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- 1 John
by Gary H. Everett
STUDY NOTES ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
Using a Theme-based Approach
to Identify Literary Structures
By Gary H. Everett
THE EPISTLE OF 1 JOHN
January 2013 Edition
All Scripture quotations in English are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Some words have been emphasized by the author of this commentary using bold or italics.
All Old Testament Scripture quotations in the Hebrew text are taken from Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Westminster Hebrew Morphology, electronic ed., Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society, Westminster Seminary, 1996, c1925, morphology c1991, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.
All New Testament Scripture quotations in the Greek text are taken from Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (with Morphology), eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (United Bible Societies), c1966, 1993, 2006, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.
All Hebrew and Greek text for word studies are taken from James Strong in The New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, c1996, 1997, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004.
The Crucifixion image on the book cover was created by the author’s daughter Victoria Everett in 2012.
© Gary H. Everett, 1981-2013
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form without prior permission of the author.
Foundational Theme The Perseverance of the Saints (from False Doctrines within)
Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and
beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Structural Theme Jesus Christ Our Advocate Brings Us into Fellowship with the Father
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
1 John 2:1
Imperative Theme Fellowship with the Saints (Perseverance of the Heart)
That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,
that ye also may have fellowship with us:
and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:3
INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE OF 1 JOHN
Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures supports the view of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the biblical text of the Holy Scriptures, meaning that every word originally written down by the authors in the sixty-six books of the Holy Canon were God-breathed when recorded by men, and that the Scriptures are therefore inerrant and infallible. Any view less than this contradicts the testimony of the Holy Scriptures themselves. For this reason, the Holy Scriptures contain both divine attributes and human attributes. While textual criticism engages with the variant readings of the biblical text, acknowledging its human attributes, faith in His Word acknowledges its divine attributes. These views demand the adherence of mankind to the supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures above all else. The Holy Scriptures can only be properly interpreted by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an aspect of biblical scholarship that is denied by liberal views, causing much misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures.
The Message of the Epistle of 1 John - The spiritual lesson woven throughout the first epistle of John is how to walk in fellowship with God and be led by the Holy Spirit.
Introductory Material - The introduction to the epistle of 1 John will deal with its historical setting, literary style, and theological framework.  These three aspects of introductory material will serve as an important foundation for understanding God’s message to us today from this divinely inspired book of the Holy Scriptures.
 Someone may associate these three categories with Hermann Gunkel’s well-known three-fold approach to form criticism when categorizing the genre found within the book of Psalms: (1) “a common setting in life,” (2) “thoughts and mood,” (3) “literary forms.” In addition, the Word Biblical Commentary uses “Form/Structure/Setting” preceding each commentary section. Although such similarities were not intentional, but rather coincidental, the author was aware of them and found encouragement from them when assigning the three-fold scheme of historical setting, literary style, and theological framework to his introductory material. See Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, trans. Thomas M. Horner, in Biblical Series, vol. 19, ed. John Reumann (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Fortress Press, 1967), 10; see also Word Biblical Commentary, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas, Texas: Word Incorporated, 1989-2007).
“We dare not divorce our study from understanding the historical setting of every passage of Scripture
if we are going to come to grips with the truth and message of the Bible.”
(J. Hampton Keathley) 
 J. Hampton Keathley, III, “Introduction and Historical Setting for Elijah,” (Bible.org) [on-line]; accessed 23 May 2012; available from http://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-and-historical-setting-elijah; Internet.
Each book of the Holy Scriptures is cloaked within a unique historical setting. An examination of this setting is useful in the interpretation of the book because it provides the context of the passage of Scripture under examination. The section on the historical setting of the epistle of 1 John will provide a discussion on its historical background, authorship, date and place of writing, recipients, and occasion. This discussion supports the early Church tradition that the apostle John wrote his first epistle to the churches of Asia Minor from Ephesus towards the end of the first century because of the encroachment of false doctrines within the churches.
I. Historical Background
Church history tells us that John the apostle moved to Asia Minor, probably Ephesus, at some point after the death of Mary the mother of our Lord. There is no record of when John the apostle moved from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and the city of Ephesus. Philip Schaff says that it was probably not before the death of Paul around A.D. 63, since there are no references to John in Paul's letters to his churches in Asia Minor. He supposes that the death of Paul and Peter in Rome would have urged John to take charge of these churches.  Since Ephesus was the capital of that region of the Roman Empire, it would have been the choice city to take up residence in order to manage nearby churches. Therefore, it is most likely that he moved to Ephesus in the 60’s. Perhaps his move was also encouraged by the Jewish War of A.D. 66-70, which would have made Judea a very dangerous place to live.
 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 424-425.
The city of Ephesus served both as the economic center of this region and as the center of church leadership over the churches that Paul the apostle established in this region. During John’s stay there he was banished to the island of Patmos during the later part of the reign of Domitian, who ruled Rome from A.D. 81 to 96. After the death of this Roman emperor John was freed and returned to Ephesus where he lived until his death.
We see in the Revelation of John a reference to the churches of Asia Minor. Jesus appears to John and gives him messages for seven churches. The fact that Jesus would give these messages to John, and not another, to deliver to the seven churches is a likely indication that John was overseeing these churches. We see from 2 and 3 John that he was called “the Elder,” which suggests an honorary title describing his leadership role in this region. It is within this context that John writes his three epistles that we find in the New Testament.
II. Authorship and Canonicity
In establishing the authorship of the New Testament writings, one must also deal with the issue of canonicity, since apostolic authority was the primary condition for a book to be accepted into the biblical canon of the early Church. This section will evaluate three phases in the development of the canonicity of the epistle of 1 John: apostolic authority, church orthodoxy, and catholicity. The first phase of canonization is called apostolic authority and is characterized by the use of the writings of the apostles by the earliest Church father in the defense of the Christian faith (1 st and 2 nd centuries). The second phase of canonization is called church orthodoxy and is characterized by the collection of the apostolic writings into the distinctive groups of the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, and the Catholic epistles, and their distribution among the churches as the rules of the Christian faith (late 2 nd century thru 3 rd century). The third phase of canonization is characterized by the general acceptance and use of the books of the New Testament by the catholic church, seen most distinctly in the early Church councils (4 th century).
