The Chinese pastor, author and martyr, Watchman Nee, in his book “What Shall This Man Do ?”, made an interesting observation about the careers of the three apostles, Peter, Paul and John. Nee observed that there is spiritual significance in the occupations that these three were engaged in when they were called by Jesus.
We are told in Scripture that when Peter was called, he was busy as a fisherman, ‘casting his nets into the sea’. Paul happened to be a tentmaker by trade, crafting portable dwelling places. John, the beloved apostle, was also a fisherman, but when Jesus first called him he was on the shore with brother James, and they were mending their nets.
Furthermore, Nee observed that even the chronology of the ministries of these three is of significance. There is an order in which each of these three come into prominent ministry. Peter comes forth first, on the day of Pentecost, throwing out the net, preaching the Gospel boldly. It was also Peter, who was the first of the apostles to go directly to the Gentiles with the Word of the cross. The first half of the book of Acts features Peter prominently.
Paul comes next into prominent ministry. But his calling is different. It is true that Paul was an effective evangelist, but to him also was given revelation from Jesus Christ which became vital to the building of the house of God; the church which is the ‘dwelling place of God in the Spirit’. Paul was given the task of building the house of God, through the revelation given to him as a ‘wise masterbuilder’ and steward of the mysteries of God. He was used to build upon the foundation which had already been laid – none other than Jesus Christ himself.
Finally at the end, John comes forth. He had been there at the beginning with Peter and the others, but not as prominently as Peter or Paul. He comes not to initiate as Peter, nor to build as Paul; his primary thrust is akin to ‘repairing the nets’. John comes at the end of the New Testament, long after Peter has put down his nets and launched out into the Gentile world, and even after Paul has built the house of God through the revelation given to him.
By the time of the last apostles, as Nee says in his book, ‘. . . but at the last, there are setbacks and disappointments. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us why, “All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Philippians 2:21).’
Selfishness wasn’t the only problem. By the end of the first century, false concepts of Jesus, the gospel, and spirituality had threatened to completely redefine Christianity, to the point of obliterating the true gospel. The nets needed to be repaired.
John offers nothing new. His task is to call us back to that which is original, that which was from the beginning . . . (I John 1:1) that, living in this late hour, we might ‘ . . .strengthen the things which remain . . .’ (Revelation 3:2), and that we might remain in “Him that is true . . . even in His Son, Jesus Christ, the true God and eternal Life” (I John 5:20).
John’s task is simple. It is to set straight who it is that really knows God and who doesn’t. It is to know who truly is “anointed” and who isn’t. What does it mean to know God anyway? I John spends a lot of time making these distinctions and telling true “garden variety” Christians what it is that “we know”. His is no new message, but that which we received at the beginning.
. . .Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith I know Him and keepeth not His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him”. (I John 2:3-4)
But you have an unction from the Holy One and know all things, I have not written unto you because you know not the Truth but because you do know it, and that no lie is of the Truth. (I John 2:20-21.)
Little children, let no man deceive you, he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous . . . He that commiteth sin is of the Devil. (I John 3:7-8.)
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. ( I John 5:19-20.)
What John says to the fathers, young men and dear children of the Faith, in assuring them that it is they and not the Gnostics, who are the real “knowing ones”, can be distilled down to three simple theological statements, which are helpful tests. These make up the essence of the genuine faith that truly “overcomes the world” and gives eternal life.
They are as follows:
. . .God is Light . . . (I John 1:5.)
. . .God is love . . . (I John 4:8.)
. . .Jesus Christ has come [and remains: Greek] in the flesh . . . (I John 4:2.)
In these three statements John offers to all of us a badly needed repair of the nets, a salve for the torn and confused faith of those ravaged and disillusioned by the new ‘super-spirituality’, and its total reassignment of the definitions and applications of every basic tenet of Christianity.
Let us examine them individually.
(This is an excerpt from a Book I wrote which is a commentary on First John, called Mending the Nets, if anyone is interested I would gladly send you one-Pas Bill)