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

Step III: Immediate Context

(LE) Step III. Composition

A. Immediate Context: The outline presented below, as well as others, does not include the pericope under investigation with verses 3:1-10. But can, or should, the lectionary pericope stand alone as the foundation of a preaching event? On one hand, there is plenty of sermonic quality in these eight verses as one could easily find more than one sermon; however, is the integrity of what the author was attempting to impress on the intended audience made clear if the pericope is limited to what is in the lectionary? One of the distinct aspects of including the whole chapter as the pericope for the preaching event is the beginning of the chapter "This is the message that you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another." Another aspect of the pericope that is missed if the lectionary passage is conformed to is the contrast of images between Cain who did not love and Christ who did love. C.G. Jung (sorry, I am taking a Psychology of Religion course that is creeping in) has indicated the western mind is leery of paired opposites and has a proclivity to ignore the image that causes the greatest amount of discomfort. Is it being faithful to the text to uphold Christ as the exemplar without exploring the other (darker) side of this chapter. Would this imply that a minister does not think there are members of her/his congregation that might not be wrestling with this dark side or is it enough to hold Christ up? Or the other possibility is that I am reading too much into the exclusion of verses 1 - 15? Of course, there are paired opposites in our pericope, i.e. loving in word(s)/loving in action. Is this the real focus of this pericope and, if so, is there then a reason to explained the reading? Here in lies one of my dilemmas (that I hope to address on Friday.

The pericope following is a discussion of how one is to discern the truth of spirits and the existence of false prophets (doecists?).

B. Compositional Whole

Outline of 1John [Note]

A. Prologue 1:1-4
The revelation of life in Jesus Christ who appeared "in the beginning."

B. Part One 1:5 - 3:10
God is light and like Jesus we must walk in the light

C. Part 2: 3:11-5:12
God is love and those who know God must love one another.

D. Epilogue 5:13-21
The author explains his purposes.

1 John can be seen as a part of either two collections: the Catholic Epistles or the Johnannine Literature. I would propose, since I have already discussed how this is not a typical 1st century letter under genre, it is more appropriate to consider this as a part of the Johannine Literature. Obviously this collection includes The Gospel According to John, 1, 2, and 3 John as well as The Revelation To John Burge presents an outline (presented below) along with an outline of The Gospel According to John which shows the parallels between the two books. Whether or not these are the products of the same author will be discussed under issues of authorship.

C. Authorship

Note: This outline is from The NIV Application Commentary: Letters of John by Gary M. Burge. (Prof. Terry Muck is on the editorial board of this set of commentaries.)

(KA) Step 3 supplement

In this step, we need to consider some of the "main themes" of I John. I have done this by briefly outlining the book as a whole, and by noting some of the key focus points for the author. This is my outline (not one from a book), so it might be helpful to look at it as you read the book of I John for yourself. I just highlight some main pieces in order to get a better idea of how it flows, to gain a better understanding of where and how verses 3:16-24 fit with this as a whole.

1:1ff We declare to you what was from the beginning
1:5 This is the "message" - God is light and in him there is no darkness; no darkness at all
walk in light vs. sin & darkness

2:1ff Addressed to little children
message re: sin

2:7ff no new commandment here
darkness is passing away, true light is already shining
more on light and darkness, living there
re: hating brothers and sisters

2:12 I write to you as those who do the word of God

2:18ff It is the last hour! (eschatology, apocalyptic language)
re: anti Christ
truth and lies concerning Christ, deception
eternal life: promise
abide in Christ

3:1ff see what love the Father has givern us, that we should be called children of God
but what he will be has not yet been revealed

3:4ff sin is lawlessness
the son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil
again, references to brothers and sisters

3:11 This is the "message" you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another

3:12ff Cain and Abel
brothers and sisters again, relationships

* 3:16-24 We know love by this: that he laid down his life for us
we ought to lay down our life for others
help brothers and sisters
Let us not love in word or speech, but in truth and action
believe in the name of Jesus Christ
love one another

4:1 Do not believe every spirit
test every spirit to see whether it is from God
more antiChrist comments
prophets/false prophets
spirit of truth/spirit of error

4:7ff love one another; love is from God
God's love is revealed in this way: God sent his only son into
the world so that we might live through him
(abide in him, abide in us)
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God & God

abides in them 4:17 Love has been perfected among us
boldness on the day of judgement
no fear in love
we love because he first loved us
again, relationships to brothers and sisters
love them

5:1ff parents and children
Jesus born of God
children of God/obey commandments

5:6-12 testimony of God, testimony of human beings
whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son does not have life

5:13 I write these things so you may know that you have eternal life

5:14ff again, brothers and sisters

5:18ff those born of God do not sin
evil does not touch them
we are God's children
we have been given understanding

Prominent themes/overall picture of book that might come into play as you proceed in your conversation with this text:

- brothers and sisters
- the message the readers have been given (see 1:5 and 3:11)
- eschatology
- darkness and light
- abiding
- and of course, Love!

As we read the text as whole, we see how these themes are made manifest in the pericope we're examining. (e.g., love - what it is, how it looks; brothers and sisters and how we relate to them; place of Jesus Christ in all of this). By looking at an outline such as this, we can catch a glimpse of the "big picture."

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