Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Friday, December 6, 2019

“God Is Love”

Scripture links are hyperlinked to Scriptures at ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end of the blog


When you think of the words light and love what are the first words that come to your mind? I hope that one of those words was God or Heavenly Father and one was Jesus Christ. In the spirit of the season that is upon us, its important for us to gain knowledge, strength and confidence that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, regardless of our situations, troubles and tribulations; shine light and love into our lives. They love us! And in his epistles, John repeatedly emphasizes how the Father and the Son show their love for us and how we can show our love for them.

This week we have come to the books of 1–3 John; Jude in the New Testament. In addition to belonging to an earthly family, each of us is a spirit son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves us and desires to bless us. In his epistles, John repeatedly emphasizes how the Father and the Son show their love for us and how we can show our love for them.

As you study this lesson think about experiences in your life that apply to the scriptural principles, how can we better apply those principles in our daily lives?


History and Background
John and Jude wrote their epistles at a time when apostasy was threatening the Church. Even though it had been only a few decades since the death of Jesus Christ, false teachers were teaching a “doctrine” different from that taught by the Apostles.  Some even claimed that Jesus Christ had not come in the flesh.  Diotrephes, a local Church leader, refused to recognize John’s authority as an apostle and John bluntly labeled those who taught false doctrine as being “antichrist” he encouraged Church members to shun falsehoods and remain with him in fellowship “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ”

John and Jude lived at a time when many people were apostatizing and leaving the Church. At that time there were various false philosophies, one of which was called docetism.  The term docetism comes from the Greek word dokeo, meaning “to seem or appear" and some of the basic beliefs were:

God is a spirit, He is invisible, and He is unable to suffer physically.

Jesus Christ did not have a physical body during His life on earth.

Jesus only appeared to die on the cross; His mortal death was an illusion.

Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into heaven were metaphorical.

It was the goal of John and Jude to preach the truth, to lead against antichrist, and to fill the people of the church with hope that Christ is real, He did live, He is the literal son of God, and He and His Father are filled with light and love.  They dispel the darkness, the question, the hidden, and bring to light knowledge, love and peace.  John wanted His readers to fellowship with Jesus Christ.  He taught that God is love. God manifested His love for us by sending His Son into the world and love of God and love of other people can eliminate our fears.

Chapter Summaries

1 John 1
John was a witness of the resurrected Jesus Christ, and he invited his readers to join him and other faithful Saints in fellowship with Heavenly Father, with Jesus Christ, and with each other. Though our sins can keep us from fellowship with God, the blood of Christ cleanses us from unrighteousness. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. 

1 John 2
Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father and the propitiation for our sins. We manifest that we know God and abide in the light when we keep the commandments. John admonished readers to “love not … the things that are in the world.” Antichrists, who are false prophets and deny Jesus Christ, shall come in the last days. 

1 John 3
Disciples of Jesus Christ shall become like Him. Because there is no sin in Jesus Christ, He is able to take away our sins and destroy the works of the devil. Jesus showed His love for us by laying down His life. John admonished his readers to love one another “in deed and in truth” and to believe on the name of Jesus Christ. 

1 John 4
False teachers in John’s day could be identified because they did not acknowledge that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. John affirmed that God is love and had sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. God has commanded us to love one another. We love God because He first loved us. 

God’s commandments are not grievous to bear. The symbols of the Spirit, the water, and the blood all testify of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Belief in Jesus Christ is required to gain eternal life. 

2 John 1
John rejoiced because the children of an “elect lady” were living faithfully. John beseeched his readers to love one another and acknowledged that there were deceivers and antichrists in the Church.
 
3 John 1
John commended Gaius for his service and identified Diotrephes as one who sought preeminence in the Church through malicious words and deeds. John rejoiced whenever he learned that the Saints were walking in truth. 

Jude 1
Jude sent greetings to the Saints and exhorted them to earnestly contend for the faith that was delivered to the early members of the Church. Jude warned of the seriousness of apostasy in the Church by reminding readers that in ancient times those who worked evil were destroyed. Mockers shall revile God’s Church in the last days.


Part 1: Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are perfect examples of light and love. 1 John 1:5–10; 2:3–11; 3:1–3; 4:7–21; 5:1–3

John affirmed his personal witness of Jesus Christ and invited his readers to experience a similar joy and fellowship with the Father and the Son. The blood of Christ cleanses us from sin. Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father. John warned of antichrists and false prophets. When Christ comes again, the righteous will be like Him. We show our love for God by loving others and by our obedience to the commandments. John taught that God is love; that perfect love casts out fear; and that water, blood, and spirit testify of Christ.

