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The Wiersbe Bible Study Series: 1 John: Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth

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A religious climate filled with false teachings. Christians whose lives don't line up with their words. A seductive world that distorts the truth. Sound familiar? These issues have challenged believers since the early church. The book of I John looks at what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. This study examines themes that are relevant to every believer and encourages us to be real in our faith, our words, and our lifestyle.

The Wiersbe Bible Study Series explores timeless wisdom found in God's Word. Based on Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe's popular "BE" series, each study provides topical, relevant insights from selected books of the Bible. Designed for small groups, this eight-week study features selected commentaries from Be Real, engaging questions, and practical applications to help you connect God's Word with your life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780781404563
  • Publisher: David C Cook
  • Publication date: 7/1/2011
  • Series: Wiersbe Bible Study Series
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 892,213
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the Back to the Bible radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books, including the popular “BE” series of Bible commentaries, which has sold more than four million copies. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Read an Excerpt


Turning from Hypocrisy to Truth

By Warren W. Wiersbe

David C. Cook

Copyright © 2011 warren W. Wiersbe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4347-0405-4


Lesson 1


(1 JOHN 1:1—2:6)

Before you begin ...

• Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

• Read 1 John 1:1—2:6. This lesson references chapters 1 and 2 in Be Real. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.

Getting Started

From the Commentary

Read the first four verses of John's letter again, and you will notice that the apostle had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. His was no secondhand "religious experience" inherited from somebody else or discovered in a book! No, John knew Jesus Christ face-to-face. He and the other apostles heard Jesus speak. They watched Him as He lived with them. In fact, they studied Him carefully, and even touched His body. They knew that Jesus was real—not a phantom, not a vision, but God in human corporeal form.

Be Real, page 22

1. How does the fact that the author of 1 John had firsthand knowledge of Jesus influence his message? How, if at all, does it affect the way you read 1 John?

More to Consider: Did John have an "advantage" in his faith because of his physical nearness to Jesus? Why or why not?

2. Choose one verse or phrase from 1 John 1:1—2:6 that stands out to you. This could be something you're intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.

Going Deeper

From the Commentary

John wrote this letter to share Christ with us. As you read it, you will discover that John had in mind five purposes for sharing.

(1) That we may have fellowship (1:3).

(2) That we may have joy (1:4).

(3) That we may not sin (2:1).

(4) That we may not be deceived (2:26).

(5) That we may know we are saved (5:13).

Be Real, pages 26–29

3. As you consider the five purposes for John's letter noted above, what do they say about the intended audience for the letter? How was John's letter appropriate for the early Christians? What makes his message timeless?

From the Commentary

Every form of life has its enemies. Insects have to watch out for hungry birds, and birds must keep an eye on hungry cats and dogs. Even human beings have to dodge automobiles and fight off germs.

The life that is real also has an enemy, and we read about it in 1 John 1:5—2:6. This enemy is sin. Nine times in these verses John mentioned sin, so the subject is obviously not unimportant. John illustrated his theme by using the contrast between light and darkness: God is light; sin is darkness.

But there is another contrast here too—the contrast between saying and doing. Four times John wrote, "If we say" or "He that saith" (1 John 1:6, 8, 10; 2:4). It is clear that our Christian life is to amount to more than mere "talk"; we must also "walk," or live, what we believe. If we are in fellowship with God (if we are "walking in the light"), our lives will back up what our lips are saying. But if we are living in sin ("walking in darkness"), then our lives will contradict what our lips are saying, making us hypocrites.

Be Real, page 35

4. Circle every time John mentioned sin. What is significant about the context of these mentions? Why did John include "if ... then" statements in this section? What does this teach us about the words we say? About the claims we make as believers?

From Today's World

In the 1960s, Episcopalian priest Joseph Fletcher's book Situation Ethics popularized an ethical theory of Christian moral relativism. In his book, Fletcher set up the idea that love is the ultimate law and the only absolute and that all other laws are guidelines on how to achieve love; therefore, they can be broken if doing so would result in more love. Fletcher was a pioneer in the field of bioethics, which explores the intersection of ethics and medicine in such diverse areas as abortion, euthanasia, organ donation, and the right to refuse medical treatment. This topic has become particularly significant in recent years and continues to be controversial in religious and nonreligious circles.

5. First John is a book all about love, but it doesn't shy away from identifying sin as an obstacle to love. How do Joseph Fletcher's situational ethics line up with John's message? Where do the two diverge? What are the problems with situational ethics? How did John directly (and indirectly) address these in 1 John?

From the Commentary

"God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). When we were saved, God called us out of darkness into His light (1 Peter 2:9). We are children of light (1 Thess. 5:5). Those who do wrong hate light (John 3:19–21). When light shines in on us, it reveals our true nature (Eph. 5:8–13).

