EVANGELICAL BIBLE COLLEGE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
EVANGELICAL BIBLE COLLEGE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
LETTERS OF JOHN
DR. JOHN CAMERON McEWAN
REVISED JUNE 2011
WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?
Professor Simon Greenleaf was one of the most eminent lawyers of all time. His “Laws of Evidence” for many years were accepted by all States in the United States as the standard methodology for evaluating cases. He was teaching law at a university in the United States when one of his students asked Professor Greenleaf if he would apply his “Laws of Evidence” to evaluate an historical figure. When Greenleaf agreed to the project he asked the student who was to be the subject of the review. The student replied that the person to be examined would be Jesus Christ. Professor Greenleaf agreed to undertake the examination of Jesus Christ and as a result, when he had finished the review, Simon Greenleaf personally accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour.
Professor Greenleaf then sent an open letter to all jurists in the United States saying in part “I personally have investigated one called Jesus Christ. I have found the evidence concerning him to be historically accurate. I have also discovered that Jesus Christ is more than a human being, he is either God or nothing and having examined the evidence it is impossible to conclude other than he is God. Having concluded that he is God I have accepted him as my personal Saviour. I urge all members of the legal profession to use the “Laws of Evidence” to investigate the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and if you find that he is wrong expose him as a faker but if not consider him as your Saviour and Lord”
HOW CAN I BE SAVED?
Salvation is available for all members of the human race.
Salvation is the most important undertaking in all of God's universe. The salvation of sinners is never on the basis of God's merely passing over or closing His eyes to sin. God saves sinners on a completely righteous basis consistent with the divine holiness of His character. This is called grace. It relies on God so man cannot work for salvation, neither can he deserve it. We need to realise that the creation of this vast unmeasured universe was far less an undertaking than the working out of God's plan to save sinners.
However the acceptance of God's salvation by the sinner is the most simple thing in all of life. One need not be rich, nor wise, nor educated. Age is no barrier nor the colour of one's skin. The reception of the enormous benefits of God's redemption is based upon the simplest of terms so that there is no one in all this wide universe who need be turned away.
How do I become a Christian?
There is but one simple step divided into three parts. First of all I have to recognise that I am a sinner (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4; John 5:24).
Secondly, realising that if I want a relationship with Almighty God who is perfect, and recognising that I am not perfect, I need to look to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour (I Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24; lsaiah 53:6; John 3:16).
Thirdly, by the exercise of my own free will I personally receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour, believing that He died personally for me and that He is what He claims to be in an individual, personal and living way (John 1:12; 3:36; Acts 16:31; 4:12).
The results of Salvation
The results of this are unbelievably wonderful:
My sins are taken away (John 1:29),
I possess eternal life now (I John 5:11,12),
I become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17),
The Holy Spirit takes up His residence in my life (I Corinthians 6:19),
And I will never perish (John 10:28-30).
This truthfully is life's greatest transaction. This is the goal of all people; this is the ultimate of our existence. We invite and exhort any reader who has not become a Christian by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ to follow these simple instructions and be born again eternally into God's family (Matthew 11:28; John 1:12; Acts 4:12; 16:31).
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CONTENTSITEM / PAGE
INTRODUCTION / 3
I JOHN CHAPTER 1
I JOHN CHAPTER 2 / 26
I JOHN CHAPTER 3
I JOHN CHAPTER 4 / 88
I JOHN CHAPTER 5
2 JOHN / 129
3 JOHN / 159
DOCTRINE INDEX / 170
LETTERS OF JOHN
The three letters of John are like Galatians and James, in that they contain basic doctrines that should be the starting point of any ministry in a new church. John has three main themes in his letters, firstly understanding the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and His work, secondly the importance of facing and dealing with sin honestly and completely. If you add to these the third, believe God's Word and apply it to your life, you have John's 'three point sermon', in the first letter. It is more than the “recall to the fundamentals” that some commentators believe is the message. It is the preparation to revisit the Gospel message for believers who have met the Lord and need to really draw close to Him in daily life.
The First Letter is in effect John’s sermon on, or key point introduction to, his Gospel, and it is best taught in association with a study on the gospel. If we were looking at the best place to begin a new ministry, then the pastor could not go too far wrong in beginning with this letter, teaching the Gospel of John also, and then moving straight into Galatians and James. These books will stabilize a church back into fellowship with the one who is truth very quickly, and it is this message that John wants us to get clearly as we advance into his letters. We are used to seeing Paul’s letters as easily divided into a Doctrinal section, and then an application, but here the two are intertwined around the central message, which I argue is, “Let His light shine into your life, Love Him, and walk with Him closely every day of your life!”
1. Introduction to the Church at Ephesus to which John writes.
2. The Enemy – the Wolves in the Sheepskins
3. Introducing the Form of the Letters
4. The Attacks upon these Three Letters
5. The “Elder”
6. The Two Short Letters 2 and 3 John
7. The Historic Situation
8. The Heresy – Deception and Distraction from the Truth
9. Ethics – The Fruit of the Holy Spirit
10. The “Gnostics”
11. The First Letter as a Sermon to be read aloud with the Gospel
INTRODUCTION TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS TO WHICH JOHN WRITES.
