(last updated 4/11/16)
The name of the author is not mentioned in this epistle, nor are any particular recipients specified. In fact, it is not written in the form of a letter. The terminology and subject matter are similar to the Gospel of John, and church tradition has always identified the apostle John as the author. The date is also unknown, but possibly 90-100 AD; some believe he wrote his gospel first, then the epistles, and Revelation last. Others believe he wrote the epistles after he wrote Revelation. John was pastor of the church as Ephesus so it might be written to those Christians, or from there, probably to second and third generation believers. What might be different about their attitude toward Christianity compared to their parents and/or grandparents--the first generation of Christians?
I John deals with some of the same problems the church faces today: compromise with and seduction by Gnostic philosophies--special knowledge available only to a few, and a denial of who Christ really is. Are similar philosophies still around today? John emphasizes that we CAN know--who Christ really is, what true salvation looks like. We can distinguish true teachers from false teachers. Key words: know, love, truth, sin, believe.
1-3 John uses "what" five times, to refer to what? He doesn't use "who" because he doesn't use Christ's name (until later); what does he call Him? What is another term for eternal life? Eight times he uses "we/us/our"--who was there from the beginning to hear, see, touch, testify, proclaim? The apostles. Twice he uses "manifested" (appeared, showed). All these terms counter the Gnostic heresy that Jesus wasn't really God in a human body. We need to know who Jesus really is. What two time periods does 2 refer to?
Besides life, believers may also have what? (partnership, participation, communion, communication) With who? The Bible doesn't use the term "personal relationship with Christ" yet we stress that this is what separates biblical Christianity from all other religions, which are about good works. The New Testament tells that we can know Him, can have fellowship with Him, can love Him, and experience His love for us: does this define a personal relationship? Can anyone have fellowship or a relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ? What about people who "feel" close to God but do not believe in Jesus? Did Old Testament believers have fellowship with God? Why not? So this was something new and unheard of. Can Christians have fellowship without a common belief in the facts about Jesus? Is fellowship social activity and pleasant chit-chat? Or is it more than that? Might some in the church today define fellowship differently than the Bible does?
I John is one of three Bible books that start off speaking of "the beginning"; what are the other books, and what beginning does each speak of? (Genesis and John.) We will note his use of the phrase "from the beginning" eight times in this letter.
4 What is the purpose of this letter or message? What would give them joy? Have you ever been part of someone coming to the Lord? How did that make you feel?
5-10 Who is "we"--who heard from Jesus and have the job of announcing it to others? Is he speaking of the Father or the Son? What does the Bible say about God and light, in Gen. 1:3, Rev. 21:23, 22:5? Did God "create" light? What does John say about fellowship with God, related to light and darkness? Does "we" continue to refer to the apostles? Of course not; context clarifies.
John speaks of what errors people make regarding sin? 6, "If we say..." What fellowship does John speak of here? This contrasts with 7, "but if we..." What does John say about those who claim to have a relationship with God but continue to walk in darkness, as a way of life? Is he speaking of unbelievers or believers? Or both? Do Christians lie to others, 6, about their sin or their walk with God? Do they ever deceive themselves about their sin, 8? John contrasts light and dark, and our words and our what? Is the "one another" in 7 speaking of us and God, or us and other believers, or both? Is John speaking of salvation, or pitfalls in our walk with God after we are saved?
Can a person who doesn't believe there is such a thing as sin, or that they are a sinner, be a Christian? In contrast, what should be our attitude toward sin, 9, "if we..."? What does Rom. 3:23 say about sin? What does "confess" mean, 9? Acknowledge, assent: to agree with God. God forgives us the sins we confess; what does this verse say about the ones we fail to confess, or even to recognize? If we admit to God what we did, admitting it is sin, will He do what He promises?
What if we "feel" we are not truly forgiven for something we have confessed? What does "forgive" mean? To grant pardon or remission, to no longer to angry about, to not require payment for. If we fail to recognize and confess every sin, are we unforgiven and in danger of missing out on eternal life? Are we saved by confessing our every sin, or by putting our faith in Christ and His sacrificial death? If His death paid for all sin, why are we to keep confessing our sins? So how does confessing our sin relate to the concept of fellowship John has been talking about? We see John dealing with our walk and our talk, and knowing whether we are really saved.
Someone has explained 8-10 as describing arrows shot at a target. Sin is missing the mark. 8 shoots at the target, misses every time, as the onlookers can see, but he smilingly assures us it is not possible to miss; he is not missing. 10 shoots at the target, misses every time, agrees that it IS possible to miss, but fails to see that he is missing every time. 9 shoots at the target, misses, and admits he is missing. The scorekeeper has recorded all the misses of 8 9, and 10, but when 9 admits he has missed, all his misses are erased.
1-2 In 1:4 we saw one purpose of John's letter--that an understanding of who Christ is, and a relationship with Him, results in fellowship with God and with other believers. Here he speaks of what purpose in writing? It seems that 1-2 actually belong with the previous chapter. What does 1 tell us? Should Christians find themselves sinning less as they mature in Christ? If we are OK with sin, what might that say about us? Sometimes it may seem that we are always sinning, simply because we are human and have a sin nature; is that the same as sinning? Is sinning a vague feeling of failure and sinfulness, or is it talking about specific acts that we can recognize, be convicted of, repent of, and confess?
What is an advocate? One who pleads your cause, who argues in your favor--an intercessor. The Greek word, "paraclete," also means "comforter." John also speaks of the Comforter in John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7--who is that? What do we learn about the Trinity? Where is the Holy Spirit, our "paraclete"? Where is Jesus, our "paraclete"? So God has us covered! We are sinners, 1; how is our Advocate contrasted with us? Does the Bible say Mary is another advocate we can pray to? Is she even qualified--sinless? The Bible does not teach that she is. Again we see that being a Christian isn't primarily about knowing Jesus; rather, Jesus is the way--the way to who? Yet because of the Trinity, they are one and the same!
Besides our Advocate, Jesus is also our what? He is the sacrifice, provided by God's love, that appeases God's wrath toward sin. The same word is used in the Septuagint for "mercy seat" of the ark of the covenant in the Old Testament; what took place both on the mercy seat on the day of atonement and on the cross?
Whose sins, 2, are "our" sins? Believers. Who else's sins are paid for? Unbelievers; Calvinism teaches that Jesus blood on the cross only paid for the sins of the elect, because if they also paid for those who never believe, then part of His blood was wasted--does the Bible say that anywhere? Calvinists believe in a "limited atonement"; the Bible teaches unlimited atonement. Does that mean all unbelievers are saved? Why not? Their ticket to heaven has been paid for, but they have refused to accept the ticket Jesus is holding out to them.
3-6 What key word is repeated twice in 3, then used in 4 and 5? Can people know if they are saved, or do we just hope we are? The Bible says we can know. How can we know? The answer is repeated in 3, 4, and 5; in 5 it is specifically related to what? So here again the Bible defines for us what it means to love God; is it talking about feelings? About singing songs or telling God how much we love Him? Rather, what? The Bible often equates love and obey. Compare John 14:21-24. Do some believers love Jesus more than other believers? Do some obey Him more than others? Do some have a greater understanding of Him than others, and a more intimate relationship? So how can we learn to know Him better and experience more of His love? Is this passage speaking of earning His love by doing good works? Do we get more of the Holy Spirit as we mature? Some speak of this; is the Holy Spirit a person or a force? Can He partially indwell us--does the Bible speak of such a possibility? Christ either indwells us or He doesn't. Can we give Him more of us?