A. Apostolic Authority - Scholars generally agree that the New Testament canon went through several phrases of development in Church history prior to its solidification in the fourth century. F. B. Westcott says the earliest phase is considered the apostolic age in which “the writings of the Apostles were regarded from the first as invested with singular authority, as the true expression, if not the original source, of Christian doctrine and Christian practice.” He says the “elements of the Catholic faith” were established during this period in Church history.  At this time, the early Christian Greek apologists defended the catholic faith during the rise of the heresies of the second century using the writings that carried the weight of apostolic authority. The Church clung to the books that were either written by the apostles themselves, such as Matthew, John, Peter, and Paul, or directly sanctioned by them, such as Mark and Luke, the assistances of Peter and Paul respectively, and the epistles of James and Jude, the brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, scholars believe apostolic authority was the primary element in selecting the canonical books. This phase is best represented by evaluating the internal evidence of the authorship of these New Testament books and by the external witnesses of the early Church fathers who declare the book’s apostolic authorship and doctrinal authority over the Church.
 Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1875), 21. The Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 200) alludes to the criteria of apostolic authority for the New Testament writings, saying, “The Pastor, moreover, did Hermas write very recently in our times in the city of Rome, while his brother bishop Pius sat in the chair of the Church of Rome. And therefore it also ought to be read; but it cannot be made public in the Church to the people, nor placed among the prophets, as their number is complete, nor among the apostles to the end of time.” ( Fragments of Caius 3.3) ( ANF 5); Corey Keating says, “In the first two centuries, ‘apostolic authority’ was the important factor in deciding to keep or reject a particular writing.” See Corey Keating, The Criteria Used for Developing the New Testament Canon in the First Four Centuries of the Christian Church (2000); accessed 15 April 2012; available from http://www.ntgreek.org/SeminaryPapers/ ChurchHistory/Criteria for Development of the NT Canon in First Four Centuries.pdf; Internet.
1. Internal Evidence Internal evidence supports Johannine authorship of the epistle of 1 John.
a) Similarities with Other Johannine Writings - There is much similarity between the first epistle of John and his Gospel.
i) Similar Words and Phrases The Johannine writings share a number of similar words and phrases.
(1) God is “Life, Love, Light” - In both the Gospel of John and his first epistle, God is portrayed as “life” (John 1:4; John 5:26; John 6:57 and 1 John 5:20), “love” (John 3:16 and 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16), and “light” (John 1:4 and 1 John 1:5).
(2) Jesus is “The Word of God” The description of Jesus Christ as the “Word of God” is unique to Johannine literature. It is only found in the Gospel of John, the First Epistle of John and the book of Revelation (John 1:4; John 1:14, 1 John 5:7, Revelation 19:13).
It is easy to see how canonicity is a testimony to apostolic authorship when we understand that the debates of the early Church fathers to accept the general epistles of 2 Peter , 2 and 3 John, and Jude was simply a debate about their authorship. Apostolic authorship meant that the works were authentic, and thus, authoritative. It was the writing’s apostolic authority that granted its inclusion into the New Testament canon. Therefore, canonicity was based upon apostolic authority, and this apostolic authority was based upon the authenticity of the writing, and its authenticity was based upon the fact that it was a genuine work of one of the apostles or one who was serving directly under that apostolic authority.
B. Church Orthodoxy - The second phase in the development of the New Testament canon placed emphasis upon Church orthodoxy, or the rule of faith for the catholic Church. F. B. Westcott says, “To make use of a book as authoritative, to assume that it is apostolic, to quote it as inspired, without preface or comment, is not to hazard a new or independent opinion, but to follow an unquestioned judgment.”  The early Church fathers cited these apostolic writings as divinely inspired by God, equal in authority to the Old Testament Scriptures. They understood that these particular books embodied the doctrines that helped them express the Church’s Creed, or generally accepted rule of faith. As F. B. Westcott notes, with a single voice the Church fathers of this period rose up from the western to the eastern borders of Christendom and became heralds of the same, unified Truth.  This phase is best represented in the writings of the early Church fathers by the collection of the apostolic writings into the distinctive groups of the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, and the Catholic epistles, and their distribution among the churches as the rules of the Christian faith (late 2 nd century thru 3 rd century). These collected works of the apostles were cited by the church fathers as they expounded upon the Christian faith and established Church orthodoxy. We will look at two aspects of the development of Church Orthodoxy: (1) the Patristic Support of Authenticity, Authority, and Orthodoxy and (2) Early Versions.
 Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan anc Co., 1875), 12.
 Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan anc Co., 1875), 331.
1. Patristic Support of Authenticity, Authority, and Orthodoxy - The early Church fathers make direct statements declaring Johannine authorship, as well as direct quotes, strong allusions and weak allusions to the epistle of 1 John. Direct quotes are word for word citations from this book, strong allusions are apparent paraphrases, and weak allusions are words or phrases that appear to come from this book. Here are a few of the earliest quotes from the epistle of 1 John: 
 There are many other citations available from the early Church fathers that I have not used to support the traditional views of authorship of the books of the New Testament. Two of the largest collections of these citations have been compiled by Nathaniel Lardner (1684-1768) in The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, 10 vols. (London: Joseph Ogle Robinson, 1829, 1838), and by Jacques Paul Migne (1800-1875) in the footnotes of Patrologia Latina, 221 vols. (Parisiis: Excudebat Migne, 1844-55) and Patrologia Graecae, 161 vols. (Parisiis: Excudebat Migne, 1857-66).
a) Polycarp (A.D. 69 to 155) - Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was said by Irenaeus to have been acquainted with John the apostle. In his letter to Philippians, he quotes from 1 John.
“Every one that doth not confess that Jesus Christ hath come in the flesh is Antichrist; and whosoever doth not confess the mystery of the cross is of the devil.” ( The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians 7)
1 John 4:3, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
“but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him.” ( The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians 8)
1 John 4:9, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”
b) The Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 200) - The Muratorian Canon, an ancient Latin document dated around A.D. 200, is considered the earliest attempt at listing the canonical books of the New Testament. It was discovered in Ambrosian Library in Milan and formerly in the monastery of Bobbio.  It quotes from the opening verse of 1 John as a credit to John’s authorship. This manuscript tells us that John wrote his Gospel under the encouragement of his fellow disciples, then makes a reference to “his letters.”
 “Muratorian Canon,” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, revised, eds. F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 950; Brooke Foss Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, fourth edition (London: Macmillan and Co., 1875), 530-531.
