A Comparison of John and Paul (3)

The Teaching of Both Apostles

In a work like this we could not deal with all the doctrines taught by John which agree with the teachings of Paul, for that would be too extensive, but we will look at some of the most obvious.

Already we have pointed out the thoughts of both regarding the Trinity, but now we shall look more at the practical behaviour each would expect to find in the believers. The highest standard attainable by man is his conformity to the ways of God. Reproducing the features of His character is the supreme object of all teaching. Throughout John’s writings, especially in his epistles, he keeps stressing the idea that the children of God should be like their Father. He is righteous, so those born of Him are righteous (1 John 2:29), He is light, so those who are His walk in the light (1 John 1:7), He is love, so we ought to love one another (1 John 4:11), and God is spirit, so we ought to worship Him in Spirit (John 4:24).

Paul in like manner frequently stresses the point that God’s children should reflect His character. In the words, “Be ye followers (imitators) of God, as dear children; walk in love” (Eph 5:1-2), he enjoins us to love as God loves; God is light, so he speaks of us as “children of light” (1 Thess 5:5); God is Spirit, so he teaches that we “worship God in the Spirit” (Phil 3:3): and God is righteous, so he claims that “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us” (Rom 8:4).

Assembly Letters They Wrote

It is interesting to compare the seven letters John wrote to the seven churches of Asia, and the seven letters Paul wrote to seven churches. It might be impossible to link these together by saying which one in John’s list compares specially with a particular one written by Paul. Both men wrote to Ephesus, so we have no problem linking the two letters together. It is interesting to note the references to love in Ephesians, especially the closing words, “Grace be with all those that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity (incorruption)” and the charge made in the letter of Revelation 2, “Thou hast left thy first love” (v 4). The assembly at Laodicea likewise received communication from both, for the letter to the Colossians was also to be read by the saints at Laodicea. We might compare the letter to Smyrna and the two letters to the Thessalonians, for in both cases the saints were suffering persecution and were in need of comfort. As for the remaining four, we may not be very clear, but there are some links between the letter to Thyatira and the letters to Corinth, for both deal with eating things sacrificed to idols, and with the sin of fornication. The letter to Philadelphia might be put against the epistle to Philippi, for there is no sharp rebuke in either, and in both we have a reference to the “crown”.

The Prophetic Outlook of Both Apostles

Those seeking light on future events, immediately turn their attention to the writings of John, especially to the Book of Revelation, but it is surprising how closely Paul writes and predicts many things which are more extensively developed by John. All are agreed that in the synoptic Gospels, the future events are connected with the sermon of Mount Olivet, and that the stress in that sermon is on the earthly side of things, How different with John, for he records the Lord’s wonderful promise to His own, “I will come again and receive you unto myself’ (John 14:3). In this promise we have the “rapture” referred to, for it is not Christ coming down to earth to set up His kingdom, but rather His coming to take His own to the many mansions. This promise is likewise in view when we read, “Behold I come quickly”; “Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me”; “The Spirit and the bride say, Come”, and when John himself says, “Even so come Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:7-20). The favorite word used by Paul for the coming is “parousia”, but it is only once used by John in his writings (1 John 2:28). Paul sheds more light on this wonderful moment, for in 1 Thessalonians 4, he shows that the Lord will descend, and that the dead will be raised and the living saints will be changed and will rise with them to meet the Lord in the air, so together they will enter the Father’s house. This same promise is found in John’s writings, when he says “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Surely both men have words of comfort for those who are bereaved. Closely linked with this appearing is the day of rewards. As we have seen, the Lord brings His reward with Him, in 1 John we are exhorted to live so as “not to be ashamed at his coming” (1 John 2:28), and a further warning is given to the church of Philadelphia, “Hold that fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev 3:11). It is all but needless to mention the many occasions in Paul’s writings where he draws attention to this day of review. He, himself, lived in light of it and when his end is reached he is confident that he will receive the expected crown. Thoughts of this future prospect are expected to produce service and holy living in the lives of the saints (1 John 3:3 and 2 Tim 4:1).

Not only in the future for the saints do these two writers closely compare, but what is more surprising is the agreement that appears between them as to the future events on earth. Both writers warn us of the apostasy which will follow the rapture of the saints, which will precede the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. John makes clear that even in this age there are antichrists who bear some resemblance to the coming Antichrist. And Paul likewise makes clear that in these last days there are those who will “have a form of godliness, yet deny the power thereof” (2 Tim 3:5). Some have looked at 2 Thessalonians 2 as a miniature of Revelation, but it cannot be doubted that the “man of sin,” the “Antichrist” and the beast from the land Revelation 13 are one and the same person. He is also called by John “the false prophet”. He will not only be an opposer of Christ, but an imitator of Him. John records Christ’s words concerning this man, “another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). Like the Lord, he will claim to be God, and at the same time direct worship to the first beast. However he will enter the rebuilt Temple and direct the religion of the apostate Jewish people in the land. Just as the Lord performed miracles, so he too, will do wonders, and these will likely help to blind the minds of his followers.

The Lord’s coming to reign on the earth is wonderfully described by John as One riding upon a white horse, with a sword in His mouth with which He will smite His enemies, and remove from the kingdom all that is contrary to His righteous character. Then He will rule as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:11-16). This same scene is described by Paul when he writes, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven…taking vengeance on them that know not God” (1 Thess 1:7-8). While the risen and changed saints will not come down to dwell on earth in their celestial bodies, yet they will “live and reign with Christ a thousand years” (Rev 20:4). Paul also reminds us “if we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim 2:12).

At the end of the thousand years, John shows us the earth and heaven fleeing away and the eternal state with the new heavens and the new earth commencing, and it is interesting to note that Paul also takes us into the same eternal state. He shows the Lord reigning until He has subdued every foe, then handing back to the Father the purged dominion, so that the triune God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:24-28.) Though Paul was not with Christ to hear the Olivet address, nor had he the wondrous revelation granted to John, yet it is interesting to see that in his knowledge of the main events of the future he was not behind his fellow apostle.

The Apostates

There is another solemn matter that appears in the writings of these two apostles which also shows the closeness of the relationship between them. It is the fact that there are those who profess to be saved, and continue for a time, but later proved to be deceivers. The persons referred to are not simply those sinners who thought they had received salvation, and later found out they had made a mistake, for such have often been really saved at a later time. The persons mentioned in 1 John 2 and in Hebrews 6 are such that ail hope of their repentance is entirely absent. John views them as antichrists, and as those for whom prayer can not be made (1 John 2:18-19); and Paul sees them as those who have crucified Christ afresh, and as those who have forsaken the company of the saints, and trodden underfoot the Son of God (Heb 6:6; 10:25-26). John had vivid memories of Judas, who was an example of these, and Paul also had deep sorrow as he thought of those who once walked with him, and had turned out to be enemies of the cross of Christ.