If we find ourselves sinning, that is proof we are not saved? What did the previous verses say about all that? How does 6 explain it? Does "keeps His Word" imply anything different in 5 than "keep His commandments" does in 3 and 4? In 6, why is it important that he says "ought," not "will"? Is "walk" used in the same sense as "keep His commandments"? And "abide in Him" is used in the same sense as what? Knowing Him. So apparently this terminology is synonymous with the term "salvation"; Paul also speaks of salvation as being "in Him" or "in Christ."
John also speaks about "abiding in Him" in John 15:1-11. Your interpretation of this phrase has important implications for an understanding of that passage. Some believe it refers to walking in fellowship, to not drifting, to not walking in the flesh; but this would mean that 6 says that such believers could lose their salvation, which the Bible does not support. Those who abide in Him are those who are truly saved; He is our abode, for we are "in Him"--that is where we live/abide/remain, and His abode is in us. Those who are truly save will bear fruit of varying degrees. (Fruit is defined in Gal. 5:22-23; the Bible does not define it as winning souls, as some teach.) Those who do not abide in Him, 6, are not true believers, even if they appeared to be or claimed to be, as John speaks of in I John 1 and 2; they are unbelievers, whose fate is the lake of fire. Those who hold to the fellowship view believe 6 speaks of discipline for a Christian, or perhaps the fire mentioned in I Cor. 3:13-15; however, that fire speaks of burning up useless works, while John 15:6 speaks of the individual himself being cast into the fire, which sounds very much like hell and ultimately the lake of fire.
7-11 What is "from the beginning" here? In what sense is the commandment to love one another new, and in what sense is it old? Jesus inaugurated this new teaching, but they had already been taught it. Under the Law, Israel was to love God, but loving one's neighbor was not the emphasis; now Jesus teaches that love of God is shown by loving who? Is this speaking of everyone/our neighbor, or other believers? What darkness is passing away--sin? The Law? The age in which sin had not yet been paid for? The time of ignorance before Christ came to bring light to the world?
Is 9 saying the same thing as 4, in other words? What two people are contrasted in 9 and 10? The one who does what? Which one is said to abide in Christ--the one who "says" yet does the opposite, or the one who loves other believers? (Remember that "love" does not necessarily mean "like.") Is this saying the same thing John has been saying, in another way, and the same thing James talks about--that true saving faith results in obedience? Is the one in 9 the same one talked about in 11? So do our words and our claims prove we have salvation? What does?
Does 10 validate the popular idea, sung by the Beatles, that all we need is love? Even such religious leaders as Rick Warren and the pope teach that all religions are equally valid. The New Age denies Christ, yet also focuses on the "Light," that spark of divinity within each person, sometimes called the "christ consciousness." If taken alone, out of context, it could look that way. What does the Bible say about being good enough? In 10, again "abide" seems to speak of true saving faith--salvation. The unbeliever stumbles because he is walking in what? And the darkness has what? But the true believer does not stumble because he is walking in what? So we see that walking in the Light speaks of believers; walking in the darkness, being blind, speaks of unbelievers.
12-14 John twice addresses believers in what three stages of spiritual life? Do all Christians move smoothly and quickly from the childhood stage to greater maturity? Why? Do some stay there? Why? He addresses his readers several times in his three letters as "children," apparently a reference to the fact that they are children of God, i.e., true believers; in 13, a different term speaks of immature Christians. What two things are true of all Christians, even baby Christians? "Knowing God" speaks of a personal relationship with Him through Christ. If some Christians remain babies all their lives, due to lack of food and exercise, are these things still true of them, even if they don't look and behave like we think Christians should? Compare Paul's comments, I Cor. 3:1-3.
Next he speaks of whom--at the other end of the spectrum? Both his comments about fathers are the same; do these "from the beginning" statements sum up Christian maturity? How is this different from and deeper than the second comment about children? Do older, more mature Christians have a better grasp on Bible doctrine and who God is? What kinds of things are taking place in the lives of Christians who are growing?
Are there stages in the Christian life? John makes it clear that there is such a thing as baby Christians, just as Paul does in I Cor. 3:1-3. Those who teach "lordship salvation" teach that you are not truly saved unless you have made Christ the Lord of every aspect of your life, that He has to have 100% of you or you are not truly saved. Is this even true of a mature believer? No one is mature at birth, and no one will be 100% free of Self while on this earth. That teaching leads to lack of assurance of one's salvation, and leads to an over-emphasis on works, on performance, to prove you are saved.
15-17 This is the third mention of love; John will speak much more of love in the next chapters. What kind of love is mentioned in 2:5? and 2:10? Loving God and loving our brother (fellow believer). What two kinds of love are contrasted here? Are these two compatible? Does this mean we shouldn't enjoy the world, or this life? What does the world system appeal to? Do we see here our three familiar enemies--the world, the flesh and the devil? Is John saying that if we are ever tempted or attracted by these things, or have not overcome them completely, that we are not truly saved? What two time concepts are contrasted in 17? The end of 17 again defines the one with eternal life as the one who what?
18-19 Now it becomes clearer what John has been writing about all along. He is saying that there are true believers and false believers, who are actually unbelievers, even though they may look or talk like Christians. In Mat. 13 Jesus gave a series of parables explaining what will take place now that Israel had rejected her Messiah. Now the kingdom would be off in the future, and meanwhile, in the church age, it would be difficult to tell true believers from false believers (parable of wheat and tares, Mat. 13:24-30, 13:36-43).
It sounds like the early church was already experiencing this muddying of the waters. John is not so much giving them a way to know for sure if THEY are saved, as much as he is clarifying for them how to spot the tares that were apparently infiltrating the church and creating confusion with their false teachings. When we here teaching that is off, especially from a teacher that we previously trusted, should we assume they never were truly saved, or they are just off? In Phil. 1:15-17, what does Paul say is possible for a true believing preacher? Do even preachers struggle with the fleshly nature, with sin, even with spiritual immaturity?
J. Vernon McGee has a wonderful illustration of this situation. He explains that there are prodigal sons that leave the Father's house for a time and go to the pigpen, but because they are sons and not pigs, they cannot feel at home in the pigpen and eventually they return to the Father's house. But also, there are prodigal pigs who leave the pigpen and go to the Father's house for a time, but because they are not sons, they are not comfortable there and eventually leave and return to the pigpen. This means we see prodigal sons on the road to the pigpen, prodigal sons on the road returning to the Father's house, prodigal pigs on the road to the Father's house, and prodigal pigs on the road returning to the pigpen. We can't always tell the difference, so it is confusing. This is why we must be very careful about making judgments about whether someone is truly saved or not. Only the Father knows!
