Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 524
Context: The author of this epistle was a man of great authority in early Church matters, and it is probable that he was also the author of the fourth Gospel. It is not known with certainty that he was John the Apostle; but if not, he was apparently either an eyewitness to much of Jesus' ministry or knew those who were. The present epistle forms part of a battle of the early Church to preserve its identity. Gnosticism was a growing religious movement of the time which sought to combine all religions and to embrace all religious systems and philosophies under a universal method. There were some able thinkers connected with it, and it offered something of a synthesis, capable of endless adaptation, and having some philosophical basis. It offered a kind of pantheism in which the various gods were represented by spiritual essences, and all manner of ceremonies were connected with it. Being more a method or system than a result, it could include both puritanical fanatics and debased libertines. There were early Christians who wished for such a tolerant arrangement; but John and his contemporaries saw a very real danger in it. If Christianity should be absorbed into such a system, its entire meaning and identity would cease to be important and would soon be destroyed. Too, there were opponents of Christianity who were promoting the Gnostic adoption of Christianity, probably for that very reason. This was a time when sects were proliferating, and most of the Gnostic-Christian groups had already withdrawn from the parent Church. John's epistle represents an effort on his part to strengthen those who remain faithful to it; he sets forth Christian principles simply and clearly for them, that they may not be tempted to abandon the Church in favor of a debased substitute.
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
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