be shocked how common this is. This is the Better Bible Reading Podcast with Kevin Morris.
A Book that Speaks to the Issue at Hand: 1st John
The book of 1st John is especially helpful in communicating to us both a personal and corporate consideration of Christianity. Certainly, there are numerous takeaways in terms of helpful application from this book, but here are two that I find especially meaningful.
Christianity is Personal, not Superficial
The personal application emphasized in 1 John is that of assurance of salvation. That is to say, when the truths of 1st John are applied to Christians personally, it should greatly strengthen our assurance of salvation as we go about our Christian lives. We are assaulted both internally and externally with doubts about our standing before God. Sometimes personal sin is the culprit of our doubts (1 Jn. 1:6), sometimes it is the level of our commitment to the Lord in general (1 Jn. 4:18), and sometimes it is our longing for the things of this world (1 Jn. 2:15). Either way, the product of these issues is a loss of assurance.
This is why we should seek to read the entirety of the book to understand what our takeaway should be. Numerous times, John gives an assurance formula to his writing, “By this, we know” (1 Jn. 2:3), to reinforce our minds with the comforting theme of assurance. When we consider the numerous times that John does this throughout the epistle, we should be comforted to know how to test our profession of faith, and how to rest in the finished work of Christ in full assurance.
Christianity is Public, not Private
The corporate application emphasized in 1 John is the love that should be expressed among Jesus’ disciples. You see, John took to heart the teachings of Jesus in the upper room where the emphasis was placed upon loving one another. John communicates the same truth here in his epistle by giving a contrasting example of hatred. Cain becomes the antitype of the Christian heart in the fact that he murdered his brother out of hatred (1 Jn. 3:12).
John encourages us that “we should not be like Cain”, but rather “if God so loves us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:11). Since this passage does not speak of having a loving heart individually, we should press into this idea to truly consider its corporate impact. What does John say? He says that we are to love one another. Love is the language of believers amongst one another. Take away corporate love and we no longer have viable churches. Instead, we will turn on one another and consume one another (Gal. 5:15). But where love is corporately present and at work in Christ’s church, the world will know that we are truly Christ’s disciples (Jn. 13:35).