What does John call the church age--the time following Christ's return to heaven? It is characterized by what? John says "antichrist is coming; he says they know this already, and "many" antichrists have already appeared. This passage is the only place in the Bible we find this title, commonly used today. John may or may not be referring to the person we think of as "the Antichrist." He doesn't use the definite article "the" (at least, not in the KJV or the NASB). He seems to be talking about a false teaching, not a specific individual. John DOES speak about this individual in his Revelation; what does he call him, beginning in Rev. 13? The Bible has many names for him: the man of sin, the son of perdition, II Thes. 2:3; the one who comes in his own name, John 5:43; the little horn, Dan. 7:8; the king of fierce countenance, Dan. 8:23; the prince that shall come, Dan. 9:26; the willful king, Dan. 11:36-45.
Who is "they" in 19? Who is "us"? What does he mean by "from us" and "of us"? "Anti-" can mean both "opposed to" and "in place of." Do these antichrists claim to be Christ--the Messiah--or do they oppose Him? The final Antichrist will do both. Some people claim that they were once Christians but no longer are; were they truly saved? Can you lose, or even leave, your salvation? Once you are in Christ, born again, sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, does the Bible indicate that you can take yourself out of Christ, be unborn, or unseal or remove the Holy Spirit from yourself? If you can, then what does that say about the truth of Rom. 8:38-39? Why is it actually good that those people do go "out"? What does Paul say about it in I Cor. 11:18-19? It's interesting that many leaders of cults were once church-goers who then left the Christian faith in order to teach their perverted version of it.
20-21 But how does John contrast his readers with the people he just mentioned? What is an unction (KJV), an anointing (NASB)? The same Greek word is used twice down in 27; what does the context tell us about the meaning? How does I Pet. 2:9 teach that we are all anointed? Why don't we need priests today? In I Cor. 1:21-22, do these various descriptions speak of salvation?
This is important because charismatics use "anointed" to mean flowing with the power of God, as a sermon, song, service, person, etc. But in the Old Testament, "anoint" meant to smear or rub oil on someone or something consecrated, something set apart to God, such as prophets, priests, kings and objects in the temple. Many Christians will try to discourage others from criticizing certain leaders by supposedly quoting from Scripture, saying "touch not God's anointed!" Read in context, what is I Chron. 16. 21-22 actually talking about? Today God is not anointing prophets, priests, or kings; is any pastor, teacher or leader "God's anointed" and therefore untouchable?
According to John, how many believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit? What does He do, John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13? What "k" word does John use three times? What "t" word does he use twice? So what is he saying in these two verses, contrasting with the previous two? Between the written Word and the Holy Spirit, does every believer have the resources to learn the truth? Does this mean that a believer can never fall into error? Much of the epistles were written to counteract errors in the church, which have always been prevalent. We should always pray and ask God to lead us into truth and protect us from error, Mat. 6:13. And the opposite of the truth is the what, 21?
Some teach that believers only receive the Holy Spirit later after conversion in a separate experience or baptism. Others teach that all believers receive the indwelling Holy Spirit upon conversion, but a second experience is required to experience His power in your life. The Bible teaches that upon salvation, all believers are indwelt, I Cor. 6:19, sealed, Eph. 1:13-14, and baptised, I Cor. 12:13. We are not instructed to repeat any of these experiences, not does Paul imply that some believers were lacking any of these experiences. We are told we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Eph. 5:18, but we are not given instructions on how to do this, but the context is being controlled by Him (rather than by wine); we are to allow Him to fill us more completely. Because we still have the old nature, we are often too full of Self, but we are to constantly yield ourselves (Self) to Him, Rom. 6:13,19.
22-23 Again, it is not clear that John is actually speaking of recognizing the individual who will rule during the seven years' tribulation; he may be speaking of how to recognize the many false teachers who fit this description. Three times he repeats that this person denies who? Many saw they believe in God, but if their belief in God does not include "the Father AND the Son," or that the only way to God is through Jesus, or that Jesus is not who He claims to be (the Christ--God in the flesh), that is denying Jesus. But if John is indeed speaking of the Beast, he may be referring to him here as the what (beginning of 22)? Many who reject Jesus claim they have a relationship with "God"; what would you say to such a person? Many who hold false beliefs use the same Christian terminology we use, but use it with a different meaning, so we must exercise discernment.
Many believers wonder if they might "deny Christ" out of fear, resulting in Him denying us. Read II Tim. 2:12-13. Failing to name the name of Christ out of fear is actually what? "Deny" is to reject Jesus Christ. We see the same scenario in Mat. 7:21-23. If we have been truly saved, can Jesus say He "never" knew us? He is speaking of people who were not saved.
24-25 What has he been talking about that they, and we, heard "from the beginning" and should abide in us? Which will result in what? And in 25 he clarifies that by using what other term, apparently synonymous?
26-27 The anointing speaks of whom, that we received from God? Who abides in us? And we abide where? Who teaches us? And the things God teaches us are what? And are not what? Is John saying we don't need human teachers? How can we know that? Because the New Testament speaks much about teachers in the church, and their qualifications. The Holy Spirit might use human teachers, or He might enlighten us directly as we read and study Scripture. What is the danger of relying solely on human teachers?
We see that John has been contrasting truth and lies--God's truth vs. false teachers. Are these sometimes tricky to distinguish? Isn't that why the epistles spend so much time on this subject? Deception will always be a problem in the church; there will always be false teachers, and they may be hard to identify, but we have the truth and the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us. Today many feel truth--doctrine, God's Word--is less important than love. John emphasizes truth in the first two chapters; then he will go on to speak about love--love of God, love for others, God's love for us.
28-29 Again we see the term "abide." Does it seem to refer to salvation--to being "in Christ"--or as some believe, does it refer to walking in fellowship with Him, to being out of fellowship, to living with your eyes on the world rather than looking for Him? Could it make sense either way? Let's look at what the rest of the passage says and see if the context makes it clearer.
Do the phrases "when He appears" and "at His coming" refer to the rapture or the second coming? What leads you to conclude that? If it is speaking of the rapture, what is John saying? Why would we have confidence? Why would we not be ashamed at the rapture? Might he be speaking of the judgment seat of Christ, where there will be rewards? Since John has been speaking of true and false believers, perhaps he is saying that at the rapture, true believers will have confidence, whereas false believers will realize they are not saved so will shrink back from Him, feeling shame when they see they were left behind and not caught up with the true believers. So again we find the rapture being our motivation for godly living. Does he sound like he is expecting the rapture in their lifetime?
If John is speaking of the second coming, who are the believers who would be seeing Him appear? Those who believed after the church was caught up--those few tribulation saints who managed to make it through alive. John says "we"--is he speaking to the church or to tribulation saints? The church will not be present on earth to see Christ's second coming; we were caught up to meet Him in the air, and after spending seven years with Him in heaven, we will be returning with Him.
Is John speaking of that balance of faith and works? That they are two sides of the same coin? If we abide in Him, and we know He is righteous, what should we, His followers, be like? Does John equate "practices/doeth righteousness" (NASB/KJV) with being born again? How does 2:29 compare to 2:3? 2:4? 2:5? Are they all saying the same thing in various ways? Does it say that everyone who is born again does righteousness? Does it say that if someone is not doing righteousness, he is not born again? We know that Christians sin and can walk in the flesh. Does this verse mean that everyone who is good, or who tries to be good, will make it to heaven? Is it possible for an unbeliever, even a "good" one, to practice righteousness? Why not?
