The Letters of John Overview

From Peter Kreeft’s You Can Understand the Bible:


First John – Sharing God’s Very Life

Profound, yet simple letter addressed to his spiritual children written by the Apostle John in his old age.

One of John’s purposes is to combat Gnosticism – that taught that matter was evil, that God had not created the material world, and that Jesus could not possibly be God incarnate.

The fundamental theme of John’s letter is the essence of religion: a relationship with God, union with God, fellowship with God, sharing God’s life.

John uses three terms to describe God and the life of God that Christians share through Christ: light, life, and love. These are three things everyone needs and wants more than anything else in the world. Their opposites, falsehood, death and hate, are the three worst things in the world. Jesus is the answer to how to avoid these.


Second John – God’s Command – Love

This letter is addressed to “the elect lady and to her children” – probably referring to a local church. Love means for John not first of all a feeling but obedience o God’s commands. (v. 6). But God’s command is to love. Love is also discerning, not naive. It needs sound doctrine. Love needs truth. John, therefore, writes against the same false teachings as in 1st John (v. 7).


Third John – Our Basic Choice

Shortest book in the Bible. This letter is a personal note in response to a situation that had come up in the churches in Asia minor. John writes this letter to praise and thank Gaius for living in the truth (v.3) and to warn against Diotrephes, who tells lies (v. 10).


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