Post Author: Bill Pratt
In part 1 we saw that the tests in 1 John cannot be about justification, about being born again. Joseph Dillow, in his book The Reign of the Servant Kings, explains what he believes the purpose of John’s letter is, and therefore the purpose of the tests.
Where is John’s purpose to be found?
It is found where one would often find a purpose statement in a book or letter, in the opening paragraph (1 Jn. 1:3):
“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (NASB).”
His purpose in writing to these regenerate people is so that they may walk in fellowship with God! As Braune puts it, “The manifest purpose of the Apostle [is] to preserve his readers in the fellowship with God.”
He is not writing to test their salvation; he is writing so that his “joy may be made complete” (1 Jn. 1:4). His joy was present; it had “begun” because they had been born again. But he wants to complete this joy by seeing them walk in fellowship. The completion of his joy does not refer to his desire to obtain assurance that they are really saved, but as the apostle himself explains, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” He wants to rejoice that his saved children are walking in the truth!
Dillow reminds us what Jesus told his disciples:
Jesus used the term in the same way when He addressed His regenerate disciples: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. . . . These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (Jn. 15:11-12). To have one’s joy “made full” is not to become a Christian but, being a Christian already, to act like it!
What hasn’t been mentioned so far, but is covered extensively in Dillow’s book, is the fact that John is also writing this letter to counter Gnostic teachings that have influenced his readers. Gnostic teaching is not putting believers in danger of losing their salvation, but it is putting their fellowship with Christ in danger. In other words, their justification is not the issue, but their sanctification.
How can [John] know they are walking in the truth, and how can they know it in the face of the confusion introduced into their midst by the Gnostics? The Gnostics were maintaining that a child of God could have sin in his life and still be in fellowship, abiding in Christ! The remaining portions of [1 John] . . . present several tests of whether or not a Christian is walking in fellowship with God, tests by which the falsity of the Gnostic teaching could be discerned. They are not tests of whether or not these born-again children are really Christians.