1 What key concept does John bring up now? He talks a lot about love in his gospel--way more than the other gospel writers. He speaks much about love in this rest of this letter. What other key word does John continue to stress? False teachers were trying to do what, 2:26? There are things we can know, and things the world cannot know. What other term does he use that he has used repeatedly in the last chapter? Drawing attention to the fact that for believers, God is our what? Faith is not just an intellectual position; it results in being born again. Now we are children of who, not who? Jesus told the Pharisees their father was who?
2-3 How is the rapture mentioned here? Remember, the Bible speaks of our hope not as uncertain wishful thinking, but as our expectation. What are some ways the expectation of the rapture should affect our thinking? So what takes place at the rapture? Compare I Thes. 4:16-17, I Cor. 15:51-53, Phil. 3:20-21. And we have the reminder, stated numerous times in the Bible, that Christ is what? Does God purify us, or do we purify ourselves? So, as we often see, God does this work in our life and we cooperate with Him in it. Why does the expectation that Christ could return for us at any moment cause us to purify ourselves? Those who do not believe in the rapture accuse us of focusing on it are wasting our time because we are not focusing on living for Christ now; is that what the Bible says?
4-6 Is John saying that Christians never sin? How does 2:1-2 prove that? Where the KJV says "committeth sin," the NASB says "practices sin," which is probably closer to John's meaning; the Greek word includes these meanings: abiding, yielding, making, with purpose. If sin is your way habitual, chosen manner of life, ought you to question whether you truly believed? Again he speaks of abiding, and we must ask, is he speaking of salvation, or of walking in unbroken fellowship? Is he contrasting abiding in Christ vs. abiding in sin? We know that all Christians sin, even repeatedly; only Christ is sinless, and we will not be like Him in sinlessness until what time, 2? Jesus is sinless = Jesus is who? What did Paul say about himself in I Tim. 1:15? (Note he is speaking in the present tense, not past tense.) No one verse should ever be taken out of context; when we compare 3:6 to the rest of this epistle, what important light does 2:6 shed on this discussion of abiding and sinning?
7-8 What warning do we find in 7 that echoes 2:26? What similar warning do we find in 1:8? Besides those two sources of deception, what other source of deception does the Bible warn us about, II Cor. 11:3? What two types of people are contrasted in these two verses? Their choices identify them with whom? What about good people who are not believers? Does doing righteous things--good works--make us righteous? So we see that all mankind falls into one of these two categories. So how might believers be deceived in this matter, as per John's warning? The false teachers were presenting an unbiblical view of sin. Do you see several important doctrinal truths in these verses? What here was "from the beginning"? Why do you think John uses that phrase so much? Look at the end of 8; in Gen. 3:15, the seed of the woman--the promised one--would do what?
9-10 How many times has John said this? So how important is it? Has John said that a Christian continues to sin (1:6-10)? What is his test of salvation in 5:1,10-12? So what is he saying, and what might the deceptive false teachers have been saying that he is so strongly disputing?
11-13 What did they, and we, hear "from the beginning"? He restates 11 in both his next two epistles. John expands on his last comment about love being a mark of a true Christian. How does this example support what he has been saying? 13, "the world" is represented by whom? Why does the world hate Christians? This is the last of John's "from the beginning" statements in this epistle. But it's interesting to note he uses "beginning" four times in Revelation: 1:8, 3:14, 21:6, 22:13. Each of these points to what? Does this parallel his first use of the word, in John 1:1?
14-16 What are some of our key words in this passage? Why is love a mark of a Christian? Before he was contrasting sin with true faith; now he compares faith and love. John does not speak of obey or obedience, but is that what he's talking about--part of true salvation? What does Paul say about 16 in Rom. 12:1? Who are the brethren? John 13:35. He contrasts love with what, 15? And likens it to what? Where do we find Jesus teaching that the desire makes us as guilty (before God) as the act? Mat. 5:20-30. Does this mean we must like all Christians or we are guilty of murder? Is dislike the same thing as hate? Love, in the Bible, is about action, not feelings; might that imply that hatred here is also talking about actions, not just feelings--even thinking about actions we would like to take?
17-18 What are some of our key words in this passage? Is this talking about the unsaved or the saved? How can we know? Could we possibly obey this if it speaks of the unsaved? Does this mean that we are each to constantly be giving to others in the church that might need anything and everything? What is it probably talking about? Is 18 saying we should not speak kind and loving words? Is John saying the same thing as James 2:14-17? And the same as Peter in I Pet. 4:8-10? How does Paul help us keep a balance in II Thes. 3:6,10?
18-22 What are some of our key words in this passage? Are our words proof that we have love? What is he saying about assuring our hearts when our hearts condemn us? Looking at the context, he is probably speaking about guilt about what in particular? Don't we all struggle with guilt over things we have not done that we think perhaps we should have done? Can we, or should we, do everything we "think" we should? Do we sometimes experience false guilt? But what does God know about our hearts? What is the relationship between a clear conscience and prayer? Does this mean we can actually receive whatever we ask for--anything? Can any one verse be taken out of context to create a doctrine? The Bible has much to say about prayer; the end of 22 alludes to that.
23-24 What are the key words/verbs in this passage? This is the first time John has used "believe"--actually, "believe on." Could we say these verses sum up what it means to be a Christian? Does the Holy Spirit only indwell those keeping His commandments--walking in obedience and fellowship? So here again it seems that "abide" refers to salvation, not walking in obedience. Is obeying to be a part of believing--two sides of the same coin? This is what the Bible clearly teaches.
1-3 In the previous verse, John made his first mention of who? Is God's Holy Spirit the only source of spiritual experiences? What are the only possible sources? God, Satan, our own spirit. Is it possible to know the difference? So false prophets speak powerfully and perhaps even perform spiritual manifestations; were some of these early believers being deceived? Is this still a problem today? The Bible says there are many false prophets and false teachers.
What is the test? Doesn't it seem like this would be easy for anyone to say and therefore deceive people? But does it say, all they have to do is "say" these words to "prove" they are true? But he doesn't speak of those who "say" this, but who do what? "Confess" means to acknowledge, to promise, to assent, to make a profession. Why are these few words a test? "Jesus" is the name given when? At His human birth. It speaks to His humanity. "Christ" means what? The Messiah, the anointed one. The Old Testament specified that the Messiah, when He came, would be God, Isa. 9:6, 7:14, 43:14-15, Psa. 110:1, Micah 5:2, Mal. 3:1. So "Christ" speaks of Him being God. It foretold that He would bear our sins, Isa. 53.
"Has come in the flesh" speaks of the fact that God became flesh; Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. Back then, many believed Jesus was indeed God but that He was only a spirit, not flesh, that God could not take the form of flesh. Today people tend to think that Jesus was indeed a real man, but only a man, not God, that a mere man could not also be God. God and man in the flesh speaks of the virgin birth, foretold in Isa. 7:14.
