Pastor David B. Curtis

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An Introduction to 1 John

Delivered 03/24/19

This morning we begin a study of the little book of 1 John. I want to ask you to pray for me as I attempt to expound this book. We all have paradigms that we hold and filter things through. I don't want to force my views upon this text, but to allow the text to speak and adjust my views to fit the text. So, I ask you to pray for me and with me that I would be able to do exegesis and not eisegesis of this text. I also welcome your insights into the text. Please feel free to email or text me your studied out insight into this text.

In our study this morning I just want to give you somewhat of an overview and an introduction to this little book. I think that's important for our understanding in subsequent weeks.

The book of 1 John is not a personal letter, nor a letter written to one church. There is no greeting or other introduction, no health wish or thanksgiving, and no final greetings. There is no author's name included anywhere. It's not like the book of Romans or Ephesians, it's not addressed to an individual like Timothy or Titus or Philemon. Here is what we normally see:

Paul, a servant of Christ Yeshua, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints… Romans 1:& 7 ESV
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Yeshua, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth… 1 Corinthians 1:1-2 ESV
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Yeshua the Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Galatians 1:1-2 ESV
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Yeshua the Christ: Grace to you and peace. 1 Thessalonians 1:1 ESV
Paul, an apostle of Christ Yeshua by command of God our Savior and of Christ Yeshua our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith…1 Timothy 1:1-2 ESV
Paul, a prisoner for Christ Yeshua, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker Philemon 1:1 ESV
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. James 1:1 ESV
Peter, an apostle of Yeshua the Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 1 Peter 1:1 ESV

There are only two New Testament letters which don't include the name of the author, they are 1 John and Hebrews.

So, 1 John doesn't contain the name of its writer, neither is there any reference to who the first recipients of this epistle were, or where they lived. The only thing that can be said for certain about the intended readers based on the content of the letter itself is that (1) they were Christians (2:12-14, 21; 5:13), (2) they appear to have been well-known to the author (and he to them), and (3) they were facing a threat from false teaching, a threat which was both serious and which appears to have arisen from within their Christian community (1 John 2:18-19). This was probably a letter designed to circulate among several congregations.

Scholars say that this is one of the most difficult of all the New Testament books to date. But most believe that it was written after the Fourth Gospel which they date in the 90's. So, when was the Fourth Gospel written? J.A.T. Robinson pointed out in Redating the New Testament, "If the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 had already occurred, the Gospel's silence about this is puzzling."

John makes reference to a site in Jerusalem, in the present tense, that no longer stood after the 9th of Ab, A.D.70 when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple:

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. John 5:2 ESV

This pool was rediscovered by archaeologists in the late 1800's. It had been buried in debris since the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70. It proved to have 5 colonnades just as it was described by John.

D. B. Wallace also argued that the present tense in 5:2 is not to be understood as a historical present, and thus provides a significant clue to the early dating of the Gospel.

So, 1, 2 and 3rd John were written after the Fourth Gospel and most believe before the Revelation, which was also written before AD 70. Robinson's date for the epistles of 1, 2 and 3rd John are AD 60-65. I think that all these epistles were written from Jerusalem and sent out to the province of Asia. This was a circular letter and was intended to be passed around to various churches is Asia.

AUTHORSHIP

Who wrote these epistles? Discussions of authorship of 1 John are inextricably linked to discussions of authorship of the Fourth Gospel. The vast majority of modern scholars recognize the similarity among all of the Johannine writings and believe that the Gospel of John and these letters of John have a common authorship. There are many similarities between them, especially in phrasing, vocabulary, and grammatical forms and doctrine.

David Smith writes, "Indeed the Epistle throughout has the Gospel as its background and is hardly intelligible without it." [The Epistles of St. John, in The Expositor's Greek Testament, 5:154.]

So, if we want to know who wrote 1 John we need to know who wrote the Gospel of John? And we do. Right? In the popular view the author of John is normally viewed as the aging Apostle John, but it is important to remember that nowhere in John or 1 John does the author actually state his name. This has led to such widespread and thorough discussion in scholarly circles over who the author might be.

According to Church tradition, the Apostle John wrote the fourth Gospel, 1, 2 and 3rd John and Revelation. There were various Church fathers in the second century that thought the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, was the author. There was an increasing urgency about this conclusion for the mainstream Church after the middle of the second century, because the fourth Gospel seems to have been a favorite amongst the Gnostics, and therefore, apostolic authorship was deemed important if this Gospel was to be rescued from the heterodox.

