Lectionary Year B
May 28, 2000
1 John 5:1-6

Step IV: Broader Context


(JFC) A. PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY

It was earlier cited that the first generations of Christians are maturing and some members are dead and others are approaching death by the time 1 John appears on the scene. Believers have grown in attempts to practice the very high principles Jesus left for them. The aging members are gaining in wisdom, born out of experiences, experiments and attempts to remain faithful to original teachings by the Teacher par excellence. Yet, their practices need evaluating and examining, re: those principles and teachings. Consequently, 1 John highlights some of those principles and teachings Jesus generated.

Also, 1 John challenges some of the weaknesses, dilutions, if not pollution the Christian movement is noted to have suffered. Docetism, Gnosticism and apathy in the general populations throughout the then known world are challenging the tenants of the Christian faith. The water and blood issue in verse 6b gets elucidated by Reginald Fuller (Preaching the New Lectionary) who states, "a polemic thrust: it refutes those who say that Jesus Christ came by water only, not by water and blood. ‘Came by water' is probably a reference to Jesus' baptism; ‘Came by blood' to his crucifixion. There were false teachers in the environment of the Johannine church who asserted that Christ was baptized but not crucified." Evidently, 1 John has a major task, here, for, apparently, many mistakes and/or problems have resulted as time began to take its toll on the fledgling movement we know as early Christianity.

(JFC) B. OT/JUDAISM

Amos N. Wilder says in The Interpreter's Bible, vol. 12, Introduction to 1 John, "the Epistle has almost no allusions to the Old Testament and lacks evidence of Semitic style." The concepts of child of God, childhood in general and commandment(s) of God are familiar to the Old Testament oriented Jew. Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 30:11, Moses tells the wilderness wanderers, "It is not impossible to obey God's Laws." Seems like the end of 1 John 5:3 quotes that affirmation.

(JFC) C. HELLENISTIC WORLD

As before, we note dualities in this passage which, surely, would get the Hellenists' attention. The element of "knowing" about loving, even, might keep them interested in listening to, reading about, discussing these thoughts. 1 John 5:2 seems to anticipate a question from the readers/hearers of these statements; Hellenists could appreciate such methods of dialogical communication. They might well wonder about defeating the world by such meager ammunition as faith and by those being only "born of God" - not very impressive resourcing and/or preparatory training for such battles as against the evils of this world, though.

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