John shows us the divine life and it’s characteristics, and proves it to be in the person of Christ. He first speaks about this life as he had known it in Christ when He was here on earth. He then shows it as the means of communion with the Father and the Son, so that our joy may be full.
But He who was, and is this life in Himself, has given us the absolute revelation of God as light. We are therefore placed here to walk in the light, as God is in the light, the blood of Christ cleansing us that we may do so. Thus we have fellowship together.
But chapter 1 shows the sin in ourselves. We have the intercession or advocacy of Christ with the Father, founded on His being the righteous One. His is the propitiation for our sin: this is the means of our being restored to communion in the light, after we have failed through weakness, in our walk down here.
John next presents in ch. 2, obedience to Christ’s commandments, practical righteousness and love of the brethren. These prove our the possession of this life. Before this though, he gives the ground of writing to the saints: that all are forgiven, and that babes in Christ have the Spirit of adoption.
He divides Christians into three classes – fathers, young men, and little children. This classification he repeats twice:
- The fathers have but one mark; they know Him who is from the beginning.
- The young men are strong, are in conflict, have overcome the wicked one, the word of God abiding in them. They are warned not to love the world.
- The little children, while knowing the Father, are warned as to deceivers; but they are competent, as having the Holy Spirit, and hence they are responsible to judge the spirits.
In chapter 3, he shows them that as sons, they have the same name as Christ. They know that they will be like Him when He appears, so they purify themselves as He is pure. The contrast of the new nature and sin is brought out distinctly, sin being lawlessness (not the transgression of the law). This new nature is evidenced in their practical righteousness and love for the brethren. Moreover, the obedient person dwells in God, and God in him. The proof of God’s dwelling in us is, that He has given us the Holy Spirit.
He then gives directions to distinguish the Holy Spirit from evil spirits, by referring in chapter 4 to our owning Christ as come in the flesh. John had introduced the Holy Spirit in connection with the new nature. He now shows that this new nature involves partaking in the divine nature, which is love. Hence, he that loves is born of God and knows God, for God is love. This love is displayed in that He first loved us; and if this is true, we love the brethren. God has commanded us to do that.
The term ‘ brethren’ includes all that are born of God but the truth of this love to the brethren is tested by love to God, which is proved by keeping His commandments. To this end faith overcomes the world.
Eternal life is given to us. This life to is in the Son, so that he that has the Son has life, and he who has not the Son has not life. The life is in Christ, not in the first Adam or his children. We therefore have a threefold witness – the Spirit, the water, and the blood: the water and the blood coming out of Christ’s side in death, and the Holy Spirit given consequent on His ascension. This gives us confidence for asking everything according to God’s will. So we can pray for a brother who has failed, provided it is not a sin to death.
The new nature that we have received is incapable of sin: he who has it keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. Finally, an absolute distinction is made between Christians and the world. “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness.” (Ch. 5:19). Further, we know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, that is, in His Son Jesus Christ, who is the true God and eternal life.
Written to a faithful lady, John Insists upon love being governed by the truth. Whoever does not abide in the doctrine of Christ has not God. Also, one who brings a doctrine denying Him is not to be greeted nor invited into the house.
Whereas in 2 John it is a question of refusing entry to one not bringing the doctrine of Christ, in 3 John the apostle urges the reception of those who go about preaching the truth. John denounces one who hindered the functioning of the local assembly, but he commends Gaius, and as a fellow-helper of the truth itself.
He supports the doctrine of reward to the workman engaged full-time in the Lord’s service. He commends the perseverance of his spiritual children in v. 4.
Notice that v.7 throws light on the word ‘ours’ in 1 John 2:2 (He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world)
- Firstly, towards us, by God sending His only-begotten Son, that we might live through Him, and to make propitiation for our sins.
- Secondly, as dwelling in love, we dwell in God, and God in us, He having given us of His Spirit. Thus His love is perfected in us. This is true of every one who really confesses that Jesus is the Son of God.
- Thirdly, the love of God is perfected in us, so as to give us boldness in the day of judgment. Christ is our life, and the Spirit of God dwells in us. As Christ is so are we in this world. We love God because He first loved us.
Originally by JND. Lightly edited by Sosthenes, September 2014
– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible for the original