The first professional tour operator started his business in England in 1758, and since then the tour guide industry has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry. A worthy guide tells you the difference between an ancient artifact and a tourist trap. She brings history to life with fascinating details missing from maps. Knowing when to draw your attention to a place and when to let your eyes curiously wander, a guide places emphasis on the profound and ignores the profane. A tour guide does for vacations what an introduction does for studying books of the Bible. Trained Bible teachers will tell you that to understand a book, start by asking the W questions. The answers will help us see the significant landmarks in the book, fill in the historical backstory, and draw our attention to important themes. Let the introduction below serve as your tour guide through the book of 1 John.
Although written anonymously, 1 John shares so many striking similarities with the gospel of John, 2 John, and 3 John that most scholars assume the same man wrote all four books. Most likely John the “disciple whom [Jesus] loved” (John 19:26) penned these four books as well as the book of Revelation. Since John spent his later years overseeing house churches in Ephesus, this letter most likely circulated among those folks. Look for similarities between John’s letter and his gospel.
While this book often carries the label “letter,” John organizes it more like a sermon. He weaves the themes of life, love, and truth as he reminds his audience of Jesus’ last speech in John 13–17. John, a fan of hyperbole, employs stark contrasts in all his letters. Look for love and hate, good and evil, and light and dark.
Paul warns the Ephesian elders about wolves (Acts 20:29–30) and reminds Timothy of that warning (2 Timothy 3:1–7). This letter comes after Paul’s words come true, and it addresses the false teachers in Ephesus. Written toward the end of the first century, this letter addresses topics such as abandoning the faith. Look for John to reassure his readers of their solid faith despite opposition.
As mentioned earlier, this letter most likely circulated in the region of Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey.
According to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, John wrote his letter to bring about “assurance of salvation in the midst of persecution.”² False teachers began to deny Christ as the Messiah and created an unfriendly environment for those who remained faithful. This letter reminds the recipients that they had placed their trust appropriately, and it urges the readers to remain steadfast in their faith. Look for times when John addresses the controversy and counters with truth claims about Jesus the Messiah.
Let your journey through 1 John remind you of foundational truths of the Christian faith: Jesus was in fact the long-awaited Messiah, and His ministry ushers in for us love, light, and truth.
Imagine yourself as a believer in the first century facing persecution and false teaching. How might you feel if you received a letter from an associate of Jesus encouraging you to stand firm and trust what you have received?
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