Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "Later New Testament Epistles"



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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible



Introduction: This is a general epistle, not addressed to a church or individual, but to all the children of God. Such are addressed under three stages of Christian experience as "fathers, " "young men, " and "babes." Its purpose is that believers may know that they have "eternal life" (5:13), that "their joy may be full" (1:4). Six words prominent in the Gospel of John are found here again. They are: light, love, life, believe, know, and fellowship.

Indeed, this epistle is the complement to John's Gospel. His Gospel was written that the believer might have life; the Epistle, that the believer may know it. In the Gospel we have the way of life through God's Son; here we see the nature of that life as possessed by His children. The "apostle of love, " as he is called, is still seen to be Boanerges, "a son of thunder, " when dealing with heresies which assail the person of Christ (e.g., ch.4). (Smeeton)

This is one of the hardest letters for God's people to understand because all is either black or white; there are no grays. It either is or it is not. This is the contrast method, and the dominant characteristic is in view when a thing is being discussed; not a misleading incidental. For instance, if John were talking about the chairs in a room, he would not mention the piano or the lights.

The Gospel showed eternal life manifest in the Son of God; the Epistle shows eternal life manifest in the children of God.

Date: John's epistles were probably written after the Revelation, between AD 90-100.

Key thought: Fellowship - its basis, conditions, blessings, hindrances, helps, results. Before fellowship there must be life and light.


W. W. Rugh, founder of the Bible Institute of Pennsylvania, one of the merging schools which became Philadelphia College of Bible, points out the following about fellowship in this book:

  1. With whom we have fellowship 1:1-4

  2. Where we have fellowship 1:5-10 ("in the light")

  3. How we have fellowship 2:1-6 (v.6, "as He walked"; cp. Amos 3:3)

  4. Who has fellowship 2:7-11 (v. 10)

  5. Three classes of those who have fellowship 2:12-17

  6. Those who do not have fellowship 2:18-26

  7. One who empowers us to have fellowship 2:27-29

  8. Character (inner life) of those who have fellowship 3:1-12

  9. The walk of one who has fellowship 3:13-24

  10. The spirit of those who have fellowship 4:1-6

  11. The ruling principle in (or law of) the life of one who is having fellowship 4:7-21 (3:15)

  12. The assurance of those who have fellowship 5:1-13

  13. The privilege of those who have fellowship 5:14-17

  14. The protection of those who have fellowship 5:18-21


  1. Prologue: THE MANIFESTED LIFE 1:1-4

  2. The message: THE MANIFESTED LIGHT 1:5-2:2

  3. Life evidenced by obedience: FITNESS FOR GOD 2:3-11

  4. THE FAMILY OF GOD 2:12-4:6



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