“The fourth Gospel is that of John, one of the disciples. When his fellow-disciples and bishops entreated him, he said, “Fast ye now with me for the space of three days, and let us recount to each other whatever may be revealed to each of us.” On the same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should narrate all things in his own name as they called them to mind. And hence, although different points are taught us in the several books of the Gospels, there is no difference as regards the faith of believers, inasmuch as in all of them all things are related under one imperial Spirit, which concern the Lord’s nativity, His passion, His resurrection, His conversation with His disciples, and His twofold advent, the first in the humiliation of rejection, which is now past, and the second in the glory of royal power, which is yet in the future. What marvel is it, then, that John brings forward these several things so constantly in his epistles also, saying in his own person, “What we have seen with our eyes, and heard with our ears, and our hands have handled, that have we written.” For thus he professes himself to be not only the eye-witness, but also the hearer; and besides that, the historian of all the wondrous facts concerning the Lord in their order.” ( Fragments of Caius 3: Canon Muratorianus 1) ( ANF 5)
The Muratorian Canon makes a brief reference to two epistles of John that were accepted as canon, but which two of his three epistles is not made clear.
“The Epistle of Jude, indeed, and two belonging to the above-named John or bearing the name of John are reckoned among the Catholic epistles. And the book of Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. We receive also the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter, though some amongst us will not have this latter read in the Church.” ( Fragments of Caius 3: Canon Muratorianus 4) ( ANF 5)
c) Irenaeus (A.D. 130 to 200) Eusebius tells us that Irenaeus refers to the First Epistle of John without challenging its authorship or acceptance into the New Testament canon.
“In the fifth book he speaks as follows concerning the Apocalypse of John, and the number of the name of Antichrist: ‘As these things are so, and this number is found in all the approved and ancient copies, and those who saw John face to face confirm it, and reason teaches us that the number of the name of the beast, according to the mode of calculation among the Greeks, appears in its letters....’ And farther on he says concerning the same: ‘We are not bold enough to speak confidently of the name of Antichrist. For if it was necessary that his name should be declared clearly at the present time, it would have been announced by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen, not long ago, but almost in our generation, toward the end of the reign of Domitian.’ He states these things concerning the Apocalypse in the work referred to. He also mentions the first Epistle of John , taking many proofs from it, and likewise the first Epistle of Peter.” ( Ecclesiastical History 5.8.5-7)
d) Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150 to 215) Clement of Alexandria attributes John’s first epistle to “the Presbyter,” which can easily be interpreted as John the Apostle since he mentions the authorship of the Gospel of John within the same sentence.
“Following the Gospel according to John, and in accordance with it, this Epistle also contains the spiritual principle. What therefore he says, ‘from the beginning,’ the Presbyter explained to this effect, that the beginning of generation is not separated from the beginning of the Creator.” ( Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus: 1. From the Latin Translation of Cassiodorus 3)
e) Origen (A.D. 185 to 254) - Eusebius also quotes Origen as telling us that the authorship of John's first epistle was believed to be John the Apostle. But, he goes on to confess that he was doubtful on John's authorship of the second and third epistles.
“Why need we speak of him who reclined upon the bosom of Jesus, John, who has left us one Gospel, though he confessed that he might write so many that the world could not contain them? And he wrote also the Apocalypse, but was commanded to keep silence and not to write the words of the seven thunders. He has left also an epistle of very few lines ; perhaps also a second and third; but not all consider them genuine, and together they do not contain hundred lines.” ( Ecclesiastical History 6.25.9-10)
f) Eusebius (A.D. 260 to 340) - Eusebius, the ancient church historian, tells us that the early church fathers without dispute attribute the authorship of this first epistle to John the apostle. Note:
“But of the writings of John, not only his Gospel, but also the former of his epistles, has been accepted without dispute both now and in ancient times. But the other two are disputed.” ( Ecclesiastical History 3.24.17)
He quotes Papias as saying:
“But concerning Matthew he (Papias) writes as follows: ‘So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.’ And the same writer uses testimonies from the first Epistle of John and from that of Peter likewise.” ( Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16)
g) Athanasius (A.D. 296 to 373) - Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, supported Johannine authorship of all three of his epistles.
“Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven , viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three ; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John” ( Letters 39.5)
h) Gregory Nazianzen (A.D. 329 to 389) Gregory Nazianzen, the Church theologian and one of the Cappadocian Fathers, credits John with three Catholic epistles. He says after listing the books of the Old Testament canon, “And already for me, I have received all those of the New Testament. First, to the Hebrews Matthew the saint composed what was according to him the Gospel; second, in Italy Mark the divine; third, in Achaia Luke the all-wise; and John, thundering the heavenlies, indeed preached to all common men; after whom the miracles and deeds of the wise apostles, and Paul the divine herald fourteen epistles; and catholic seven, of which one is of James the brother of God, and two are of Peter the head, and of John again the evangelist, three, and seventh is Jude the Zealot. All are united and accepted; and if one of them is found outside, it is not placed among the genuine ones.” ( PG 38 col. 845) (author’s translation) 
 Cited by Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1: Apostolic Christianity A.D. 1-100 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 582.
He makes a similar statement again:
“Indeed Matthew wrote to the Hebrews (the) miracles of Christ, and Mark to Italy, Luke to Achaia, and above all, John, a great preacher who walked in heaven, then the Acts of the wise apostles, and fourteen epistles of Paul, and seven catholic epistles, being of James, one, and two of Peter, and three of John again, and Jude is seven. You have all. And if there is some (other than) these seven, not (are they) among the genuine ones.” ( Carminum 1) ( PG 37 col 474) (author’s translation)
Gregory Nazianzen supported Johannine authorship and quotes 1 John 5:8.
“What about John then, when in his Catholic Epistle he says that there are Three that bear witness, the Spirit and the Water and the Blood? Do you think he is talking nonsense?” ( Orations 32.19)
i) Jerome (A.D. 342 to 420) - Jerome affirms John’s authorship of this epistle.
“He (John) wrote also one Epistle which begins as follows “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes and our hands handled concerning the word of life” which is esteemed of by all men who are interested in the church or in learning.” ( Lives of Illustrious Men 9)
Jerome also calls the seven catholic epistles “canonical.”
Jerome says, “…seven epistles which are called canonical…one James, Peter two, John three, and Jude one…” ( Prologue to the Seven Canonical Epistles) ( PL 29 cols. 821-825) (author’s translation)
j) Sophronius (A.D. 560 to 638) - Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem, confirms John as the author of his first epistle, and mentions the dispute over his authorship of the other two epistles.
