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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series is a series written to the church. Many commentaries are written for scholars, and they are very good. But many are needed for the layperson to grab a hold of for their own upbuilding. Marianne Meye Thompson, the George Eldon Ladd Professor on the New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, has written quite a number of volumes on John’s Gospel, along with a commentary on John (which I reviewed).
At the beginning of each new section, Thompson summarizes the main ideas of the text before examining a verse or two up close. The whole commentary is under 170 pages. That may seem short, but she uses her space efficiently.
In her introduction Thompson writes that the Elder John is writing to fix theological conflicts and social rifts in the house churches over which he has pastoral responsibility. The issue at hand was “on the nature and implications of salvation” (15). Some who left the community (2:19) that those who were “children of God” attained such a spiritual status that you no longer sinned. They attained a perfect righteousness and were already like Jesus. This downplays the significance of Christ’s atonement since they would no longer need forgivenessl “being ‘children of God’ makes no demands on the way they live (2:6)” (15). 1 and 2 John are concerned with doctrinal disputes over the person and work of Christ. These matters define how believers should and ought to live.
In 3 John the “dispute [is] a power struggle” (19). Here, John commends Gaius and his hospitality, disapproves of Diotrephes, and commends one itinerate preaches—Demetrius—to Gaius.
The author may very well be John the Apostle, but there is no unambiguous evidence for or against it. In her section “The Themes of the Epistles,” Thompson writes about seven different themes:
- The character of God
- The centrality of Jesus Christ
- Christian discipleship
- Love, unity and fellowship
- The preservation of sound teaching
- The importance of discernment
- Assurance and confidence
2:2: Thompson makes no comment on Christ being the propitiation for “the whole world.”
2:5: Obeying God’s commands means out love is made complete, not that it is made morally perfect or flawless. It is “lived out as it should be” (56).
2:7-8: The old command is new because it has been perfectly acted out in the person of Jesus. He laid down his life for us and created a new community through which we are to serve. Jesus modeled love for us, and we are to live it out in community with one another.
2:18-19: The antichrists teach falsely about Christ and the Christian life and so deceive others.
2:20: The anointing is the Holy Spirit who reveals himself in the lives of believer by the way they live and that they cling to the gospel message that has not changed from the beginning.
5:6: The water and the blood have to do with the reception of the Holy Spirit and the death of Christ. The giving of the Holy Spirit was contingent upon Christ’s death, which did happen. His atoning sacrifice is pivotal for the Christian’s every day living.
5:16-17: To “‘sin unto death’ is already evidence that one lives in the realm of death, in the world, under the control of the evil one, and not in the sphere of life and righteousness granted by God to those who trust in Christ’s work on their behalf” (142). Thompson gives a very good response as to why John says, “There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” But I cannot delve into that here. But it’s the best answer I’ve read so far.
Oh, yes. Pastors, students, Bible study leaders, and laypeople would enjoy this book. It is easy reading, sharp, and incisive. I’ve had a tough time finding good commentaries in 1-3 John. I wish that I would have had Thompson’s volume when I had my Bible study on 1 John. It would have been a much better study. If you wanted to pair Thompson with a larger, exegetical commentary, you could go with Jobes (ZECNT).
- Series: The IVP New Testament Commentary (Book 19)
- Author: Marianne Meye Thompson
- Paperback: 168 pages
- Publisher: IVP Academic (October 5, 2011)
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