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NT 600 New Testament Survey - The First Letter of John

NT 600 New Testament Survey

The First Letter of John

by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The three letters of St John were written by the Lord's beloved apostle who also wrote the fourth gospel. They were written at the close of the first century and have as their general theme a fervent polemic against the heretical "antichrists" who were changing the doctrines of Christ and denying His genuine appearance "in the flesh" for the salvation of the world, denying thereby both "the Father and the Son" (l Jn 2:22, 4:3, 2 Jn 7).

The First Letter of St. John is similar in style and content as the Gospel of St. John, and reaffirms the theme of the Divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14). It is the simplest and deepest exposition of the Christian faith that exists. Its clarity concerning the Holy Trinity and the Christian life of truth and of love in communion with God makes it understandable without difficulty to anyone who reads it. It is the best place to begin a study of the Christian faith generally, and the Bible in particular.

This beautiful letter reassures us that God is Love (4:8 and 4:16). St. John wrote the Greek word agape for love. The letter is of particular value for its development of the intrinsic connection between Christian belief and moral conduct: God is love, and the Christian who is a child of God has faith in Jesus Christ and loves his neighbor.

Chapter 4:13-14 is a Trinitarian passage. The sharp contrast between good and evil is portrayed in John's favorite imagery of light and darkness (1:5). In addition to light/darkness, antitheses common to John are present throughout the text, such as truth/lies, love/hate, life/death, and righteousness/sin. The letter is also noted for the first appearance of the term "antichrist" (2:18, 2:22, and 4:3).

The first letter of St John is part of the Church's lectionary, with special selections from it being read at the feast of the apostle John.

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An outline is provided below:

1:1-1:4 ------------ The Word of Life
1:5-1:10 ------------ God is Light

2:1-2:6 -------------- Christ Our Advocate
2:7-2:17 ------------- A New Commandment
2:18-2:29 ------------ Warning against Antichrists

3:1-3:10 -------------- Children of God
3:11-3:24 ------------ Love One Another

4:1-4:6 -------------- Testing the Spirits
4:7-4:21 ------------ God Is Love

5:1-5:5 -------------- Faith Conquers the World
5:6-5:12 ------------- Testimony concerning the Son of God
5:13-5:21 ------------ Epilogue

Let us now turn to St. John's Second Epistle.

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Bibliography:

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