If you were to use one word to describe Heavenly Father, what would it be? 

What word did John use to describe Heavenly Father in 1 John 4:8, 16? Love
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Why is this an appropriate word?

What manifestation of God’s love did John mention in these verses? 1 John 3:1–2 God will call us his sons and make us like Christ—glorified, exalted, and joint-heirs with him.  

1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

While all of us are spirit children of God, the use of the words “sons of God” in 1 John 3:1–2 refers to those who take upon themselves the name of Christ through baptism and honor his name through faith and righteousness.

What manifestation of God’s love did John mention in these verses? 1 John 4:9–10 Note: the word propitiation in 1 John 4:10 refers to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

How does sending his Son to atone for our sins manifest Heavenly Father’s love for us?

What manifestation of God’s love did John mention in this verse? 1 John 4:13
13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
How has the Spirit been an important gift in your life?

John taught that “we love God, because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19
19 We love him, because he first loved us.

What are some of the ways God has shown his love for you? How do you feel when you consider the ways God has shown his love for you? 

What manifestation of the Savior’s love did John mention in these verses? 1 John 2:1–2. 
1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

What is an advocate? One who pleads the cause of another. 

What does Jesus, as our advocate, do for us? D&C 45:3–5
3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
4 Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified;
5 Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.
6 Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen together, and hear my voice while it is called today, and harden not your hearts;

President Thomas S. Monson said: “Our Heavenly Father’s plan contains the ultimate expressions of true love. All that we hold dear—even our families, our friends, our joy, our knowledge, our testimonies—would vanish were it not for our Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. … The world has witnessed no greater gift, nor has it known more lasting love” (Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 77; or Ensign, May 1993, 62–63).

Search Psalm 27:1; John 1:4–5; 1 John 1:5–7; 3 Nephi 11:11; Doctrine and Covenants 88:6–13 for additional insights into how God and His Son provide light in our lives.


Part 2: We must fortify ourselves against false teachings 1 John 2:18–23, 26–28; 4:3; 2 John 1:7–11; 3 John 1:9–11; Jude

Some of you may be struggling to confront false teachings that threaten your faith. It might help you to learn what John and Jude taught about apostasy. The Apostle John wrote the epistle of 1 John at a time when apostasy was threatening the Church. In this epistle, John warned the Saints of antichrists. An antichrist is “anyone or anything that counterfeits the true gospel plan of salvation and that openly or secretly opposes Christ” and the authority and teachings of His chosen servants (Guide to the Scriptures, “Antichrist,” scriptures.lds.org).

Some antichrists in John’s day were teaching that Jesus Christ did not have a physical body while on earth but only appeared to be a physical being.

What did John say anti-Christs try to do? (See 1 John 2:22–23; 4:1–3; 2 John 1:7.) 
22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father nd the Son.
23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

Why do you think the adversary tries to destroy our testimonies of the Savior? 

Jude uses interesting imagery to describe false teachers, or those who “speak evil of those things which they know not” Jude 1:10
10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

How do corrupt practices create “spots in our feasts of charity”? 

What can we do to fortify ourselves against “mockers”? Jude 1:18–21.

18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Why might Jude have suggested that we “have compassion” Jude 1:22 on those who mock the gospel?
22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:

What can we do to keep our testimonies strong? Elder M. Russell Ballard taught: “Individual, personal testimony of gospel truth, particularly of the divine life and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, is essential to our eternal life. … Life eternal is predicated upon our own individual, personal knowledge of our Father in Heaven and His Holy Son. Simply knowing about them is not enough. We must have personal, spiritual experiences to anchor us. These come through seeking them in the same intense, single-minded way that a hungry person seeks food” (Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 111; or Ensign, May 1996, 80).


Part 3: 1 John 5 As we exercise faith in Christ and are born of God, we can overcome the world
One of this week’s activities in Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families suggests searching 1 John 5 to discover how we can overcome the world.

1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
19 And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

In 1 John 5, John taught what we must do to be born again, which means “to have the Spirit of the Lord cause a mighty change in a person’s heart so that he has no more desire to do evil, but rather desires to seek the things of God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Born Again, Born of God,” scriptures.lds.org). 

Read the following passages, and list what we must do to be born again:

1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.