"Jesus" is the Greek form and the transliteration of the Hebrew name "Joshua," which means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation"--God saves. What does "saves" imply"? Saved from what? Jesus is the Savior, which means there is something we need saved from. Those who do not acknowledge that He is the Savior are not acknowledging what? And why did God choose to become man to deal with our sin problem? John 3:16, because He loves us. Does He JUST love, as in lovey-dovey feelings for us, and overlook our sin? Or does His love result in action? Likewise, can we just have lovey-dovey feelings about God, or if we truly love Him, must that love result in action--believing and obeying?
So now is it clearer why these words are the test? What someone believes about Jesus is the main issue. Does John speak of those why deny these truths, or those who do not confess these truths? Why is that important? If they denied the truth, wouldn't they be easy to spot? But if they say a lot of stuff that sounds good, and sounds really close to the truth, but don't actually speak that truth, wouldn't that be harder to see through? So how do we as individuals apply that test? Listen. Listen carefully! Compare to Scripture. This is what we call discernment; to discern is to see, recognize, understand something that is not clear, to distinguish something from something else. If we don't know Scripture, how good will we be at applying this test?
What does John call this spirit that is not of God, in 3? Is he speaking of that man who will institute the mark of the beast in the seven year tribulation following the rapture? No. What is he saying about that spirit? It has always been around! But one day, in the future, the Bible tells us that spirit will find its culmination in one satanically-empowered individual.
4-6 Who is "they" and "them"? They are not from God, but we are: believers, the church. We have overcome them--is Satan's spirit as powerful as God's Spirit? Are God and Satan two equal powers, as many believe? No; Satan is a created being. What does John mean by "He who is in you"? The Holy Spirit indwells all believers. How does he contrast "we" and "them" in 5 and 6? What does John 10:6 say about this? So God's Spirit indwelling us, 4, helps us distinguish what two spirits, end of 6? Isn’t this what he just said in 1-3?
7-8 What is the key word in this verse, used three times? John links love to what other important word he just used at the end of his last sentence? Perhaps there is another key word, right at the beginning. In the previous few verses, John has been contrasting two groups of people: they/them and you/we. He may be emphasizing what similar word? "Us." Just as "we" are from God, 4, so what else is from God? Is the context primarily about loving everyone, or about loving our brothers--fellow believers, the church? Compare the other references to love in this book: 2:10, 3:10-11,14,16-17,23, 4:20-21, and the clearest of all, 5:1-2. Not to say that we shouldn't love our neighbor, but that is not what this is about.
Is the second half of 7 still talking about the same group of people—Christians, and their love for each other—or did it switch to refer to unbelievers? Is John (or anywhere in the Bible) saying that any show of love proves that individual is saved? Is John talking about the church and how to tell true believers from false, just as he has been doing through this epistle? Context is important! The next time you hear someone quote this who doesn't believe in Jesus or the Bible and its truth, take them to I John and read this little book to them.
9-10 Does 9 restate another well-known verse authored by John? John 3:16. What is God’s basic nature? Can you see the concept of love? To manifest is to make visible, to appear; how did God make His love manifest? Only begotten: unique and of the same nature as the Father. Does the Bible say we are also sons? Begotten sons or adopted sons? Was Jesus already the Son before He was sent here? Was He sent to show people how to live in love and peace and tolerance? Which is real love—our love for God, or His love for us? Why? Our love for Him leads us to do what? His love for us led Him to do what? Atone for our sins, expiate our sins.
11-13 Again, according to the context, who primarily s "we/us"--the whole world, or the church? (Is there a larger application?) Why do Christians sometimes fail, or even refuse, to love other Christians? Why are our reasons invalid? How can we, and others, see God? Compare John’s two uses of "abide," in 12 and 13. Is this saying that Christians who are walking with God and showing His love have God (the Holy Spirit) in them, but those who are walking in the flesh rather than the Spirit do not have God (the Holy Spirit) indwelling them, and therefore are not actually Christians? If we do not have God’s love in our hearts, might we question our salvation? If we don’t love someone, or don’t feel loving, is that an excuse? Why not? Is love to come from Self, or from God, indwelling us through the Holy Spirit? What paradox do we find in 13? We in Him and He is us, compare Phil. 3:9, John 14:17.
14-16 Who is the "we" who saw (were eyewitnesses) and testified about Christ? What does John say here about salvation? Could we say 15 gives the definition of a Christian? (This person is "in Christ" and the Holy Spirit indwells him.) Are these verses similar to 1-3? Does it say Jesus was sent to be the Savior of the elect only, as Calvinists teach? Calvinists believe that if you are one of the elect, you are saved by God’s choice, that you have no choice; what does 15 say about that? "Whosoever" includes everyone, not just certain ones God chose. Does "confess" mean that if these words came out of your mouth, you are saved? No; to assent, to acknowledge—actual belief.
17 What does it mean if our love is perfected? Mature, complete. Does maturity happen instantly or over time? So in what way is our love perfected? In God--in Christ--through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We may have boldness/confidence, rather than what? Do we have to wonder if we’re truly saved? In what way are we "as He is"? (We are the what, I Cor. 12:27?) We are "in" the world but not what? Of the world. Does this teach that we become gods, that we all become "little christs?" Of course not, but some believe this.
18 Is John talking about loving God or loving others here? How does this verse speak to those of us who have trouble trusting God completely—relinquishing our wills to His? If we have trouble trusting, is that fear, or because of fear? Fear of what? Fear of what God's will might entail? If God is perfect, is all-loving, and all-wise, could our will be better than His will? Will His will in our lives always feel good? Is His will about present feelings or about future outcome? If we have trouble trusting Him completely, do we truly love Him, or are we holding back a part of our heart? What is the solution? Might a Christian still entertain fear of the judgment day? Why? What is the solution to this fear?
19 When John says God first loved us, what does he mean by "love"--how did God love, or show us His love? As used in the Bible, is love a feeling or an action? So does this mean God has warm fuzzy feelings for each person, or does it mean He did something that demonstrated His love? Does the Bible say, as many do today, that God, or Jesus, is in love with us? Or that we are to be in love with Him? What is the implication of "in love with"? Would we say we are in love with our parent, or child, or friend? Or with our lover? Today many are actually adding romantic, even erotic, overtones to our relationship with Christ. Many contemporary songs use this language and symbolism. When we turn to Christ, are we really initiating it? Calvinists take this even farther, claiming that we cannot even choose Him because we are dead in sin and dead men can't choose, that He saves people before they choose Him. But we know the Bible says over and over we are to choose, to believe, to receive, to exercise faith in Him. Would God tell us to do this if we were not able? All men put faith in something, and have the ability to put their faith in Christ, which is what salvation is--believing in Christ. Could love exist between humans if God had not loved us first?
20-21 Loving God is shown in our lives by what? Does this mean we are required to have feelings of love for all Christians? Can feelings be commanded? Can actions be commanded? Love is action, not necessarily feelings. Is loving the same as liking? If we don't like that person, but God (the one we do love) commands us to act toward that person as God desires, can we do that because we desire above all to please the one we love? Does His indwelling Spirit give us the ability to do what we think we can't do? Love--as demonstrated by our actions--is apparently the most important quality of a Christian.
