Into the Light
1 John 1:1–4
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
After our sometimes dark trek through the book of Judges it seemed like the better part of wisdom to head back into the New Testament. We’ve studied the Gospel of John and the Revelation. Now we will take up John’s doctrinal treaties in the letters of 1,2,3 John. I woke up this morning with a sense of excitement because I love the start of a new study! I know – super nerd.
To do justice to the study of 1,2,3 John I want to lay down some foundations so that we can get the most out of our time in these letters as possible. Collectively these letters are comprised of only 131 verses all together. So here is an opportunity to go deeper and there are certainly concepts worth mining in these passages. Let us begin by examining the author; the Apostle John.
According to the historian Jerome, John lived for 68 years after the death of Christ and died of old age rather than as a martyr, although he was imprisoned and tortured on more than one occasion. He was famously exiled to the Island of Patmos where he received the vision of the Revelation which he then shared with the church in writing and we study with amazement today. These 3 letters were written after that exile and in response to his time away from “his children” as he called the Church at the time. He writes these letters specifically to Ephesus, which plays a major part in John’s life toward the end of the first century. This was his home and the place of his burial upon death. Ephesus was estimated to have a population of almost 250,000 by the time of this writing and was a major sea port for industry. Ephesus became “the third largest city in the Empire after Rome and Alexandria. During his exile absence, the believers there had fallen into some problems and that would not be hard to do. Ephesus was the center of worship for the goddess Artemis and the worship of the Roman emperors.
The worship of Artemis was a widespread phenomenon in the Greco-Roman world. In Ephesus, however, Artemis exercised particular influence. “It was the cult of the Ephesian Artemis which, more than anything else, made Ephesus a centre of religious life during our period. But the influence of the cult of Artemis extended beyond the religious sphere to the civic, economic, and cultural life of the city.” The Artemisium, or the temple of Artemis, lay outside the city, roughly two kilometers from its center. The last and most magnificent of several temples constructed there, it was “clearly the chief glory of the city.”71 Roughly four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens, the temple bore a hundred and twenty-seven columns, each two meters in diameter and twenty meters high. Adorned with the work of the most celebrated artisans of the day, it was acclaimed as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Thus, the city sported not one but two dominant cults: the cult of Artemis and the cult of the emperors. The message was apparent. The gods and goddesses of the region supported the emperors. The emperor cult united every other cultic system of the empire. The emperors, then, “were not a threat to the worship of the diverse deities of the empire; rather, the emperors joined the ranks of the divine and played their own particular role in that realm.”
Schuchard, B. G. ©2012. 1–3 John. (p. 13). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
The city of Ephesus earns first mention in John famous seven letters to seven cities found in the chapters 2 and 3 of the Revelation. The Ephesians were commended by John for their patient faith and their hatred of Nicolaitans who were willing to accommodate others religions into Christianity, creating a hybrid religion that God hates.
Trebilco, Early Christians, 347, mentions the Nicolaitans, who “advocated that Christians could participate in pagan cults, and thus could be involved in society and need not form an exclusive group.” The Nicolaitans, then, were accommodationists.
Schuchard, B. G. ©2012. 1–3 John. Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
To the Ephesians, John writes:
1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
What we will find in the 131 verses John writes in these letters is Christ lifted up as the light of the world and our only hope. These words are from a father to his dear Children, whom he loves with his whole heart. His one desire is to see these children (us!) remain strong in the faith and grow deeper in our love for the Lord. His loving and gentle spirit flows through everything that he wrote and we are blessed to have his words to take in and allow to transform our thinking.