Light produces life and growth and beauty, but sin is darkness; and darkness and light cannot exist in the same place. If we are walking in the light, the darkness has to go. If we are holding to sin, then the light goes. There is no middle ground, no vague "gray" area, where sin is concerned.

Be Real, page 37

6. Review 1 John 1:5–6, 8, 10; 2:4. What do these verses reveal about sin? How do Christians try to cover up their sins? What motivates Christians to cover up their sins? What is John's answer to this?

From the Commentary

At this point we must discuss an extremely important factor in our experience of the life that is real. That factor is honesty. We must be honest with ourselves, honest with others, and honest with God. Our passage describes a believer who is living a dishonest life: He is a phony. He is playing a role and acting a part, but is not living a genuine life. He is insincere.

Be Real, page 38

7. Read 1 John 1:5–10. Summarize this passage. What kinds of losses does the person who makes these false claims incur? How common is this sort of person in today's world? What is the lure of living a false life? What are the dangers of living a life that isn't genuine?

From the Commentary

John gave two interesting titles to Jesus Christ: "advocate" and "propitiation" (1 John 2:1–2). It's important that we understand these two titles because they stand for two ministries that only the Lord Himself performs.

Let's begin with "propitiation." If you look this word up in the dictionary, you may get the wrong idea of its meaning. The dictionary tells us that "to propitiate" means "to appease someone who is angry." If you apply this to Christ, you get the horrible picture of an angry God, about to destroy the world, and a loving Savior giving Himself to appease the irate God—and this is not the Bible picture of salvation! Certainly God is angry at sin; after all, He is infinitely holy. But the Bible reassures us that "God so loved [not hated] the world" (John 3:16).

No, the word propitiation does not mean the appeasing of an angry God. Rather, it means the satisfying of God's holy law. "God is light" (1 John 1:5), and therefore He cannot close His eyes to sin. But "God is love" (4:8) too and wants to save sinners.

Be Real, pages 40–41

8. What stands out to you about the way John described Jesus in this section? How can a holy God uphold justice and still forgive?

More to Consider: The word John uses for advocate in this section is the very same word Jesus used when He was talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26). In this context, what does advocate mean? What does this shared term teach us about the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

From the Commentary

When we confess our sins, God promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9). But this promise is not a "magic rabbit's foot" that makes it easy for us to disobey God!

"I went out and sinned," a student told his campus chaplain, "because I knew I could come back and ask God to forgive me."

"On what basis can God forgive you?" the chaplain asked, pointing to 1 John 1:9.

"God is faithful and just," the boy replied.

"Those two words should have kept you out of sin," the chaplain said. "Do you know what it cost God to forgive your sins?"

The boy hung his head. "Jesus had to die for me."

Then the chaplain zeroed in. "That's right—forgiveness isn't some cheap sideshow trick God performs. God is faithful to His promise, and God is just, because Christ died for your sins and paid the penalty for you. Now, the next time you plan to sin, remember that you are going to sin against a faithful, loving God!"

The blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross, delivers us from the guilt of sin and gives us right standing ("justification") before God. God is able to forgive because Jesus' death has satisfied His holy law.

But God is also interested in cleansing a sinner inwardly. David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Ps. 51:10). When our confession is sincere, God does a cleansing work (1 John 1:9) in our hearts by His Spirit and through His Word (John 15:3).

Be Real, page 43

9. Here is another "if ... then" statement from John (1 John 1:9). What is our responsibility in this equation? What does that look like in practice? What is the difference between the judicial and personal aspects of God's forgiveness? How should each affect a believer's daily living?

From the Commentary

John makes it clear that Christians do not have to sin. "I am writing these things to you that you may not sin" (1 John 2:1 NASB).

The secret of victory over sin is found in the phrase "walk in the light" (1 John 1:7).

To walk in the light means to be open and honest, to be sincere. Paul prayed that his friends might "be sincere and without offense" (Phil. 1:10). The word sincere comes from two Latin words, sine and cera, which mean "without wax." It seems that in Roman days, some sculptors covered up their mistakes by filling the defects in their marble statues with wax, which was not readily visible—until the statue had been exposed to the hot sun awhile. But more dependable sculptors made certain that their customers knew that the statues they sold were sine cera—without wax.

It is unfortunate that churches and Bible classes have been invaded by insincere people, people whose lives cannot stand to be tested by God's light. "God is light," and when we walk in the light, there is nothing we can hide. It is refreshing to meet a Christian who is open and sincere and is not trying to masquerade!

Be Real, page 44

10. What does it mean, practically speaking, to "walk in the light"? What does the light reveal? What should our response be to that revelation?

Looking Inward

Take a moment to reflect on all that you've explored thus far in this study of 1 John. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.

Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don't press for people to speak if they're uncomfortable doing so.

