John’s Letters (Epistles)
During the summer of 2016 we journeyed through the three books of the Holy Bible known as the Epistles of John, or the Letters of John. They are titled based on the authors name: 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John.
The writings are considered letters, but they do not have the typical structure that most Biblical letters have. The material is considered personal and intended for a specific audience, but there is no introductions, greetings or agenda. John just gets right to the topic at hand.
The letters were written to the members of the church in and around Ephesus, where John was a significant leader at the time. The area had become the center of the Christian world after the death and resurrection of Christ as well as the Jewish War and destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
John writes to the community that has been divided in its beliefs about Jesus’ identity. John begins the series with his first letter by stating his view: Jesus is the embodiment of the preexistent Word (can cross-reference the Gospel of John 1:1-2) who simultaneously possessed true humanity. John states that show who uphold this teaching without compromise will enjoy the fellowship of the Father, Jesus, and His Church.
The audience that John is addressing includes many believers that were being pressured to participate in the Roman imperial religion, also referred to as a cult, where they were persecuted and pressured to pay tribute to Caesar through sacrifices ( see Revelation 2:1-7). Those who submitted to this pressure acknowledged the emperor as divine; this position conflicted with the beliefs of genuine believers, who acknowledged God and Christ alone as given. Those who compromised their faith were spared persecution, however, whereas those who did not compromise faced reprisals from the Roman government and citizens. Some members of the community John addresses made concessions to Rome by redefining the person and nature of Christ. Instead of regarding Him as God, they relegated Him to the position of a prophet. John really pushes into this challenge in 1 John, chapter 4.
John’s work in the New Testament is very significant. The Gospel of John presents an account of the life of Jesus, whereas the letters provide insights into the nature and challenges of the early church. Both works are vital for the church today in both aspects.
The Epistles were written prior to John’s deportation to the Island of Patmos, but as is evident in the map of the region. The Epistles were centered right in the heart of the area of controversy that the book of Revelation addresses.
The First Letter of John is a relatively short document, five chapters in length. Of the three Johannine letters, it is the longest and likely the most important. There is probably more disagreement about more aspects of 1 John than about almost any other New Testament document.
The gospel was probably written at a time when this Jewish Christian community was being expelled from the synagogue as heretics. The First Letter of John was written at a time when there was a split within the Johannine community itself.
The following is our weekly notes as we gathered together for fellowship, encouragement and insights.
|May 28, 2016||Intro & Light||1 John 1|
|June 4, 2016||Not Abandoned||1 John 2|
|June 11, 2016||Abiding and Obeying||1 John 2:28-3:10|
|June 18, 2016||We are Family||1 John 3:11-24|
|June 25, 2016||Make it REAL||1 John 4|
|July 2, 2016||It’s a mess||1 John 5|
Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
Wahlde, U. C. von. (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). John, Letters of. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.)
The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.