1-2 "Born again" is not a term used by Paul; Peter uses it once, I Pet. 1:23. The apostle John speaks of "born again," "born of God," "born of the Spirit" six times in what chapter in his Gospel? In that chapter, are those John's own words? Being born again speaks of regeneration, of conversion. What is the difference between holding a thought in your mind vs. being born again? A true Christian vs. a nominal Christian? Can we cause ourselves to be born? What does that say about what it means to become a Christian? Is it something we do or something God does? Do we both play a necessary part?
In this epistle John does not use "born again" but "born of God." How does Jesus explain in John 1:12-13 what it means to be born again, as He uses it in John 3:6? Are there many ways, many terms, to describe what it means to be saved? What are some of them? Why does the Bible use many terminologies and descriptions? So that we can't miss it, so that all can understand. So is John saying that true believers love fellow believers? Or is the end of 1 saying those who love God will love the Son? "Begotten" seems to apply mainly to Jesus, but could just mean "born of," as in Christians being born of God, born again.
3 Is John saying we must still keep the Law? What are the commandments for the New Testament believer? Mat. 22:48, John 13:34, 15:12,14,17. Is it ever hard to love other believers? Why? Is it possible? How?
4-5 What does it mean to overcome? To subdue (literally or physically), conquer, prevail, get the victory. So what does it mean to overcome the world? Who can overcome the world--is this speaking of the church as a force in the world, or the individual believer's walk with God? How do we overcome the world? What does that mean? So does every believer have the ability to do this? Through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Does the Bible teach that the church will take over the world and Christianize it so Christ may return to receive a godly world as His kingdom? This false teaching goes by various names: kingdom now, dominion theology, reconstructionism. On the contrary, what have Peter and Paul been telling the church to expect world conditions to be like just before Christ returns?
6-8 The terminology here is a little confusing, but apparently John was refuting false teachers who taught that "the Christ" came upon the man Jesus at His baptism and left Him before the crucifixion. The water probably refers to His baptism by John, the blood refers to His crucifixion. How did the Spirit testify about Jesus at His baptism? The KJV adds words about heaven and the Trinity in 7 that are not in many other versions; those words are only found in very late manuscripts, about the 15th century.
9-10 Who provided the testimony about who Jesus Christ really is? How serious is it to reject the testimony God has provided?
11-13 John clarifies just what that testimony is--the record, the evidence. Is eternal life found in good deeds, church membership, or a belief system? Or a personal relationship? We don't find the words "personal relationship" in Scripture but much of the Bible's wording makes this clear. What two names for Jesus are synonymous? "Life" is used synonymously with what? Remember, John was writing to second or third generation Christians, and they did not have the written New Testament. Are things that are passed along orally always exact? They might be believing a watered-down idea of salvation, besides the fact the false teachers were promoting deceptions. The wording of 13 varies in different translations, but what is the key idea? That we may...? Can we have assurance of salvation? How can we know we are saved? What if we don't feel saved? What if we have sinned greatly, even after salvation?
What is the purpose of John's epistle? We can know for certain that we are saved. There is much evil and deception in the world, and in the church, but we CAN know. It's all about knowing Christ--having a personal relationship with Him--and knowing who He is.
14-15 What four-word phrase is the key to this passage? What does that phrase mean? What kind of things might this include, or not include? How can we know what is according to God's will? If something is God's will, won't He do it whether we pray or not? So why pray for it? Because He tells us to! And why might He want us to do that? So that we learn to see all things as coming from God's hand; so that our confidence in Him grows; so that we share our prayer requests with one another and grow in faith as we see God answer prayer.
Many point to Old Testament promises to the righteous of prosperity and health as for New Testament believers; what differences do we need to understand in comparing Israel's promises to the church's promises? Are we promised physical blessings, as they were, or spiritual blessings? Eph. 1:3, John 16:33. Might God choose to bless us today with health or prosperity? But are we promised it, that we should "claim" it? In Mat. 6:25-34, what is the key in 33? Regarding prosperity, compare Paul's experience in II Cor. 6:5 and 11:27 with his teaching in II Cor. 12:10, Phil. 4:11, I Tim. 6:8. Regarding health, II Cor. 12:7-10, II Tim. 4:20, Phil. 2:25-30. Not that we should not pray about these things, and God may indeed give us such blessings, but we cannot know or claim that God will give us such things since they are not promised.
16-17 These verses are difficult, and commentators disagree. Is he talking about praying for a fellow believer? All through this epistle, John has been focusing on the relationship among the brethren--fellow believers. As for the immediate context, he has just been talking about what it means to be truly saved. Might the following verse, 18, also lead us to think he is referring to someone who appears to be a "brother," but is actually not? Yet it is unclear why we would not pray for such an unbeliever; is he say an unbeliever might so completely and willfully reject and deny Christ that we should no longer spend our time trying to reach him? On the cross, who did Christ pray for, Luke 23:34? Who didn't know--the Jewish leaders, or the Romans? If this is John's meaning, is he talking about the false teachers he has been warning about?
In considering if a Christian can commit a sin leading to death, we might wonder if a sin leading to death is talking about premature physical death or spiritual death. If physical, what sin could this be? Why is it not specified? Is this similar to Paul's comments in I Cor. 5:5? Can a Christian be in danger of spiritual death--losing your salvation? No, so it either isn't talking about spiritual death, or else it isn't talking about true believers. Isn't the unforgivable sin refusing to recognize Christ for who He is--the Savior, God in the flesh? John spoke of this in 4:1-3. Yet what sin can or should we not pray for? 17 clarifies the meaning of sin, but it doesn't seem to clarify this passage!
It may or may not be important that in the English, the words "leading" in both verses, and, strangely, "God" in 16 are not in the original, and have been supplied by the translators to hopefully make the sense more obvious. In what way might God "for him give life to those who commit sin not to death"? Perhaps we might consider that John has said repeatedly that a Christian does not "sin," in the sense of practicing sin as a way of life. Maybe he is here also speaking of sin in the sense of continual, purposeful, practicing of sin, thereby proving that individual is not saved?
Or is he saying that a true believer is indeed capable of turning to, or falling into, a life of sin, even of turning against Christianity, of becoming apostate, yet because he was truly born again, he will indeed be saved eternally but may in this life experience consequences, such as premature death? If so, is this saying we are to "wash our hands" of such a person and turn away from them to such an extent as not even to pray for them--to just leave them to God's discipline? Is it saying that if we see such a person suffering a life-threatening condition, not to pray for his healing, because it is not God's will to heal such a person? Again we see that the Bible does not teach that all Christians should ask for and expect healing from all conditions. We have a related situations in I Cor. 11:30, also Moses, Korah, Aaron's son, Ananias and Sapphira. Had these all committed the same sin?
18-19 Here again John sounds like he is saying a Christian never sins, which we know the Bible does not teach, so we understand him to be saying that a true Christian does not permanently choose and practice sin as a way of life. (Apparently the original Greek supports this meaning.) Do we perhaps not take sin as seriously as John says we should? Who keeps us? Does Satan tempt us? Then that can't be the meaning of him not touching us; what might that mean then? Touch (Gr): fasten to, attach to, grasp on to, cling to. What can't he touch? Our eternal security in Christ; he can't take us out of Christ's hand, Rom. 8:38-39. Does this shed any light on the previous two verses? Are we seeing that not only might false teachers look very much like believers, but the saved might also look very much like the unsaved. Think of the wheat and the tares.
