What did you hear?
I don’t know if you ever played this game as a child or even as an adult in a form of party entertainment, but the game of repeating what you heard can be fun and enlightening. If the game has an official name I don’t know it, but basically one person secretly tells the person next to him a brief but concise statement. This statement beginning with the first person as being the true statement is then secretly repeated to the next person around the group. The more people that repeat the statement the more distortion seems to take place until the last person repeating the statement vocalizes what scantily resembles the original statement. As entertainment it is fun, as an observation it reveals the ease of a truth being distorted. This is true today but not a new problem to Christian disciples.
The Apostle John, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples that witnessed His life, death, and resurrection, experienced this same phenomenon with Christian disciples in the 1st century following Christ’s death and resurrection. John along with his fellow apostles including Paul had obeyed the Great Commission given to them and went throughout the known world teaching the Gospel (the truth) of Jesus Christ. Even in these early times of the spread of the Gospel, the truth was being distorted by false teachers. This is amazing given the first hand witness of the apostles of the truth of Jesus. The story being repeated by these false teachers was distorted from the original truth along a varying number of aspects. The problem for John at that time and the continuing problem today is that the distortion of the truth, the Gospel of Christ, is no game. The consequences of this distortion have present earthly effects as well as eternal implications for all men, Christian and nonbelievers.
The false teachers had distorted the truth in a number of ways which led to the writings by John found in his three letters to the church. John knew it was necessary to dispel these false teachings to prevent the corruption of the church at that time. The false teachers were presenting a false identity of Jesus as not fully human and fully God. Some were teaching a philosophy of being without sin in their spiritual state. Other false teachers claimed to know and love God but did not keep His commandments nor love one another. The list goes on and on, and continues ever growing today. Just as the Apostle John deemed it necessary to dispel the mistruths in his letters to the church of his day, those same letters of 1st, 2nd, and 3d John have advice and warnings for disciples today.
John letters to us today, boldly ask you as a disciple of Christ or perhaps as one who does not believe, “What did you hear?”
1st John 1:1-4
“We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. NRSV
John wanted the readers and hearers of his letters to the church to grasp this important point. To emphasize its importance he repeats it several times in his letters. In 1st John alone he reissues the statement to adhere to that which “you have heard from the beginning,” four times. It is found in 1st John 1:1, 2:7, 2:24, and 3:11, as well as in 2nd John 5-6. We the readers and hearers of these same scriptures today are asked by John, “What did you hear?” He is admonishing us to let what we first heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to remain in us and not be deceived by new or false doctrine distorted by false teachers.
When the Spirit of God first convicted you of your sin and you were brought to repentance by this same Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sin and promise of eternal life was by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He alone is your Lord and Savior that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That was what you heard from the beginning by the Spirit of God, whether it was audible, from the pulpit, or in a Christmas song. No matter how you heard it, cling to the truth you heard from the beginning.
In our new age of technology and intelligence much of the truth has been distorted or twisted to suit our cultural lusts and pride of life. This distortion as in John’s time is a lie. There is but one truth and it begins, was created, and belongs to God alone. This one truth is Jesus Christ, Him crucified, and raised from the dead for the forgiveness of sin.
1st John 2:24-25
“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He has promised us, eternal life.” NSRV
What have you heard?