Irenaeus, in around A.D. 180, stressed that this Gospel was written in Ephesus by one of the twelve, John. I hope to prove to you from the Scripture that the Apostle John did not write this. So tradition says that John wrote the fourth Gospel, although there is some difference of opinion as to which John.

There is often a difference between what people say the Bible says and what it actually says. if you think John wrote it, you will have trouble understanding why some things are said, and some are left unsaid. Its author was not a Galilean, but a Judean. This is what makes it so different from the rest of the Gospels.

Let's forget tradition for a moment and look at the Scripture, and see if we can determine who wrote the fourth Gospel. This is really not difficult, because we are told who wrote this Gospel in the book itself:

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Yeshua loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" John 21:20 ESV

Here the writer mentions "the disciple whom Yeshua loved," and then states that this is the disciple that wrote this letter:

This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. John 21:24 ESV

The antecedent of "this" is "the disciple whom Yeshua loved" in verse 20. So, we know who wrote this Gospel; it was "the disciple whom Yeshua loved." Now all we have to do is to figure out who that was. Does the Bible say anywhere that John was the "disciple whom Yeshua loved"? NO, it does not! Does the Bible explicitly name anyone who was "loved" by Yeshua? Yes. There is only one man named in the Bible that is said to be loved by Yeshua:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. John 11:1-2 ESV
So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." John 11:3 ESV
Now Yeshua loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. John 11:5 ESV
So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" John 11:36 ESV

Lazarus' sisters said that Yeshua loved him, the inspired author says Yeshua loved Lazarus, and the Jews said Yeshua loved Lazarus. It seems to me that the Spirit of God is going to great lengths in John 11 to make it known that Yeshua loved Lazarus. Lazarus is the only man named in the Bible that is specifically identified as being "loved" by Yeshua.

Now I want you to notice something that I think is very significant. John 12 is the last time we hear of Lazarus. After chapter 12 this celebrity disappears from Scripture. This good friend of Yeshua, this man whom Yeshua loved and raised from the dead, suddenly disappears. Notice where we see him last:

Six days before the Passover, Yeshua therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Yeshua had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. John 12:1-2 ESV

The last time we see Lazarus named, he is reclining at a table with Yeshua. Then he disappears from the pages of Scripture. What is really interesting is right after Lazarus' name disappears, someone else appears that we have never heard of before:

One of his disciples, whom Yeshua loved, was reclining at table at Yeshua' side, John 13:23 ESV

The last time we see Lazarus, he is reclining at a table with Yeshua, and the first time we see the "disciple whom Yeshua loved," he is reclining at a table with Yeshua. The only man named in the Bible as being "loved" by Yeshua abruptly vanishes from this Gospel, and then the only disciple singled out as being "loved" by Yeshua abruptly appears in this same Gospel. It is my contention that this "disciple whom Yeshua loved" is Lazarus.

Simon Peter followed Yeshua, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Yeshua into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. John 18:15-16 ESV

This "other disciple" was known to the high priest, and he was the one who got Peter in. If you read John 20, you will see that the "other disciple" is "the disciple whom Yeshua loved":

So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Yeshua loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." John 20:2 ESV

Now if we compare John 18 to Acts 4, I think we will see that this "other disciple" could not be John. Acts 4:1-23 tells us what happened to Peter and John following the healing of a crippled man. Peter and John were seized and brought before the "rulers; elders; scribes; Annas, the high priest; and Caiaphas." in order to be questioned about this miracle:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Yeshua. Acts 4:13 ESV

Notice here what these Jewish leaders recognized: It was in that moment that they suddenly understood that these men had been with Yeshua. The principal thing that we need to get out of this passage is that it was at that point that the high priest and the other rulers became acquainted with Peter and John for the first time. But our text in John 18 tells us that the "other disciple" was known by the high priest. This teaches us that the high priest did not know John or Peter before this incident. So, the "other disciple" could not have been John.

I think that you would agree that the raising of Lazarus from the dead was a profound event in the life of Yeshua. Yet this remarkable miracle is missing from three of the four Gospels. The first three Gospels don't offer even a hint that this miracle occurred, and they never mention that Yeshua had a friend named Lazarus that He loved. Strangely enough, it turns out that there is another prominent figure in the life of Yeshua who is also nowhere to be found in the first three Gospels. The person is "the disciple whom Yeshua loved." Is this simply a coincidence?

How did the fourth Gospel ever come to be attributed to John? Well, let me take a shot at this. Lazarus is the Greek rendering of the name Eleazar. Willis Barnstone writes, "In a letter that Clement wrote to Theodore, he stated that there was more testimony attached to Mark than was presently available. Within this original Gospel was a discussion of the young man, John Eleazar (Eleazar being the Hebrew of the Greek Lazarus), who after Jesus raised him from the tomb, went to the Garden of Gethsemane clothed in a fine white linen garment over his naked body" [Willis Barnstone, The Other Bible, The Secret Gospel of Mark, p.342).]

