INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE
When Jesus came to earth, He came not only to live a life, but to give life:
"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more
abundantly." - Jn 10:10
The Gospel of John was designed to produce faith so that we might have life (Jn 20:30-31). However, it is The First Epistle of John which describes the nature of that life in greater detail (e.g., 1Jn 3:14).
That we might be sure to live the sort of life God offers through His Son Jesus Christ, a careful study of The First Epistle Of John is in order.
It is assumed in this study that the author is John, the beloved disciple of Jesus (Jn 13:23; 19:26-27; 20:2; 21:7,20). Similarities in style, vocabulary, and themes in both this epistle and the Gospel of John certainly offers internal evidence for this conclusion.
There is also external evidence that John is the author. Polycarp, a close associate of John, appears to make reference to this epistle in a letter to the Philippians at the beginning of the second century.
Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, quoted from the epistle and attributed it to John.
No one is specifically mentioned by name. John may have been in Ephesus at the time, and some think this was a general epistle to Christians throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Comments in 1Jn 2:20,27 could imply that John was addressing a specific group of Christians
that possessed certain spiritual (miraculous) gifts.
Estimates range from 60 A.D. to 100 A.D. Most modern scholarship places it around 95 A.D., but there are also good reasons for believing it was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Re-dating The New Testament, John A. T. Robinson).
PURPOSE AND THEMES
In his epistle John frequently states why he was writing:
* "these things we write to you that your joy may be full" - 1Jn 1:4
* "these things I write to you, that you may not sin" - 1Jn 2:1
* "these things I have written to you...that you may know that you have eternal life" - 1Jn 5:13
* "these things I have written to you...that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God" - 1Jn 5:13
While these reasons may state the positive purpose for John's letter, it appears he was also responding to errors prevalent at the time ("these things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you" -1Jn 2:26). If not fully developed in John’s day, there was at least a precursor to Gnosticism (cynics who believed they had superior knowledge and refused to believe that Christ came in the flesh).
Those who later came to be called Gnostics claimed to have a superior knowledge (the Greek word for knowledge is gnosis). A fundamental presupposition was that all matter was evil. Therefore they believed that God did not create or have anything to do with the material universe (rather, it was created by a demi-god). Also, that Christ could not have come in the flesh (see 1Jn 4:1-3).
One branch of Gnosticism, Docetism (dokein, "to seem"), taught that Jesus only seemed to be physical (contrast that with John’s statement in 1Jn 1:1). Cerinthus, a ontemporary of John, taught that "Jesus" was physical, but that the "Christ" came upon Him at his baptism, and then
left before His death, so that the "Christ-spirit" never suffered (see 1Jn 5:6).
The Gnostics’ application to everyday living took two different directions. Since all matter was considered evil, some taught one should abstain altogether from anything that would satisfy the flesh. Others claimed it did not matter what one did in the flesh (it was evil anyway), and to have "full knowledge" it was proper to explore everything.
John’s purpose therefore appears to be two-fold:
* Assure Christians that they have eternal life (1Jn 5:13)
* Counter those who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (1Jn 4:1-6)
The Elder greets the elect lady and her children (1-3), expressing joy overhearing her children were walking in truth, with a plea to love one another (4-6). He then warns of deceivers (antichrists) who deny Jesus as coming in the flesh, telling her not to receive into her home those who do not bring the doctrine of Christ (7-11). Hoping to see her soon, he concludes with greetings from the children of
her elect sister (12-13).
KEY DISCUSSION TOPICS THIS CHAPTER
* Walking in truth and love, abiding in the doctrine of Christ.
* Identifying antichrists, refusing to support false teachers.
1) What are the main points of this chapter?
- Greetings - 2Jn 1:1-3
- Walking in truth and love - 2Jn 1:4-6
- Beware of deceivers and false teachers - 2Jn 1:7-11
- Farewell - 2Jn 1:12-13
2) What four phrases related to truth are used by John in his greeting? (1-3)
- Love in truth, known the truth, truth abides in us, in truth and love
3) What caused John to rejoice greatly? What plea did he make? (4)
- That children of the "elect lady" were walking in the truth.
- That they love one another.
4) How does John define love? (6)
- That we walk according to His commandments
5) Who does John describe as "a deceiver and an antichrist"? (7)
- One who does not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.
6) Why did John counsel self-reflection? (8)
- That we do not lose those things we worked for, to ensure we receive a full reward.
7) What happens if one transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ? (9)
- He does not have God
8) What phrase clearly contradicts the Oneness doctrine of the Godhead?
(9) - "...both the Father and the Son"
9) How was one to respond to those who did not abide in Christ’s
- Neither receive him or greet him, lest one shares in his evil deeds
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