Article by: Sarah Koontz
In this week’s blog, we will dig deep into John’s Epistles. I found this particular section of Scripture to be edifying and convicting. I am confident that you will be blessed and encouraged by the many transformative truths we can learn from John’s letters to the early church. If you have never read John’s epistles, I have included web links to the text throughout the article. Don’t just take my personal observations and run; take time to study the Word for yourself!
Read John’s First Epistle | Listen to the Audio Version
1 John is a personal invitation to experience the joy, freedom, and assurance that comes from abiding in the Word. In this pastoral letter, the Apostle John strongly warns against sinful behavior, worldliness, false teachers, and a lack of love for God and others. He also presents ample evidence for the deity of Christ, the love of God, and the assurance of our salvation.
John’s first epistle contributes to the overall message of Scripture by offering a strong defense of Christ’s deity (1 Jn 2:22) and a passionate warning against false teaching (1 Jn 2:26) and disobedience. John reminds us that God is light (1 Jn 1:5) and God is love (1 Jn 4:7-8); he teaches us that the result of true faith is a life filled with love (1 Jn 3:11). He warns against the dangers of idolatry (1 Jn 5:21) while urging us to remain steadfast in faith by placing our hope in Christ alone (1 Jn 5:10-11) as we walk in fellowship with God (1 Jn 2:28) and others (1 Jn 3:10).John's first epistle is a personal invitation to experience the joy, freedom, and assurance that comes from abiding in the Word and fellowshipping with God.
Four Truths from John’s First Epistle
1. We are invited to walk in the light of God’s Truth (1 Jn 2:15-27).
We have the privilege and responsibility of illuminating our lives with the light of God’s Word. We do this by actively choosing to remain in God’s wisdom, believe in God’s work, and esteem God’s ways—pursuing fellowship with Him as we engage with His Word. As a mark of progress in this area, we must continually ask ourselves if we love the Word more than this world.
2. It’s important to agree with God on the issue of sin (1 Jn 1:6, 8-10, 2:1, 3:8).
Black and white still exist, right and wrong still exists, and sin still exists. Every action that is contrary to God’s Word is destructive, distracting, and disabling. Sin is contrary to God’s character, and it disrupts our fellowship with God. To prevent sinful behavior, we must continually confess and actively turn away from sin.
3. True knowledge comes from God and results in obedience (1 Jn 2:3-5, 27, 3:24, 4:13, 5:6-10).
A sign of biblical wisdom is humble submission to God’s design. When we believe God is love, we will live as though His decrees are loving. When rebellious thoughts rise in our minds, we must choose to surrender our will to the One who sacrificed Himself for our salvation.
4. Loving others is an essential part of the Christian faith (1 Jn 3:14-21).
Loving others is not just one of the greatest commands; it’s also a reflection of the transformation that occurs in our lives when we receive God’s love. God is love; therefore, God’s people must be loving. Not just in words, but also in deed!Every action that is contrary to God’s Word is destructive, distracting, and disabling.
Action Point: Once we understand the gospel and recognize the beauty of our salvation, we are equipped to share Christ with others—and we must share Christ with others! This gift is not ours to keep; it is ours to receive and share with a world in need. You don’t have the share the gospel with everyone you meet to achieve success in this area, but it would be a good marker of progress if you always had one or two people you were actively discipling. A great tool to help you better understand and share the gospel message with others is our “Before I Go” study. This study is based on Jesus’ final teaching and prayer recorded in John 14-17 and is an excellent introduction to true, biblical faith. Select a small group of friends to go through the study with and provide them with support and encouragement as they progress through the material.
Read John’s Second Epistle | Listen to the Audio Version
2 John urges Christians to pursue truth and love while protecting the church from errant teaching. In response to false teaching and division in the church, John writes to remind this elder of the value of truth and love in the life of the church. This letter reminds church leaders of the joy that comes when we walk in obedience to Christ’s commands while warning against the danger of false hospitality and false teaching.
The key themes of John’s second epistle are walking in love (2 Jn 1:6) and dwelling in the truth (2 Jn 1:4). This book contributes to the overall message of Scripture by warning against suppression of the truth (2 Jn 1:9), twisting the truth (2 Jn 1:7), and disobeying the truth (2 Jn 1:8). In this book, John also warns against welcoming the wrong kind of people into your circle (2 Jn 1:10-11).John's second epistle urges Christians to pursue truth and love while protecting the church from errant teaching.
Four Truths from John’s Second Epistle
1. Respect and appreciation for God’s Truth have value in our community relationships (2 Jn 1:1-2).
As Christians, we believe that God’s Word is absolute and authoritative. It is the truth by which we seek to order our lives, and our north star when the storms of life rage. We cannot allow compromise to creep into the church, or our ability to minister to those in need will be greatly hampered.
2. There is an undeniable connection between love and truth in the Bible (2 Jn 1:6).
The God of love (1 Jn 4:8) is also the God of truth (Dt 32:4), and His truth is the foundation for our love. Biblical love cannot exist apart from godly truth; they are eternally intertwined. This world is trying to do away with truth for the sake of loving others well, and we must stand firm for the sake of both.