“John also wrote an epistle, which begins, That which was from the beginning. This epistle is accepted as John’s by all ecclesiastical and scholarly authorities. The other two epistles bearing his name the first, beginning, The elder unto the elect lady; and the second, The elder unto the well-beloved Gaius are considered by some to be the work of a certain John the Elder, whose tomb (one of two bearing the name John) still exists in Ephesus to this day. Others, however, maintain that these two epistles are also the work of John the Evangelist.” ( The Life of the Evangelist John) ( PG 123 col. 1127) 
 Sophronius, The Life of the Evangelist John, in Orthodox Classics in English (House Springs, MO: The Chrysostom Press) [on-line]; accessed 1 December 2010; available from http://www.chrysostompress.org/the-four-evangelists; Internet.
Thus, while the early church fathers clearly accept John the apostle as the author of the Gospel of John, the Apocalypse, and 1 John, they did not all agree that John wrote the second and third epistles.
2. Manuscript Evidence A number of early third and fourth century manuscripts, such as p23, containing the epistle of James, and p72 (the Bodmer papyrus), containing the epistles of 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude, reveal that the Catholic Epistles were being circulated as a collected corpus by the early Church.  These ancient manuscripts containing the collective body of General Epistles testify to the fact that the Church at large circulated these writings as a part of its orthodox faith.
 The Bodmer Papyrus (p72) contains 1 Peter 1:1-5:14; 2 Peter 1:1-3:18; Jude 1:1-25. See Philip W. Comfort and David P. Barrett, eds., The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndall House Publishers, 1999, 2001).
3. Early Versions The earliest translations of books of the New Testament testify to their canonization. Perhaps as early as the second century, the New Testament was translated into Old Syriac and Old Latin. While the disputed epistles of Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John were found in the Old Latin text, they are absent in the Old Syriac.  The Old Latin versions were later standardized into the Latin Vulgate by Jerome in the fourth century, which represent the canon as we know it today. The Syrian church has an unusual history regarding the development and acceptance of the New Testament Canon. While the Catholic epistles of James, 1 Peter, and 1 John are found in the old Syriac, the lesser Catholic Epistles of 2 Peter , 2 and 3 John, Jude, and the Apocalypse are omitted from its canon.  This canon of 22 New Testament books is reflected in the “Doctrine of Addai” (A.D. 250-300) in which the clergy of Edessa are instructed to read from the Law, the Prophets, the Gospels and Acts and the Pauline Epistles, but not from the General Epistles.  Perhaps this comment was made because the Syriac versions only accepted three of the seven Catholic Epistles as canonical. The Old Syriac was soon formalized into the translation known as the Peshitta. The New Testament was translated in the Coptic languages of Egypt (Sahidic and Bhoairic) as early as the third century, representing the entire New Testament canon. The New Testament was soon translated into the languages of the Armenian (5 th c), the Georgian (5 th c), and the Ethiopic (6 th c).  The Catholic Epistles would not have been translated with the other New Testament writings unless it was considered a part of the orthodox beliefs of the Church at large.
 A. E. Brooke, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, in The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, eds. Charles A. Briggs, Samuel R. Driver, and Alfred Plummer (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 220-223.
 Bruce M. Metzger, “Important Early Translations of the Bible,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 150:597 (Jan 1993) (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary): 44, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 3.0b [CD-ROM] Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2004.
 The Doctrine of Addai, the Apostle, trans. George Phillips (London: Trübner and Co. 1876), 44.
 The Old Latin Bible manuscripts of the fifth century, Codex Bezae (Gospels, Acts, Catholic epistles), Codex Claromontanus (Pauline epistles), and Codex Floriacensis (Acts, Catholic epistles, Revelation) were used prior to Jerome’s Vulgate (beginning A. D. 382), and these Old Latin manuscripts testify to the canonization of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament at an early date. See Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, M. Robinson, and Allen Wikgren, eds, The Greek New Testament, Third Edition (United Bible Societies, c1966, 1968, 1975), xxxi-xxxiv.
C. Catholicity - The third and final phase of New Testament canonicity placed emphasis upon the aspect of catholicity, or the general acceptance of the canonical books. F. B. Westcott says, “The extent of the Canon, like the order of the Sacraments, was settled by common usage, and thus the testimony of Christians becomes the testimony of the Church.”  This phase is best represented in the period of Church councils of the fourth century as bishops met and agreed upon a list of canonical books generally accepted by the catholic Church. However, approved canons were listed by individual Church fathers as early as the second century. These books exhibited a dynamic impact upon the individual believers through their characteristic of divine inspiration, transforming them into Christian maturity, being used frequently by the church at large. We will look at two testimonies of catholicity: (1) the Early Church Canons, and (2) Early Church Councils.
 Brooke Foss Westcott, A General History of the Canon of the New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1875), 12.
1. Early Church Canons
2. Early Church Councils - The Church councils of the fourth century eventually named the General Epistles as authentic writings. This would not have been done unless the church at large believed them to be canonical.
During the fourth century, the Roman emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity and ordered Eusebius to produce fifty copies of the Scriptures.  The production and distribution of these Bibles, along with the Church synods that followed, served to confirm the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as canonical and authoritative. The early Church traditions of authorship and authenticity became firmly embedded within their canonicity. Therefore, citations of the New Testament Scriptures and later manuscript evidence after this period of Church history only serve to repeat traditions that had already become well-known and established among the churches of the fourth century.
 Brooke Foss Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, fourth edition (London: Macmillan and Co., 1875), 422-426.
III. Date and Place of Writing
It is most likely that the General Epistles were written during the time when the early Church experienced its first large-scale persecutions at the hands of the Roman Emperors Nero (A.D. 54-68) and Domitian (A.D. 81-96). It was this season of persecutions that occasioned the need to write and encourage these early believers to hold fast to their faith in Christ, even at the cost of their lives.
LITERARY STYLE (GENRE)
“Perhaps the most important issue in interpretation is the issue of genre.
If we misunderstand the genre of a text, the rest of our analysis will be askew.”
(Thomas Schreiner) 
 Thomas R. Schreiner, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c1990, 2011), 11.
Within the historical setting of the early church, the authors of the New Testament epistles chose to write to various groups of believers using the literary style of the formal Greco-Roman epistle, which contains a traditional salutation, the body, and a conclusion. Thus, the New Testament epistles are assigned to the literary genre called “epistle genre,” In the introductory section of literary style, a comparison will be made of the New Testament epistles, as well as a brief look at the grammar and syntax of the epistle of 1 John.
