Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 33

Epistles of John (Part 2)

As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 33
Watching Now
Epistles of John (Part 2)

I. The Epistles of John

A. Emphases in John's Writings

[John's gospel vs. 1 John]

1. Deity of Christ vs. Humanity of Christ

2. Empowering believers to keep commands vs. Reminder against claims of sinlessness

3. Realized eschatology vs. Future eschatology

4. Guidance of the Holy Spirit vs. Test the spirits

B. Gnostic Doctrines vs. John's Tests of Life

1. Perfectionism vs. keep the commandments

2. Antinomianism vs. commandments and love

3. Docetism vs. belief in Christ's full humanity

C. The Tests of Life (1 John)

1. Keeping God's commandments

a. Cycle 1 - 1:5-2:6

b. Cycle 2 – 2:28-3:10

c. Cycle 3 – 5:16-21

2. Loving one another

a. Cycle 1 – 2:7-17

b. Cycle 2 - 3:11-24

c. Cycle 3 – 4:7-21

3. Believing in Jesus as the God-man

a. Cycle 1 – 2:18-27

b. Cycle 2 – 4:1-6

c. Cycle 3 – 5:1-15

[Each test entails the other two (3:23-24)]

D. Additional Notes on John's Letters

1. 1 John 1:9 – salvation vs. fellowship

2. 3:2 – moral not physical similarities

3. 4:4 – Spirit in us more powerful than Satan

4. 4:18 – love casting out fear

5. 5:6-7 – the Johannine "comma" and the meaning of the remaining text

6. 5:13 – present tense belief

7. 5:16 – not commanding prayer vs. commanding no prayer

8. 3 John 2 – spiritual vs. physical health

E. Gems from John (or are they??)

1. I John 3:6-9

2. 1 John 2:3-6

3. 1 John 2:16

4. 1 John 2:19

5. 1 John 2:20-23

6. 1 John 2:27

7. 1 John 3:17-18

8. 1 John 3:19-24

9. 1 John 4:1-4

10. 1 John 4:7-12

11. 1 John 5:16-17

12. 2 John 10-11

F. The Johannine Community

1. Gospel: contra schismatics

2. 1st Epistle: schismatics have begun to secede

3. 2nd Epistle: secessionists attacking from outside

4. 3rd Epistle: orthodoxy an embattled minority

5. Revelation: lost their first love

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Epistles of John (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript


This is the 33th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


Well, we skipped a lot of good things in 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, you might be saying. For one last time, we want to see how you would respond to snippets of exegesis or preaching that we have personally encountered on more than one occasion. But this time instead of telling you in advance that this is what we think may be right and what we think is wrong or telling you in advance as we have done a few times through the rhetorical or non-rhetorical questions, whether or not you chose to answer it. If you chose to answer it, then consider what’s wrong with these interpretations if we believe there is something wrong. We have a slide which is a condensed version of a series of brief exegesis’s entitled, ‘Gems from John’ or are they?


So evaluate each of these exegetical interpretative remarks, based on the passages identified and discuss these, especially if you are working in any kind of study group: 


  1. From 1st John 3:6-9, it’s possible for a Christian to attain a state or moral perfection in this life for at least a short period of time. And for a few for even a considerable period of time. Indeed if a person does not do so, they’ve not become a Christian. 
  2. From 1st John 2:3-6, salvation comes through obedience to Christ’s commands; salvation is not by faith alone as the reformer stated. In fact no Biblical passage ever puts the word ‘alone’ after faith, at least not in the original Greek. Passages like this one make it clear that salvation is by faith plus works.
  3. From 1st John 2:16, here we see the three major kinds of temptation in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. These are the three ways that Jesus was tempted; to turn stones into bread, to receive all the kingdoms of the world and have his life rescued from the stop of the temple. These were the three ways that Adam and Eve were tempted and failed. The fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom (Genesis 3:6). 
  4. From 1st John 2:19, this verse tips the scales in favor of Calvinism when it comes to the doctrine of eternal security. There are those who seem to be Christians, giving everything up for Christ, but this verse proves that they never were truly Christians or they would have persevered. 
  5. From 1st John 2:20-23, if Jews could be saved under the Old Covenant before Christ, the Cross of Christ surely didn’t exclude them from the Kingdom. Jews, therefore can be saved today also in the New Testament age by being faithful to the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law. Gentiles, however, since they were not given the covenant with the Jews, must acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah.
  6. From 1st John 2:27, you don’t need seminary or formal Bible study of any kind, not even this study; just be in tune with the spirit and you will be given all the instructions and guidance you will need. This verse states it plainly.
  7. From 1st John 3:17-18, good works don’t save but saving faith indelibly produces good works. John would agree with James on this point and also on the fact, the use of one’s material possessions forms exhibit A, sort of a prime example of those good works. 
  8. From 1st John 3:19-24, our consciences are not always trustworthy, sometimes we are not so bothered about things while at other times we are. One of the ways we can reassure ourselves, ‘when our hearts condemn us,’ unnecessarily, is by pointing to the good works that we do when it flows from our faith. If our faith seems frustratingly faltering, good deeds that we wouldn’t have done as a non-Christian can reassure us that we really have been transformed by God’s spirit. 
  9. From 1st John 4:1-4, the key to determine a person’s view of John is orthodox and able to save is determined on whether they believe in the full deity of Christ. 
  10. From 1st John 4:7-12, wherever there is true love, there is God.
  11. From 1st John 5:16-17, there are moral sins and there are venial sins, more specifically, there is one sin that cannot be forgiven, and in an extreme situation, a Christian can lose their salvation. 
  12. From 2nd John, verses 10-11, if JW’s or any other sectarian or historical unorthodox religious movement member comes to your door, don’t let him or her get beyond your door step. If you let them in your house to talk, you are in clear violation of these two verses.


