We all like to get letters, preferably letters addressed to us personally, not simply to "Occupant." Anyone who has lived away from home for even a short time knows that there is no substitute for a personal letter from home and loved ones. On the other hand, we have all experienced the annoyance of receiving letters that bear our name, yet come from people or corporations that know nothing about us. In the age of the laser printer, such deceptions are common, and we no longer give them a thought.
John's letter is a form letter of sorts too, but with no such deception. In verses 4-6, John follows the precedent of virtually every one of the letters of Paul (he will end like Paul too; see 22:21). First is the author's self-identification (John); second, an identification of those to whom the letter is written (the seven churches in the province of Asia); third, a formula introduced by the words grace and peace; and finally an expression of praise to God, in Paul's case a thanksgiving or a blessing, in John's a doxology: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood . . . to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen. John differs from Paul only in appending to his doxology two prophetic pronouncements (vv. 7-8) identifying the letter as a work of prophecy and introducing its major themes.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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