Introduction to 1 John
How many of you have read ‘Pilgrims Progress’? As the book begins there is a man, whose name is Christians, who is seen with a book in his hand and a great burden upon his back. The man wept, trembled and lamented because of what he has read. From the very beginning he is crying out, ‘What shall I do?’
No one understood this man’s burden not even his own family. They assumed that he was sick and quickly put him to bed. They hoped that by morning he would be better but things had become worse. No one could understand the burden that this man spoke of as he talked about the coming destruction of of the people. Since no one could understand him he spent his time walking in the fields being greatly distressed saying, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’.
At one point, he stood in the field looking in one direction and then in another. He wanted to run somewhere but he did not know where to flee. At that very moment a man named Evangelist came to him and began to talk to the man. The man told Evangelist that he did not know which way to flee from the coming wrath and judgment.
Evangelist said to the man, “Do you see far off over there that shining light?” The man said, “I think I do.” Then Evangelist said, “Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly to it; you will see a gate, and when you knock, it shall be told to you what you shall do.”
In ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ the man who stood weeping and trembling was lost for a time. He had become a stranger in this harsh world and there was no one to give him any direction. If it were not for the man named Evangelist what would have become of this man? If he were not there to tell the man to head for that far away light just imagine where this man might have ended up.
The people to whom the letter of 1 John was written had become lost. They had begun their journey towards the eternal city but they encountered many deceivers, liars, false teachers and antichrist’s who had tried to get them to turn away from their eternal destination. If it was not for this letter, and the apostle John’s authoritative message, where might they have ended up? How many might have wandered from the path that was heading towards life eternal.
Every generation, even our generation, needs to hear John’s message. His authoritative message comes to us while we are standing and looking in all directions and wondering which way should we turn? Without his message we would surely choose the wrong direction and end up at the wrong destination.
Let me give you one last example. John Wesley was a missionary in America. From there he wrote to his friends across the Atlantic who were living in London and pleaded with them to consider joining him on the mission field as pastors and ministers. This is what he wrote to them,
“In Fredrica and all the smaller settlements, there are about 500 sheep almost without a shepherd.He that is unjust must be unjust still...He that is a babe in Christ may be so still...Does any err from the right way? There is none to recall him...Is any falling? There is none to lift him up. What a single man can do is neither seen nor felt.” (George Dallimore, George Whitefield. p. 107)
Those words reveal the many dangers that these people were subjected too because there was no pastor in their towns. Wesley is clear that because there was no minister among these people they were not growing in sanctification, they were prone to wander off into error, and there were many who were stumbling in their faith.
As we read this letter we get a sense of the desperation that he felt concerning the well-being of these 500 souls. The danger that they faced was probably even more dangerous than what we may realize at first. Those who err from the right way are not simply those who wander off the path for a time; but they are those who are snatched away by false teachers who come and teach deceitful things.
Wesley’s concern is that there is not spiritual father there to say to them, “My son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.” Proverbs 1:15-16
We can be certain of this, there are not many who come preaching in this world the ‘Good News’. Yet, there is never a shortage of those who come preaching what is contrary to the gospel and who sow as many tares among the wheat as they can. John says in 1 John 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.”
Wesley ends his plea to his friends by saying, “What a single man can do is neither seen nor felt.” In other words, there is no pastor, teacher or evangelist among these people to help them on their way. They wander in the fi