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.


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.)


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).


A. What the false teachers were saying/doing:

1. Spirit is all important--have you "seen the light?"

2. The flesh in unimportant ...... does not matter what you do.

3. Inadequate view of sin.

B. How John attacks this false teaching:

1. You cannot be righteous w/o doing righteousness (2:29; 2:4-6; cf. Matt. 7:15-20).

2. Human problem--not lack of knowledge, but sin--Jesus adequate to deal with sin (1:7-2:2).

3. He who is born of God does not remain the same!

a. 3:6-10.

b. Illust . A pig & sheep were walking down a muddy road. Both fell into the ditch. Pig lay on back & revelled in it. Sheep

got up, shook itself off, went on down road. New att. to sin.


A. What the false teachers were doing:

1. Thought of themselves as having arrived ..... superior, elite.

2. Despised and looked down on common folk.

B. How John attacks this false teaching:

1. No esoteric (secret) knowledge in Christianity (2:20).

2. Reminds readers of the love of God (4:9-10).

a. God did not keep himself in isolation from mankind!

b. He came to us! ..... Did not wait for us to come to him!

3. Since God loved us we ought to love one another (2:9-10; 3:11-12a; 4:19-21).

a. Illust . Jerome, Comm. on Gal. 3:6-10. Aged John carried into assembly. Asked to speak. "Little Children, Love OA." 3 times. Asked why. "Because it is a command of the Lord and if it be done it suffices."

b. Love is hallmark of Christian faith (John 13:34-35).


1. These tests work today!

a. Sound doctrinally? b. Practicing righteousness? c. Love others?

2. May God help us to "try the spirits" to see who is of God.

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