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[Editors Note: This is part two in W. H. Griffith Thomas’ comments on 1st John. Part one can be found here.]

The Epistle of 1st John is confessedly difficult to analyze. Professor Law, in his fine book, “The Tests of Life,” thinks the key to the interpretation is that the Epistle gives certain tests by which the question of the Christian life may be settled. These are three—doing righteousness, loving one another, and believing in Christ. They are dealt with respectively in 1:5; 2:28; 2:29; 4:6; 4:7; 5:21. Dr. Law suggests that there are three cycles of thought running through the Epistle. First, we have the idea of walking in the light as tested in three ways—by Righteousness, Love, Belief. Then comes the thought of Sonship, tested in the same threefold way. And last of all come the inter-relations of Righteousness, Love, and Belief.

It is suggested that the sections as given above by Dr. Law reveal an ethical and a doctrinal test in each case. Thus, from 1:5 to 2:27 we have the ethical test of walking in the light (1:5 to 2:17) and the doctrinal test of faith in Christ (2:18-27). In the second section we have the ethical test of doing righteousness (2:28 to 3:24) and the doctrinal test of the Spirit confessing Christ (4:1-6). In the third section we have both the ethical and the doctrinal tests combined. Love is shown to be based on life (4:7-21), and life is proved to be based on faith (5:1-12).

The essential feature of the Epistle is that it affords three proofs or tests of assurance, and in this respect it is particularly valuable as guarding against that purely emotional variableness that tends to seek the ground of assurance within. The old introspective verse was sadly at fault in the light of this Epistle: ‘Tis a point I long to know. Often causes anxious thought, Do I love the Lord or no? Am I his or am I not?’

There is nothing like a thorough study of this Epistle to enable the soul to answer this question with confidence and certainty without once looking within or giving itself “anxious thought.” The following is a brief outline suitable for this purpose:

1. Introduction (1: 1-4)

2. First proof of the Christian life. Obedience (1:5 to2:6)

(a) Negative. Sin must be out.

(b) Positive. Righteousness must be in (2: 3. 5)

3. Second proof of the Christian life. Love. (2:7 to 3:24)

(a) Negative. Love not the world.

(b) Positive. Love the brethren (3: 14, 19)

4. Third Proof of the Christian life. The Holy Spirit. (3: 24 to 5:l2.)

(a) Negative. The false spirit.

(b) Positive. The true Spirit (3:24; 4: 13)

5. Conclusion (5:13-21)

It will be seen that these three proofs refer in turn to God, to others, to ourselves, and this is the proper order of the spiritual life. Obedience is the first result of faith. Love comes next. Then the possession of the Holy Spirit is the third, last, and in some respects the deepest.



continue reading the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Calvary Southampton

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