Truth and Action

1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Historical Background

I don’t know how many of you read the bulletin ahead of time, but our scriptures for this morning are from 1 John and the Gospel of John. And I’m sure some of you are wondering: What’s the difference?

Most of the books in the New Testament of the Bible fall into two categories: gospels and letters; in church, we also use the word epistle. The gospels all narrate the events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The other major category of books in the New Testament is epistles, or letters. Think of the letters of the Apostle Paul, such as Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, etc. Some epistles were written to congregations, while others were addressed to individuals.

So, the difference is that John, the Gospel of John, is an account of Jesus’ life and ministry, while the epistles of John—1 John, 2 John, and 3 John—are letters attributed to someone named John. In fact, at no point in the letters does the author identify himself. That’s also true for the Gospel of John.

Many scholars believe that the letters and the Gospel were written by two different people, though it is very likely that both were part of the same Christian community, possibly in the city of Ephesus. I accept this assertion, and if you’d like more information on this, I’d be happy to sit down and discuss it.

Why is this relevant? The Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John were written in a community in crisis. They were probably written in the last decade of the first century, or so—let’s say between the years 90 and 100. This is about the time that the name Christian is first applied to these early congregations.