Proverbs 3

Chapter three naturally divides into three sections, each with its own theme. In the first section, Solomon gave a series of six commands or instructions to his son (Proverbs 3:1-12). Each command is followed by an explanation or result, and each pair comprises two verses. If his son obeyed his instructions, he would have “a long and full life” (Proverbs 3:1-2). The active pursuit of “truth and mercy” will cause a person to gain favor with others (Proverbs 3:3-4). Trusting in God and acknowledging him in everything results in a straight path (Proverbs 3:5-6). True fear of God – rejecting evil – has physical benefits as well as spiritual (Proverbs 3:7-8). God responds favorably to those who prioritize him with their money (Proverbs 3:9-10). Discipline from God is good because it is proof of his personal love (Proverbs 3:11-12).

The theme of the second section is the value of seeking wisdom (Proverbs 3:13-26). This has two subdivisions. In the first, Solomon used a series of word pictures to describe the beauty and value of wisdom itself, calling it incomparable, though he compared it to gold, silver, and rubies (Proverbs 3:13-20). 1 The concept that God used wisdom during the creation will come up again in chapter eight. In the second division of this section, Solomon encouraged his son to pursue wisdom and not let go when he found it (Proverbs 3:21-26). The benefits he listed include security in decision-making, peace in sleep, and confidence in every life situation.

The third section contains a series of practical instructions Solomon gave regarding how he wanted his son to treat other people (Proverbs 3:27-35). Some of these are reflected in the Mosaic law, but these are less “legal” and more “moral” and are general principles that believers should follow today, as they are found in some form throughout the New Testament. Help your neighbor when you have the ability (1 John 3:17-18). Accuse someone only when legitimately harmed (Romans 12:16-21). Do not imitate evil people (3 John 11). God will curse the wicked and bless the righteous (James 4:4-6).

Notes:

  1. The word for rubies in Proverbs 3:15 occurs only six times in the Hebrew text, all in poetry books. Three of these times, rubies are compared with wisdom (Job 28:18; Proverbs 3:15; 8:11), once with a virtuous wife (Proverbs 31:10), and once with bodies (Lamentations 4:7). The last occurrence is not a comparison (Proverbs 20:15).

3 John

Like 2 John, this letter was directed to a specific person, Gaius. It appears that this name was common in the first century, so pinpointing the man is impossible. There are several men even in the New Testament who had this name, and we cannot be sure if one of them was the intended recipient.

John referred to Gaius with great affection in 3 John 1-2. It seems from 3 John 3-4 that he was either a new believer or possibly someone who had returned to living faithfully. In this short letter, John wanted to point out that godly living extends to how believers treat one another, “even though they are strangers” (3 John 5). It seems that Gaius needed a little prodding to support some traveling missionaries John had sent his way.

The second issue John needed to deal with was concerning a man named Diotrephes. He was apparently a narcissistic, arrogant man in the church who was bold enough to slander John and would not welcome the traveling missionaries. He even went so far as to unilaterally excommunicate those who tried to help them! This may be the reason John had to encourage Gaius to do this.

The statement about Demetrius, that he “has been testified to by all” (3 John 12), may have been John’s way to refute some of Diotrephes’ slander. This is similar to when Paul put his reputation on the line to Philemon for Onesimus (Philemon 17). This letter ends in a similar way as 2 John, with a reference to “pen and ink” and the desire to “speak face to face” with Gaius (3 John 14).

1 John 1

Introduction

Since there is no name given, the authorship of next three letters is somewhat debated. However, they are traditionally attributed to the apostle John for good reason. First, the language of the letters and the gospel is overwhelmingly similar, in some ways more so than even between Paul’s. Second, the issues addressed reflect a period late enough in the Church’s life that some doctrines were already considered “old,” yet early enough that the attacks on doctrine were relatively new. Third, some of the Early Fathers close to John connect these letters to him.

Again, with no greeting comes no recipients mentioned in 1 John. Second John is addressed to “an elect lady and her children,” while 3 John was clearly written to Gaius, a dear friend. Technically, then, at least two of these are not “general” epistles.

First John is notoriously difficult to outline, because, rather than flowing from one thought into the next, John carried multiple themes throughout, blending them together. However, that does not mean there is no structure at all; there are, in fact, three keys to understanding this letter. First, four times John declared, “I [or, we] am writing these things to you” for a stated purpose, primarily that we can know that we know God (1 John 1:4; 2:1, 12; 5:13). Second, based on the theme that we can truly know God, John gave a series of “tests” to determine how well we know God. Each of these is set as a contrast between knowing God and not knowing him (1 John 1:6-7, 8-9; 1:10–2:2; 1 John 2:3-6, 9-11, 15-17, 24-27; 3:4-10, 15-17; 4:7-10, 15-16; 4:20–5:4). Third, based on these “tests” of how well we know God, it is important to understand that 1 John presents the Christian ideal in a series of black and white statements. Many people have been tripped up by this short letter because of its harsh terms, leaving no gray areas. These will be explored further in each chapter. Suffice it to say that the one who would truly know God completely would also truly live in complete perfection. However, even John acknowledged early on that this was impossible, though something to strive for (1 John 2:1-2).

Chapter one, with no introduction, jumps directly into arguing two primary points. First, it seems that John intended to debunk the fledgling Gnostic ideas regarding the spirit and the flesh. Based in Platonic dualism, Gnostics taught that the spirit/immaterial was good but the flesh/material was bad. Some had even started teaching that Jesus did not and could not have come in the flesh and died (see 1 John 4:1-6). John opened with a series of phrases arguing that, not only had Jesus come in the flesh, John was one of those who “heard…[saw] with our eyes…looked at…hands touched” the genuinely physical Jesus (1 John 1:1; John 1:14). Jesus became everything we are in order to reveal God to us (1 John 1:2; John 1:18).

Second, John presented the gospel message: who Jesus is and what he did/does. He is the eternal light of the world that expels darkness (1 John 1:5-7; John 1:4-10; 8:12). Those who believe in him are to walk in his light in order to remain in fellowship with God and other believers. The first few tests of knowing him have to do with the recognition of our own sinfulness. When we walk in his light, he will continue to cleanse us, as we confess our sin. Not confessing, on the other hand, is the same as claiming perfection, which is essentially the same as calling God a liar.

It is best to include 1 John 2:1-2 with chapter one. As much as John would like his readers to not sin, he knows that is an impossibility. Most translations have “if anyone does sin” in 2:1, but this is a third class conditional sentence, which assumes that the hypothetical “if” could possibly come true at some point in the future. Jesus’ never-ending advocacy before the Father on our behalf when we confess our sin is meant to be an encouragement, so “when anyone does sin” seems to more appropriately convey John’s point than simply “if.”