1-3 John: Dive

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As I mentioned when we studied the book of John together, John is my favourite author of the Bible. I mean, I absolutely love Paul but I resonate with John – he is a logical, analytical super-passionate teacher that is anchored in the Old Testament but with an incredibly creative prophetic edge. I love the perfect balance of Bible and Spirit in the apostle John. He can get really prophetically minded (wait until we get to Book of Revelations!) but it is “safe” prophetic because we know that it is anchored in the Old Testament.

Here at TYB we are all about you knowing the historical context of each book: author, date and background of the text to help you understand the book in its entirety. Imagine standing in front of a collection of books and plunging your hand into the pile and pulling out a book. You open up to the first page and it reads “I am a chosen leader, a leader that is going to change the world! I want my people to be the most powerful nation on the earth and I know that as I raise my voice and tell them how elite and incredible they are, that my dreams will come to pass.” Now that sounds like an incredible statement, right? But before you get caught up in this incredible vision of this amazing leader, you should really find out if this book is written by Nelson Mandela or Adolf Hitler. The author is important!

With that in mind as I turn my attention to the books of 1-3 John I need to remind myself that this is John, he is creative so I am going to look for patterns in his writing; he is passionate about the Church so he is going to be strong and correct anything that is causing harm to the church that he saw birthed at Pentecost. He isn’t an onlooker to the development of the Church, John is invested, went to prison for this cause, so every word has purpose and passion. The papyrus that he was writing on cost a fortune to buy (actually one year’s wage for letters as long as Romans) so these words are literally “worth their weight in gold.” He calls the reader “brothers and sisters” so he is instructing them as one of them, their strong leader.

So, don’t skim over the words, don’t get bored and skip bits, don’t jump in and out. Read 1-3 John as though his letters were sent to you in the mail by the greatest Church leader the Apostle John. These are the words of the man who walked with Jesus, so take note!!

Let me quickly show you some incredible things to note as you read these short little books. Read them together, it helps to understand them a little better. 1 John is strong and corrective – John is addressing some false teachers in the church that have been leading his church astray. 2 John is instructing the Church to not let these false teachers into their houses. They took these instructions so passionately that they stopped “guest speakers” altogether so 3 John is a letter of balance, saying I am so glad you obeyed me but don’t stop the good people from coming to speak to your church.

Firstly read 1 John 1: 4

Did you notice John’s fixation on the words “seen and heard”? Go back and highlight every time he says “seen” and “heard”. There are a couple of things in the Books of 1-3 John that John is concerned about and addressing. I don’t have time to address these in full so you can study them on your own but let me give you the basics on them both.

The false teachers that John is rebuking were teaching an early form of Gnosticism. Gnosticism is addressed in a lot of books in the New Testament. It comes from the Greek word “to know” and has two major features. Firstly, it is the understanding that salvation is found in a higher spiritual knowledge that only certain people possess. These “enlightened ones” got this knowledge through mystical ways. Secondly, Spirit and flesh were thought of as separate. Spirit was good and flesh was bad, based on the Greek Philosophy of Plato and Philo, it highlighted a separation of the spiritual world from the physical world.

The second false teaching that John is addressing in these books is called Docetism. Docetism was related to Gnosticism but comes from the Greek word “to seem”. Docetism taught that it was impossible for God as Spirit (good) to take on a physical body which is bad. So, they started teaching the early Christians that Jesus did not have a physical body, but only “seemed” real. Salvation was therefore not obtained through the death and resurrection of the body of Jesus but through gaining a mystical and special knowledge.

Now let’s go back to 1 John 1-4, can you understand why John says “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched”? John is opening his letter with his credentials and his authority to address these false teachers. He is saying “Don’t tell me the man I walked with for three years was a “spirit!  I saw him, heard him speak, ate with him, I laid on his chest, he was real”. He directly refutes these false teachers that only have a “higher knowledge” but they can’t beat a person who walked with Jesus, saw him and touched him. The stage is set for a show-down and John is ready and armed for the fight.

The key to understanding John’s writing is in patterns. So let me show you some patterns and keywords that John has put in these books to help you get his message. Now, this is only a teaser so you can go and study this book in depth.


John tells us directly why he wrote this book, over and over again. As you read these verses highlight the term: “That we might”

1:3 That we might have fellowship

1:4 That we might have joy

2:1-2 that we might not sin

2:26 That we might overcome error

5:13 That we might have assurance


As you read these verses highlight the words “If we say” or “He who says”

1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth

1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us

1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us

2:4 He who says ‘I know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in Him

2:6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as he walked

2:9-10 He who says he is in the light, and hates his broth, is in darkness until now.

4:20 If someone says “I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen.

Wow some of these are quite strong and super convicting – right! Remember the author, John is a passionate teacher and Ps Simon McIntyre is going to explain in the Deep Dive this week that John is passionate about your actions confirming your belief. Our Christian walk is not just about words but actions, and John makes this perfectly clear.

Let me show you one last pattern in this incredible book.  We know that John is angry at these false teachers that are leading the Church astray, look at:

2: 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.

So, he then gives the Church some teaching on what to believe and you can find this in the pattern - “THIS IS HOW WE KNOW”.


Can you see that John is using the same word “to know” here to refute the Gnostics who are saying that they “know” more and have special higher revelation? He is directly addressing their false teaching!

Highlight these scriptures in 1 John.

2:5 This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

2:18 This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us

3:10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:

3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us

3:19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:

3:24 And this is how we know that he lives in us:

4:2 This is how we can recognise the Spirit of God:

4:13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us:

5:2 This is how we know that we love the children of God

Through this pattern, John is setting a solid foundation in the Church of what we are ‘to know’. When false teachers come against us, we need to be assured of what we know. Our belief has to be set solid in the Word of God and that is what John is doing here – he is saying “I know they are going on with all sorts of things but let me tell you what you have to know is the truth!”

See the power in the patterns to understand that book better. John is a literary genius and his writings are to be kept in one whole piece to be understood. So now that you have all these patterns highlighted, go back and read the books again and find out what God is saying to you through these incredible letters from one who walked with him. Have fun in 1-3 John!



extra resources

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