Finding True North In 1 John -- By: John Niemelä
CTSJ 6:3 (July 2000) p. 25
Finding True North In 1 John1
[*Editor's note: John Niemelä received a B.A. (University of Minnesota) and earned the Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in New Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary. John is Professor of Hebrew and Greek at Chafer Theological Seminary. His email address is [email protected]]
All too often, respected expositors lose their way in 1 John: Consulting their theology as a compass, they start their verse-by-verse hike only to become disoriented and lost. They are like hikers depending on magnetic compasses in the Mesabi Range (Minnesota’s Iron Range) unaware that their compasses point to magnetic iron ore deposits, not to true North. And like those wandering the Mesabi without knowing true North, how much hope exists that these expositors (gifted or not) will reach their destination anytime soon?2 Thankfully, this situation need not exist. Knowing true North in 1 John means accurately ruling out false statements of the book’s purpose, sorting out grammatical concerns associated with purpose statements, and determining whether the audience consists of believers, unbelievers, or both.
Johannine Purpose Statements
Those who would expound 1 John must guard against eisegetically paralleling the wrong passages. Although many verbal similarities exist between 1 John and John’s Gospel,3 do semblances of language between John 20:31 and 1 John 5:13a make them parallel? Likewise, is the placement of these two passages (towards the ends of both John’s Gospel and first epistle) evidence that he used them in the same way? As attractive as these notions are, the answer to both is a resounding “No!” Although many expositors perceive John 20:31 as the
CTSJ 6:3 (July 2000) p. 26
overall purpose statement for John’s Gospel and 1 John 5:13a as 1 John’s overall purpose, nothing could be further from the truth.
1 John 5:13a
30And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;