Summary: An exposition of the epistle commonly called 1st John
Fellowshipping with the Father and the Son - Week I
Chuck Brooks, Pastor-Teacher, New Vision Bible Fellowship October 5, 2003
First John was written by the Apostle John. Though his name is nowhere to be found written in this letter. It has been traditionally ascribed to John the Apostle.
From the beginning of the letter he places himself among the eyewitnesses of the Lord Jesus (1:1-2)
Early Christian writers (Irenaeus, Clement of Alexander, and Tertullian) cited the epistle as John’s
John served as the pastor of the church in Ephesus, which was founded by Paul.
It has been the belief of the church down through the years that John wrote his Gospel first, his epistles second, and finally the Revelation just before his death. However, in recent years some have come to the position that John wrote his epistles last. Therefore, with this view in mind he wrote his first epistle after his imprisonment on the Island of Patmos. This places the date about 100 A.D. John died in Ephesus and was buried there.
Understanding the First Epistle of John
J. Vernon McGee writes in his commentary that it helps to understand this epistle if you know something about the city of Ephesus at the beginning of the second century. McGee says there were four important factors which prevailed in Ephesus and throughout the Roman world when John wrote this letter.
I believe when you hear them you will come to believe as I have that this epistle is especially relevant for our day.
1) The Christian faith had become tarnished.
Many of the believers were children and grandchildren of the first Christians. The new and bright sheen of the Christian faith had become tarnished. Like a new car or home, the newness had worn off. The thrill and glory of the first days had faded.
2) There was a breakdown of the Judeo-Christian ethics and a disregard of Bible standards.
The high standards of Christianity called for Christians to be different. The children and grandchildren of the first Christians did not want to be different. The new generation of Ephesians had become "cookie-cutter" Christians--Christians in name only. They were ignoring the rule of God in their lives.
The danger to the Ephesian church was not persecution from the outside but seduction from the inside. Both Jesus and Paul warned this would happen:
(Mat 24:24 NKJV) "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
(Mat 24:25 NKJV) "See, I have told you beforehand.
(Acts 20:29 NKJV) "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
(Acts 20:30 NKJV) "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
Christianity was not in danger of being destroyed; it was in danger of being changed. The attempt was being made to improve it, to make it respectable.
Today this is happening before our very eyes.
§ Christians are refraining from preaching repentance from sin, faith in Christ and separation from the world. Instead they are content in teaching about love and tolerance.
§ Preachers are drifting away from teaching the Bible as the supreme standard for living and rule of faith for one’s life. Instead they are espousing their own opinions.
§ Church folk are no longer learning about the holiness of God but are having their ears tickled with doctrines concerning the dominion and godhood of man.
§ Church music no longer has a common theme of exalting the work of Christ at the Cross but focuses on the writer’s superficial experiences in life.
The Christian faith had become tarnished. There was a disregard of Bible standards. Persecution was no longer the enemy of Christianity.
4) A false teaching called Gnosticism was the real enemy of Christianity.
The term gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge." Gnosticism is a philosophy which centers on a search for higher knowledge.
The Gnostics taught that this knowledge was not intellectual knowledge but a knowledge which the ordinary Christian was incapable of attaining.
There were two main doctrines or axioms basic to the Gnostic beliefs:
1. Supremacy of knowledge
Douglas Groothuis of the Christian Research Institute writes about this knowledge:
This knowledge is not considered to be the possession of the masses but of the Gnostics, the Knowers, who are privy to its benefits. While the orthodox "many" exult in the exoteric religious trappings which stress dogmatic belief and prescribed behavior, the Gnostic "few" pierce through the surface to the esoteric spiritual knowledge of God.
In other words, only a few, the Gnostics, are the ones who are privy to the deep, deep knowledge of God.