VI. Comparison of the New Testament Epistles
A. Comparison of Content: It is More Practical than Doctrinal As is characteristic of all of the General Epistles, 1 John is more practical than doctrinal.
B. Comparison of Content: The Teaching of Love is Woven Throughout 1 John - God gives the Word to those who love Him.
1. How do we know we are born again? By our love for the brethren.
1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren . He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
2. How do we know what love is? Because Jesus gave His life for us.
1 John 3:16, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us : and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
3. How do we know that we know Him? If we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:3, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments .”
4. How do we know that we are “In Him”? If we keep word, and love is perfected.
VII. Grammar and Syntax
C. Vocabulary As simply as the vocabulary is in John’s writings, there are some distinctions found only in his writings. For example, the word “antichrist” is used three times in his first epistle and once in his second epistle (1 John 2:18; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:4, 2 John 1:7). It is never used elsewhere in the Scriptures by any New Testament writers, or in any earlier writings of the Jews or Christians.
“Scholarly excellence requires a proper theological framework.”
(Andreas Kösenberger) 
 Andreas J. Kösenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011), 161.
Based upon the historical setting and literary style of the epistle of 1 John, an examination of the purpose, thematic scheme, and literary structure to this book of the Holy Scriptures will reveal its theological framework. This introductory section will sum up its theological framework in the form of an outline, which is then used to identify smaller units or pericopes within the epistle of 1 John for preaching and teaching passages of Scripture while following the overriding message of the book. Following this outline allows the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to take his followers on a spiritual journey that brings them to the same destination that the author intended his readers to reach.
A. Hortatory - The primary purpose of the General Epistles is hortatory.
The hortatory purpose reflects the primary and second theme of the epistles of 1, 2, and 3 John, which is the perseverance in the faith against false doctrine from within the Church.
B. Practical/Occasional - The Johannine epistles clearly serve as occasional letters to either an individual or to a church. The epistles of 1, 2 and 3 John were written in order to deal with a particular occasion or event taking place within the local church body and between certain individual. John wrote these epistles in order to give practical instructions on how to deal with these situations. The first epistle deals with the influence of Gnosticism within the church. The second epistle deals with this same issue as it relates to a particular family of believers in the Church. The third epistle deals with rebellion to church authority as a result of such false doctrines.
1. John 2:1 - That we sin not.
2. John 1:3 - That we might have fellowship with them.
3. John 1:4 - That our joy might be full.
4. John 2:21 - Because we know the truth.
5. John 5:13 - That ye may know that ye have eternal life.
6. John 5:13 - That ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
The practical purpose reflects the third themes of the Johannine epistles, which is to walk in fellowship with the Lord and fellow believers.
IX. Thematic Scheme
Introduction - Each book of the Holy Scriptures contains a three-fold thematic scheme in order to fulfill its intended purpose, which is to transform each child of God into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). The primary, or foundational, theme of a book offers a central claim that undergirds everything written by the author. The secondary, or structural theme, of the book supports its primary theme by offering reasons and evidence for the central “claim” made by the author as it fully develops the first theme. Thus, the secondary theme is more easily recognized by biblical scholars than the other two themes because they provide the literary content of the book as they navigate the reader through the arguments embedded within the biblical text, thus revealing themselves more clearly.  The third theme is imperative in that it calls the reader to a response based upon the central claim and supporting evidence offered by the author. Each child of God has been predestined to be conformed into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures, and they alone, have the power to accomplish this task. This is why a child of God can read the Holy Scriptures with a pure heart and experience a daily transformation taking place in his life, although he may not fully understand what is taking place in his life. In addition, the reason some children of God often do not see these biblical themes is because they have not fully yielded their lives to Jesus Christ, allowing transformation to take place by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, a child of God is not willing to allow Him to manage his life and move him down the road that God predestined as his spiritual journey. This journey requires every participant to take up his cross daily and follow Jesus, and not every believer is willing to do this. In fact, every child of God chooses how far down this road of sacrifice he is willing to go. Very few of men and women of God fulfill their divine destinies by completing this difficult journey. In summary, the first theme drives the second theme, which develops the first theme, and together they demand the third theme, which is the reader’s response.
 For an excellent discussion on the use of claims, reasons, and evidence in literature, see Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003).
A. Primary Theme (Foundational) of the Epistle of 1 John: The Perseverance of the Saints: Against False Doctrines from Within the Church - Introduction - The central theme of the Holy Bible is God’s plan of redemption for mankind. This theme finds its central focus in the Cross, where our Lord and Saviour died to redeem mankind. The central figure of the Holy Scriptures is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Cross is the place where man meets God and where we die to our selfish ambitions and yield our lives to the God who created all things. Therefore, the Holy Scriptures are not intended to be a precise record of ancient history. Rather, its intent is to provide a record of God’s divine intervention in the history of mankind in order to redeem the world back to Himself through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary.
Every book of the Holy Bible makes a central claim that undergirds the arguments or message contained within its text. For example, the central claim of the Pentateuch is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD,” to which all additional material is subordinate. The bulk of the material in the Old Testament is subordinate in that it serves as reasons and evidence to support this central claim. This material serves as the secondary theme, offering the literary structure of the book. In addition, the central claim calls for a response, which is stated in the following verse, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Such a response is considered the third, imperative theme that runs through every book of the Holy Scriptures.
This central claim is the primary, or foundational, theme and is often obscured by the weight of evidence that is used to drive the central message, which weight of evidence makes up the secondary theme; and thus, it contains more content than the primary theme. Therefore, the secondary themes of the books of the Holy Scripture are generally more recognizable than the primary theme. Nevertheless, the central claim, or truth, must be excavated down to the foundation and made clearly visible in order to understand the central theme driving the arguments contained within the book. Only then can proper exegesis and sermon delivery be executed.
