The Church in St. Louis

But to Him who is able to do superabundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power which operates in us. - Eph 3:20

The Apostle John's Writing

Background


"John's burden in writing was not to give further teachings...He wanted to speak about a Christ who was so present, so available, so subjective, and ready to be enjoyed....." 


We recently looked at the context and burden of John's writings in the Bible. At that time, the situation was very confusing. On one hand there were many churches that had been raised up by Paul and many teachings by Paul explaining God's plan and will.  On the other hand there was the influence of James in Jerusalem, which was emphasizing the traditional practices and views of Judaism. There were the Judaizers, who went to and fro, damaging many of the churches that Paul raised up. In addition to this, you had many others who were circulating teachings with various emphases. The churches were in a state of upheaval and turmoil.  When John prepared to write, about 90 A.D., James, Peter and Paul had all been martyred and everyone was in a state of confusion as to what to follow, and what to do. Seemingly there was no way to go on. It was into this situation that John wrote his gospel and epistles.


John's burden in writing was not to give further teachings.  In a sense, the saints had enough teachings. He knew their hearts needed to be comforted, and they needed to be brought back to the living person of Christ.  It was clear that no matter how clear you were about the teachings, if you didn't have this living Person, you were in darkness, because He alone is the real light.  He wanted to speak about a Christ who was so present, so available, so subjective, and ready to be enjoyed. Every item in his writing was subjective and something that he had personally experienced. Although everything He wrote seems so divine and mystical, it is all experiential with nothing theoretical.


The purpose of his writing was simple.  According to what he said in 1 John, he wrote those things that they might have fellowship (1 John 1:3), and that their "joy may be made full." (1 John 1:4.)  The two things that had been damaged through all of the turmoil were the fellowship and the joy. And the way for John to address them was to bring them back to "that which was from the beginning." (1 John 1:1).  This is the One whom they have heard, saw with their eyes, and handled with their hands, which is the "Word of Life". It?s as if he was saying: "You all have so many words and so much theory, but you have been wounded by it.  Let me tell you about the Word I have. This isn't a theoretical word, it's a living word ? a Person, that is so real and tangible. He is the very eternal Life that was with the Father and was manifested to us. Only if you know Him in a living way will you be in the light, and have the fellowship, and have anything meaningful and real. This word is God's explanation of Himself, and this word will bring you into contact with Himself. This word is not for you to know, or to give you a subject to be tested on, or to give you a set of instructions that you can follow.  This word is God's manifestation to us. It is His light shining on us. It is His manifestation to us. It is the source of everything healthy for us."


When John spoke of the Word of Life, he was speaking of the Christ that he had experienced.  Of all the disciples, perhaps John was most qualified to write from experience. He was a cousin of the Lord, and was probably acquainted with him throughout his life, even before Jesus? earthly ministry.  We know from the gospels that his relationship with the Lord was one of affection and love. He was called the "disciple that the Lord loved" (John 21:20) and we see scenes in which he leaned on the Lord's breast.  Also, the scene at the cross spoke volumes concerning the relationship he had with the Lord. All the disciples had fled and were in hiding, but John was standing in front of the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus, watching him die.  John said in his epistles, ?perfect love casts out fear". (1 John 4:18)  John didn't have any fear of the Roman authorities at the time of the Lord's death, and he wasn't afraid to be associated with Him; he only cared for the One he loved.  Jesus' speaking to John from the cross was amazing in John 19:25-27.  To Mary He said, "woman, behold your son"; and to John, he said "behold your mother".  He was telling them that John would take care of Mary from that point on. It seems strange that Jesus would establish this with John rather than his natural brothers, James and Jude and the others. This showed how highly Jesus valued, trusted and loved John, that he would trust him with His mother above even his brothers according to the flesh. This revealed something about the intimacy of John and the Lord.
 

This intimacy with the Lord continued after the Lord's resurrection and was intensified when the Lord breathed Himself into the disciples and said "receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:22)  John is the only one who recorded this point of the impartation of the Lord's essence into his disciples in the Gospel . While we don't see John playing a very visible role in Acts, we know that he stood with the disciples in their work.  Eventually we know that John had a further encounter with the Lord on  Patmos, where His glory and His administration as the ascended, enthroned Christ was fully revealed.


From His writing we can see that His stress was mostly the intrinsic union with the Lord (rather than outward activity), and of all of the disciples perhaps he had experienced this in the fullest measure. John was the one qualified to say that he knew the Lord from the beginning.  He knew him as an affectionate family member in his human life growing up, he knew him in his earthly ministry as his disciple, he knew him in the most dramatic display of love from the cross, he knew Him in resurrection as the one who had breathed Himself into the disciples and now dwelled in them, and He knew Him in ascension with all of His authority.  He had a full view of Christ in His entire process.
 

This was the background of the person who wrote the gospel of John and 1, 2 and 3 John. He was much more concerned with who this Person was and how He could be known and experienced than he was with any kind of teaching. His intention was to reveal this person as the antidote to all the hearts that had been troubled by all of the teaching and practices, good or bad.

On to Message 2