LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The Epistles of John provide confidence to Christians that they are indeed born again and guided in the confrontation of false teaching, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Daniel Akin concludes in a new commentary on 1, 2 and 3 John.
It is the latest release in Broadman & Holman’s New American Commentary series on the New International Version translation. Broadman & Holman is the trade publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“John writes, in my judgment, to provide avenues or tests for assurance of salvation,” Akin, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, said about his commentary. “What one believes about Jesus is primary. It will determine what you believe and how you will live. This makes these letters relevant and important for the church anytime and anyplace.”
While the commentary is a scholarly treatment of the epistles and offers historical and exegetical insight from the original Greek, Akin said the volume and the series is aimed at the local pastor.
“This commentary and the series as a whole is written with a local pastor in mind. As a result, I tried to direct technical matters to the footnotes. I also worked to provide extensive bibliography in the footnotes for those interested in more detailed study and analysis of particular issues.”
Of 1 John 5:13, which gives assurance to those who “believe in the name of the Son of God,” Akin writes: “John writes this epistle so that his readers may know they have eternal life. Earlier he (John) stated, ‘We write this to make our joy complete,’ and ‘I write this to you so that you will not sin.’ Both of these verses also give some indication of John’s purpose for writing this epistle.”
One of the most debated passages among contemporary scholars and one that is often confusing to laypeople is found in 1 John 5:16-17, in which John writes of “a sin that leads to death.” Some interpret this as being a sin so heinous and high-handed that it can lead to the physical death of the believer. Akin refutes this view.
“For the outset it is safe and contextually appropriate to reject any interpretation that refers to a physical death, since ‘death’ is contrasted with spiritual (or ‘eternal’) life,” he writes.
Akin details the three main interpretations of the sin unto death: a specific, deadly sin; blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; and total rejection of the gospel. In the context of the totality of 1 John, Akin says the third interpretation — rejection of the gospel — is most viable.
“All three of the views have something positive to offer to the interpretation of 5:16,” he writes. “Likewise, each of them has its own difficulties. The strength of this view is that it seeks to interpret 5:16 based on the context of John’s epistle.”
Another main emphasis of the three epistles is of false teachers and heterodox teaching. The classic text on this subject is verses 7-11 of the single-chapter book of 2 John.
The false teachers which John sought to confront subscribed to an erroneous view of Christ. Faulty belief about Christ led to equally erroneous morals and ethics among the heretics of the time just as it does today, Akin argues.
Akin includes an appendix in the commentary on the subject titled, “Welcoming False Teachers into Your Home.” Akin points out that 2 John is often falsely used to avoid confrontation with groups such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, who spread false teaching through door-to-door visits.
Believers should take John’s writing as an imperative to confront cultist teaching, Akin said.
“We are not to provide physical or financial support to those who bring false teaching,” he writes. “This much is clear. At the same time, it is our responsibility to bear witness to those who are deceived and need to be confronted with the truth of the gospel.
“Many persons in the church today feel ill prepared to engage cult members in spiritual conversation. They find it more convenient to simply send them on their way. Sometimes this is done in a rude and un-Christlike manner, and the cause of the gospel is harmed.”
Christians should be kind and gracious and invite cultists in for a brief visit, Akin said, with the believers establishing clear and fair ground rules for the visit and praying that God will enlighten both parties of the truth.
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