< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Thoughts from the book of 1st John

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thoughts from the book of 1st John

Part One

Before reading the book of 1st John it helps to know a little about its author. He called himself the disciple that Jesus loved.

Although Jesus’ love was expressed clearly in all the Gospels, it was in the Gospel of John that it was a central theme. Because he felt Jesus' love so strongly John was able to look at others with love.

John shows in his writings that we can’t know the depth of Jesus’ love for us until we realize He knows us fully and He loves us unconditionally inspite of the things we think and do.

Before he was a disciple of Jesus, John was a disciple of John the Baptist. When he was with Jesus he was one of the “inner 3” along with Peter and James. He wrote the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and Revelation. He was originally a fisherman and was the only disciple who lived to old age.

The letter of 1st John was written to dispel any doubts about who Jesus was and is. He was not just a good teacher, a good preacher or a good man. He was and is God in flesh; seen, heard and touched by John. John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry.

In this letter he presents God as light, as love and as life. He explains in simple, practical terms what it means to have fellowship with God. As many of Paul’s letters, it was also written to combat false teachings going around and we can use it as an example to combat any modern heresies.

This letter was written between AD 85 and 90. So around 60 years after Christ was crucified. John was an old man, but he hadn’t yet been exiled to the island of Patmos.

At this time there were 2nd and even 3rd generation Christians living. And Christ still hadn’t come back. Some of the wonder and newness had worn off. Jesus knew this would happen. In Matthew 24:12, He said, “The love of many shall grow cold.”

And it is to the church of Ephesus where John lived and preached a long time that we hear Christ say in Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have something against thee, because thou has left thy first love.”

The spark had died – or at least faded.

It’s the same in individual Christian lives. We will have mountain top experiences and we will have long dry patches. Sometimes Christian living gets tedious. We find ourselves not wanting to be holy and set apart anymore. We just want to blend in with the rest of the world.

Jesus knew this would happen too. John 15: 19 says, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

As Christians we are given a new ethical demand. A new standard of moral purity, a new sexual ethic, a new kindness, a new service, a new forgiveness – and it’s difficult. And when we lose that first thrill and enthusiasm, it’s harder and harder to stand against the world. I think this especially true in a world like America where we idolize material things and celebrities.

1st John was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations. He wanted his readers to ask themselves, “Do I know God?” “Do I know Christ?” “Do I know I have eternal life?” It is meant to encourage us to remain in fellowship with the God who is light and love.

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