Monday, April 14, 2014

#40daybible Day 36 (1-2-3 John)

We enter the final week of the 40 Day Bible experience with 1, 2, and 3 John.

Some notes:
  • The author of these three writings does not identify himself but there are some thematic and stylistic features that seem to bind 1 John to both 2 and 3 John, on the one hand, and the Gospel of John, on the other.
  • 2 and 3 John are both written by "the elder," so we can suppose that 1 John was also and that this "elder" is also the eyewitness source of the Gospel of John. 
  • Papias, writing perhaps within 20-30 years of the Gospel of John, mentions a John the elder (see chapter 39). So it is possible that John the presbyter stands behind these four documents rather than John the son of Zebedee (see Hengel).
  • 2 John is a letter written, not to a woman, but to a local church ("lady"). John warns the church about Gnostics who deny that Jesus came in the flesh. Such individuals are antichrists. 
  • 2 John encourages this church to evaluate traveling teachers in relation to this understanding of Christ. It could be the first of all these writings (the order of 1-2-3 John is based on length).
  • 3 John is a letter written to a Gaius. It serves as a letter of recommendation and encourages him to receive a traveling teacher named Demetrius that John is sending their way. One of the elders of the church, Diotrephes, was refusing John and his teachers. Hengel wonders if this was the first or second writing in the series of John's letters and Gospel, before the split.
  • 1 John seems a little like Hebrews in that it does not have an opening greeting and, unlike Hebrews, does not even have a closing greeting. It looks, in other words, like a word of exhortation or mini-sermon.
  • 1 John was written after the Gnostic split in John's community, perhaps at Ephesus.
  • So the denials of these antichrists likely had to do with a denial that Jesus had come in the flesh. The early Gnostic group usually associated with this teaching was the Docetists, who believed that Jesus only seemed human. 
  • The audience needed to use such criteria to "test the spirits" of prophets who might come to them.
  • Perhaps some of these individuals had more economic resources than most in John's community, but they refused to help those in need. 
  • This is one of the concrete referents behind John's repeated instructions for believers to love each other. God is love--God helps others. So the true children of God love one another. They do not love the world.
  • Those who hate their brothers (in a concrete way) are not in the light. They're on the other team, the Devil's, in the darkness.
  • Jesus showed them what love was when he laid down his life for their sins. God showed his love for us by sending his Son.
  • The body and blood of Jesus is essential to the equation. Those who say they don't need his blood are deceiving themselves. In effect they are saying they do not have sin in need of cleansing by Jesus' blood.
  • Sin is wrongdoing, and John implies that the law to love is the fundamental standard. John is so bold as to say that his teaching makes it clear what God's commandment is. True believers have the Spirit.
  • John is writing in hope that the community will not sin in the concrete ways he has been mentioning. Indeed, once a person has Christ's seed in him or her, he should not be able to continue sinning in these ways.
  • John encourages the community not to fear of their state before God.
  • Pray for God to forgive those whose sin is less severe so that God may restore them. Some have sinned a "sin to death" and are severed from Christ, like those in 2:19. John does not suggest that prayer can help them.
Personal verse for the day:
  • 1 John 4:7-8: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

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