1, 2, 3 John the Christology of Christ and false teachers

[I am writing about] what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life [the One who existed even before the beginning of the world, Christ]—and the Life [an aspect of His being] was manifested, and we have seen [it as eyewitnesses] and testify and declare to you [the Life], the eternal Life who was [already existing] with the Father and was [actually] made visible to us [His followers]. (1 John 1:1-3 AMP)

Unless otherwise cited all Bible references are from the Amplified Version of the Bible.


The apostle didn’t speak to something that someone told him about he wrote about what he saw when he penned 1, 2, and 3 John.

Why did John write these books? Who were his opponents? 

Andreas Köstenberger,  J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles identified the occasion for the writing of 1 John as the exiting of the “false teachers” from the church at Ephesus; due to the heresy of the false teachers the church experienced theological and psychological “duress” (1 John 2:19: 793).

Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles purported that the intended purpose of  letter was to encourage the brethren to adhere to the excellent command; as His children they were to live a life of love because (1 John 4:8 and John 17:17) declared that God is love and truth; furthermore, Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles iterated that John reminded them that they were indeed “in the Son” and that he wrote to them to clarify that this knowledge brought them the assurance of eternal life; the theologically besieged brethren needed reassurance and exhortation of their eternal destination and why they could be assured of that goal  (792).

Today Christians are surrounded by all sorts of persons reporting that they are apostles and are clamoring for the ears of God’s people.  Beware of false prophets brethren.  Beware of false theology and heresy.

What was the nature of the opponents’ doctrine and how did John respond to it?

Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles declared that the certainty of the nature of the false teaching was not tenable; however, identifiable “characteristics” of “secessionists” could be referenced and applied to the false teachers (793).

  1. First, relationally the “secessionists” did not have an established vertical relationship with God evidenced by their refusal to obey his commandments. Have you met anyone who has point blank refused to love their neighbor as themselves?  Loving our unsaved neighbor as ourselves means we are willing to share the Gospel with them too.
  2. Second, a lack of adherence to the excellent command dictated a separation between the “secessionists” and Jesu. Do you know anyone who refuses to do that? Why? Jesus commanded us to share the Gospel – that is not the preacher’s job.
  3. Third, the false teachers did not love the brethren or they would not have lied to them 1 John 2:9-10; 3:10;4:7.  They would have sought God’s best for them by speaking the truth of His word.
  4. They denied the atoning nature of  The Lord’s death on the cross.

Another possibility is that the secessionists subscribed to a Christology that denied the atoning merit of the cross. This is hinted at in the confession in 1 John 5:6, “He is the One who came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and by blood.” Again, John was scrupulous to deny an understanding of Christ that viewed him as having come “by water only” and not also “by blood,” which seems to indicate a rejection of the sacrificial and substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death for others. This flowed from a rejection of the notion of sin (794-795).

Scholars presented the argument that the “false teachers” gave a new theological construct that

  • “compromised the uniqueness of the person and work of Jesus Christ”;
  • a new morality that “minimized the importance of sin;
  • they claimed to have fellowship with God despite their immoral behavior”;
  • and, finally, a new spirituality that “resulted in spiritual arrogance (794-795).

John iterated that the brethren needed to acknowledge both God the Father and God the Son (794-5).


2 John 8-9 indicates that John’s continued discourse with the brethren about the controversy: “Watch yourselves, so that you do not lose what we have accomplished together, but that you may receive a full and perfect reward [when He grants rewards to faithful believers]. Anyone who runs on ahead and does not remain in the doctrine of Christ [that is, one who is not content with what He taught], does not have God; but the one who continues to remain in the teaching [of Christ does have God], he has both the Father and the Son.”

The heretical teaching of this “new theology” so disturbed John that he wrote,

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).

Do we see this same trend today in many churches?  I beg to proffer that we do.   Contend for the faith that was once delivered to you brethren.  Read the Bible for yourself.  Do not listen to anything that anyone feels that they need to interpret for you.  The Holy Spirt leads, guides, and directs our path as we open our minds to the word of God.   It is our guidebook.  Read the entire book of 1 John


Köstenberger, Andreas J., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2009.

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