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How do we tell the difference between genuine Christians and those who merely profess to know Christ. For that matter how do we diagnose if a change has genuinely taken place in us?
John’s letters written AD85-AD95 and widely circulated among the Asian churches address these issues. These churches, as we will see were threatened by false teachers, who had embaced what we now called Gnosticism. This is the belief that:-
- Physical matter is entirely evil
- Spiritual was entirely good
This lead to two errors:-
- Theological- Denial of a physical Jesus. Either Jesus just appeared to be like a human but was not physical or God descended on him at His baptism and left him some time before the crucifixion.
- Moral- The new teachers claimed to be beyond good and evil, not in the sence of attaining moral perfection but the view that what may have been sin for someone less ‘mature’ was no longer sin for the completely spiritual man.
The big problem was they used to be part of the fellowship (1John 2:19). John’s purposes in writing these letters then was two fold:-
- Expose the false teachers
- Reassure true believers
So how does John set about doing this? He sets out a series of tests to distinguish genuine Christians from those who falsely claim to know Christ.
- What does the person think about Jesus ‘What think ye of Christ’?
- How does the person respond to the commands of Christ?
- What is the person’s attitude to the body of Christ? (the Church)
It is important at the outset to realise that John is not about distinguishing two types of Christians or good or bad Christians but between true and false Christians.
Also written about the same time is the apostle encouraging genuine hospitality but warning against the Gnostics in to their homes for fear that they will spread the heresy
Offers more of a blueprint for hospitality for those genuine teachers who are totally dependant on the body of Christ for all their needs, to open our hearts and our homes to them.