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Sabbath School Lessons on 1, 2 & 3 John
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 38 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 1: Jesus and the Johannine Letters *
Introduction: Have you ever gotten a phone message that seems
important, but the person forgot to leave their name or phone
number? What about people who call you and don't say who they are?
What about fax messages to the "main office" fax machine that are
not addressed to you? These things annoy me because it makes it more
difficult to receive and understand the full message. Our study of
the book of 1 John presents a similar problem: it does not clearly
say who wrote it. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see
what we can learn about this mysterious messenger and his(?)message!
- Bible Detectives
- Read 1 John 1:1. What clues do we find about the author
of this book? (The "Word of Life" must mean Jesus, so
this was an eye witness to Jesus. Someone close enough
to claim to have listened to Jesus and even touched Him.
That considerably narrows the list of potential authors.)
- Is there more than one author? What is this "we"
business? As in "we have heard," "we have seen,"
"we have looked?" (The author must think that people
will identify him as part of a group.)
- Is there a clue in the very fact that the author
does not say who he is? (People who call me and who
do not say their name are people who think I already
know their voice. What they don't know is that I
cannot distinguish some voices on the telephone.
This author, this "we," believes that those to whom
this book is written know him. That is a clue that
this is one of Jesus' disciples, an apostle. Being
an apostle is to be a member of a clearly known
- Read John 1:1-2. Now re-read 1 John 1:1. What clue do we
have here about the author? (The two books have a similar
"beginning" and use similar "Words." This is a clue that
the apostle John was the author of both books.)
- Read 2 John 1:1 and 3 John 1:1. What clue do we find in
the term "elder?" (The author is "the elder." That is
pretty cryptic, but we are making more progress in our
- What does "the elder" suggest to you? This is more
evidence that the author is a respected leader of
the Christian community who believes that he needs
very little introduction.)
- Barnes Notes, in his introduction to the epistles of
John, tells us that prominent Christian leaders, as early
as the second century, referred to the apostle John as
the author of these three letters. We need not go into
this in more detail, because there is little doubt that
the apostle John is the author of these epistles.
- Jesus and John
- Re-read 1 John 1:1. If we are right that Jesus is "the
Word of Life," what does John say about Jesus? (That
Jesus was there from the start.)
- The start of what? The ministry of Jesus on earth?
(Read John 1:1-4. John means Jesus was present from
the beginning of the universe and that Jesus
- Both in 1 John 1:1 and John 1:1 Jesus is called the
"Word." Any idea why? (Read Genesis 1:1-3. Genesis tells
us that God spoke the universe into existence. Calling
Jesus "Word" or "Word of life" credits Him with the power
to create the universe by merely speaking.)
- Think about that a minute. John also says in 1 John
1:1 that he has heard, seen and touched Jesus. Does
it seem reasonable that John should claim Jesus
spoke the universe into existence if Jesus is
someone who could be touched by humans? (Right at
the beginning John makes the most extraordinary
claim for Jesus: that He is our Creator.)
- Does John think that the Genesis account is some
sort of "creation myth" given to primitive humans to
tell them that God was generally supervising the
evolutionary process? (John makes the claim that the
universe was created by verbal command - and that
Commander was Jesus.)
- John must think this subject is important if he
starts out both his gospel and his first
epistle on this topic. Why is this issue
(Creation vs. Evolution) important? (It has
everything to do with the power of God and
God's claim to authority over humanity. Either
we serve a God who has the power to speak the
universe into existence, and has spoken us into
existence, or we serve a God who is more like
us - limited in our abilities.)
- If evolution is a correct theory of origin,
what reason is there to believe a God exists?
(This is one of those "grand theory" answers
which you either understand or you do not. If
the universe came about by chance, then there
is no need to believe in a God. However, if
the universe was created, then you know a God
(of some type) exists. Naves catalogs 104 Bible
texts (under "Creator"), ranging from Genesis
to Revelation, where God either directly or
indirectly stakes His claim to authority over
humans on the fact of His Creation. John
understands this clearly, many so-called
Christians these days do not.)
- Read 1 John 1:1-2. John tells us that the "Word of Life"
"appeared" and was seen, heard and touched by John and
others. What other reason might John refer to Jesus as
the "Word of Life?" (Words are tools to communicate. John
is telling us that Jesus is giving us a message from
- What role does John play in the work of the Word?
(Just as Jesus communicates meaning and
understanding about God the Father, so John repeats
these important messages to us.)
- John, the Reliable Witness about Jesus.
- Lets assume that you had a UFO ("Unidentified Flying
Object") encounter last night. Also assume that you and I
do not know each other. You want me to believe your story
and I'm pretty skeptical. What would you say to make me
believe? (Since we do not know each other, you
cannot appeal to my trust in
you. So you have to appeal to
what makes a trust-worthy
- Lets look at the law a minute. There are a few rules
that help the fact-finder focus on reliable,
competent evidence. These rules exclude the fact-finder from even hearing very unreliable,
incompetent evidence. One well-known evidentiary
rule is the "Rule Against Hearsay."
- What does the hearsay rule exclude? (Testimony from
people who are not in the courtroom. If you are the
one who saw or heard the evidence, you have to be in
court to be able to talk about it. I can't testify,
"My Uncle Bob saw that the light was red." If Bob
saw it, he has to be the one in court declaring it.
It requires first-hand knowledge - so Bob can be
- When you consider 1 John 1:1-2, does the apostle John
sounds like he knows about the hearsay rule? (Yes! He
says that he is an eye-witness, no hearsay here.)
- But, if John is so well-known and respected by his
readers, why does he need to be concerned about the
hearsay rule in his letter? (He expects the letter
to be passed on to others.)
- Aside from personal knowledge, what are some other things
you would guess a lawyer relies upon in cross-examination
to show that someone is or is not a reliable witness?
(The ability to observe, to see correctly. This ranges
from distance issues, to lighting issues, to the
condition of your eyesight, to weather conditions, to
- What does John say to bolster his testimony (our
willingness to believe him) beyond having first-hand
knowledge? (That he heard and that he touched.)
- Notice that John says he saw it twice. "We have seen
with our eyes, which we have looked at." What does
that mean? (The Greek means more than just looking,
it means he contemplated it. Sort of a long, serious
look. Not just looking, really seeing.)
- Why would John say that? (Eye witnesses can be
wrong. So John says his was a long, hard look
at Jesus' credentials. John spent time with
Jesus. His conclusion is not a casual matter.)
- Let's step back a minute. John is claiming that Jesus is
the Creator of the universe. How can John claim first-hand knowledge about that? (Obviously, John cannot. I
think he is making a logical argument. John does not
think his readers doubt whether Jesus was a historical
person. Instead, the issue is the nature of Jesus' life
on earth and whether Jesus is now alive. Whether there is
a resurrected Jesus. John says, "I sensed Jesus'
miracles in every possible way, and I am a first-hand
witness to Jesus' resurrection. I believe Jesus is God
and I believe He is the Creator of the universe.)
- Friend, how about you? Will you accept that Jesus is God
and the Creator of the universe? This is the first step
to salvation and (as we will discuss next week) the path
- Next week: Experiencing the Word of Life.
* Copr. 2009, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.