Study Guide for 1 John

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The following background remarks come from: Studies in 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John, edited by Dub McClish, pp. 27-32, and relate to matters of the particular time in which John wrote

“The Johannine Epistles were written during a maelstrom of conflict! The first generation of church leadership (i.e., the apostles) had ‘finished the race and kept the faith.’ Now, only one remained alive; and while some apparently thought that the Lord Himself would return prior to John’s death, history would prove them wrong. To John fell the task of dealing with the conflict which now surrounded the infant church; and deal with it he would! …

“Who, exactly, were these false teachers that John wrote to expose, and what was their doctrine? The exact identity of these false teachers has been called by some ‘a matter of controversy.’ Others, however, have researched the matter in such a manner as to provide clues as to their identity. From extra-Biblical research, and from Biblical statements, there are certain things that we do know. As John R. W. Stott says, ‘John describes them by three expressions, which draw attention to their diabolical origin, evil influence, and false teaching.’ Stott lists the three expressions as (1) ‘false prophets’ (1 John 4:1); (2) ‘deceivers’ (2 John 1:7); and (3) ‘antichrists’ (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). And, in each case there are ‘many’ – ‘many false prophets,’ ‘many deceivers,’ ‘many antichrists.’ …

“Gnosticism took on many forms, but can basically be discussed under two categories — (1) those who denied the Deity of the Lord (Cerinthian Gnostics), and (2) those who died the humanity of the Lord (Docetic Gnostics). These denials were ultimately brought about by the Gnostics’ dualistic belief that matter is inherently evil and only spirit is good. For the Gnostic, the spirit was from God, and therefore good, since the Gnostic held God to be perfect and good; but matter, and especially the body, was not from God and therefore evil. Of course, with this particular view came two problems: (1) how to explain the creation, and (2) how to explain the incarnation, if matter is inherently evil (which the Gnostic believed) and if God is inherently good (which the Gnostic also believed), then God could not have created the world, for God (good) would not (could not) create evil. Thus, the Gnostics eventually ended up with an artificial system of ‘aeons’ or ‘emanations’, (i.e., ‘lesser gods’), one of which created the world. This was their only way around the problem of God’s directly creating that which they believed to be evil. The body likewise, being composed of matter, must also be evil, said the Gnostics, and therefore the incarnation of Christ (Deity’s inhabiting a literal body) could not have occurred.  …

“After all is said and done, of course, the whole system of Gnosticism can be shown to be in error by simply noting that it makes salvation available only to a few select people (those to whom the ‘special knowledge’ had been made available), and thereby makes God a respecter of persons. Acts 10:34-35, however, makes it clear that God may not be charged with that error. Also, Gnosticism makes salvation meritorious, by making one’s mental efforts, not the blood of Christ, the basis of that salvation. Eph. 2:6ff and many other passages are thus violated.

We have listed below links to study guides for each of the individual chapters of 1 John and a combined PDF file which includes all five chapters. If the guides are helpful, please help us to make them available to others using the social media buttons below.

1 John ALL Chapters… 6200sgCombo

1 John 1… 6201sg

1 John 2… 6202sg

1 John 3… 6203sg

1 John 4… 6204sg

1 John 5… 6205sg

Author: David Lemmons

Preacher for Maple Hill Church of Christ near Benton, KY. Married to Diane for 44 years. Father of Heather, Aaron, and Rachel. Grandfather of Maverick, Serenity, and Cannon.

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