Summary: John says that there are some things that he wants the reader to know, about real Christianity.
A Study of the Book of 1st John
“Back To the Basics”
Sermon # 1
“A New Kind of Life”
Does it matter what you believe? Within the pews of America’s churches, two thirds of the people do not believe in the exclusive character of the Christian message, and almost half of all evangelicals agree. Yes, it matters, because it makes the difference between whether you go to Heaven or Hell. That is why I am calling this new series “Back to Basics.”
The letter that we are going to begin a study of today was written by John, the apostle, son of Zebedee, one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. He was known “as the one whom Jesus loved” (Jn. 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 20) because of his especially close relationship with Jesus. He founded churches in the Mediterranean World and was known as the pastor of the church at Ephesus, which was founded by Paul. He wrote the Gospel of John, three letters (I, II, III John) and the book of Revelation. He spent several years exiled on the isle of Patmos for his beliefs. The apostle John wrote this letter late in his life near the end of the first century when he would have been pushing ninety years of age, and the only surviving apostle.
As had been previously predicted by the Apostle Paul false teachers had arise (Acts 20:29-30) and were infecting the churches with their false doctrine. The heretical teach-ing that John faced was the beginning stages of a heresy known as Gnosticism. Gnosticism was the real enemy of Christianity, and, it still is. Gnosticism took many forms. However, one primary principle ran through this philosophy: matter or material was essen-tially evil; only the spirit was good. The same principle is in modern liberalism which maintains that there is a spark of the divine in everyone and that each person is to develop that spark of good.
“Gnosticism is the opposite of agnosticism. Agnosticism holds that the reality of God is unknown and probably unknowable. There are many agnostics in our colleges and universities, as you know. Charles Spurgeon used to say that agnostic is but the Greek word for the Latin ignoramus. So one might say, “I don’t believe the Bible, because I am an ignoramus!” The agnostic says, “I do not know.” The Gnostic says, “I do know.” The Gnostics were a group which came into the church claiming to have a superior knowledge which simple Christians did not have. They considered themselves super-duper saints, knowing more than anyone else knew.” [J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary. (Thomas Nelson: Nashville -electronic ed. 1997, c1981)]
John is writing to a community where there is considerable disunity. As we read the epistle we discover that it is at least in part directed to a situation in the church to which he was writing, which had been produced by the fact that shortly before this some members had left the fellowship in an uproar (2:18-19). These disgruntled former members had taken others with them and now they were actively recruiting - trying to convince some of the faithful members who remained to come away and join them (2:26). They claimed that things were not as they should be. Those that left were critical of the church leadership and pointed out what they perceived as the imperfections in the church. Naturally it left some of the other members of the church confused. Were these people right?
John writes with a sense of urgency which springs from a desire to restore fellowship and joy in an otherwise divided community. I think that it is worthy of note that in this letter John is especially concerned with the conflicts and struggles facing the church of his day.
Actually there is a fourfold purpose expressed in 1 John: (1) Promote Fellowship - 1 John 1:3, “… That you also may have fellowship with us [other believers]: and … with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ;” (2) Provide Joy - 1 John 1:4, “… That your joy may be full” (3) Prevent Sin - 1 John 2:1, “… That you may not sin” (4) Provide Assur-ance - 1 John 5:13, He wants you to be saved - “That you may believe on the name of the Son of God.” and he wants you to know you are saved “… That you may know that you have eternal life”
John says that there are some things that he wants you to know, about real Christianity. In fact the word “know” comes up at least twenty-five times in the letter of 1 John. It is as if John is saying to the false teachers (the Gnostics), “You think you know some things but here is what you need to know!”