1 John 5:4 
4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Joseph Smith Translation, 1 John 5:18 (in 1 John 5:18, footnote b)
18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

John reminded his readers that we demonstrate our love for God by keeping His commandments, which “are not grievous”  John also pointed out that our faith in Jesus Christ allows us to overcome the world.  Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught that when we obey the commandments out of love, obedience ceases to be grievous:

“Do you love the Lord? “Spend time with Him. Meditate on His words. Take His yoke upon you. Seek to understand and obey, because ‘this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments’ [1 John 5:3]. When we love the Lord, obedience ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight” (“The Great Commandment,” Ensign Nov. 2007, 30)

Many years ago, President David O. McKay told of a beautiful experience he had while sailing on a boat toward Samoa. After falling asleep, he “beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance,” he said, “I beheld a beautiful white city. … Trees with luscious fruit … and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. … A great concourse of people [was] approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe. … Instantly my attention … centered upon their leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features … , I recognized him at once as my Savior! The … radiance of his countenance [was] glorious. … [The] peace about him … was divine!”

President McKay continues, “The city … was his … the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.”

President McKay wondered, “Who [are] they? [Who are these people?]”

He explains what happened next:

“As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to [words in] a semicircle that … appeared above [the people], … written in gold … :

“‘These Are They Who Have Overcome the World—

“Who Have Truly Been Born Again!’”

For decades, I have remembered the words: “These are they who have overcome the world.”

The blessings that the Lord has promised to those who overcome the world are breathtaking. They will be “clothed in white … and [named in] the book of life.” The Lord “will confess [their names] before [the] Father, and before his angels.” Each shall have “part in the first resurrection,” receive eternal life, and “go no more out” from the presence of God.
Is it possible to overcome the world and receive these blessings? Yes, it is." (Elder Neil L. Andersen’s message “Overcoming the World” (Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 58–62)

How can we better and continue in overcoming the world through our daily lives? 


Part 4: Joy comes as we help others “walk in truth.” 3 John 1:1–4

There are many of us that can relate to what John was feeling when he said that he had “no greater joy” than hearing that Gaius (one of his “children”) was walking in truth.

1 The elder unto the well beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
(children in verse 4 may refer to Church members whom John had helped convert to the gospel.)

John praised Gaius, who was charitable to men who spoke the truth. John expressed joy because his “children walk in truth”. He warned Gaius about Diotrephes, who sought for power and refused to take in Church leaders when they visited.  

Diotrephes was apparently either a leader in a local branch or the host of a house-church. John noted that because Diotrephes loved to have “preeminence” among the Saints, he rejected the authority of John and other Church leaders. Concerning people like Diotrephes, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, “It is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39; see also 2 Nephi 26:29).

John warned the Saints about people who deceive and preach that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained who Diotrephes was and what he did:  “Here is Diotrephes, a local church officer of prominence and influence: (1) Who refuses to permit the doctrine and instructions of a member of the First Presidency of the Church to be read in his congregation; (2) Who preaches against the apostolic heads of the Church; (3) Who refuses to receive the church representatives sent to him; (4) Who refuses to let others in the congregation care for or give heed to the church authorities; and (5) Who casts out (apparently excommunicates) worthy members of the Church” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 3:413–14).

Who else besides yourself can be positively affected by your choice to live the gospel?

How was John affected by Gaius’s faithfulness in living the gospel?

How would you summarize a truth from these verses about how living the gospel can affect ourselves and others?  Living the gospel brings joy not only to ourselves but to others.

When have you experienced joy because someone else faithfully lived the gospel? 

What do these scriptures teach us about the source of true joy?
Deuteronomy 6:6–7
Proverbs 22:6
John 4:36
1 Thessalonians 3:9
Mosiah 4:14–15
Alma 17:1–2; 26:11–37

What truth can we learn from the good example of Gaius and the poor example of Diotrephes? Church members ought to receive and sustain all servants of the Lord

President James E. Faust: “There is a certain arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the councils called to preside over us. Those councils are more in tune with the Lord than any individual person they preside over” (Finding Light in a Dark World [1995], 121).

Conclusion
The great love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us is beyond our capacity therefor it is our responsibility to be in constant study and prayer to strengthen our minds, hearts and souls. Let us remember John’s teachings as we strive to show our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and for other people; and let us also remember to find the true joy and share it with the world.

Resources:
New Testament Student Manual
Conference Reports
Ensign
Finding Light in a Dark world James E Faust
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary Bruce R McConkie
Doctrine and Covenants
Joseph Smith Translation Bible
Guide to Scriptures LDS King James Bible
Book of Mormon


The Fall of Adam and Eve

  Scriptures are hyperlinked to Scriptures at ChurchofJesusChrist.org Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end...