Study Guide

Johannine Epsitles (1-3 John) Community

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We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3, NRSV)

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3, KJV)

"Let's all just get along!" says the elder. Oh, except in order to get along, you have to know the truth about Jesus. Small detail.

Many antichrists have come [… they] went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. (1 John 2:18-19, NRSV)

Even now are there many antichrists […] 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. (1 John 2:18-19, KJV)

The antichrists here are the elder's opponents who don't agree with all the fine points of his theology. They've obviously parted ways with the community, so they're not in the flock anymore.

You have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it […] As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1 John 2:20-21, 27, NRSV)

But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it […] But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:20-21, 27, KJV)

According to the elder, the people of the community have been called out specially by God. That's what "anointed" means. Apparently, that gives them the special ability to know the truth about Jesus and spot deceivers in their midst. Superpowers activate!

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now. (1 John 3:1-2, NRSV)

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God. (1 John 3:1-2, KJV)

Sounds like a pretty elect group: God's children. They're all like one big happy family…with a tiny bit of dysfunction on the side.

All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them[…] How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:15, 17-18, NRSV)

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him[…] But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:15, 17-18, KJV)

You heard it here first: if you don't love other folks in the community, you're just as bad as a murderer. Pretty harsh, elder. He's also pretty clear that Christians have an obligation to care for each other when they're in need. It isn't enough just to say you love others—you've got to live it.

The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:21, NRSV)

This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. (1 John 4:21, KJV)

Note that this passage doesn't say that a person who loves God has to love everyone. You only need to love and care for your fellow Christians, says the elder. This "love one another" thing is getting easier every day.

Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person. (2 John 1:10-11, NRSV)

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. (2 John 1:10-11, KJV)

Community is a selective sort of thing. Only certain right-thinking people can be part of the elder's community; everyone else is just plain dangerous.

The children of your elect sister send you their greetings. (2 John 1:13, NRSV)

The children of thy elect sister greet thee. (2 John 1:13, KJV)

The sister he's referring to is probably a sister church. Another nice family metaphor to describe the feeling of community.

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you. (3 John 1:5, NRSV)

Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers. (3 John 1:5, KJV)

The elder praises Gaius for welcoming fellow members of the community even though he doesn't know them—they're brothers and sisters across the miles.

I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us. And not content with those charges, he refuses to welcome the friends, and even prevents those who want to do so and expels them from the church. (3 John 1:9-10, NRSV)

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10, KJV)

Diotrephes isn't quite as community oriented as Gaius. He's putting himself above others, which is a huge no-no. He's also turning away his fellow Christians. To be fair, how does he know that these guys aren't the bad guys the elder has been talking about? Hmm...the plot thickens.

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