1. The Central Themes of the New Testament Epistles: Sanctification of the Believer - There are twenty-one epistles in the New Testament, which the early Church recognized as having apostolic authority so that they were collected into one body, circulated among the churches, an eventually canonized. While the Gospels emphasize the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the process justification of the believer, New Testament epistles emphasize the redemptive plan of the Holy Spirit as He works in the process of sanctification for each believer. Thus, the work of sanctification serves as the underlying theme of all twenty-one epistles. In addition, each one emphasizes a different aspect of this divine process of sanctification and they are organized together so that the New Testament is structured to reflect the part of our spiritual journey called sanctification In order to express this structure, each of these epistles have different themes that are woven and knitted together into a unified body of teachings which will bring the believer through the process of sanctification and ready for the rapture of the Church into a place of rest in the glorious hope revealed in the book of Revelation. Therefore, the New Testament epistles were collected together by topic by the early Church.
Of the twenty-one epistles, there are thirteen Pauline epistles and eight designated as General, or Catholic, epistles. We can organize these twenty-one epistles into three major categories: (1) there are epistles that emphasize Church doctrine, which are the nine Pauline epistles of Romans to 2 Thessalonians; (2) there are those that deal with Church order and divine service, which are 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon;  and (3) there are those that stress perseverance in the Christian faith, which are Hebrews and the seven General Epistles.  Within Hebrews and the General Epistles, we note that the first three epistles exhort the believer to persevere under persecutions, which come from without the Church (Hebrews, James, 1 Peter), while the other five epistles emphasis perseverance against false doctrines, which come from within (2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John, Jude).
 For the sake of developing thematic schemes, the epistle of Philemon will be grouped with the Pastoral Epistles as did the Church fathers.
 For the sake of developing thematic schemes, the epistle of Hebrews will be grouped with the General Epistles, although many of the early Church fathers followed the tradition of grouping it with the Pauline epistles.
2. The Central Theme of the Catholic, or General, Epistles: Perseverance in the Christian Faith We know that the nine Pauline “Church” epistles, Romans to 2 Thessalonians, serve to lay the doctrinal foundation of the Church. In addition, the Pastoral Epistles establishes the order of the Church, and how the Body of Christ functions in this world. This leaves us to consider the eight remaining epistles, seven of which are called the “Catholic Epistles” because they are addressed to a much broader group of believers than the Pauline Epistles. Although the seven Catholic, or General, Epistles include James , 1, 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3, John, and Jude, for the sake of this evaluation of thematic schemes, the book of Hebrews is included. As Paul’s Church Epistles establish the doctrines of the Church, the Catholic Epistles deal with the practical struggles that each believer has in fulfilling the Christian life. Thus, these Epistles tend to be more practical and ethical than doctrinal or theological.
The early church faced two great challenges that attacked their sacred doctrines. They experienced persecutions from without, as addressed in Hebrews, James and 1 Peter; and, they endured heresies from within, as dealt with in 2 Peter , 1, 2, and 3 John and Jude.  The underlying theme of Hebrews and the Catholic Epistles is the perseverance in the Christian faith,  exhorting the saints to persevere amidst persecutions from without the Church as well as false doctrines from within the Church.  The books of Hebrews, James and 1 Peter address the particular issue of perseverance under persecutions from without the church, a theme popularly referred to as the “pilgrim motif.”  2 Peter, the three epistles of John and Jude deal with the particular issue of false ministers and doctrines that attack the church from within (2 Peter 3:1-4, 1 John 2:26, Jude 1:3-4). Thus, there are three witnesses of perseverance under persecutions (Hebrews, James and 1 Peter) and three witnesses of perseverance under false doctrines (2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John, and Jude). As with two epistles to the Corinthians and Thessalonians, the three epistles of John serve as one witness because they share similar themes among themselves.
 J. B. Lightfoot recognized this two-fold aspect of Christian perseverance, saying, “The armoury of this epistle [Galatians] has furnished their keenest weapons to the combatants in the two greatest controversies which in modern times have agitated the Christian Church; the one a struggle for liberty within the camp, the other a war of defence against assailants from without; the one vitally affecting the doctrine, the other the evidences of the Gospel.” See J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (London: Macmillian and Co., Limited, 1910), 67.
 I do not adhere to the doctrine popularly referred to as “Once saved, always saved,” or “the perseverance of the saints,” a belief that has emerged in the modern church among several denominations, which has its apparent roots in Calvinist theology.
 P. P. Saydon offers this theme for the epistle of Hebrews. See P. P. Saydon, “The Master Idea of the Epistle to the Hebrews,” Melita Theologica XIII, no. 1-2 (1961) 19-26. See also George Salmon, “The Keynote to the Epistle of the Hebrews,” in The Expositor, second series, vol. 3, ed. Samuel Cox (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1882), 83.
 Philip Mauro, God’s Pilgrims: Their Dangers, Their Resources, Their Rewards (London: Samuel E. Roberts, 1921); Ernst Käsemann, The Wandering People of God: An Investigation of the Letter to the Hebrews, trans. Ray A. Harrisville and Irving L. Sandberg (Minneapolis, MN: Ausburg Publishing House, 1984); David J. MacLeod, “The Doctrinal Center of the Book of Hebrews,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146:583 (July 1989): 291-300, in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), 297.
B. Secondary Theme (Structural) of the Epistle of 1 John Introduction - The secondary themes of the books of the Holy Scriptures support the primary themes by offering reasons and evidence for the central “claim” of the book made by the author. Thus, the secondary themes are more easily recognized by biblical scholars than the other two themes because they provide the literary structure of the book as they navigate the reader through the arguments embedded within the biblical text, thus revealing themselves more clearly. For example, the central claim of the Pentateuch declares that the Lord God of Israel is the only God that man should serve, and man is to love the Lord God with all of his heart, mind, and strength, a statement found in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which is the foundational theme of the Old Testament. The books of Hebrew poetry provide evidence to this claim by expounding upon how man is to love God with all of his heart as its secondary theme. The books of the prophets provide evidence to this claim by expounding upon how man is to love God with all of his mind as its secondary theme, as he set his hope in the coming of the Messiah to redeem mankind. The historical books provide evidence to this claim by expounding upon how man is to love God with all of his strength as its secondary theme.
The central claim of the four Gospel writers is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, which is the foundational theme of this division of the Holy Scriptures. In addition, each Gospel writer offers evidence as its secondary theme to support his claim. The Gospel of John offers the five-fold testimony of God the Father, John the Baptist, the miracles of Jesus, the Old Testament Scriptures, and the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself as its secondary theme. Matthew expounds upon the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures as its secondary theme; Mark expounds upon the testimony of the miracles of Jesus as its secondary theme; Luke expounds upon the testimony of John the Baptist and other eye-witnesses and well as that of the apostles in the book of Acts as its secondary theme.
