This is a brief letter that gives instruction on hospitality among Christians. In the first century inns were not suitable for missionaries to rest. So they were welcomed by fellow believers (Acts 16:15; 21:8, 16). John warns believers against showing false teachers. Christian love must be discerning and a matter of choice. Christians must not have fellowship with false teachers. God’s servants must meet the test of sound doctrines. The style and the vocabulary of the letter suggest that apostle John might have written this letter. It was written probably from Ephesus around A.D 90. This letter was addressed to a chosen lady and her children.
Greetings 1: 1-3.
John starts this letter by introducing himself as the elder in his greeting. The elder is the official position in the church and similar to pastor. The elders who rule well are considered worthy of double honor (1 Tim 5:17). This letter was written to the elect lady and to her children. Scholars suggest that the word "lady" refers to the congregation in a figurative sense. The church is the bride of Christ and her children means the members of the church. God’s truth binds believers together. Truth abides for ever (1 Pet 1: 25). John's emphasis on the truth of the gospel shows that it is the foundation upon which Christian life should be grounded. When the truth of the gospel takes root in a persons's life, it will always produce the fruit of love. Grace, mercy and peace are part of the standard greeting. Grace for facing trails, mercy for failures and peace in times of danger. They come from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father is the source and the Son is the channel.
Live in Truth and Love: 1: 4-11.
John rejoiced when he heard that believers were living according to the truth. Truth is not an intellectual assent of some biblical facts; it is something to be lived out in everyday life. Agreeing on truth does not mean that living in truth. Jesus is the embodiment of Truth, the living truth that came from the Father (John 14:6). Truth is the reality of God and nonnegotiable. It is given for the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5). False teachers claimed that they have received new revelation that was different from the original truth already given. Christians should love one another and obey God’s word. This love is the self sacrificing divine love seeking the benefit of others. Love and obedience will always go together. Having been loved by the Lord, we are to love others, even when they do not deserve it. False teachers taught that Jesus was divine only from the time of His baptism to His death. They led many believers astray by their teaching. They do not believe in the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. Whoever denies that Jesus came in the flesh is a deceiver and the antichrist. John warns believers that they should be on guard and follow the teaching of the apostles. Failure to detect and reject error opens the door to serious compromise in the church (1:8). Christians must be diligent to maintain the purity of the gospel for the sake of the glory of Christ and his church. Only those who remain in the teaching of Christ are the children of God. Christians should not show hospitality to false teachers. Anyone who supports and encourages false teachers becomes partner in their evil work. God became man in order to die for our sin.
Conclusion: 1:12, 13.
Although John could write much more to elect lady and children, he preferred to speak to them. He hoped to visit them soon and speak to them face to face so that their joy may be complete. John concludes the letter by wishing them greetings from the sister church.