There are some key characteristics of the Church to which John is writing. We will return to the subject of this church later in this introduction, but meditate upon these principles below at this point, and we will go further later. We do not have to guess about the current state of this church at the time of writing, for John has revealed it in Revelation 2:1-7, which was written around this time. The deep nature of the Church at Ephesus is beginning to become flawed, and he comments specifically upon its weakness at verse 4. Turn to Revelation, and read these verses. Revelation 2:1 - 7.
This church was great, but since it’s first days under Paul, nearly forty years before, it had lost its total passion for it’s first love. Read through the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, especially Ephesians 2:1-10, 2:21-22, 4:25-32, 5:15-21, 6:10-17. As we go through John’s sermon here we will see that he builds upon the points Paul makes forty years before, and the call may be summed up, in Pauline language, as “Keep on being daily filled with the Holy Spirit, and walk in the Love and Light of the Lord Jesus Christ”.
The church had backslidden and was no longer occupied passionately with the person of Christ; the members had let other things enter their minds and hearts and take over first place. The church had become an institution, and attending services had become a pleasant habit. The church had become familiar, with people being born into Christian families rather than being only converted from paganism. The church had become part of society, like many today, with Sunday School taking over from evangelism. They had not gone cold, nor were they even lukewarm, but they were on the pathway that would lead to that state of powerlessness over time. This letter is a call to them and also to us, to remember that the Lord wants our passionate commitment to him, not just our polite obedience.
We must be careful of all these things, for when more emphasis is put on Christian education than evangelism in a local church, when we value our structures more than our passion for the Lord, then there is a danger that the church will be judged in a similar way to that at Ephesus. The Christians were conforming more and more to the world and therefore becoming less distinctive with persecution not being an item of immediate concern. The danger was, and remains in the world today, seduction away from passionate commitment to the Lord’s truth, and passionate engagement with the Lord’s person through prayer and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
The main danger in the West today is not the killing of Christians but their seduction; their walking away from moment by moment fellowship with their Lord. We are all too easily overwhelmed by the cares of this world and it’s many distractions away from living and loving fellowship with the Lord. The Lord’s call, and John’s here, is to ensure that our fellowship with the Lord is more real than our fellowship with our world! Satan’s strategies involve distraction from moment by moment concentration upon Christ.
The church did not passionately teach the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ as thoroughly and as often as they should have, and so people drifted in their hearts away from thinking often of the Lord, and what he had done. They were not walking through each day in vital union with the Lord through prayer, and study of, and meditation upon the Word. The destroyers of the spiritual life of the congregation came from within; the pastors were not doing their job of magnifying Christ and His Word. They were not preaching confession of sin and emphasizing the filling of the Spirit.
2. THE ENEMY – THE WOLVES IN THE SHEEPSKINS
There were false teachers also, who were there to quickly take advantage of the ignorance and slackness of the believers. Peter had warned thirty years before, 1 Peter 5:8-9, that the enemy would move quickly in to attack the weak, just as the hungry lion does. In the last days of the first century these attackers were called 'Gnostics'. Look up in the Bible Encyclopaedia, Gnostics, and Gnosticism. Every cult, even today, is preaching what these early heretics preached in the first and second centuries. John highlights the problems and gives the solutions to the Gnostics and in dealing with these people he confronts those involved in teaching cultic viewpoints nowadays.
Gnosticism is also the source of the liberal theology which has destroyed 70% of all theological colleges in our world today. The liberal theologians of today attack John's letters and Gospel more vigorously than any other books of the Bible, other than perhaps some of the letters of Paul. They hate the letters and work attributed to John, for if believers get his message they will walk in the Spirit and see through the falsehoods of liberalism and all cultism quickly.
The liberals separate the historical Jesus from, what they call, 'the Christ of faith', where-as John argues for the unity of the person and work of the Lord, as the incarnate and soon returning, 'Lord Jesus Christ'. He is the unique person of history and eternity and he desires our fellowship and our love. John’s purpose is not primarily theological, it is relational; he wants us to release our love towards the Lord, and in daily, living fellowship with him, be kept from all evil.
We need to be focused upon the reality of the person and work of the Lord; worshipping the true Lord Jesus Christ of history, not the liberal ‘jesus”. It is even dangerous for us to use just the name 'Jesus', as the liberals talk about the “Jesus of history” and separate him from the “Christ of faith”. This misleads simple Christians every time. The liberals, like the early cultists, believe that Jesus the man, died, and that the 'Easter faith' means that the, 'Christ of faith', rose on Sunday morning in the hearts of the believers. Jesus therefore was, they argue, just a man who set us a great example. The disciples were sitting around after his death saying that even though Jesus the man had died his ideas still live on and this is the Christ of Easter.
The modern Gnostics teach that the Christ of faith rose in the disciple’s hearts on Sunday morning. This is absolute nonsense, and a satanic lie, and John faces it here and in the Gospel, but it is the creed of many in the liberal churches still. The historic Jesus is the biblical one and he rose bodily from the grave on Easter morning. The “jesus” of liberalism never lived at all; he is a figment of the evil imagination of men and women who do not want to accept God’s miraculous activity in history! John calls us to hold the miraculous truth, and passionately, prayerfully, engage with the real Lord of all! Refer to the BTB studies on CHRIST – FIRST AND SECOND ADVENTS, and also CHRIST - I AM, and also MIRACLES OF CHRIST.