11. How might your faith be different if you'd spent time with Jesus while He was on earth, as did the author of 1 John? How does the fact that you don't have that firsthand experience influence your faith today?

12. How successful are you at doing what you say when it comes to your faith? What are some ways you're walking in the light? What are some ways you're still stumbling in the darkness? How can you invite more light into your life?

13. Are you good at being honest with yourself? Why or why not? What are the obstacles that keep you from living a genuine life? How can you overcome those obstacles?

Going Forward

14. Think of one or two things you have learned that you'd like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It's better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don't try).

Do you want to discover how to be more loving? Do you want to learn how to be more genuine in your faith? Be specific. Go back through 1 John 1:1—2:6 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.

Real-Life Application Ideas: What would it look like in practical terms to "walk in the light" this coming week? Take inventory of your plans and priorities and think about ways you can love others with a genuine love at work, home, or elsewhere. This might include being patient with the checkout person at the grocery store or offering a kind word to a friend who's suffering. Look for little ways to express love to others. Then take that practice on into the next week. And the next. And the next.

Seeking Help

15. Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence), inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you've noted above. Be honest about your desires and fears.

Notes for Small Groups:

• Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.

• During the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal truth to you from what you've read and studied.

• Before you start the next lesson, read 1 John 2:7–11. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapter 3, "Something Old, Something New," in Be Real.


Lesson 2

Love, Life, Light

(1 JOHN 2:7–11)

Before you begin ...

• Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

• Read 1 John 2:7–11. This lesson references chapter 3 in Be Real. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.

Getting Started

From the Commentary

I just love that hat!"

"Man, I really love the old-fashioned kind of baked beans!"

"But, Mom, don't you realize that Tom and I love each other?"

Words, like coins, can be in circulation for such a long time that they start wearing out. Unfortunately, the word love is losing its value and is being used to cover a multitude of sins.

It is really difficult to understand how a man can use the same word to express his love for his wife as he uses to tell how he feels about baked beans! When words are used that carelessly, they really mean little or nothing at all. Like the dollar, they have been devalued.

As John described the life that is real, he used three words repeatedly: life, love, and light. In fact, he devoted three sections of his letter to the subject of Christian love. He explained that love, life, and light belong together. Read these three sections (1 John 2:7–11; 3:10–24; 4:7–21) without the intervening verses, and you will see that love, life, and light must not be separated.

Be Real, page 51

1. What are some ways the word love has been devalued? What are other words with positive meanings that have been devalued? Why does this happen? How can we recapture the true meaning of words like love in a culture where words tend to lose their meanings so quickly?

2. Choose one verse or phrase from 1 John 2:7–11 that stands out to you. This could be something you're intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.

Going Deeper

From the Commentary

John not only wrote about love but also practiced it. One of his favorite names for his readers was "Beloved." He felt love for them. John is known as the "apostle of love" because in his gospel and his epistles he gives such prominence to this subject. However, John was not always the apostle of love. At one time Jesus gave John and his brother James, both of whom had hot tempers, the nickname "Boanerges" (Mark 3:17), which means "sons of thunder." On another occasion these two brothers wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village (Luke 9:51—56).

Be Real, page 52

3. What does the word beloved imply that friend does not? What does the picture of John in Mark 3:17 teach us about the power of love to change a person's behavior or character? Is it possible to always be a disciple of love? Why or why not?

More to Consider: When we read in 1 John about love, the Greek word used is agape (AH-ga-pay), the word for God's love toward people, a Christian's love for other Christians, and God's love for His church (Eph. 5:22–33). How is this definition of love unique?

From the Commentary

The amazing thing is that Christian love is both old and new (1 John 2:7–8). This seems to be a contradiction. Love itself, of course, is not new, nor is the commandment—that men love God and one another—a new thing. Jesus Himself combined two Old Testament commandments, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, and said (Mark 12:28–34) that these two commandments summarize all the law and the prophets. Loving God and loving one's neighbor were old, familiar responsibilities before Jesus ever came to earth.


Excerpted from The Wiersbe BIBLE STUDY SERIES: 1 JOHN by Warren W. Wiersbe. Copyright © 2011 warren W. Wiersbe. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction to 1 John 7

How to Use This Study 9

Lesson 1 Real (1 John 1:1-2:6) 13

Lesson 2 Love, Life, Light (1 John 2:7-11) 29

Lesson 3 The World (1 John 2:12-17) 45

Lesson 4 Truth (1 John 2:18-29) 59

Lesson 5 The Pretenders (1 John 3:1-10) 75

Lesson 6 A Matter of Life and Death (1 John 3:11-24) 91

Lesson 7 God's Love (1 John 4:1-5:5) 107

Lesson 8 Certainty (1 John 5:6-21) 123

Bonus Lesson Summary and Review 137

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