Profiting Fully from the Theological and Practical Value of the Final Seven Johannine "Pastoral" Epistles

September 22, 2012

Writing probably sometime between 85 and 95 AD, the apostle John penned at least eight “pastoral” epistles (3 John; Rev. 2:1-7; 8-11; 12-17; 18-29; 3:1-6; 7-13; 14-22).[1] Both from a canonical standpoint (they either constitute [3 John] or are found [Rev. 2-3] in the final two books of the Scripture in its present canonical order) or a chronological standpoint, these epistles comprise the pinnacle of God’s revelation that is specifically directed to those whom He has appointed to lead His churches (3 John 1, 9; Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14).

Because of the many disputes about the exact nature of the book of Revelation and about how it should be interpreted and applied, not a few pastors, teachers, and other church leaders have been dismissive at least to some extent of the theological value of John’s final seven epistles to these church leaders. Such an interpretive stance is a serious mistake and deprives them and their people of a wealth of theological and practical revelation, as demonstrated by the following brief survey of some theological insights provided by these epistles:

Theology Proper and Christology

Jesus profoundly emphasizes to the churches that the Father is still His God (3:12). He also stresses repeatedly that He is God’s judicial agent (e.g. 3:2 and 5). Both of these truths have received insufficient attention in contemporary theological thought, especially in works that are directed to pastors and their congregations.

Pneumatology

Jesus ends every epistle with a directive to heed what the Spirit is saying to the churches (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). These statements underscore the personality of the Spirit and His supervisory role over all the churches. Pastors must instruct their people diligently about these truths.

Angelology

Jesus speaks explicitly about the devil/Satan to three of the pastors (2:9, 10; 13 [2x]; 24) and warns of his work of persecuting them (2:10). Pastors who make light of the reality of possible direct satanic attack on them and their churches thus do not have a correct viewpoint about the Christian life.

Soteriology

Jesus reveals that the salvation of believers will only be complete when He will confess before His Father and before His angels that they have overcome (3:5). Pastors must challenge their people regularly about such aspects of the ultimate salvation of believers and what is necessary for receiving it.

Ecclesiology

Jesus confronts two of the seven pastors about their tolerating false teachers within their own churches (2:14; 20-23). Because the latter specifies that the pernicious influence of a false teacher was promoting fornication and the eating of things sacrificed unto idols among believers, it is clear that Jesus wants his leaders to be concerned not just with false teaching about “the gospel,” but also with false teaching that misleads believers about their morality and their exercise of Christian “liberty.”

Eschatology

Jesus sets forth a profound promise of international authority that He will give to those who overcome (2:26-27). Even more profoundly, He declares that He will grant to overcomers to sit with Him on His throne (3:21)! Lack of pastoral emphasis on such truths deprives believers of crucial God-intended motivators for them to overcome. Pastors must emphasize eschatological truths to their people, even as Christ does in each of these letters.

Based on this sampling of the vital theological and practical value of the final seven Johannine “pastoral” epistles, we should all be diligent to profit fully from them!



[1] Second John is likely also such an epistle.

Rajesh

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