In addition to his Gospel and the Book of Revelation, John wrote three epistles that are included in the New Testament known simply as 1st John, 2nd John, and 3rd John. These short letters were written in Ephesus before John was banished to Patmos. In the Gospels, John was described as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” so he clearly had a special bond with Jesus. John continued to have an impact on the earliest Christians as we see throughout the New Testament.
Combatting False Teaching
False teachers were a problem in early Christianity. Since there was no complete New Testament yet for Christians to refer to, many churches fell prey to pretenders who taught their own ideas and advanced themselves as leaders. John wrote his first letter to set the record straight on some important issues, particularly concerning the identity of Jesus Christ — the Son of God.
Because John’s first letter was about the basics of faith in Jesus Christ, it helped his readers reflect honestly on their own faith. It helped them answer the question, “Are we true believers?” John told them that they could tell by looking at their actions. If they loved one another, that was evidence of God’s presence in their lives. But if they bickered and fought all the time, or were selfish and did not look out for one another, they were lying to themselves about their relationship with God.
That didn’t mean they had to be perfect. In fact, John also recognized that being a follower of Jesus involved admitting our wrongs and seeking God’s forgiveness. He said:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
The Next Letters
In his second letter, John made an urgent plea for Christians to show their love for God and his son Jesus by obeying the commandment to love each other and live their lives in obedience to the Scriptures. 2nd John was also a strong warning to be on the lookout for deceivers who were going about saying that Jesus Christ had not actually risen from the dead. They were saying his resurrection was more like people seeing a ghost – a spiritual Jesus of some sort. John was very clear that those teachings were false and that Christians should have nothing to do with them.
In his third letter, John addressed three specific people. First, he encouraged a co-worker named Gaius. Gaius was a church leader commended for his hospitality to traveling teachers. Second, John condemned the behavior of some guy named Diotrephes, a nasty man who had taken over one of the churches, probably in Asia Province. His behavior was directly opposed to the truth of the Gospel and John was using him as a warning. Third, John praised the actions of a guy named Demetrius. Everyone seemed to give Demetrius a good report about his role in the church, so John used him as an example for other Christians to follow.
John’s third epistle is only 13 verses long, but John used this final short letter to emphasize the importance of protecting and preaching the truth of the Gospel. He said,
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)