Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

First Letter of John

Notes to the Letter

Jerome tells us in Jerome on Galatians V1.10 quoted by Plummer p. xxxv – that when the aged apostle became so weak that he could no longer preach, he used to be carried into the congregation at Ephesus and content himself with a word of exhortation ‘little children’ he would always say, ‘love one another’. And when his hearers grew tired of this message and asked him why he so frequently repeated it, he responded ‘because it is enough.’

Early patristics writings suggest that the letters are not addressed to those who have caused the difficulties {i.e. trouble}. The general consensus of scholars is that the letter is of a circular nature, it is unaddressed, without the usual characteristic style which opens most letters, see Paul’s letter to the Romans and the opening of the letter to 1 & 2 Corinthians. The letter was probably sent from Ephesus to the congregations of Asia Minor toward the end of the first century.

When we study Galatians 2:9 we are able to see that John remained in Jerusalem for some time as one of the pillars of the church. He appears to have been present at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:22. Irenaeus a disciple of John’s disciple Polycarp, tells us that the apostle continued in the church at Ephesus until the times of Trajan 98-117 AD.

Each of the three letters (1 – 3 John) deal with a challenge to the teaching or authority which had rise within the churches in Asia. They are pastoral in nature and are directed to those Christians who had remained faithful to strengthen their faith and reinforce their loyalty during crisis.

All five books – were written in the province of Asia during the last decade of first century AD or first decade of second century AD i.e. within a period of twenty years. Internal evidence supported by external sources enable us to have a relatively clear understanding of what was taking place culturally within general society and religious practice, thus causing the books to be written.

  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • The Gospel of John
  • The Book of Revelation

These writings raise question which are of importance for –

  • Christian faith
  • Christian practice
  • Christian assurance
  • The validity of Christian experience
  • The relation of inspiration to authority
  • The proper attitude to those who hold convictions different to your own
  • The meaning of love

Warnings – against those who make claims which are not justified by the facts

  • 1 John 1:6 – if we say
  • 1 John 1:8 – if we say
  • 1 John 2:4 – he who says
  • 1 John 2:6 – he who says
  • John 4:20 – if anyone says

What was the problem

A special knowledge of the love of God and a peculiarly intimate relationship with him which has set them above the common distinctions between good and evil and therefore above the demands of Christian ethics.

The denial that Jesus was the Christ (1 John 2:22), Christians who denied the incarnation, (1 John 4:22), these were Christians who had formerly been members of the church, but had gone away and withdrawn from Christian fellowship to start a new movement of their own (1 John 2:19). This was a belief system which taught that ‘Salvation; was by knowledge devoid of moral concern

The denial that Jesus had not come in the flesh was a form of Docetism and a general denial of the reality of Christ’s human nature or to be more precise the theory that Christ had adopted only the outward appearance of human form, a shallow disguise used to accommodate his divine nature. It nourished a spirituality which was held materials in contempt.

The moral laxity stigmatised an indifference to the practical demands of the law of love.

Cerinthus, taught

  • That Jesus was merely human
  • That after his baptism there descended into him from the supreme power; ‘Christ in the form of a dove’
  • That he ‘proclaimed’ the ‘unknown father’ and ‘performed miracles’
  • That finally Christ withdrew from Jesus.
  • Cerinthus, denied that Jesus came in the flesh because he denied that the human Jesus could in anyway be identified with the divine Christ.