Think about these, discuss them with others and listen to the following answers. All of them attempt to represent without exact quotation approaches that I’ve heard, usually from well-meaning Christians. 


  1. We talked some about 1st John 3-9 and we doubt that such a person would contradict him or herself in such a text. We also spoke in context with 5:13 about the continual nature of the present tense, particularly in moods outside the indicative, of which some appear in these verses. Along with this, is the information in the textbook, all of this points to the most common resolution to this problem among commentators; is see that what verses 6 and 9 and others like them, in part in the NIV, ‘no one who lives in him keeps on sinning,’ this needs to be explained in that it does not have sin as a characteristic lifestyle. The same would be true of the second clause, ‘no one who continues to sin’ or verse 9a, ‘those who are born of God will not continue to sin.’ Even though a literal interlinear translation of these texts in the Greek, would read more shockingly, something like, ‘those who are born of God will not sin.’ 


  1. In 1st John 2:3-6, we didn’t look at this text par say, but we did broach the topic in conjunction with the three tests of life more generally. One has to read the whole letter and see that it’s not just commands, not just faith, not just love; it is all three but that doesn’t mean that salvation is by all three. These are retrospective diagnostic tools for seeing if one’s faith has been genuine because if it is, the Spirit comes into a believer to empower them. Just that love and good works and a measure of obedience to God’s commands, not previously present, will take place. Just as we highlighted in our diagram comparing Paul and Galatians with the Judaizers; the works, the obedience to the commands flow from saving faith; thereby demonstrating its genuineness, they don’t contribute to it. They don’t combine with faith to produce initial salvation. Though, an observation in the Greek, the word ‘alone’ never does come with faith, though some English translations have added it. Indeed, the only place that the word ‘faith’ and ‘alone’ in the Greek are juxtaposed in the New Testament, paradoxically comes in James 2 in that infamous text where many see James as contradicting Paul, verse 24, ‘not by faith alone.’ But we discussed in regards to who was defining terms in what way. James, John and Paul, I am convinced, fundamentally all three agree that faith that does not produce love and good works was never saving faith from the outset and true saving faith will by necessity produce love and good works but not in any way that will be quantified, measured or determined to be adequate or inadequate by some objective standard that all people are measured. Because every individual’s circumstances needs time, activity, understanding and growth, but God will know and he will judge rightly. 


  1. In 1st John 2:16. I believe it’s basically true. It doesn’t mean that John consciously had the ‘Garden of Eden’ story or Jesus’ temptations in mind though he could have. But as long as one sees these as three broad representative areas, the improper satisfying of bodily appetites, the improper acquisitions of things that appear attractive to us and the general misplaced trust in this world rather than the world to come; it is hard to see temptation that could not readily fall into one of those categories. 


  1. 1st John 2:19 of course is more controversial depending whether one is a Calvinist or Armenian. The Armenians do not generalize to the same degree as the Calvinists and say yes, the logic is true for the teachers who are so far gone and the heresies that John is combating here, but not generalizable to every situation of apostasy. On the other hand, there was an extensive study assigned to this lecture in Houston Seminary years ago by an Armenian professor no less. Of the text, we are required to annualize, both from a Calvinist and Armenian perspective. This was the text that convinced me the Calvinist scheme better synthesized the fullness of the Biblical text on this doctrine than the Armenian one. But the reader must decide for him or herself. 


