False teachers had wreaked havoc and confusion in Ephesus, so the Apostle John wrote to them in the epistle of 1 John. John “encourages believers to love God and one another and reassures them that they are in the Son (KKQ, 782).” John’s opponents appear to have been early Gnostics, denying the bodily nature of Jesus Christ and arrogantly exalting their “super spiritual” knowledge without love for other Believers (KKQ, 792). John responded to these false teachings by emphasizing assurance and security of salvation (1 Jn 1:1-2:2), indicating the parameters true faith evidenced by love for other Believers (1 Jn 2:3-3:23), and describing the Spirit of God in contrast to demonic spirits and their teachings (1 Jn 3:24-5:21).
The doctrine of John’s opponents still exists today. There are those who believe that anything physical is inherently evil and only the “spiritual” is good. There are those who deny that Jesus came as a man but rather came as a fully spiritual being, thus severing any identification of Jesus Christ with human temptation and nature. There are those who teach that there are hidden secrets in the Bible that only the super spiritual (e.g. Gnostic) can understand. And there are those who claim to be following Christ, yet do not love fellow Believers. John addresses these false teachings with the theme of “Christian reassurance and [urging Christians to] continue to walk in love and truth (KKQ, 782).” Believers today must examine themselves in light of the criterion John describes: Do they love the saints? Do they follow the Spirit of Truth or the spirit of error? Do they place their faith in Jesus Christ alone? Are they humble in mind? Do they stand against false doctrine on the basis of the Word of God, the Truth? In teaching, through 1 John recently, many in the study were encouraged and reassured about their walk with the Lord. Those six weeks were a time of examining ourselves in the light of the Scriptures. What a joy to be reassured of walking with Christ and standing firm in the truth. John’s statement is appropriate: we should rejoice when Believers walk in the Truth (3 Jn 1:4). Still today, 1 John’s message rings true; it is timeless and valuable for Christians to meditate on and study.
Köstenberger, Andreas, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. WORDsearch, 2009, 2014.