Lesson 1: Jesus and the Johannine Letters
This quarter, we will be reading other people’s mail. It’s all the more exciting because we’re not merely glancing through a stack of old bills or pieces of junk mail. We’re catching a glimpse of the juicy stuff – the stuff that’s typically forbidden and off limits to anyone but the recipients. In this case, the mail is a collection of letters from John to people in a church community that was struggling with serious issues. After determining the author, audience, and context, we’ll have a better sense of the setting of these letters. However, part of the fun of reading other people’s letters is guessing what is going on “on the other side”. From John’s epistles, a situation that he is earnestly trying to address begins to emerge and take shape. Issues and troubles come to light, but ultimately, we realize that in a very relevant way, John is talking to us. Today. In 2009.
As the years went by and the number of believers grew, John labored with increasing fidelity and earnestness for his brethren. The times were full of peril for the church. Satanic delusions existed everywhere. . . . Some who professed Christ claimed that His love released them from obedience to the law of God. On the other hand, many taught that it was necessary to observe the Jewish customs and ceremonies; that a mere observance of the law, without faith in the blood of Christ, was sufficient for salvation. Some held that Christ was a good man, but denied His divinity. Some who pretended to be true to the cause of God were deceivers, and in practice they denied Christ and His gospel. Living themselves in transgression, they were bringing heresies into the church. Thus many were being led into the mazes of skepticism and delusion.
John was filled with sadness as he saw these poisonous errors creeping into the church. He saw the dangers to which the church was exposed, and he met the emergency with promptness and decision. The epistles of John breathe the spirit of love. It seems as if he wrote with a pen dipped in love. But when he came in contact with those who were breaking the law of God, yet claiming that they were living without sin, he did not hesitate to warn them of their fearful deception.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 553, 554.
Sound familiar? From this one sided conversation, we can begin to piece together the important message that, though relayed thousands of years ago, is still relevant to our modern times. Be sure to stick around long enough this quarter to see what we can dig up just for you.