John is the last surviving Apostle and he carries a heavy burden. Satan, the deceiver from the beginning, has targeted the church, specifically those the “disciple whom Jesus loved” has taught, poured his life into, and now feels compelled to encourage and defend. So he writes them letters. Letters that teach them the truth; to equip them for the assault that is both overt and covert; letters well worth the time taken to study them. Letters that speak profoundly, not just to his generation, but to ours and for the same reasons; because truth, love, and obedience matter.
John uses these criteria as tests.
They are tests that challenge presumption in those who profess to be Christian, and tests that assure those who truly are. Doctrine matters. In the world’s uncertain, confusing, and deceitful storm, John provides an anchor of certainty. There is truth and you can know it.
God is, and you can know Him. And you can know that you know.
They are tests which strengthen the true children of God’s boldness in approaching their Father with confidence, which is their birthright. They are accepted as they are in Christ, even with all the failings. Living a ‘holy life’ pleasing to the Father doesn’t mean a perfect life, but it does mean a life acutely aware of its own sin and openly confessing it. A life committed to drawing on all of God’s resources in order to “walk as Jesus walked”, “in the light”, in a very dark world. Righteousness matters.
They are tests that undergird the authority that every follower of Jesus needs
to stand on firm convictions and proclaim the truth of the gospel of God to a lost and dying world. A world we should care about deeply. Relationship matters.
In contrast to the growing heretical encroachment of the false teaching of his day, John affirms in no uncertain terms that what you believe, how you behave, and the degree to which you care, all matter a great deal. Moreover, he insists on a true, historical incarnation; that God, in His Son, has come in the flesh, and that belief in Him not only guarantees eternal life with absolute certainty, but that such belief is the only avenue that even offers any possibility. That matters!
So we will study the epistles of John. And with God’s help, a profitable study it will be.