I know this is just history, I know that it is not inspired, but it is interesting. It means Lazarus, who Yeshua raised from the dead, was also known as John Eleazar. So, John did write the fourth Gospel, 1, 2 and 3rd John and Revelation, but not the Apostle John, but John Lazarus.

Eleazar is a name found only in priestly lineages. I believe that Lazarus was a priest. As a "priest," he would be able to enter into the Beth Din, while Peter, who was a laymen, was required to remain "outside."

Let me give you several reasons why I believe that Lazarus was a Jewish priest. These are also reasons why the Apostle John, a Galilean, could not have written John:

1. He knows the name of the high priest's servant, Malchus (John 18:10). All the Gospels record Peter cutting off the high priest's servant's ear, but only Lazarus records his name.

2. Only the fourth Gospel records the name of the High Priest Annas. He knew the high priest by name.

3. He was familiar with the family relationships of the high priest. Only in the fourth Gospel do we learn that Annas was father-in-law to Caiaphas.

4. Lazarus is known to the palace household. Peter must wait outside, but Lazarus is let right in. He could have only entered if he were also a priest.

5. He was acquainted with the relationships of palace staff (John 18:26). Only the fourth Gospel tells us that one of those who questioned Peter's association with Yeshua was a relative of Malchus.

6. He was aware of the motives of the priests. Only the writer of the fourth Gospel explains why the priests would not enter Pilate's Judgment Hall.

It is my opinion, based upon these facts, that Lazarus was a priest, and that is why he could enter the court of the high Priest, and that is why he could get Peter in. This Lazarus was known as John Eleazar. It was this John that wrote the fourth Gospel.

As I said earlier according to Church tradition, the same man wrote the fourth Gospel, 1, 2 and 3rd John and Revelation. My position is that that man is Lazarus. So, the author of 1 John is the same man who wrote the Fourth Gospel, Lazarus aka, John Eleazar.

My view on this is a minority view. Most hold that the Apostle John wrote these 5 letters. Notice John Piper's arguments for Johannian authorship. He gives three;

"First, because the earliest Christian writers acknowledge that John is the writer—Irenaeus (d. 200), Clement of Alexandria (d. 215), and Tertullian (d. 220)." This is true, but it doesn't prove that the Apostle John wrote it.

"Second, because the writer identifies himself as an eye-witness of Jesus' earthly life (1:1): 'we have seen with our eyes… we have looked upon and touched.'" How does this prove Johannine authorship of 1 John? Was John the only one who was an eye witness of Yeshua's life? Lazarus was an eye witness also.

"Third, the style and terminology are almost identical with the style and terminology of the gospel of John." Yes, they are and all this proves is that the same man wrote them both. That man was Lazarus.

Piper goes on to say, "Everybody knows that if the author of this letter was close enough to Jesus to touch him, then it was John. There are no other probable candidates among the disciples of those earthly days. So the rejection of John is virtually always a rejection of the truth of the very first verse of the letter: "What we have heard, what we have seen, what we have touched with our hands…"

I certainly don't think that John was the only one who was close enough to Yeshua to touch him. These are weak arguments for a Johannine authorship of 1 John. And it's important to know that the writer of 1 John never identifies himself by name or calls himself an apostle.

I think there is one thing that we can all agree on when it comes to authorship and that is that whoever penned this epistle they did so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, the exegesis of 1 John would not be greatly affected by our conclusions concerning who wrote it.

RECIPIENTS

As I said earlier there isn't any reference to who the first recipients of this epistle were, or where they lived. Tradition asserts that this book was written to the Roman Province of Asia Minor (western Turkey), with Ephesus being its major metropolitan area.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

There were men spreading false doctrine in these churches and causing believers to question what they believed. Colin G Kruse writes, "Some of the members had taken on board certain beliefs about the person and work of Christ that were unacceptable to the author of the letters and those associated with him. These new beliefs involved a denial that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh (1 John 4:2-3), and that his death was necessary for the forgiveness of sins (1 John 5:6-7). A sharp disagreement arose which resulted in the secession of those who embraced these new views (1 John 2:19)."

It's kind of like we're listening to one side of a phone conversation and trying to figure out what the other party was saying based on what we hear. Here's what we can figure out: There was a doctrinal error regarding the person of Yeshua the Christ. They denied that Yeshua was the Christ (2:22). In other words, they denied that Yeshua was God in human flesh. Most theological errors go astray on the person and/or work of Christ, because these subjects are essential to the Christian faith.