The central claim of the Pauline Church Epistles is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone how the power to redeem and transform man into the image of Jesus, which is the foundational theme of this division of the Holy Scriptures. The epistle of Romans supports this claim by offering evidence of mankind’s depravity and God’s plan of redemption to redeem him as its secondary theme. The epistles of Ephesians and Philippians expound upon the role of God the Father in His divine foreknowledge as their secondary theme; the epistles of Colossians and Galatians expound upon the role of Jesus Christ as the head of the Church as their secondary theme; the epistles of 1, 2 Thessalonians , 1, 2 Corinthians expound upon the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying the believers as their secondary theme.
The central claim of the Pastoral Epistles is that believers must serve God through the order of the New Testament Church. The epistles of 1, 2 Timothy expound upon how to serve the Lord within the Church with a pure heart, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of Titus expounds upon how to serve the Lord within the Church with a renewed mind, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of Philemon expounds upon how to serve the Lord within the Church with a genuine lifestyle, which is its secondary theme.
The central claim of the General Epistles is that believers must persevere in the Christian faith in order to obtain eternal redemption. The epistles of Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter modify this theme to reflect perseverance from persecutions from without the Church. The epistle of Hebrews expounds upon the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of James expounds upon a lifestyle of perseverance through the joy of the Holy Spirit, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of 1 Peter expounds upon our hope of divine election through God the Father, which is its secondary theme. The epistles of 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3, John and Jude reflect perseverance from false doctrines from within. The epistle of 2 Peter expounds upon growing in the knowledge of God’s Word with a sound mind, which is its secondary theme. The epistles of 1, 2, 3 John expound upon walking in fellowship with God and one another with a pure heart, which is its secondary theme. The epistle of Jude expounds how living a godly lifestyle with our bodies, which is its secondary theme.
The Apocalypse of John, though not considered an epistle, emphasizes the glorification of the Church, giving believers a vision of the hope that is laid up before them as a source of encouragement for those who persevere until the end. The central claim of the book of Revelation is that Jesus Christ is coming to take His Bride the Church to Glory. The secondary theme supports this claim with the evidence of Great Tribulation Period.
1. The Secondary Themes of 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John, and Jude - While the five epistles of 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John and Jude share a common, foundational theme of perseverance from false doctrines from within the Church, they also carry secondary themes that give each of them a distinct emphasis upon one aspect of the believer’s perseverance in the Christian faith. When we compare the themes of 2 Peter , 1, 2, 3 John and Jude, we can also find a relationship between them, just as with Hebrews, James and 1 Peter. These five General Epistles deal with false doctrines that attack the believer from within the church. We find one reference to this underlying theme in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
This second division of the General Epistles reflects a three-fold aspect of this theme of perseverance against false doctrines. Jesus told the disciples in John 14:6 that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life.
John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
In other words, with our minds we are to learn the way of the Christian life, and with our bodies we are to walk in this truth, and with our hearts we can experience fellowship with the Father. This is the walk that will keep us from falling away into doctrinal error.
Here is a summary of the secondary themes of 2 Peter, Jude 1:1-2, Jude 1:3 John.
a) Understanding the Way (Our Minds) - The theme of 2 Peter is the message for the saints to persevere amidst false teachings. In order to do this, Peter stirs up their minds (1 John 3:1) so that they understand how to grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s Word, which develops their character into Christ-likeness. For this reason, this epistle opens and closes with this very exhortation (1 John 1:2-10 and 1 John 3:14-18). Even though Peter did not have the revelation into the doctrine that Paul received and wrote about, he did acknowledge Paul’s deep insight and the divine inspiration of his writings by equating them with “other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). It is these Scriptures that we are to read and try to understand in order to grown in the knowledge of God’s Word.
2 Peter 3:16, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
b) Walking in the Truth (Our Bodies) - The theme of Jude is also the exhortation to persevere against false doctrines from within the Church. This epistle places emphasis upon our diligence to walk in the truth by living a godly lifestyle, and building up ourselves in our most holy faith by praying in the Holy Ghost.
c) Life Thru Fellowship with the Saints (Our Spirits) - The theme of 1 John is also the exhortation to persevere against false doctrines from within the Church; but 1 John places emphasis upon the believer’s fellowship with the Father as the way to persevere. As the Gospel of John centers on Jesus’ fellowship with the Heavenly Father, so does this epistle center on our fellowship with our Heavenly Father. We maintain this fellowship by confessing our sins and abiding in the Word. The epistle of 1 John serves as a basis, or foundation, for the themes of 2 and 3 John, since it deals with the issues of walking in fellowship with God and fellow believers as well as how to identify false brethren. His second epistle places emphasis on identifying those who are false, while the third epistle of John places more emphasis on receiving those who are genuine and how to walk in love with them. Another way to say this is that 2 and 3 John give us real life illustrations of false and genuine brethren, of those who walk in fellowship with the Heavenly Father, and those who do not.
C. Third Theme (Supportive) - The Crucified Life of the Believer (Perseverance Through Walking in Fellowship with the Lord) Introduction - The third theme of each book of the New Testament is a call by the author for the reader to apply the central truth, or claim, laid down in the book to the Christian life. It is a call to a lifestyle of crucifying the flesh and taking up one’s Cross daily to follow Jesus. Every child of God has been predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), and every child of God faces challenges as well as failures in the pursuit of his Christian journey. For example, the imperative theme of the Old Testament is that God’s children are to serve the Lord God with all of their heart, mind, and strength, and love their neighbour as themselves (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
The child of God cannot fulfill his divine destiny of being conformed into the image of Jesus without yielding himself and following the plan of redemption that God avails to every human being. This 4-fold, redemptive path is described in Romans 8:23-30 as predestination, calling, justification, and glorification. The phase of justification can be further divided into regeneration, indoctrination, divine service, and perseverance. Although each individual will follow a unique spiritual journey in life, the path is the same in principle for every believer since it follows the same divine pattern described above. This allows us to superimpose one of three thematic schemes upon each book of the Holy Scriptures in order to vividly see its imperative theme. Every book follows a literary structure that allows either (1) the three-fold scheme of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: or (2) the scheme of spirit, soul, and body of man; or (3) the scheme of predestination, calling, justification (regeneration, indoctrination, divine service, and perseverance), and glorification in some manner.