  1. For 1st John 2:20-23, I believe this point is completely false, because this is the text that refers to those not having the Son, not having the Father as well. If it was true that all Jews were saved before the coming of Christ, then there would be a problem; some would have been excluded when Christ died and resurrected by their rejection of him, but presumably the situation is made consistent by recognizing that a majority of the Jews in Jesus’ lifetime who encountered him, rejected him. And that the Old Testament regularly referred to the remnant alone that was truly right with God. So that it is very reasonable to believe those who rejected Christ and his Gospel after his coming; thereby demonstrated by that rejection that they had not been previously right with him or they would have had the spiritual insight and eyes to recognize their Messiah. And those words are not intended in any way to be anti-Semitic words. By definition, anti-Semitism means some negative or charge against Jews as a people whereas this view praises and commends all those Jews who did initially accept Jesus. Let’s not forget also that initially the Christian movement was entirely Jewish. 
  2. 1st John 2:27 is one of the more readily refutable ones. If it were true, then it would have been no point for John to be writing this either, because he is certainly teaching in the letter. It rather reflects the elitist and sectarian claims of the false teachers. John is saying, ‘don’t be led astray by those who would say that your understanding of Christian doctrine is inadequate and needs to be supplemented by these distinctive claims. You don’t need anyone to teach you in that way, the spirit’s anointing has already taught you about all things necessary for salvation, indeed for Christian maturity. 
  3. In 1st John 3:17-18. If what we said earlier about 2:3-6 is correct, then there should be no problem with the first part. Good works don’t save, but saving faith inevitably produces good works. Are our material processions ‘exhibit A’ of those good works; maybe not for every person in every situation? A lot depends on how you define ‘exhibit A’ or a prime example. If exhibit A defines it as the prime example or perhaps not if the point is the more modest one, how one uses their own money and material possessions is a key diagnostic, then it would seem to be quite true in keeping what we have seen in many previous New Testament texts.  
  4. What about (1st John 3:19-24) helping our consciences? This would seem simply to be a rephrasing of what we tried to suggest when we unpacked the intertwining of 3:23-24, though we phrased it differently enough, that, hopefully, it wasn’t so obviously a repeat of what we had already said.  
  5. For 1st John 4:1-4, the answer is yes but not if the key means the only test. We have already said that one needs to believe in Jesus as the God-Man and that it was the Gospel of John that emphasized his deity and it was 1st John that emphasizes his humanity. 
  6. In 1st John 4:7-12. Where there is true love, there is God. No, although love comes from God as seen in the middle of verse 7. Everyone who loves has been born of God; well…but isn’t God omnipresent? So yes, in that sense, God is everywhere. God is present where there is hatred. If that’s all that you interpreted the statement to mean, fair enough. But that’s not the exact point I wanted to show (perhaps this was a faulty question!). The point actually was to see, particularly if you have already read the textbook. If you picked up on the irreversible nature of the grammar of 4:8b; ‘God is love’ does not mean that ‘love is God’. Here, I will give reference to the movie, ‘the Life of Ray Charles’ or rather simply called ‘Ray’; an African American blind singer who came and went from the top of the charts for several decades with an unusually enduring popularity of generations of American and International Audiences. And, when I was a child, we used to have a little saying, ‘God is love, love is blind, Ray Charles is blind, and therefore Ray Charles is God.’ And sense this is not a class on philosophy; I’ll just leave that for you to debunk. But a key portion of it is the irreversibility of premises in an argument. The converse of a true statement is not necessarily true. ‘All cows eat grass’, may be true but ‘all creatures who eat grass are cows,’ is not true because other animals eat grass as well. So, just because ‘God is Love’, doesn’t mean that ‘Love is God’ and therefore in some amorphous nice feeling and touchy feel good, wherever there is vibrations of love, God is somehow uniquely present beyond his general omnipresence. It may be devil masquerading so as to trick people into something that quickly turn into an evil and hate filled process or it may something of merely human manufacture. 
  7. Moral sins and venial sins from 1st John 5:16-17? Yes, we have talked enough about this already so that you recognize the terminology, not necessarily in every single way that Catholics define them. For those of you who may have that background; we can’t prove it from the Bible alone, not from this text in 1st John. Is there a sin that cannot be forgiven? It appears to be; not only from Jesus’ teaching in Mark 3 but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But the experience of Judas and the teaching of apostasy in Hebrews 6 and that Calvinists and Armenians alike can agree on. But does that mean a Christian has lost their salvation? Well, that depends on which stand you take in regards to being a Calvinist or an Armenian. 
  8. And what about a secular cult member coming to your door? Well, again, hopefully you have understood from the readings but if not you will and hopefully you will remember it. 2nd John is written to a house church and therefore this refers to the false teachers, the heretics returning and coming into the worship service but not only coming in but bringing a teaching and being welcomed in the sense of being given a platform to share and promote that false teaching. In the context of simply welcoming the silent visitor who reflects some other world view into one’s church, this can be a very good thing, a chance for them to hear the Gospel, truly proclaimed and promoted. The same is true for a private home, so they might in both cases see also the welcome of one who does have the love of the true God in them. 


