With so many churches with different teachings emerging in recent days, how do we discern which ones are teaching correctly and which ones are not? How do we know that what is being preached on the pulpit every Sunday in our churches is really from God or not? Are you sure that your pastors or speakers invited to your churches are really preaching according to God’s Word?
Have we ever stopped and asked these questions? If we have not, perhaps it’s a good time to start doing so. Because if there were false teachers existing in John’s time, there certainly are more today!
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. (1 John 2:18)
When John wrote 1 John, an early form of Gnostic teaching was creeping into the church. Its central teaching was that spirit is entirely good and matter (physical body) is entirely evil. This has led to people believing that they can do anything (including breaking God’s law) and not face its moral consequences since the spirit still remains good. It also questions the true humanity of Jesus Christ, implying that Christ only “seemed” to have a body. Some believed that the divine Christ (spirit) joined with the man Jesus (body) at baptism and left Him before He died on the cross.
Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22-23)
Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does that is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. (1 John 3:7-8)
John was unapologetic in calling those who were spreading this teaching as antichrists (1 John 2:18,22; 2 John 7), liars (1 John 2:22), children of the devil (1 John 3:10), false prophets (1 John 4:1), deceivers (2 John 7). He was warning the church against such people and rebuking them of their immoral acts. John also reassured the church of their faith, reminded them of the love of God and calling them to love one another.
Reading how John was so concerned about these, I sometimes wondered if he would be sending me a similar letter today too. Have I grown numb that I have also started to accept any teaching that comes into my Christian Fellowship/church simply because it sounds good and pleases my heart? Have I stopped questioning and testing the words being preached on the pulpit and ask myself if it really is coming from the Word of God?
John reminds us…
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
God loves us so much and He does not want to see us living in sin, under the bondage of the devil. He wants us to be free and He has purchased this freedom with His own blood. And because of that, we are now free and have been given the privilege to be called His children (1 John 3:1). However, let us not forget that…
- our freedom did not come cheap – it took the life of our Lord Jesus Christ
- our freedom does not mean we live our lives simply as we please as we have been called to live for Christ, who gave up His life so that we can have life in Him
- our freedom could be taken away by the one who wants to snatch us away from Christ (and lead us to death) if we are not careful
How are you living your freedom?
Some TIPS on How To Read the letters of John
The letters of John are 3 separate letters believed to be written by the apostle John, who was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. Since they were written as letters, it would be best for us to also try reading them as if we’re reading a letter. Try reading each letter in one sitting.
You could start off with going through the whole of 1 John, before moving on to 2 John and 3 John respectively. Reading each letter by itself would help you look at the bigger picture of why he wrote each of those letters. Read as if you were one of the recipients of the letter. These letters were written to believers who looked up to John as their leader or spiritual father. Hence when you read each letter, approach it as if you were reading a letter sent to you by a leader whom you respect and would listen to.
It is also important to understand the context/background of why were the letters written. An early form of Gnostic teaching creeping into the church was the background that led to John writing his first letter, warning the believers of false teachers teaching what is opposing to the gospel. 2 & 3 John were letters asking the recipients of the letters to be discerning in welcoming missionaries into their home – to not receive false teachers, but welcome the brothers whom John had sent. You can refer to Bible commentaries to understand more about the background/context.
As 1 John is a whole letter in itself, it would be good if you read the whole letter in one sitting before breaking it into chunks to be read separately each day. 2 and 3 John can be read by itself respectively. Here’s a suggestion on how you could occupy 13 days of the month with the reading of these 3 letters:
|Day 1||Reading 1 John in one sitting|
|Day 2||1 John 1|
|Day 3||1 John 2:1-11|
|Day 4||1 John 2:12-17|
|Day 5||1 John 2:18-27|
|Day 6||1 John 2:28-3:10|
|Day 7||1 John 3:11-24|
|Day 8||1 John 4:1-6|
|Day 9||1 John 4:7-21|
|Day 10||1 John 5:1-12|
|Day 11||1 John 5:13-21|
|Day 12||2 John|
|Day 13||3 John|
At the end of each reading, please take a pause and write down what has stayed with you from the passage. It may be in the form of questions or verses or some things that spoke to your heart. It would also be good to ponder upon these questions:
- How is the situation in each letter similar to my Christian Fellowship/church/surroundings?
- What is the Lord asking of me today?