Week 23: General Letters (continued)

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Overview

This week you will read the three epistles of John (author of the Gospel of John) and the epistle of Jude. First John was likely read by the church in Ephesus and its surrounding churches; it reassures believers that if they keep God’s commandments, love their brothers, and believe in Jesus as the Son of God, they can know that they have been born again. The short letters of 2 & 3 John contain similar themes. Jude writes to encourage Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) despite the ungodly influence of false teachers.

Reading & Summaries

READ: 1 JOHN 1:1-2:17

John and the apostles, eyewitnesses of Christ, proclaim him to us so that we may share in their fellowship with the Father and the Son. God is light, so we too must walk in the light of holiness. If we confess our sins and obey the truth of God, the blood of Jesus will cleanse us from all sin.

John wrote that we would not sin; but if anyone sins, Jesus is our advocate, pleading our case before the Father. By keeping God’s commandments, loving our brothers, and rejecting worldly desires, we experience confidence that we are truly saved.

Inductive Bible study: As you read 1 John, track the following words: “know” (BLUE), “sin” (PINK), “love” (GREEN).

READ: 1 JOHN 2:18-4:6

Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, come in the flesh, is an anitchrist. As God’s true children, we practice righteousness and do not continue in sin. Those who abide in God will love others in deed and in truth, believe in the name of Jesus, and keep God’s commandments. Christians must discern false spirits that deny the truth about Jesus.

Key Concept — Definition of Sin: John writes, “sin is lawlessness” (3:4). When John uses the word “sin,” he describes a deliberate act of disobedience. Sin “properly so-called” is a willful transgression of the known law of God. While the blood of Jesus covers “sins of ignorance” (Lev. 5:17-18), the normal meaning of the word “sin” in the Bible is choosing to do something that we know to be wrong or refusing to do something that we know to be right.

READ: 1 JOHN 4:7-5:20

God is love, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins; if his love abides in us, we are his children. His love casts out our fear about the judgment so that we can be confident when we stand before him. Those who walk in love, keep God’s commandments, and believe in Jesus will overcome the world through faith. The Spirit of God testifies to the truth about Jesus; whoever has Jesus has life and does not continue in sin that leads to death.

READ: 2 & 3 JOHN

2 John: John writes to “the elect lady and her children” to express his joy that his children are walking in the truth. God’s commandment is that we love one another. We should watch for deceivers who deny truth about Christ. John offers greetings and shares his intention to visit face to face.

FAQ — Who is “the elect lady” to whom John writes? This most likely refers to a church. John refers elsewhere to the church as a bride (Rev. 21:2); the Greek word for church is feminine; and 2 John 13 refers to an “elect sister,” likely a sister congregation.

3 John: John writes to Gauis. He expresses that his greatest joy is to hear that his children are walking in truth. He commends those who support the truth and calls out those who oppose it. John offers greetings and shares his intention to visit face to face.

READ: JUDE

Jude declares God’s judgment on false teachers. Christians must persevere in the face of ungodliness, showing mercy on unbelievers. Jude concludes with a Doxology.

Inductive Bible study: As you read Jude, track the words “ungodly” and “ungodliness.” Highlight each occurrence in PINK.

Study Exercises

When exercises require a written response, record your answers in a journal or email them to a pastor or class leader who will provide you with feedback.

  1. What questions do you have about this week’s reading?
  2. What reasons does John give for writing his epistle (1:4; 2:1; 5:13)?
  3. What are tests that Christians may use to know that they are truly saved (2:3, 5-6; 3:14, 21; 4:7)?
  4. What does 2 John 1:10-11 teach us about fellowshipping with false teachers?
  5. In light of 3 John 1:4, what is the best way for you to bless your pastor?
  6. Access John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible from The Wesley Center Online. What insights does Wesley provide about the meaning of 1 John 1:7? 1 John 2:2? 1 John 3:21?
  7. According to Jude 20-21, how do we keep ourselves in the faith?
  8. Who is ultimately responsible for those who are kept in the faith (Jude 24)?