3. We must make every effort not to “go beyond” Christ’s teaching (2 Jn 1:9).
There is so much false teaching creeping into our churches, and it often “goes beyond” the gospel truth put forth in Scripture. As Bible-believing Christians, we need not seek after “new or updated” revelation. We have everything we need in Scripture, and it’s our responsibility to “remain” in it!
4. Do not receive any teaching or teachers who deviate from Christ’s message (2 Jn 1:10).
John urgently warns against the danger of inviting pseudo-Christians into your home and community. As Christians, we must faithfully protect the integrity of Scripture and the younger believers in our Church. Oftentimes, these people that “go beyond” the message of Christ are dangerous because their message is mostly true and sounds more appealing than Scripture.Biblical love cannot exist apart from godly truth; they are eternally intertwined.
Action Point: Those who are young in the faith and lack knowledge of the Scriptures are targets of the enemy. He seeks to twist the truth, devalue the truth, and turn God’s people away from the truth. To prevent this, we must actively protect our homes and our churches from those who fail to accept and submit to the authority of Scripture. Our homes and faith communities must be a haven for everyone, except for false teachers. We will know that we have accomplished this goal when the truth of Scripture is upheld and esteemed in the hearts of our children and the spiritual babes in our midst.
Read John’s Third Epistle | Listen to the Audio Version
3 John encourages the church to show hospitality, walk in truth, and work together. In this brief letter, John reminds us of the eternal value of a truth-based lifestyle and the importance of spiritual health. He urges faithfulness, missional living, hospitality, love and truth. He warns against the pride, ego, gossip, and selfishness of false teachers while reminding us of the value of a good reputation within the faith community.
John’s third epistle contributes to the overall message of Scripture by reminding us of the role of missions (3 Jn 1:8), the importance of hospitality (3 Jn 1:8), the value of the truth (3 Jn 1:4), and the necessity of loving one another in truth (3 Jn 1:1). It also offers a contrast between false teachers (3 Jn 1: 9-10) and those with a good testimony (3 Jn 1:11-12).John's third epistle encourages the church to show hospitality, walk in truth, and work together.
Four Truths from John’s Third Epistle
1. One of the greatest joys in life is when “our children” walk in the truth (3 Jn 1:4).
As John is nearing the end of his life, he has come to recognize the value of truth, love, and obedience. After dedicating many years to growing the church of Christ, he acknowledges that his greatest joy comes from watching others walk in the truth. If we want to experience this same sort of joy at the end of our lives, we too must dedicate ourselves to being ambassadors for God’s truth to the upcoming generations.
2. It is essential that Christians support missions and seek to be “coworkers with the truth” (3 Jn 1:8).
Not every member of the body is called to full-time ministry, but those who are require additional support from the rest of the body. God gives us the great privilege of participating in His work by contributing much-needed funds and encouragement to His workers around the globe.
3. It is possible to discern the difference between false teachers and true ones (3 Jn 1:9-10).
An imposter can’t manufacture the fruit of the Spirit long-term. If they hold impure motives, selfish desires, or a haughty spirit, their true nature will reveal itself over time. As Matthew 7:15-20 says, we will “know them by their fruits.”
4. Good works and a good reputation are powerful kingdom tools (3 Jn 1:11-12).
As believers, we are called to be imitators of God. This means that we are to fill our lives with His goodness and grace and fill our time with good works. If we have a reputation for righteousness, God will be able to use that for His divine purpose. Even if others try to tear us down or destroy our good name, our goodness will leave little room for slander to take root.
Action Point: We all have an essential role in building Christ’s kingdom on the earth—what is yours? If you do not know, then as yourself: what can I do to contribute today? Then do that thing! Tomorrow, wake up and ask yourself the same question. Day after day, seek to discover what gifts you have to share and how you can invest them in Christ’s work. Nothing is more worthwhile than dedicating your time, talents, and treasures to God’s work here on earth. You will know you have met this objective when you no longer wonder about your role in the church.
Concluding Thoughts About John’s Epistles
John’s epistles teach us that the best way to love others is to love the truth!
We live in a world that seeks to divide love and truth by separating them as far as possible from one another.
Our culture is trying to eliminate absolute truth “in the name of love,” and we are the last safeguard against the absolute destruction of absolute truth.
As Christians, we must not accept the narrative that declares truth as the enemy of love.
We serve the God of love and truth; therefore, we must hold both in the highest esteem.
God’s Word is our protection against the strategies of Satan, and we must study it to be equipped for the battle of this age.John's epistles teach us that the best way to love others is to love the truth!
The lies are everywhere, and we will falter if we don’t stand firm on the truth of God’s Word.
The only way to counteract false teaching is to remain in the Truth.
This type of “remaining” requires continual effort and demands our attention and affections be focused on Christ alone.
In response to my personal study of John’s epistles, I will commit to speaking the truth in love whenever I have the opportunity.
I will not fear man’s rejection because I stand firm in the authority of Scripture.
What will your response be?