These heretics also either denied that sin exists in our nature and practice or they said that sin does not matter since it does not interfere with our fellowship with God.

Many scholars identify them as Cerinthian Gnostics. Gnosticism was the philosophical blend of various pagan, Jewish, and semi-Christian systems of thought. Its two main tenets were dualism and illumination. Dualism meant that all matter is evil and spirit is good. Since matter is evil, a good God could not have created the material universe. Hence the Gnostics posited a series of emanations from the Supreme Being, each a bit more removed, until one who was sufficiently remote created the world. Since matter is evil, they could not conceive of how God could take on a human body subject to pain, suffering, and death. Thus they denied the incarnation.

Cerinthus taught that Yeshua was not born of a virgin but was the natural son of Joseph and Mary. He was a very good and righteous man. At His baptism, "the Christ" descended on him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler. Yeshua then proclaimed the unknown Father and performed miracles. At last, the Christ departed from Yeshua and the human Yeshua suffered, died, and rose again, while the Christ remained untouched, since He is a spirit being. So Cerinthus separated the man Yeshua from the divine Christ.

The Gnostic dualism also led to some moral aberrations. On the one hand, since they thought that matter is evil, some Gnostics practiced strict asceticism, which is the attempt to be righteous by harsh treatment of the body. Others reasoned that since the enlightened spirit is separate from the evil body, morality does not matter. So they claimed to be righteous in spirit even while they indulged the flesh. John repeatedly confronts this error.

The other main feature of Gnosticism was illumination. They claimed that the way to salvation was through secret enlightenment. "Gnostic", the word comes from the Greek word 'gnosis', which incidentally means 'knowledge'. They believed that they had a special superior knowledge to other people who called themselves Christians.

John may be writing to the churches warned by Paul:

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:28-30 ESV

John may have written his epistles to combat the very fulfillment of that prophecy. False teachers did come in. They came in to Ephesus.

1 JOHN AND QUMRAN

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and compared with writings in the New Testament, scholars noted many parallels between themes developed in 1 John and in the Scrolls. Most of the parallels to 1 John are found in the Manual of Discipline (1QS). These include light and darkness, truth and deceit (1QS 3:19/1 John 1:5, 8; 2:4, 21-22; 3:17-19); the division of people into two groups, sons of light (1QS 3:13, 24, 25/1 John 1:7) and sons of darkness (1QS 1:10/1 John 1:7), who are distinguished by these pairs of opposites.

THEME OR PURPOSE OF THE BOOK

To me this is the most important thing for us to understand. I really think I will be better equipped to talk about the theme once I have exegeted to book. But I'll take a shot at it now. There are different views as to the purpose of 1 John in view of one's understanding of the audience of the book:

1. Stott understands the audience to be mixed (believers and unbelievers), therefore, his stated purpose for the book is "to destroy the false assurance of the counterfeit as well as to confirm the right assurance of the genuine." He goes on to say, "His great emphasis is on the differences between the genuine Christian and the spurious, and how to discern between the two." He adds (p. 50), "The predominant theme of these Epistles is Christian certainty." [John Stott, The Epistles of John, Tyndale Bible Commentaries [Eerdmans], p. 42]

2. Others, like me, understand the audience to be believers, therefore they identify the purpose around pastoral exhortation such as Henry Alford: "To certify believers of the truth and reality of the things in which they believe and to advance them in the carrying out of their practical consequences."

The Gospel has an evangelistic thrust, while 1 John is written for believers (i.e., discipleship). When John writes his gospel, he states that its purpose is evangelistic. He is trying to lead his listeners to faith in Christ. But when he comes to his epistle, as chapter 5 and verse 13 tells us, he is talking to a people who have come to faith in Christ, but he's trying to lead them all into a deeper understanding and a further maturity in their life.

The readers of this epistle are believers:

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. 1 John 2:12 ESV
I write to you, little children, because the sins have been forgiven you through his name; 1 John 2:12 YLT

This is a description of a Christian, only believers have had their sins forgiven.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:1-2 ESV
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13 ESV

The intended audience of this epistle is believers. And they are not in danger of losing eternal life, that can't be lost. But are in danger of damaging their fellowship with Yeshua and the Father. I see the purpose of this letter as fellowship.

