01 - Introduction: Why First John?
Introduction: Why First John?
1 John 5:13 is not the only purpose statement in the epistle: NASB "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." There is another purpose statement found in 1 John 1:4 NASB "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." Then there is another in 1 John 2:1 NASB "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin." The point is that there are four purpose statements in the epistle, and each relates only to that section of the epistle where they are found. None of these control the entire scene of the epistle.
Throughout church history it has been assumed on the basis of tradition and the witness of some of the early church fathers that this epistle was written by John, the same man who wrote the Gospel of John, as well as 2 John and 3John. This is because of the vocabulary, the style, many of the major themes and emphases in this epistle are also found in the Gospel of John. We know that he is called the son of Zebedee, the author of the Gospel of John and two other epistles, and he is the brother of James called the Greater or James the elder. This is mentioned in Matthew 4:21; 10:2; mark 1:19; 3:17. He was probably younger than James and his mother was Salome, Matthew 27:56 cf. Mark 15:40. He was born in Bethsaida. Since Salome, according to John 19:25, was the sister of Mary, the mother of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, that tells us that John was a first cousin to Jesus.
Zebedee was clearly a successful and wealthy businessman. He owned several ships and a fishing fleet (Mark 1:20; Luke 5:3; John 19:27) and he also had servants operating on the boats. We also know that when Jesus was arrested and taken to the Praetorium and then to the house of the high priest, that John went into the house of the high priest because he knew the high priest. So apparently it was a wealthy aristocratic family that was connected and known by the people in the highest places of power in Judea. So John is not just some small fisherman who has a boat and goes out and throws a new out by himself on occasions and barely makes ends meet. We also can infer that from an early age John was positive to doctrine. It is very likely that he was only eighteen or nineteen years of age when Jesus first called him to be one of His disciples. So he is the youngest of the disciples. We know that he was responsive to the teaching and ministry of John the Baptist and became involved with John as one of his disciples.
John, Peter and his brother James are the three disciples closest to the Lord. We see them on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord. John is always close by, he is always involve intimately with what is going on in our Lord's ministry. He is an interesting character. We know from his background he has a good education. He writes very simple Greek but it is good Greek. He has a profound use of vocabulary that can be and should be interpreted with several meanings. He chose words that were loaded with nuance because he was trying to communicate several things, and it shows he was a deep thinker, a profound thinker who had thought things through for years. We know that he was a passionate man and zealous for the Lord. He and his brother are called "the sons of thunder." We often note that he was a man of character and courage. When Jesus is arrested and all of the disciples leave, who are the two that hang back? Peter and John. But Peter hides out in the courtyard and he denies the Lord, but John is the one who says, "I'm John the son of Zebedee, let me in; I know the high priest and his family." He is the only disciple that we know of that stood at the foot of the cross. Everyone else scatters but he stays there and Jesus commits to John the care of His mother Mary.
It is to John and Peter that Mary Magdalene goes after she discovers that our Lord's body is missing from the tomb, so he and peter are the first of the disciples to come to the empty tomb and discover that Christ has been resurrected from the dead. After the ascension of our Lord we find that Peter and John are frequently together in the early days of the church. In Acts chapters 3 & 4 we find Peter and John going throughout Jerusalem evangelising. Peter and John go to Samaria, Peter and James are at the interview with Paul mentioned in Galatians chapter two, and Peter and James and John are all described by Paul as the pillar apostles of the church in Galatians chapter two, verse 9. By Acts chapter 15 where he is seen as one of the leaders in the church he passes off the scene, and we don't see John anymore until suddenly he appears as the author of his three epistles and we find him exiled to the island of Patmos by Domitian and that is when he receives the Revelation of Jesus Christ. There are no dates assigned to the other epistles. In his epistles he is concerned for the sheep because of the influx of false teaching that is coming in and threatening. If they succumb to the false teachers that will mean they break fellowship with apostolic doctrine and then break fellowship with God, and they will be failures then in the Christian life and there will then be shame at the judgment seat of Christ.
1 John is a further development for us of the mechanics of the spiritual life as outlined by the Lord in John chapter fifteen. Two of the words that are going to be prominent here are going to be abiding and love. The reason he emphasises love is because love represents the highest stage of the spiritual life. Love, then, is a term that describes the mature Christian life. If we are talking about love then that implies the secondary, the lesser childhood and adolescent stages of the Christian life as well. So he is going to push us into a greater understanding of these stress-busters, these problem-solving devices, and for us to come to a greater understanding of all the mechanics of fellowship with God and what it is. Abide in English relates to the concept of an abode. An abode is where we live. When we are in the divine soul fortress that God has provided for us then we are protected. When we are in an abode that is where we eat, where we sleep, where we are protected from the elements, from adversity. When we eat we are communing with one another, it is a picture in Scripture of fellowship, that is where we have fellowship with the Lord. But when we are outside the abode and are not abiding that is where we are vulnerable to the assaults of adversity, of the sin nature, of the cosmic system, and that is outside of the soul fortress that God has provided for us. John is going to emphasise the importance of abiding in Christ and what characterises the person who is abiding. It is the person who stays inside the soul fortress. Psalm 18:2 NASB "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Psalm 28:7 NASB "The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him."