1. First John: Rare glimpse into Church of late first century.
a. Probably written to churches in Ephesus/Asia.
1) Reason: By John who is linked to Ephesus.
2) Strong early church tradition; Rev. 1:9.
b. Written in a time of false teaching.
1) Church growing; Apostles disappearing; Error spreading.
2) Dangers Paul foretold (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:2).
c. Purpose of First John:
1) Refute false teaching.
2) Help Christians know where they stood in time of false teaching.
2. Our Plan:
a. The nature of the false teaching.
b. Three tests of genuine Christianity.
I. THE NATURE OF THE FALSE TEACHING .
A. Hints from the text:
1. Definitely dealing with false teaching (2:26; 3:7).
2. False teachers former members (2:19) with influence (2 John 7 ff.)
3. False view of Christ (2:22-23; 4:2-3).
4. Inadequate view of sin (1:8, 10; 3:6).
B. Evidence from sources outside the New Testament:
1. What is described in 1 John .................... GNOSTICISM.
a. Greek word for knowledge = gnosis .
b. Not "book knowledge" but self-knowledge!
c. "This is the first and most important point in defining Gnosticism. It is a religion of saving knowledge, and the knowledge is essentially self-knowledge, recognition of the divine element which constitutes the true self." (Robt. M. Grant, Gnosticism & Early X'ty , p. 10)
2. Basic Teachings of Gnosticism:
a. One needed a special revealed "knowledge" to be saved.
b. Matter is evil; spirit is good (tendency toward sin).
c. SUMMARY: Men originally spirit beings in higher world. "Fell" to human plane of ignorance & materialism. Seed of remembrance. Redeemer descends & awakens men to who they are = redemption.
3. Cerinthus: Contemporary Gnostic of John's day.
a. Jesus born of JOSEPH and Mary.
b. "Christ" (divine nature) descended on Jesus at baptism.
c. "Christ" left Jesus before suffering on Cross (DOCETISM).
d. Illust . John went to baths in Ephesus with friends. Walked in and saw Cerinthus. JOHN: "Let us fly! The house may fall, for
it shelters Cerinthus that enemy of the Truth!" (Polycarp, in Iraeneus vs. Heresies , 1:26)
C. Summary of the situation:
1. "Enlightened" FT still connected with churches leading X's astray.
2. Other Christians are confused and in danger of being led away.
3. John provides "measuring stick" for who is of Truth & who isn't. (a. Believe truth about JC; b. Practice right; c. Love brethren.)
II. DO YOU BELIEVE THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS CHRIST ?
A. What the false teachers were saying:
1. Divine Christ came on Jesus at baptism, left before crucifixion.
2. God not involved in matter ...... misses birth and death!
3. Illust . Stuff common in 2nd cent. Acts of John (AD 150) has "Christ" talking to disciples on Mt. of Olives like Socrates did
at his death while Jesus is being led away to be crucified!
B. How John attacks this false teaching:
1. Appeal to eyewitness testimony (1:1-3).
2. Insists on right belief (2:22; 4:1-3; 5:1; 5:5-6).
III. ARE YOU PRACTICING RIGHTEOUSNESS ?
A. What the false teachers were saying/doing:
1. Spirit is all important--have you "seen the light?"