Lectionary Year B
May 14, 2000
I John 3:16-24

Step II: Disposition

(LE) Step II. Disposition

A. Genre: Although this book is entitled The First Epistle of John which would lead one to assume this was a letter, the structure of the book does not support this as the genre. Contrary to 2 and 3 John, 1 John does not have the usual features of 1st century letters. Neither the author nor the recipients are identified. In most first century letters there is a blessing or a greeting beginning the letter and a concluding greeting; none of these characteristics are found in 1 John.. First century letters usually also contained personal references and allusions that would indicate a specific recipient; 1 John includes neither of these.

1 John is, therefore, considered a probable circulating homily or sermon that was intended to have a wide audience. W.G. Kummel prefers to think of it as a tractate engaged in some sort of polemic, a kind of manifesto that addresses specific theological issues across a general front. [Note]

B. and C. Questions (and where they fall in the exegesis process) Stream of consciousness questions.

What does it really mean "to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters," especially when Christ is given us as an example? Is this, perhaps, one of the images (of sacrifice) preventing some people from embracing the love commandment and the message of the gospel ? I am not suggesting that the gospel should be watered down to be made more palpable, but I do wonder if the author of John is calling us to sacrifice or to be like Christ as He was in His ministry -- self -giving? Would this image of self-giving be faithful to the scriptures and. perhaps, renew our commitment to doing the work of Christ? (I:A, C and V:B)

What does it mean to have compassion for someone -- knowing that I have chosen to translate kleisv ta splagxna as compassion? How does this fit into my thinking we are called to more than feeling, but to action? Is there another word -- perhaps, "acts of loving kindness" -- that might produce a more appropriate/accurate image of what this passage seems to be saying? (I:A, C and V:B)

What does it mean that if our hearts donít condemn (judge) us then we can have confidence before God? Is confidence before God tied to anything else in this passage? I think of repentance (human act) and forgiveness (God act) as what allows one to come before God with confidence (our prayer of confession followed by assurance of pardon in our liturgy). (IV)

What does it mean "we receive from Him whatever we ask"? How is this tied to pleasing God? Does God grant everything we desire or only if it is Godís will? There must be some connection related to conforming or transforming our will to Godís will. (IV)

Is it enough to believe in Jesus? Or does this belief have the additional component of confession? I am particularly interested in the semantic range of pisteuw. (I:A, C; IV; and V:B).

Note: Introduction of the New Testament. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1975. pg. 437.

(EM - supplement on Step)

Genre: Teaching Exhortation

use of subjective "let us"
use of "should," "obey"
thematic on the Christian life
images of truth, command, and love



1. JC laid down life
2. we laid down life for others


1. see need

2. help brother or sister


1. Not in word or speech
2. in truth and action
we are FROM truth
reassure our hearts
God is greater than our hearts
receive what we ask-we obey, please


1. believe in name of Son Jesus Christ
2. love one another


1. we abide in him (God)
2. God abides in us by Spirit


Are we only to loving one another and following God's commands?
We are called to help see and not refuse help, but what if we can't even "see" the need?
Which commands do we obey- -the 10 commandments, golden rule, Sermon on the Mount, great commission, all of the above?
What is the relationship of the example in verses 11-16 of do not murder to this pericope?
When does the Christian tradition (or does it at all) move from God's gift of love in Jesus Christ to God's love actualized in us (v.24)?
Does this "work" in Reformed theology?
What does love in "truth and action" (v. 18) look like?
How does John use the term "truth?"
Is there a difference between laying your life down for someone and filling a need they have? (Are they synonymous?)
Is this a pre- or post- Pentecost text?
Who is our brother or sister (in need)?

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