Having worked out way through James we will now turn to the writings of John, the disciple of Jesus, specifically those seven chapters that make up his three epistles. This is the John to whom Jesus, from the cross, assigned responsibility for the care of Mary, his mother. One would know that a man of this character would have a lot to say about issues of the heart.
Biblical scholars tell us that this letter, written toward the close of the first century was occasioned by the rise of a heretical movement called docetism, which denied that Jesus every lived here on earth in a physical form but his “body” was a celestial substance. Thus he never really died in a body for the sins of the world. No wonder that John begins his letter declaring “That which was from the beginning . . . we have seen with our eyes . . . our hands have touched” (v.1). Then in the following two verses he repeats three times that he saw him. John declares that his message is “what we have seen and heard” (v. 3). He wants the believers to understand that the Christian faith is not a philosophy but a message about a real man in time and space that lived among us, died for our sins and rose again victorious over sin and death. This unique experience sets the Christian message apart from all other religious. Someone once answered the question, “How can I start a new religion” with the retort, “Have yourself killed and then rise from the dead.”
The Christian faith rests on a solid foundation. It proclaims that God’s incarnate sons lived among us, was crucified, and rose again. Scripture attests that Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive” (1 Cor. 15:6). Agreement on this basic point becomes crucial for harmony in the expansion of the faith. It is critical for fellowship within the assembly. John says that his purpose in writing is “so that you may have fellowship with us” even as we enjoy fellowship with Father and Son (v. 3). It was extremely important in the early years of the Christian faith that the central truths were not compromised by any penchant for change.
And so it has been down through the years. Deviant groups have severed their relationship because of a desire to interpret the faith somewhat differently. Denominations have expanded and split. Brand new approaches have clamored for recognition. Major differences have ruptured the status quo, but the true church continues. Jesus said that he would build his church on Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God” and that “all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matt. 16:18). John saw and touched the risen Christ, the church faithfully proclaims the message, and two millenniums later you and I fellowship with John and his first century believers. False doctrine drops by the wayside and truth, although battered, is victorious in the end.