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Literature / Epistles of John

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Three of the General Epistles that make up the New Testament of The Bible. The first two letters were written in response to the Gnostic heresy going around at the time that denied Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh.

Structure of the books:

1st John:
  • The truth about Christ (1st John 1:1-4)
  • The believer's lifestyle (1st John 1:5-2:14)
  • The believer's relationship with the world (1st John 2:15-27)
  • A message for God's children (1st John 2:28-4:21)
  • Final exhortations (1st John chapter 5)

2nd John:

  • Greeting and blessing (2nd John verses 1-3)
  • Exhortation and Christian love (2nd John verses 4-6)
  • Warnings about false teachers (2nd John verses 7-11)
  • Impending visit and blessing (2nd John verses 12-13)

3rd John:

  • Greeting to Gaius (3rd John verses 1-2)
  • Joy at seeing Christians demonstrate the truth (3rd John verses 3-4)
  • Pressing issues (3rd John verses 5-12)
  • Impending visit and blessing (3rd John verses 13-14)

These books contain examples of:

  • Anaphora: In 1 John 2:12-14:
    I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.
    I am writing to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
    I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
    I am writing to you, little children, because you have known the Father.
    I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
    I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
  • The Antichrist: John in his first epistle warns not only about the Antichrist that is supposed to come, but also that there are many antichrists that have come, which is a sign that "this is the last hour". In his second epistle, he says that those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is a deceiver and an antichrist.
  • Category Traitor: 1 John 2:15 warns believers not to love the world or the things of it, otherwise the love of God is not in them.
  • Forgiveness:
    • 1 John 1:9 says: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
    • 1 John 5:16-17 says that if anyone commits a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray, and God "will give life" to those whose sins do not lead to death. However, believers are warned not to pray for those who commit sins that lead to death.
  • God Is Good: 1 John 4 mention the love God has for the believers. Here's verse 16 for example:
    "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."
  • God Test/Sinister Minister: From 1st John 4:1-6 as a warning:
    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and is already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, and therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God, and whoever knows God listens to us. Whoever is not of God does not listen to us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
  • Greed and Pride: John warns about these in 1st John 2:15-17:
    Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: 1 John 5:16 in the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version says that "there is sin that is mortal" that believers should not bother to pray for, suggesting that whoever commits that kind of sin is doomed to Hell as opposed to those whose sins are not "mortal".
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: 1 John 3:8 states that anyone who has committed a sin is considered of the devil who had committed a sin by rebelling against God. This isn't saying that committing a sin makes you as bad as Satan, but rather that - like him - you're willingly going against what God said to do.
  • Hypocrite: 1st John 1:8-10 warns against this:
    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
  • It's All About Me: John warns Gaius in his third letter about Diotrephes, who wanted to have "the preeminence among us", who by his actions doesn't receive people entering the church and throws out those who are part of it. He also has a problem with Malicious Slander.
  • No True Scotsman: 1 John 2:19 states this about those who left the faith.
    "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
  • The Power of Love: John spends a good deal of the fourth chapter in his first epistle about loving one's brother, with this verse (verse 18) emphasizing this trope:
    There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. Whoever fears is not perfect in love.
  • Punished for Sympathy: 2 John 1:10-11 is a warning that showing hospitality to false preachers and wishing them well makes you a partaker of their deeds.
    "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
  • Rule of Three: 1st John 5:7-8 features "the three that bear witness" about Jesus Christ. In the King James Version and translations that are based on the Textus Receptus, this includes both "the Heavenly Witnesses" (The Father, The Word, and The Holy Spirit) and "the Earthly Witnesses" (the Spirit, the water, and the blood), while most other translations feature only "the Earthly Witnesses".
  • Sacred Hospitality: 2nd and 3rd John are quick letters from John about this subject. In 3rd John he congratulates Gaius on being hospitable to traveling ministers, and promises that he's going to have words with Diotrephes for not only not receiving them, but banning others from doing so. On the flip side, 2nd John warns against showing hospitality to false preachers, since doing so legitimizes their message and enables them to harm the church.
  • Thought Crime: 1 John 3:15 warns against hating one another:
    "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."

Alternative Title(s): First John, Second John, Third John