"Assurance is not essential to salvation, but it is essential to the joy of salvation," as Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said. John, who was by this time probably the last surviving apostle, wrote his first epistle to those who believed in the name of the Son of God in order that they might know that they possessed eternal life.
In these days of spiritual and moral decline we stand in particular need of the message of John's epistles. We need to test ourselves first to see where we stand before God and then, with charity of heart and clarity of mind, we need to test the claims of others, too. That is why John's epistles are so important for us. With good reason, Martin Luther wrote of 1 John, "I have never read a book written in simpler words than this one, and yet the words are inexpressible."
In this commentary Peter Barnes shows how John gave his readers three main tests so that they could come to assurance of salvation and could tell, among the conflicting claims of different groups within the church, who was right and who was wrong on spiritual matters. These three themes of right belief, love, and obedience also figure prominently in John's shorter, and more personal, second and third epistles.
“The Christian faith is not just about ideas. It does not matter too much when Confucius or Buddha lived, nor how they died; what matters is their teaching; not so with Christianity. When the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of what he had delivered to them first of all, he spoke of Christ who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, of his burial and his rising from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3–4). The Christian faith is not simply a set of ideas about daily living; it is the proclamation of Christ and his coming into the world as a fact of history.” (Page 13)
“Many professing evangelicals today think that the first thing we need to tell the world about God is that his very nature is love, that he loves everybody equally and that we need to respond to that love by inviting Jesus into our hearts.” (Page 19)
“The word ‘Docetist’ comes from the Greek word dokeo which means ‘I think’, ‘I seem’ or ‘I appear’. In 1 Corinthians 12:22 Paul uses this word when he writes of those members of the body which ‘seem to be weaker’ but which ‘are necessary’. In the case of the Docetists, they taught that Christ appeared to be a man but was not truly human.” (Page 9)
“Assurance is not something we receive simply by saying we believe in Jesus. A growing obedience will lead to a humble, yet growing assurance.” (Page 33)
“Fellowship is not based on a shared view of the form of church government, or of baptism, but on Christ and his inerrant Word.” (Page 17)
Peter Barnes has written an excellent commentary on John's epistles. It is a thorough, stimulating, and informed study of these epistles. His is a valuable tool for pastors, students, and laymen. I heartily recommend it.
—John D. Currid, Associate Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi