Review of John’s Three Epistles

Dec 10th, 2009 | By | Category: 1st & 2nd & 3rd John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Review of John’s Three Epistles

John did not go into the fine details that Paul did but just enunciated right and wrong principles. Before quoting from John’s epistles, we should read all three to make sure we get the right thought.

The Gnostics introduced both Asian and Grecian philosophies into the early Church. Adherents of the Asian philosophy saw nothing wrong with immorality in religion. Adherents of the Grecian philosophy believed in punishing the body. Many of these philosophies and weird ideas were carried over into Catholicism.

In John’s day, many claimed they did not sin, but John said they were liars. He emphasized repentance and the confession of sins in his first epistle. Forgiveness is predicated upon repentance.

John commended some “young” Christians for overcoming the Adversary either by not leaving the apostle or by separating from those who opposed him. The reference to “overcoming” was in regard to this particular stand only, as one must strive throughout his entire Christian walk, not just in the beginning.

When John said, “Those born of God do not sin,” he was not contradicting his statement that all sin. The new creature does not practice sin, does not have a continual habit of sin, but he might be overcome in an isolated situation.

John said, “We know that we have passed from death unto life if we love the brethren,” but there is more to this statement. Just being kind and gentle is not enough to keep us out of Second Death. 1 John 5:2 completes the thought: “We love the children of God if we love God and keep his commandments.” What brethren do we love? Certainly not those who separated like Diotrephes. Fellowship can be full, partial, or withdrawn depending on the circumstance. Jesus said that those who do the will of his Father in heaven are his “mother,” “brother,” etc.

Proper disfellowshipping is an evidence of “love”—in the hope that the erring one will repent and get life. Long-range salvation is more important than immediate pacification. Love can be severe, and it has different modes of operation.

“There is no fear in love” was another of John’s statements that needs to be qualified, for we are to fear (reverence) and tremble at God’s Word. In fact, to fear and tremble at His Word is to hold that Word as the ruling principle of our life. Fear should be a watchdog rather than a motivating force of life, for slavish fear is wrong and reverential fear is right. We are to fear God, not man.

John directed his message against a high-minded puritanical element and hence had to stress love. Today we should be wary of worldly slogans on love, for true Christian love is not found in the world but is based on God’s principles.

John warned that if we say we have fellowship with God yet walk in darkness, we lie. In his day, walking in darkness and hating the brethren were obvious and self-evident. The Gnostics felt superior and did not consult much with the Word of God; they regarded Jesus as a teacher but not the teacher, the Christ. All of our Christian walk we must have Jesus as our Head. The Gnostics stressed the equality of other teachers, thus bringing Christ down to their level. This wrong seed thought, which was an antichrist spirit, eventually led to the doctrine of apostolic succession.

Jesus came in the flesh as a human being. Docetism, a prevalent branch of Gnosticism, taught that Jesus came in one of three ways, all of which undercut the Ransom. (1) He came in appearance only, not as a real human being. (2) He came as an angel; that is, he only materialized. (3) He came as a mere man having no preexistence. However, the Scriptures teach that Jesus came in the flesh and that he had a preexistence. These truths are important to see, for otherwise, Jesus is regarded as just a human being, equal to us. Others said he was not the Son of God and hence felt free to bring in their own teachings. The blood of Christ is needed for forgiveness.

John said that the love of God is perfected in the one who keeps His commandments. Others said they were abiding in God and keeping His commandments, but they were selective in which commandments they kept. False teachers who followed the Asian thinking said that Christians could live a lustful life and not be hurt as new creatures. They perverted Genesis 3:22 to mean that to be good Christians, we have to know both good and evil. Hence they purposely indulged in evil to get experience. To the contrary, the Christian must struggle against evil and not give in to it.

The Gnostics liked Paul’s statement that “the things I would, I cannot do” (Rom. 7:15 paraphrase). Instead of fighting against sin, they used this text to excuse sin as the result of the old man. On the one hand, the Christian should not selectively use Scriptures to excuse sin. On the other hand, he should have mercy toward others in regard to the possibility of repentance and retrieval but not as a blanket attitude. The Gnostics also used sophistry. For example, they said that Jesus only appeared to die but did not actually do so. “Gnosis,” meaning “knowledge,” was the attitude “I know.”

To differ with someone does not mean we hate him. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal. 6:6). We are not to submit on principles, but we should not be hypercritical.

A liar denies that Jesus is the Christ. Anyone who changes the Word of God by adding to or taking away from it has a Nicolaitan spirit and is taking away from the Head.

John’s epistles and Gospel indicate that the Trinity will be a touchstone with the nominal Church in the days ahead. For example, John 1:1 will be misused to prove the opposite—that Jesus is God. The Diaglott interlinear is the only correct rendition of that verse.

We may have to take a stand in the days ahead that will appear to be evil but will actually be right. Therefore, we must be fully armed both in prophetic doctrine and in our daily walk. The moral problems, etc., of the early Church will be repeated at the end of the age. We must take stands where necessary on moral principles as well as on doctrinal issues. Familiarity with, meditating on, and analyzing the Word of God are our only safeguards.

In John’s day, those who denied his teachings and went out from him were wrong. That reasoning will be used against us in the future. We will be considered wrong to go “out from,”or contrary to, the Trinity. This type of reasoning along other lines can even be used to bind us to an ecclesia. To think the will of the Lord is always done by an ecclesia is erroneous.

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