Summary: 3 tests: 1) Doctrinal 2) Moral 3) Social (Bible study on 1 John; adapted from Ivan E Mesa on Academia.edu; he gathered much of this from Robert Law and Christopher D. Bass in their books on 1 John)
Next time you’re in an airport notice the difference between passengers who have confirmed tickets and those on standby. Those who have confirmed tickets are relaxed and confident. Those on standby hang around the ticket counter, they pace and pace and pace…all because of uncertainty. God offers us freedom from the burden of uncertainty, so we can know for sure where we stand with God.
Survey of each NT book we come to 1 John. 1 John is a letter written by the last living apostle John in the late 1st century. John does not identify himself in this letter much like he does not identify himself in the Gospel of John. Tradition and the writing style tells us this is John the beloved apostle. This is a person of authority. Look what he says: “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” 1 John 4:6, NIV. Since in his later years John lived in Ephesus, this letter was probably addressed to the church there. A group having Gnostic beliefs had split off from the church and began trying to persuade others of their views and have other Christians join them. In response to this John wrote this letter. Has important theme for all of us
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13, NIV. John uses a word that the Gnostics often used, “know” (gnosis). The Gnostics were enticing Christians to leave the old teachings of the apostles and to have new experiences that gave special knowledge of divine mysteries.
How do I know that I am a true Christian? Many would give various answers. Here John encourages us to do what the apostle Paul talked about: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV.
John gives us 3 tests to see if we are in the faith. Now we will never have these perfected in our lives but these are benchmarks to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith.
We are saved by grace and can never earn our salvation. But is what we experienced at our salvation (belief, confession, repentance, baptism) real? If our conversion was real then we will pass these 3 tests. Many of us will excel at one of these but be lacking on the others. The challenge is to pass all three tests at the same time. They are woven together into a single strand. Each stands on the other; each depends on the other; each weaves into the others.
In fact, John does not have a tight, logical outline as found in many NT books. John seems to have written one paragraph and then he would be reminded of a related idea which became the topic of the next paragraph. To illustrate these 3 tests we will attempt to focus on one test at a time so we will have to skip around 1 John.