Today, we begin the brief journey through John’s shorter letters (1-3 John), and while these letters may seem small, John has a way packing a lot of important theology and practical life application in them. Many commentators and scholars see these letters as paramount to evangelical faith and practice. Some believe that John was responding to the beginnings of the Gnosticism heresies that sprouted soon after Jesus died. Here is a great tidbit from the ESVSB on the overall theme of 1 John:
In 1 John the author calls readers back to the three basics of Christian life: true doctrine, obedient living, and fervent devotion. Because “God is light” (1:5), Christ’s followers overcome evildoers who seek to subvert them. The one who lives in and among them—God’s Son—is greater than the spirit of “the antichrist” now in the world (4:3–4). To believe in the name of the Son of God is to know the assurance of eternal life (5:13).
It is customary to understand 1 John as a response to the rise of an early form of Gnosticism. This was a religious mysticism that pirated Christian motifs to propagate an understanding of salvation based on esoteric “knowledge” (Gk. gnōsis). According to this view, redemption is through affirming the divine light already in the human soul, not through repentance of sin and faith in Christ’s death to bring about spiritual rebirth.
John, as he does in His gospel, begins 1 John with a defense of the deity of Jesus Christ. This was so vital for young Christians to understand, especially in light of the fact that Christianity itself had its “formal” beginning only a few decades earlier. Theology may have seemed “up for grabs” in the early church, so it was of highest importance to have authorized, valid teachers address it. John was more than ready for the task. He explains in just a few phrases that Jesus is eternal (v.1), incarnate (v.1), truth (v.1), life itself and the giver of eternal life (v.2), sent from the Father (v.3), and finally, joy-giving (v.4). What a fantastic opener to a fantastic letter!
So John makes it clear: knowing Jesus and understanding Him breeds true joy. Do you have joy in Christ today? Fuel it by spending time in His word, talking to Him throughout your day, and yielding to His Spirit. My prayer for you is that you would find fresh faith in your joy-giving Savior as you walk through 1, 2, & 3 John with us here at Jumpstart.
By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor