THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

Here is one of the most loved epistles in the entire New Testament. I John has been called the sanctum sanctorum of the New Testament, and is a climax after the other two. It is really more of a sermon than a personal letter. It develops, in detail, the themes of love and truth introduced in II John. It takes the child of God into the fellowship of the Father’s home. (Paul’s epistles, and all the other epistles, are church epistles; but this is a family epistle. It may prove more important to the individual believer than all the church epistles!)

It is interesting that while John develops the overwhelming themes of love and truth, he also employs heptadic structures just as he does in his Gospel and Revelation. We find:

Seven Contrasts: The Light vs. The Darkness (1:5-2:11), The Father vs. The World (2:12-2:17), Christ vs. the Antichrist (2:18-2:28), Good Works vs. Evil Works (2:29-3:24), Holy Spirit vs. Error (4:1-4:6), Love vs. Pious Pretence (4:7-4:21), and The God-Born vs. others (5:1-5:21).

Seven Tests: Of Profession (1:5-2:11), Of Desire (2:12-2:17), Of Doctrine (2:18-2:28), Of Conduct (2:29-3:24), Of Discernment (4:1-4:6), Of Motive (4:7-4:21), Of New Birth (5:1-5:21).

Other heptadic structures include: seven traits of the born again (2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1 (2x), 4, 18); seven reasons why this epistle was written (1:3, 4, 2:1, 13-17, 21-24, 26, 5:13); seven tests of Christian gen! uineness (1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 6, 9, 4:20); and, seven tests of honesty and reality (1:6, 8, 10; 2:4, 6, 9; 4:20). (However, we find only six liars: 1 Jn 1:6, 10; 2:4, 22; 4:20; 5:10.) In any case, John’s three letters focus on our walking in love, in truth, and in the intimate knowledge of God. They deal with, in a sense, a challenge similar to the famous indictment by the Prophet Hosea:

„Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.”-Hosea 4:1

The issue in all three letters is that love and truth must be practiced: „walked.” „To walk in the truth” means to obey it. It is easier to study the truth, or even argue about the truth, than it is to obey it. Knowing the truth is more than giving assent to a series of doctrines; it means that the believer’s life is controlled by a love for the truth and a desire to magnify the truth.

 

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