John has been contrasting false teachers and false believers with true believers; he closes by contrasting Satan's power and God's power. Jesus and Paul also refer to Satan as "the evil one." John quotes Jesus as referring to Satan how in John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11? Is Satan powerful? Are Satan and God equal powers, vying for control, as some believe? The KJV has wording that implies we keep ourselves ("he that is begotten of God keepeth himself"); the NASB words it as Christ keeping us ("He who was born of God keeps him"). Keep (Gr): watch, reserve. Which do you think is the intended meaning?
20-21 So what is the MAIN thing--to know who? Jesus. And to know what? Truth. We CAN know these things. How many times in 20 do we see "know" and "true"? John sums up by stating many truths in 20; how many doctrinal truths can you identify? Can our OWN understanding, outside the truths revealed in the Bible, lead us to God? Here is a very clear statement, perhaps the clearest in the New Testament, that Jesus IS God!
21 seems an odd ending statement. He uses an affectionate term he has used throughout this epistle that speaks of the family relationship, which we have because we have been what, 5:1? Are children weak or strong? Which does the Bible say we are? "Children" may also speak of humility and teachableness. Do you think this is a summary statement, or related to the previous thought (19), or a contrast to the previous verse, or an afterthought? If we do NOT know Jesus and truth, won't we worship something else? This is the only place in his writings that John mentions idols or idolatry (by that term, anyhow). Where did he just talk about God keeping us? Do we have a role in keeping ourselves from sin or is it up to God to keep us from idolatry? What is idolatry? How prevalent was idolatry at that time? How prevalent in our time? Worshipping anything other than God. How might this sum up this epistle?
Addendum: In getting a good biblical balance and perspective on the matter of the Christian and the problem of sin, it might be helpful to go back at this point and reread Rom. 7:1-8:11.
John's first epistle was not a personal letter; his second and third are both personal letters. In this short epistle, we note several key words: love, truth, antichrist. We will see that love must be tempered with truth. Again we are warned about deceivers.
1-2 First we read who wrote the letter and to whom. We are used to Paul identifying himself as an apostle, but the apostle John does not do so--what does he call himself? Unlike Paul, John's apostleship was never challenged; why was Paul's? "Elder" can mean either an elderly person, or a leader in the church. Was John both?
So who is this lady, and who are her children? Are they literally a woman and children--a family--or do these terms speak symbolically of a church? Perhaps, should the letter be intercepted in that time of persecution, John purposely does not identify himself or the church, but disguises it as a personal letter. We also noted the family terminology John used in his first epistle. So it appears that John is writing to a church. What term describes her? Chosen/elect. How is that term generally used in the New Testament? To refer to the church, to those who are saved. What is another term used for the church that speaks of a woman? John 3:29, Rev. 22:17.
John loves them, in what way? What important word is used five times in the first four verses? In his gospel and epistles, John speaks much of the concept of truth. Are Christians to be loving, accepting and tolerant of all in the visible church? What is the criterion for love? Are all Christians, all churches, "into" the truth? Here is an implied warning. Who else loves them? Who would that refer to? 2, and why do we love other believers? So if those who call themselves Christians do not hold to the truth, are we to love them, to have unity with them? Is it possible to have unity with those who do not hold to the truth? Are we to try to create unity where unity is lacking, or is unity a result of our common belief? How is the truth in us and with us forever? So truth is synonymous with who?
3 The wording is a little unclear if this is a prayer or an affirmation of these qualities. These come from who and who? But not who? Why not? Where is He? How is Jesus identified? Some claim that Son does not equal God, but the Jews did understand this; why did they want to kill Him, John 5:18? If Jesus was not God, this was blasphemy, punishable by death. This grace, mercy and peace are found in what two qualities? Which of those two is listed first? Truth has already been mentioned how many times in the first two verses? So do we love the brethren without regard for truth, for doctrinal purity? Paul lists truth before love also, in Eph. 4:15. Peter does the same in I Pet. 1:22. John speaks several times of loving others "in the truth." We might think of this as "tough love"--love that is qualified by truth (facts), not emotion.
4 Are all her children walking in the truth? Maybe, but maybe not--the idea seems to be "some." Again we wonder if John is speaking to a woman about her children, or those who are part of a church. Do the children of Christian parents always become Christians? Do Christian children always stay true to the Lord? What commandment from the Lord does he speak of?
5-6 For the second time, John refers to this "lady." How does 5 shed light on the question of whether the apostle John is writing to a woman or a church? What commandment from the Lord does he speak of in 5? Does he write now about love or about truth, or both? How does John define "love" here? What other important word does he use twice in 6? Do we show God we love Him by telling Him how much we love Him, or singing songs about how much we love Him? If we do those things but do not do what John says to do, is that the kind of love that God desires from us? Do we often confuse human ideas of love with the Bible concept of love (as actions, rather than as feelings)? How would you feel if your children were not obeying you, but continually assured you of how much they love you?
7 "For": his reason for the comments on truth and love. Is John warning about the person who will rule the world during the tribulation? Who is he warning about? Apparently there have been and will be many of these forerunners of the Beast of Revelation. Some think that Satan has always had a potential Antichrist in every generation, since he does not know the appointed time for the rapture and the time for that deceiver to be on hand to sign the seven-year covenant and rule over that final world kingdom.
In order to recognize these individuals, what is the primary characteristic we are to watch for? In I John 4:1-3, John uses the terminology "is come" (KJV) or "has come" (NASB) in the flesh. Here the Greek speaks of "coming" which could include both Christ's first and second coming.
Where have we seen this test before? Let's review the test John spoke of in I John 4:1-3. Confess/acknowledge, that what? "Jesus" is the name given when? At His human birth. It speaks to His humanity. "Christ" means what? The Messiah, the anointed one, God Himself, who would bear our sins, Isa. 53. "Has come in the flesh"--God became flesh (the incarnation); Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. God and man in the flesh speaks of the virgin birth, Isa. 7:14.
"Jesus" is the Greek form and the transliteration of the Hebrew name "Joshua," which means "Yahweh saves" or "Yahweh is salvation"--God saves. Saved from what? Jesus is the Savior, which means there is something we need saved from. Those who do not acknowledge that He is the Savior are not acknowledging what? No man could pay the price for sin because a perfect Lamb must shed its blood.
8 Why do we need to watch ourselves? What might we lose? Is he talking about the possibility of losing our salvation, or what? So according to the previous verses, what could result in a Christian losing some rewards at the judgment seat of Christ?
9 The KJV begins, "Whoever transgresseth" where the NASB says "anyone who goes too far." So what is the meaning of "transgress" here? If people add additional books, or new revelations, they go beyond the Bible. The Bible uses various terms for sin: transgress, do evil, fall short, iniquity, sin, wickedness. How does "go too far" help us understand one aspect of sin?