I hope you have found this helpful and different from our more common format. We close with a new slide labeled the ‘Johannian Community’, which will also set up our final lecture on the Book of Revelation, the last of the Johannian documents and the last book of the New Testament and the Bible as well. If we are right as we have suggested in our earlier textbook and accompanying lecture series of the Gospels and Acts that the Gospel of John was itself initially written against those who were attempted to cause division in the community, including though not limited to some from the emerging Gnostic mindset. Then it is quite plausible to apply the insights of our first PowerPoint slide in this presentation of seeing the problem having actually worsened, at least, among some who took with those, an area where John tried to establish common ground with Gnostic thought and exaggerated them all out of proportion to John’s intention and without balancing doctrines such that in his first epistle, he has to balance out his teaching on those doctrines. And where he is not successful in doing so, he sees people walking out the door as it were and indeed we know from text like 1st John 2:19 that he knows that some have already left. Some of the people causing schisms, the schematics have begun to leave the church. 


If we are right in our understanding of 2nd John, particularly verses 9-10 and 11, then some of these have now returned and are attacking from the outside, trying to come back in and influence the church to join them in their Gnostic like communities of faith. In the 3rd Epistle, because Diotrephes loves to be first but puts out the orthodox believers and refuses to let those who is coming in from the outside, at least in this single house church and maybe on a more wider scale in the community. In and around Ephesus, Orthodoxy has become an embattled minority. 


To anticipate where we are going with the Book of Revelation, its letter addresses the church in Ephesus, the first of the seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3, we can see that ultimately the believers in Ephesus stem the tide, an orthodox church remained, thriving enough and significant enough that John would address one of his seven letters to them. It is by no means in the worst of conditions of the seven letters that John pens, but the famous phrase, if nothing else is remembered from Revelation chapter 2:1-7 is in verse 4, ‘yet I hold this against you, you have forsaken the love you’ve had at first.’ And there may be an emotional dimension to this, they’ve grown weary from testing the spirits and they have not tolerated wicked people (verse 2). They’ve tested those who claimed to be apostles but are not and found them to be false and thus there may be a sense which, emotionally, their love has run somewhat cold. It is interesting to see the identical intertwining of love and good deeds and faith that we have seen in the previous Johannian literature as the remedy in verse 5 of Revelation 2 is to repent, to do the things you did first. Behave in the ways he did before. Treat each other well; whatever your feelings may be, this is primarily about love expressing itself in deed and in action. 


Our printed notes add another invisible circle to this diagram, if you like, and that is the state of the Ephesian church near the end of the 2nd century, less than a hundred years after the New Testament writings, in which, as best as we can tell, the church died out or nearly died out altogether in Ephesus; in part, because the city was becoming less significant and people were moving as the harbor was silting over. That is at least one common reason from historical evidence, though it has been disputed. But also perhaps because of some of these recurring battles with heterodoxy and with the tests of life. And yet, such a dramatic paradox, Ephesus the church, even just within the first century alone had more apostolic witness than any other church. Paul spent his longest period of time there. Tradition suggests that Peter had a stay there in route to points further west. Apollos spent time there along with John in perhaps two or three decades of his life, depending on how we read church tradition. No other church came close to having so many apostles for so many decades with so much time in ministry and yet it did not last. It goes back to our principles in 2nd Timothy; the church in any location is always one generation away from extinction, if the current generation does not prepare the next one. But there is another back handed word of encouragement that is crucial for people in ministry, however broadly defined. And that is, many times we can give it our best effort and through no fought of our own or certainly no significant fought of our own, we have tried hard for a prolonged period of time and things just don’t work the way it seems they ought to or the way we know it ought to. And there are many such times in the ministry of faithful Christian’s lives and one of the most important things to remind ourselves and others in those situations are: God is sovereign and gives protective guidance that guarantees the kind of success for which we so often look. As Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, loved to say for many decades, ‘God never called us to be successful, certainly not by worldly standards, sometimes not even by standards that he deemed successful in one particular location, but not in another.’ Bright went on to say, ‘he never called us to be successful, but he called us to be faithful.’ Or another saying, who knows if these were originally with Bill or he got them from elsewhere. ‘Evangelism, the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel, is the sharing of the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.’ Or in more Biblical language of 1st Corinthians 3, ‘Apollos watered, but only God gives the increase.’ May that comfort as well as challenge us in our ministries today and in the future in Jesus name. Amen.