Dr. Gary Derickson is Professor of Biblical Studies at Corban University (http://www.corban.edu) in Salem, Oregon, where he has taught for over twenty years. He has published articles in Bibliotheca Sacra, ETS Studies Series, The Master’s Seminary Journal, and The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. He contributed to The Nelson’s Complete Study Bible, is co-author of The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus (2001) with Dr. Earl Radmacher, and is author of the 1, 2 & 3 John: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary.Dr. Derickson studied Biblical exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, and earned his Masters of Theology in 1986. He continued his doctoral studies under four godly men at Dallas Theological Seminary: Drs. Elliot E. Johnson, Stanley D. Toussaint, J. Dwight Pentecost, and Homer Heater, completing his Ph.D. He left Dallas to teach at Western Baptist College, which later became Corban University.
I know that in your study you came to a perspective on what many people have called a “purpose statement” for the book of 1st John, and it is with Chapter 5 verses 11-13. Can you share some of your perspective and your study in that in terms of what your learned from 1 John 5:11-13?
As I studied the book of 1 John, both in the commentary and even continuing to study it, I see its role more as providing Christians assurance that will enable them to really enjoy their life with God more. It has more to do with sanctification than it does with justification. It does apply tojustification, that we have this assurance from God that life is in His Son, but is written to believers so that they will continue to put their faith in Christ and enjoy the eternal life that God has given them. I guess one of the big things that I learned in my study of 1 John is that eternal life is both the person, Jesus Christ, and then the outgrowth of that relationship with Him. It’s not just a future destiny, but it’s a present experience.
You’ve put a lot of time in on the book, both in your dissertation and additionally with this commentary. Are there, for example, three truths that you really take from this epistle that you would want Christians to know, understand and apply? What are important truths from 1 John that Christians need to understand and apply?
I think one of the main truths really comes out of the first chapter. It’s foundational to our relationship with God, and it is our honesty with Him about our sin. Throughout 1 John, we do struggle with sin and it’s a reality in our lives that God has provided for. If we really want to experience and express the eternal life of God in and through our lives, we have to be honest with Him about our sin.
The second thing would be that we experience eternal life directly in proportion to our relationship with Christ. We can’t have a healthy relationship if we don’t have assurance of salvation, as described in 1 John Chapter 5, and, also if we don’t consciously, willingly, actively, obey his command to love one another.
A third lesson that I learned from 1 John is how central it is to God’s heart how we treat each other. It matters to Him how we as His children treat His other children. In fact, what I see in Chapter 4, which is what I’m going to talk about tomorrow [at the Free Grace Alliance meeting], is that the way God loves you and me is through you and me. We are His agents through whom He expresses His love to other Christians. If we don’t actively love one another, God can’t love us actively. He’s chosen not to use angels, but He’s chosen to use us and so we’re those agents through whom He manifests Himself to the world. He manifested Himself and made Himself visible through Jesus Christ, and now He makes Himself visible through you and me. He does it by our actively loving each other because that was what really moves His heart. That’s His passion and that’s what John brings out in the epistle.
Dr. Derickson’s books, The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus (2001) with Dr. Earl Radmacher and 1, 2 & 3 John: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, should be in everyone’s libraries. Be sure to pick them up through your printed book or computer library sources. Be on the lookout for Parts 2 and 3 of this interview with Dr. Derickson.
Serving Him with you until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor, Grace Theology Press