Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

May 23, 1895

Thoughts on the First Epistle of John

By Mrs. E. G. White

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us); that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”

John, the writer of these words, by the providence of God was spared till old age came upon him. He had been a disciple of Christ from the beginning of his ministry, he had listened to the teaching of Christ, and had witnessed his miracles. He had followed him through the different stages of his missionary work on earth, and had seen his agony in Gethsemane, his betrayal, trial, rejection, condemnation, his suffering and death on Calvary's cross. He had looked upon him after his resurrection, and had witnessed his ascension, and he had a message to repeat everywhere that was present truth to the world then, and will be present truth as long as the world shall stand. John declared to the people that which he had seen and heard, that which his hands had handled of the word of God.

The Lord Jesus appeared to John and showed him what he should write to the people, unfolding to them what should come to pass hereafter, and the messages which John wrote in ages past are now present truth for the world. In his providence, God has spared the lives of some who, like John, can witness to the force of the messages that apply to our own time; for they have had an experience from the first in the fulfillment of God's prophetic word, and have experienced the power of God in the establishment and the promulgation of the messages of warning for this time. They can tell of the wonderful way in which the Lord has revealed truth, and, like John, can bear witness to that which they have seen and heard and handled of the word of God.

The mighty dealings of God with his people in the past are to be rehearsed for the benefit and blessing of those who follow in the faith, and through the word of God see Jesus, their High Priest in the sanctuary in heaven. The messages of John had a great influence in setting forth the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, the Redeemer of the world. No one could doubt the sincerity of John, and the messages from his lips had great power in turning many to the faith of Jesus Christ. The truths stated by John were the very message that the Lord would have him bear; but the Jews who rejected the truth were greatly annoyed at his testimony, and they thought that as long as John kept ringing his testimony in the ears of the people that Jesus was the Messiah, they should prevail nothing against those who had faith in Jesus whom they had crucified. Many were continually turning from their unbelief, and accepting Christ as the Messiah, and the enemies of truth declared that the testimony of John must be silenced in order that the miracles and mission of Jesus might be forgotten. They hoped to put John to death upon the false accusations of his enemies; but the Lord had his faithful witness preserved from death. Though imprisoned on the isle of Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, he did not cease to bear witness to the truth. His was a message of joy, proclaiming the fact that Christ was not in the tomb, but was a risen Saviour who had ascended on high, and was interceding for his people until he should return again to take them unto himself.

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” Those who are doers of the words of Christ will walk in the light as Christ is in the light. The loyal heart will pattern after the example of him who pleased not himself. Christ's followers will not choose to do one duty, and pass over another because it is distasteful. God sends light to his people, but if they refuse to walk in the light, they will not receive a blessing. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Those who walk in the light of Christ reject no message of truth, and the fruit of their acceptance of truth is unity among themselves. Christ is their center, Christ is to them the way, the truth, and the life. But those who simply cry, “Christ, Christ,” and do not accept the words of Christ, are not partakers of his divine nature, and do not eat of his flesh, or drink of his blood. Those who live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God will not, cannot, be at variance; for they are like the many branches that are united to one stock. This is the unity that will exist among those in whose hearts Christ is formed, the hope of glory. Those who are united with Christ will have respect unto all God's commandments, and will accept the light that shines upon their pathway.

If we are doers of the word of God, we shall be followers of Christ, and our lives will be characterized by holiness in aim, holiness in aspiration, holiness in action, which is progressive sanctification. We shall have Christlike sympathy for all souls, both saints and sinners; but with this experience there will be no vain boasting of our sinlessness. We shall rather speak in the language of Paul, and say: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.”

Paul was of the number who had left positions of honor, set aside worldly inducements, and gone from his friends in order that he might do the will of God. He would not allow any worldly attraction to influence him; but he made it the purpose of his life to follow Jesus, and pressed and urged his way against every obstacle in order that he might reach the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. But if there was any one who could hope to be justified in claiming perfection of character, it was Paul; but we hear from his lips no presumptuous boasting. He says rather that he does not count himself as one that has attained, but only as one who is following after, pressing on toward the mark for the prize of his high calling in God through Christ Jesus. Christ arrested him in his blind course of self-righteousness, when he was persecuting the saints of God, and turned him from a life of sin in ignorance to a life of faithfulness, in order that through divine grace he might be cleansed and sanctified, and wear at last the conqueror's crown.

The attitude of Paul is the attitude to be taken by every one of the followers of Christ; for we are ever to be urging our way, striving lawfully for the crown of immortality. Not one may claim to be perfect. Let the recording angels write the history of the holy struggles and conflicts of the people of God, let them record their prayers and tears; but let not God be dishonored by the proclamation from human lips, declaring, “I am sinless. I am holy.” Sanctified lips will never give utterance to such presumptuous words. Paul had been caught up to the third heaven, and had seen and heard things that could not be uttered, and yet his modest statement is, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after.” Let the angels of heaven write of Paul's victories in fighting the good fight of faith. Let heaven rejoice in his steadfast tread heavenward, keeping the prize in view for which he counts every other consideration as dross. Let the angels of heaven rejoice to tell his triumphs, but let Paul utter no vain praise of himself in making a boast of his attainments.

Let those who feel inclined to make a high profession of holiness, look into the mirror of God's law, which discovers to us the defects of our character. Those who see the far-reaching claims of the law of God, those who realize that it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, will not presume to make the boast of sinlessness, and venture to declare, “I am perfect, I am holy.” “If we,” John says, not separating himself from his brethren, “say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

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