Explaining what the 1John bible study did!
1989 brought us the Grace meeting. I was not there at the time, but because of hearing of Grace shortly thereafter I returned. At the Grace meeting we “learned” the basis of salvation is by Grace through faith. Never is it by faith. That under the leadership of our pastor faith was turned into an efforts basis, faith turned into works, somehow it was up to us. The pastor got everyone to look to him. But now “things” where going to change; the fellowship was going to be based on God’s Grace, the brothers were supposed to change their allegiance from stewart’s spirit to God’s spirit. And stewart “repented” of missing Grace, not building up the brothers and that there weren't any marriages, he said it was his fault.
And there followed a time of relative peace and some joy and hopefulness in the fellowship, UNTIL the 1 John meeting. One might even say;” stewart was sort of equal with the brothers” during that short time period. There again was some sort of build up to the 1 John meeting, it escapes me at this time what it was, just as there had been before the Grace meeting. I think all of us got hammered or floored by the 1 John meeting; we did not expect it, after Grace we did not expect that kind of message like the “ he who is born of God does not commit sin” flat out, black and white statement and insistence on it by stewart. He insisted on “he who is born of God does not commit sin” and of course that described him and he volunteered that gayle was his witness. None of the rest of us dared to make the same claim, although we wished we could, but of course we knew there wouldn’t be any witnesses for us anyway. I doubt gayle would have “backed” any of us. He even went as far as telling an older brother that he was fooling himself and wasn't born again, all because he couldn't plainly say that he wasn't
committing any sins.
What I want to explain is what that meeting did. That meeting snuffed out any Grace in the fellowship or any individuals who may have started to live “God’s Grace as their basis”, however feeble it may have been.
Now how did the meeting do that?
Let’s look back; before the Grace meeting – salvation by efforts, it was up to you (under the cover of faith) with the pastor as the undisputed, unquestioned leader.
After the Grace meeting that was supposed to change to Grace being the basis of the fellowship and all are equal.
And then the 1 John study, “if you sin, you are not born again”.
Now that put everything back on us.
As it was Grace that took "the burden of having to earn our salvation" off of us, now it was right back on us; it was up to you to prove that you were born again by not sinning. And the pastor was the undisputed, unquestioned "leader for life" all over again, because of his claim that he wasn't committing sin, and gayle was his witness.
This put it right back on us!
I remember that meeting put me in a daze.
I so badly wanted to be able to say I was born again (and we all knew if you aren't born again, you aren't going to heaven, you don’t have a chance!), but at that time thought that I couldn't, because I knew I still sinned. For days and maybe weeks after the meeting I was trying real hard not to sin, and so was probably everyone else. Being all on edge, white knuckling, trying so hard not to do anything wrong and of course always falling short.
So we were right back to where we were before the Grace meeting, everyone wiped out, and trying to earn their salvation and the “perfect” leader as pastor for life. Any and all Grace as the basis was snuffed out once and for all.
What had been a relative hopeful couple of months now seemed nothing but a distant memory. I think the pastor barely mentioned Grace at the 1 John meeting. And shortly after the 1 John meeting the doctrine of “ he who is born of God does not commit sin” was retired and buried deep in the fellowship vault, never to resurface again. And to the best of my knowledge there hasn't even been a mention of it since.
But it had accomplished its purpose; we were right back to; it's up to you, it's on you, we had to prove we are saved, the efforts/works basis. And "the leader" had re-established himself on the throne of "pastor for life".
Note; of course this doctrine of “ he who is born of God does not commit sin” is a totally false doctrine, in the way presented at that meeting.
We can study that if it worries you.
Just remember two things; in 1 John 2 he says if any one does sin, we have an advocate withthe father, Jesus Christ the righteous(2:1)
and in chapter 1:9 if we say we have notsinned, we make him a liar and the truth is not in us. Maybe just look at it like this, as unsaved we are sinners, as saved, born again, we fall short, but are escaping the habitual on purpose sinning, are no longer slaves of sin. Please do let this maybe scary sounding scripture worry you, remain at the cross looking to Christ and he will change you to be more and more like him.
It’s not on you, salvation is by Grace through faith, and Christ has accomplished it for us, so trust him, believe that he will complete the work he has started in you at his coming and Lord willing we will all be together in heaven with our Father forever. My sheep hear my voice andI know them and they follow me. I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish and no one will be able to snatch them out of my father’s hand. (John 10:27+28)
Thank you Jesus!
Sincerely your brother and servant and fellow heir in Christ Bernard Epp.