Author: John, the “beloved disciple” of Jesus. It is likely he was the youngest of disciples. At the time of this writing, it appears he is old.
Date: Scholars agree that these are among the last writings in the New Testament. John makes reference to the emerging Gnostics sect with their denial of Jesus coming in the flesh (4:2-3).
Nature of the epistles: 1st, 2nd and 3rd John are unlike anything else written in the New Testament. They ooze love. John’s emphasis on love is unique. It is John who declares, “God is love” (4:8). As important as this phrase is for Christian theology and evangelism, it is only mentioned here. John’s emphasis on following the commandments direct followers to specifically Jesus’ commandments: to love God and your neighbor (3:23-24). The measure of Christianity, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 13, is not miracles or self-denial but love.
We must love one another in the church, as difficult as that can be sometimes (2:9-11). We must love sinners enough to go out and evangelize, to pray. We must love God enough to leave behind the entanglements of sin and self-centeredness.
John deals with the contradiction of the Christian aim and the Christian reality: sinlessness vs. sinfulness. John says in 1:6, “If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live in the truth.” Then in v. 8-9, he says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This tension between ideal and struggling reality will remain with us as long as we are mortal.