1, 2, 3 John
1 John 1: Walk in the Light
Reminiscent of the Gospel of John, John begins his epistle by referring to Jesus and claiming eyewitness testimony concerning “the word of life.” He bears witness to Jesus first hand based on “what we have seen and heard.” The apostles proclaim the message of Christ because they want others to have fellowship both with God and the disciples. That message, though, requires a response because “in Him is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Therefore, the Christian is to “walk in the light as He is in the light” to maintain that fellowship. This will include the confession of sins, knowing God is faithful and just to forgive. Denial of sin makes God a liar, and means “his word is not in us.” Walk in the Light. He is our standard for this walk.
1 John 2: Love and Love Not
John reminds believers that they have an advocate with the Father. This doesn’t excuse sin, but it recognizes the reality of it and our need for His forgiveness. This still requires that we keep His commandments, for we cannot say that we know God if we do not. John then focuses on the need to show love for brethren, for if one cannot hate a brother and still be in the light. On the other hand, disciples are told that they are not to love the world as this is contrary to the will of God. Warning is given about any who are against Christ (antichrist), and any who deny Jesus as the Christ would fit into that mold. John writes because he wants the truth to prevail, and truth does, indeed, prevail. Therefore, disciples need to remain firm in Christ.
1 John 3: Children of God
God has shown great love that ought to be recognized by His children. Christians have hope. They may not know exactly what things will be like in the end, but we know we shall be like Jesus Christ. This is why disciples need to be diligent in striving for purity and avoiding the sin. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and His disciples do not make a habit of sinning against Him. Once again, John ties this to what it means to love one another, unlike Cain who killed Abel from envy. Instead, our example is Jesus, who laid down His life for us. Those who remain firm in Christ should have a confidence, knowing that God abides in them.
1 John 4: God is Love
John is concerned that believers “test the spirits,” meaning that they make sure that teachers are teaching the truth about Jesus. There are false prophets who have gone out into the world, speaking from the world, and there is always a danger of being influenced by them. Disciples know who they ought to be listening to. John then returns to his theme of love, showing that love is from God because God is love. This is one of the major attitudes that help disciples know that they are abiding in truth. After all, if one says, “I love God,” but hates a brother, then he is a liar. Therefore, if will love God, we must also love our brothers and sisters in Christ.
1 John 5: That You May Know
John shows that disciples have overcome the world by faith, which includes loving God and keeping His commandments. This is also tied to believing that Jesus is the Son of God. There were those who denying this truth, and these false prophets were making God a liar. To accept the Father, one must also accept the Son. That belief is then directly tied to the eternal life that God gives. John wants his readers to know that they have eternal life. That confidence is not as a result of earning it, but of knowing God and His grace. Those the world lies under the sway of the evil one, disciples of Christ know that they are in Him, and in Him is life eternal.
2 John: Walk in Truth
John’s concern for truth is evident, for truth abides in God’s people. John here connects walking in truth with his theme of love from the first epistle. He wants disciples to walk in truth, love one another, and keep God’s commandments. Those who teach otherwise or deny that Jesus came in the flesh were to be avoided, for they would draw away disciples into error. The warning shows how important it is stay vigilant and careful in how one approaches both God and others.
3 John: Imitate Good
John’s third epistle again rejoices in hearing of those who are walking in truth. He desires that they stand strong because of those who would draw them away. Sadly, John has to deal with a troublemaker among those to whom he writes. Diotrephes loved to have first place among them, and he was refusing to hear the apostles. John tells them not to imitate his evil, but to do good as goodness comes from God. Demetrius, on the other hand, provided a good example to follow. Avoid evil. Do good. Pay attention to truth. These never change.