Reading the introduction to a biblical commentary is rarely seen as the obvious path to take for soul-refreshment. But sometimes it is, especially if it’s Robert Yarbrough on 1–3 John. Here’s a quick window into John’s letter through his eyes:
If 1–3 John leave the disciple who studies them with any single lasting impression, it is the grandeur and centrality of God.
Part of this is the sheer volume of references to him. There is hardly a verse or even clause anywhere that does not name a person of the Godhead (Trinity), a divine attribute, or a divine work (like a command that has come from God).
These letters are not simply theological, as one might say ale is alcoholic: they are rather theology distillate, analogous to highest-proof grain alcohol that is highly flammable and intoxicating in even small amounts.
God – mainly Father and Son, but occasionally also Holy Spirit – suffuses every situation John envisions, each piece of counsel he issues, every sentiment he conveys, each affirmation he sets forth. No OT psalmist is any more God saturated in awareness than the writer of these letters (27-28).
One interesting bit to note is how much debate there is about the authorship of the letter. Many take it for granted that it was the apostle John (which is probably right). But it isn’t entirely obvious – the author doesn’t mention his name and hardly talks about himself. Yarbrough relates this very problem to this God-centered perspective of the letter:
One reason that determining the authorship of these letters is such a sticky question is that the writer’s visceral urge is to witness to God, in whose truth and love he has ventured far, not to present a profile of his personal identity and petty human expectations. His own personality is obscured by the divine person to whom he has so thoroughly subordinated his thoughts, actions, and affection (28).
Thankful that commentaries don’t have to drive me to the couch for a nap, but rather send me to the Bible and to the God who speaks to me there.