Author and Date of 1st John.
It was probably written from Ephesus, 80 or 85 A. D. though some put it as early as A. D. 69, while others put it as late as A. D. 95. The author nowhere indicates his name, but through all the centuries it has been attributed to John, the beloved disciple. For information concerning him see lesson twenty-eight.
It was doubtless written primarily to the churches of Asia Minor in which John by reason of his work at Ephesus had a special interest. It is evident that those addressed were of all ages and were hated of the world. They were inclined to worldliness and to the danger of looking too lightly upon sin. They were also in danger of being led into doubt by those who denied the deity of Jesus.
It is more in the form of a sermon or pastoral address than of an epistle. It is written with a tone of conscious authority. The thought is profound and mystical, but the language is simple both in words and in sentences. The arguments are by immediate inference. Their are many contrasts, parallelisms and repetitions with no figures of speech except perhaps the words light and darkness.
The Purpose of I John.
The chief purpose was to tell them how they might know that they had eternal life, 5:13. The accomplishment of this purpose would also assure the fulfillment of the secondary purpose stated in 1:3, 4.
Theme. The evidence of eternal life.
Outline of I John.
I. How Those Who Possess Eternal Life will Live, 1:5-5:12.
1. They will dwell in the light, 1:5-2:28.
2. They will do righteousness, 2:29-4:6.
3. They will live a life of love, 4:7-5:3.
4. They will walk by faith, 5:4-12.
II. What Those who Live such Lives may Know, 5:13-20.
1. That they have eternal life. 13.
2. That their prayers are answered, 14-17.
3. That God's people do not live in sin, 18.
4. Their true relation to God and to Christ, 19-20.
The following analysis made with the idea of the theme being "Fellowship with God" (1:3-4) is very suggestive.
I. God is Light and our fellowship with him depends upon our walking in the light, 1:5-2:28.
II. God la Righteous and our fellowship with him depends upon our doing righteousness, 2-29, 4:6.
III. God is Love and our fellowship with him depends upon our having and manifesting a spirit of love, 4:7-5:3.
IV. God Is Faithful and our fellowship with him depends upon our exercising faith in him, 5:4-12.
Conclusion. 5:13-21 end.
Study and Discussion Questions for I John.
(1) The different things we may know and how we may know them. Make a list giving reference, as, "know Him if we keep His commandments" (2:3).
(2) Make a list of the things defined in the following scriptures, and give the definition in each case: 1:5; 2:25; 3:11, 3:23; 5:3; 5:4; 5:11; 5:14.
(3) The several figures and attributes of God, as light, righteousness and love.
(4) The requirements of deeds of righteousness, 1:6, 7; 2:9-11; 3:17-23.
(5) God's love for his children, 3:1-2; 4:8-11, 16, 19.
(6) Christians' duty to love one another, 2:10; 3:10-24; 4:7-21; 5:1-2.
(7) The propitiatory death of Jesus Christ, 1:7; 2:1-2; 4:10.
(8) Difference between Christians and non-Christians, 3:4-10. How many times do each of the following words occur? Love, light, life, know, darkness, hate, righteousness, sin, liar and lie, true and truth.
It is a friendly, personal letter, written some time after the first letter, to the "elect lady" who, as I think, was John's friend, and not a church or some nation as has sometimes been argued. The aim is evidently to warn his friend against certain false teachers.
Outline of II John.
1. Greeting, 1-3.
2. Thanksgiving, 4.
3. Exhortation to obedience. 5-6.
4. Warning against anti-Christs, 7-9.
5. How to deal with false teachers, 10-11.
6. Conclusion, 12-13.
Study and Discussion Questions for II John.
(1) The character of the children of the elect lady.
(2) Evidence of real discipleship.
(3) How to deal with false teachers.
This also is a private letter written, some time after First John, to his personal friend, Gaius. There was some confusion about receiving certain evangelists. Gaius had received them while Diotrephes had opposed their reception. He commends Gaius for his Christian hospitality and character.
Outline of III John.
1. Greeting, 1.
2. Prayer for his posterity, 2.
3. Commends his godly walk, 3-4.
4. Commends his hospitality, 5-8.
5. Complaint against Diotrephes, 9-10.
6. Test of relation to God, and worth of Demetrius, 11-12.
7. Conclusion, 13-14.
Study and Discussion Questions for III John.
(1) The character of Gaius and Diotrephes.
(2) Christian hospitality.
(3) Such words as truth, sincerity and reality.