The Epistles of John — A Shorter Commentary

From the Introduction:

In 1 John the apostle writes out of a concern that certain false teachers may be given a hearing in the church or churches he is addressing. Since they deny that Jesus is the Christ come in the flesh (1 John 2:22; 4:3), their doctrine strikes at the heart of Christian experience. The readers, who themselves are Christians (2:12-14, 21; 5:13), are not in danger of losing eternal life—which cannot be lost—but are in danger of having their fellowship with God seriously undermined.

The aim of 1 John is fellowship (1:3), but John also wrote to sustain and promote this fellowship with God in the face of theological errors. These errors seem to center around the denial that Jesus is the Christ who had come in flesh. The statements in 1 John 5:6-8 suggest the possibility of an error that said the man Jesus and the divine Christ were two distinct beings, and that the Christ descended on Jesus at His baptism, but left Him prior to His death. Thus the divine Christ might be said to have come “by water” but not by “blood” (see discussion on 5:6).

Like 1 John, 2 John is chiefly concerned with the revisionists, or antichrists. At first glance, 2 John might seem like a personal letter, but it is generally taken as written to a particular Christian church personified by “the elect lady.”

Third John is a personal letter. There is no hint of doctrinal problems in this epistle, and Diotrephes seems nothing more than the first known church tyrant in Christian history. But this epistle is all the more important for its uniqueness in addressing a problem that has replicated itself in Christian history numerous times.

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Zane Hodges


Zane Hodges taught New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Dallas Theological Seminary.

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