The Letters of John have traditionally been labeled “general” epistles because no specific destination is mentioned. An interpretation based on the assumption that these letters were written to the early church at large means that concepts such as love for fellow believers must be treated as generic, thus reducing them almost to platitudes. Reading the letters this way, one would not realize that the original author aimed his words at a very specific—and deadly serious—situation confronted by the group of local congregations to whom he ministered and for which he felt responsibility for oversight.
The issues the author confronted shook to the roots the very concept of Christian fellowship itself. They also involved a doctrinal controversy that would ultimately raise the question of the very way in which the Spirit was expected to operate in the ongoing life of the church. The answers arrived at by the author were grounded on eyewitness testimony to the person of Christ in the face of doctrinal innovation by his opponents. These conclusions call the church in every age back to the apostolic testimony about who Jesus is.
The reassurance the author gave his readers in the face of this opposition serves well to reassure later Christians of the genuineness of their faith and Christian experience. In these senses, at least, the Letters of John are truly “general” epistles.
- Title: 1, 2, 3 John Commentary
- Author: W. Hall Harris
- Publisher: Galaxie
- Publication Date: 2003
- Pages: 292