1. The Third, Imperative Theme of the Epistle of 1 John - The third theme of each of the General Epistles is an emphasis on how to apply the doctrinal truths laid down in the Epistle to the Christian life. It is a life of crucifying the flesh and taking up our Cross daily to follow Him. In 1 John our crucified lifestyle is manifested as a life of walking in communion with God and laying aside sins that hinder this walk. The believer walks with a heart of assurance towards God, without condemnations. He walks in fellowship with the Father who hears his prayers (1 John 3:19-22).
The underlying theme of the Catholic Epistles is the perseverance of the saints. They exhort the saints to persevere amidst persecutions from without the Church as well as false doctrines from within the Church. The theme of 1 John is the exhortation to persevere against false doctrines from within the Church, which is done by the believer’s fellowship with the Father. As the Gospel of John centers on Jesus’ fellowship with the Heavenly Father, so does this epistle center on our fellowship with our Heavenly Father.
Figure 1 The Themes of the General Epistles
D. Summary - Finally, it is important to note that the General Epistles do not establish Church doctrine, for this was laid down in the Pauline Church Epistles. They may refer to doctrine, but they do not establish or add to it.
X. Literary Structure
The epistle of 1 John gives us three ways in which we can be sure to stay in fellowship with the Father.
1. The Soul of Man - Walk in the light of God’s Commandments (1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:27)
2. The Spirit of Man - Walk in the anointing (1 John 2:18-29)
3. The Body of Man - Walk in love towards others (1 John 3:1-24)
4. The Spirit-Led Life - Test the Spirits: Jesus is Son of God (1 John 4:1 to 1 John 5:12)
Bible teachers often tell us that there are three ways in which to know God’s will for our lives. When we must make a choice, we must first ask ourselves if it is in agreement with God’s Word (the mental realm). Secondly, we must ask ourselves if we have an inner peace about it, which is our heart bearing witness to the matter (the spiritual realm). Thirdly, we can look to see if there are any circumstances taking place to confirm such a decision, such as an inspired word from others (the physical realm). If a decision meets all three criteria, then it is very likely within God’s will to make such a choice. In a similar manner, John gives us these three criteria to use in measuring our lives and the lives of those around us in order to know if we are walking in fellowship with our Heavenly Father.
John’s first epistle gives us a three-fold witness of our relationship with the Heavenly Father. In 1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:27, we are taught to allow the Word of God to enter our minds. As we accept God’s Word and allow it to abide in our hearts, the Holy Spirit, our anointing, is able to use this Word to quicken our hearts and guide us (1 John 2:18-29). Then, we will able to direct our actions in a walk of love (1 John 3:1-24). Thus, our spirit, soul and bodies are able to testify as to our walk with God. As we develop in our walk with the Father, we are able to test the spirits of those around us (1 John 4:1 to 1 John 5:12).
I. Introduction (1 John 1:1-4 ) 1 John 1:1-4 serves as an introduction. We immediately see in the opening passage of the first epistle of John how the writer is struggling to explain with human words how an eternal God has been brought into our midst for a purpose, which is to have fellowship with and thus, restore joy to mankind. John tells us that an eternal, infinite, omniscience, omnipresent, almighty God has manifested Himself in this temporal world. He is explaining the eternal nature of God in temporal terms that we can understand. Simply put, John the apostle has seen an eternal God clothed in mortality as the Son of Man, yet unbound by earthly limitations as the Son of God.
II. Walk in the light of God’s Commandments (The Soul of Man) (1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:27 )
III. Walk in the anointing (The Spirit of Man) (1 John 2:18-29 )
IV. Walk in love towards others (The Body of Man) (1 John 3:1-24 )
V. Test the Spirits: Jesus is Son of God (The Spirit-Led Life (1 John 4:1 to 1 John 5:12 )
A. The Witness of Acknowledging the Deity of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:1-6 ) - The passage in 1 John 4:1-6 basically says that faith in the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundational truth that divides the true child of God from false Christians. Many believers may differ on parts of the Scriptures, but a personal acknowledgment of faith in the redemptive work of Calvary by the Son of God identifies a person as a genuine child of God. God’s children will hear the truth and not reject it. However, false Christians, who are led by the spirit of anti-Christ, are of this world and hate the truth of redemption.
All other religions, even those that imitate Christianity, have one belief in common. They all deny the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. They do not believe that He came from heaven in the form of man and that He has returned to sit at the right hand of the Father.
B. The Witness of Loving the Brethren (1 John 4:7-21 ) The second way that we can distinguish between the true believer and false Christian is by the love walk. Those who believe and acknowledge the true will endeavour to walk in love with the brethren. This is a second thing that the false Christian is unable to do. This pericope opens and closes with a command for the brethren to love one another.
C. Summary of the Two Testimonies (1 John 5:1-5 ) - 1 John 5:1-5 serves as a summary of the two testimonies of those who obey His word (1 John 4:1-6), and those who walk in love (1 John 4:7-21).
The following outline is a summary of the preceding literary structure; thus, it reflects the theological framework of the epistle of 1 John: its purpose, its three-fold thematic scheme, and its literary structure. As a result, this outline offers sermon sections that fit together into a single message that can be used by preachers and teachers to guide a congregation or class through the epistle of 1 John. This journey through 1 John will lead believers into one aspect of conformity to the image of Christ Jesus that was intended by the Lord, which in this book of the Holy Scriptures is to prepare Christians for a life of walking in communion with God and laying aside sins that hinder this walk.
1. Introduction: We have been called into fellowship with the Father (1 John 1:1-4)
2. Walk in the light of God’s Commandments (1 John 1:5 to 1 John 2:27)
3. Walk in the anointing (1 John 2:18-29)
4. Walk in love towards others (1 John 3:1-24)
5. Test the Spirits: Jesus is Son of God (1 John 4:1 to 1 John 5:12)
6. Closing Remarks (1 John 5:13-21)
Alexander, William. The Epistles of St. John. In The Expositor’s Bible. Eds. William R. Nicoll and Oscar L. Joseph. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956. In Ages Digital Library, v. 1.0 [CD-ROM]. Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc., 2001.
Barker, Glenn W. 1 John. In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 12 . Eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, and Dick Polcyn. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1976-1992. In Zondervan Reference Software, v. 2.8 [CD-ROM]. Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp., 1989-2001.
Barnes, Albert. 2 and 3 John. In Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1997. In P.C. Study Bible, v. 3.1 [CD-ROM] Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc., 1993-2000.
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