How does this verse clarify who is really saved and who is not? We see John again using the term "abide" which we discussed in its earlier passages: John 14-15, and I John 2-3. I believe it refers to salvation: to be in Christ, for Christ to be in you, to remain in Him, and He remains in us. I do not believe it refers to the possibility of being able to leave (as some teach): we cannot leave our position of now being "in Christ," and He will never leave us. Those are not options the Bible speaks of. We are born again and cannot be unborn; the Holy Spirit indwells us, He does not leave us, and we cannot remove Him, Rom 8:38-39.
So in this verse, the first half says someone whose doctrinal beliefs are not the teachings of Christ--that are not truth--has never been saved. The second half says the one who holds to the teachings of Christ--the truth of the Bible, correct doctrine--is saved. John clarifies that the way to the Father is through the Son, so we must believe the truth about Jesus Christ if we hope to spend eternity with God the Father. Compare I John 5:13, John 14:3. John says this in many ways, why?
10-11 Some believe this means that if a Jehovah Witness or Mormon missionary comes to your door, you should not speak to them or invite them inside, even to witness to them. Here is where it helps to consider the historical perspective; what situation is John addressing? Who has John been speaking of? Deceivers, false teachers, false brethren. Where did churches meet? Where did traveling teachers stay for night? Christian hospitality stops short of enabling false teachers. Do these verses contradict John's strong teaching on love, especially love of the brethren? Is it loving for a Christian to reject certain others who claim to be Christians also, but whose teaching does not match the Bible? What about just being warm and friendly--are we to have Christian fellowship with such people? Should we wish someone well who does not hold to clear biblical doctrine about Christ? Was Jesus kind, patient and tactful with the Pharisees, as He was with other unbelievers? Why not?
12-13 Did John cover everything he wanted to say? We wonder what else he had to say. Might he choose not to put into writing the specifics about the deceivers he spoke of? Might this be for his and their protection? Or might speaking in person be a more effective way to discuss sticky or unpleasant situations? Wouldn't it seem that if John was speaking of a literal sister and her children (nieces and nephews), that the greeting would come from the sister, not the children? The elect sister must be another church, and her children would be fellow believers. We don't know if he was able to visit this church.
1 We have seen some of the keywords we've been seeing in John's epistles? Love, truth, know. How many references to truth are in this letter? How many to live? Which one do we see toward the end of 12? This letter is more about truth than love.
Who is the elder? Who is the letter to? How does this recipient differ from the last one? II John was to a church, III John is to an individual. Gaius was a common name; four earlier references to a Gaius, Acts 19:29, 20:4, Rom. 16:23, I Cor. 1:14, may or may not be the same person. Why would a personal letter written to an individual be included in the Bible? How does John feel about Gaius? He uses this name four times. What can we learn from the phrase "love in truth"?
2-4 What does John speak of three times? Four, counting verse 1. So what is John very concerned about? How did John hear news about him? What does the repeated phrase "walking in truth" tell us about believing the truth? The inward and the outward should what?
Those who believe the health/wealth gospel say that 2 teaches that it is God's will for us to be healthy and prosperous. Is this what it is saying? Isn't this similar to our common greeting, wishing others well? 2 speaks of the spiritual and physical well-being of Gaius; which is more important? What if people's physical health mirrored their spiritual health? Does God ever use lack of health and prosperity to improve our spiritual health?
5-6 What do we learn about Gaius? What does 5 tell us about walking in truth? What does 6 tell us about walking in truth? We have seen that "brethren" refers to the church; what's going on at this church? We have often seen in the New Testament epistles that "they" and "them" refer to unbelievers; do they here? How can we tell? Context. What might be "a manner worthy of God"? (NASB) "You will do well" was an idiom meaning "please."
7-8 What are we learning about these men--they/them? What do they do? Usually "the Gentiles" refers to unbelievers; do you think it does here? Or might it refer to Gentile believers in the church? Or the Gentiles that these men are preaching the gospel to? So Gaius and the church are to do what? What is the gist of 5-8? As the New Testament teaches elsewhere also, we see that missionaries, like Paul, the church was to provide for their needs, yet they were not to presume upon others for their support. Is salvation a free gift? Should anyone charge for it, in order to support themselves? We see the biblical pattern that some go out, and other support them. Are we to look to unbelievers to support the work of God? The biblical meaning of "fellowship" is "partnership"--the church is a group of believers partnering in the work of the Lord.
9-10 John will speak to Gaius about someone by name. His phrase "the church" implies they are part of the same church; some think this may be a reference to II John, and that II and III John are both to and about the same church. What do we learn about Diotrephes? Does he sound like a leader in the church? Or a powerful dissident in the church? Or could he be the pastor? If so, did he squelch John's previous letter so that Gaius is unaware of it? Does he support the traveling missionaries? What does he do instead? We don't know the answers to these questions, but does it seem that all is not well at this church? There seem to be divisions and power struggles. Does John say, "Let's just pray about this man and leave it in God's hands?"
Remember that John is an apostle and has and uses the authority given to the apostles for the founding of the church. Today there are some who falsely claim to be apostles, seeking to falsely and deceptively exercise "apostolic authority." Do you think these today are motivated by a deep concern that people follow God's Word, or by personal desire for power and control in the church? Have Satan's tricks changed much over the years?
Today many Christians criticize those who publicly rebuke well-known teachers and preachers for their doctrine or behavior. We find various instances in the New Testament church of rebuking individuals by name. If someone sins against you privately, do you rebuke privately or publicly? If their error is public, should the rebuke by public?
11 What might John be saying about Diotrephes? Interestingly, his name means "nourished by Jove." Is he is actually a believer, but strongly influenced by false beliefs, or by pride--by the old nature? Can true believers act like this? Does "has not seen God" mean he is not a believer, or might it mean he is not acting like a believer--not walking close to the Lord, not developing a growing relationship with Him, not dealing with Self? Can this be a problem with Christians? Even with leaders in the church?
Does John say anything about false teaching? Does he say anything about kicking him out, which surely he would if this was a false teacher? So the apostle John's writings tell us that serious problems can arise in a church both due to false teaching and to pride. Do things like this happen in churches today? What does John counsel the true believer in this situation? Does it sound like Gaius had been giving in or standing firm?
12 Now John speaks of one more man, also by name. Demetrius was also a common name and may or may not be the same one mentioned elsewhere. He may or may not also be part of this church; if he is, why might John bring him up to Gaius? John may be holding him up as a contrast to Diotrephes, and encouraging Gaius to support him. Some think he may be the one delivering this letter; if so, why might John say these things? By way of introduction? It's possible he is the missionary Diotrephes refused to receive and support. John's description of him parallels what two earlier phrases--end of 3 and 4, and beginning of 5? Might we say this is the theme of this letter?
13-14 John closes this letter very much like he did II John. Both were brief and meant to be followed up on in person. Why are we glad that John didn't just deal with these issues in person? Here, instead of the "children" he spoke of in the closing of II John, he speaks of them as who? Considering the content of this letter, why might he have chosen this word? God's children are to be friends, and friendly. The church is to be characterized by what, 15? Is it always? Does the Bible give us ways to deal with the lack of peace in the church?
Do we see Jesus Christ mentioned in this epistle? How?
Copyright 2016 Jan Young
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