Colin G Kruse writes, "John wrote this epistle to enable believers to appreciate their 'fellowship with God,' and he wrote to deepen that fellowship. Alongside the provision of criteria to show the secessionists are wrong, the author provided other criteria which, if applied by the readers to themselves, would show that they are in the right; they are the ones who know God, who have fellowship with him, and who have eternal life. The author's purpose was to bolster the assurance of his readers by the double strategy of showing the secessionists' claims to be false and showing his readers that they are in the truth. All this accords with the one explicit statement of purpose in the letter: 'I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life' (5:13). The readers needed this reassurance because their confidence had been shaken by the propaganda of the secessionists."

[Kruse, C. G. (2000). The letters of John (pp. 1-26). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.]

Sadly, this book is used today to teach that a Christian's assurance of eternal salvation rests, at least in part, upon his or her good works subsequent to regeneration.

Commenting on 1 John 2:7-11, J. M. Boice recalls John 13:34, 35 and says it is only by love that the world may know that Christians are indeed Christians. But then he wants to expand this to make an additional point: "It is only by love that Christians may know they are Christians." The Christian, says Boice, "May know that he has been truly made alive by Christ when he finds himself beginning to love and actually loving those others for whom Christ died". This is not what Yeshua said. Yeshua says the world needs our love in order to be convinced that Yeshua's mission to the world is genuine.

But it is a mistaken exposition of 1 John to think we have to get assurance of salvation by love. This is close to the teaching of medieval Catholicism. It was precisely the Reformers' point that medieval Catholicism put love where they should have put faith. Assurance of salvation does not come by introspectively evaluating the measure of our love. I see the Bible as teaching that assurance is an inseparable part of saving faith:

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21 ESV

"Fully convinced" is from the Greek word plerophoreo. This verb means to fill completely and thus to convince fully. Faith always has in it the element of assurance. This needs to be emphasized today because the "Lordship teaching" is destroying assurance. Do you have the assurance that you will spend eternity in heaven? What is your assurance based on? If you are basing it on your performance, you have a false assurance.

The preoccupation with the uncertainty of salvation was a peculiarity of the Puritan era, not the Reformation era. If I seek assurance through my good deeds, one of two things must necessarily result. (1) I will minimize the depth of my own sinfulness. (2) I will see my sinfulness as hopelessly contrary to any conviction that I am saved.

Both Calvin and Luther taught that assurance of salvation is of the very essence of faith. A central tenet of Reformation teaching was that the personal certainty of one's eternal destiny is tied up with what it means to believe the Gospel. Martin Luther wrote that saving faith is "the sort of faith that does not look at its own works nor at its own strength and worthiness, noting what sort of quality or new created or infused virtue it may be… But faith goes out of itself, clings to Christ, and embraces Him as its own possession."

John Calvin warned against any attempts to find assurance by an observation of one's works. He says that, "From one's works conscience feels more fear and consternation than assurance." Our assurance, like Abraham's, is to be based upon the Word of God:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24 ESV
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. John 6:47 ESV

If I believe in Yeshua the Christ, what does He promise me? Everlasting life! So, if I doubt my eternal destiny, I am not believing Yeshua. Assurance is necessarily a part of believing the Gospel. Yeshua offers a guarantee to everyone who believes in Him. If I base my assurance on something I've done or how I live, I'm not trusting Christ, but my performance.

I think that we should always be examining ourselves and asking if we are people of love, but not in order to decide whether we are regenerate! If we do that we will always have doubts about our salvation.

1 John was not written to encourage introspective worrying about whether our weak level of godliness means that we have not truly experienced God's salvation. John wrote this letter to encourage the Christians. He wanted them to know the truth. Then they would recognize false ideas. The letter shows that Christians are children of God. They know God as Father. If God is their Father, then they are all brothers and sisters. John shows them the kind of life that the children of God should live.

There are several terms in this epistle that John used as synonyms: "fellowship with God," "knowing God," "abiding in God," and "seeing God." These terms all describe the experience of Christians. They all describe our relationship with God in varying degrees of intimacy. Our relationships with people vary. Some are more, some less, intimate. Fellowship with God is also a matter of greater or lesser intimacy. When we speak of being "in fellowship" or "out of fellowship," we are oversimplifying our relationship to God. For example, a child's fellowship with his or her parents is rarely either perfect or non-existent; it is usually somewhere between these extremes, and it may vary from day to day. All Christians possess eternal life, but not all experience that life as God intended us to enjoy it (John 10:10). John's subject concerns true and false versions of fellowship with God. It is not an invitation to introspective doubts concerning salvation.

God finds in every person, who walks with Him in intimate fellowship, a person through whom He can manifest Himself, an instrument through whom He can accomplish His purposes. The abiding believer reveals God to those around him or her.

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