If Paul emphasises the unity of the saints in one body, the writings of John are predominantly individual. From the opening lines of his Gospel to the closing sentences of the Revelation, this feature can be traced. He shows us the Philips, the Simons, the Andrews, and the Nathanaels coming, in their individuality, to the Lord (John 1: 40–45). He tells us of a Jewish ruler here (John 3), and a Samaritan sinner there (John 4), who were drawn by the Father to Christ. He tells us of the Good Shepherd who calls His sheep by name (John 10). He tells us of the branches clinging to the living Vine (John 15). When we turn to his epistles, we find the same principle running through them. He writes a personal note to his “beloved Gaius” (3 John 1), while to the elect lady and her children, the word is “See to yourselves” (2 John 8). Certainly, he speaks of “the friends”(3 John 14) and “the brethren” (1 John 3: 16) and “the assembly” (3 John 10), but the stress on the individual is unmistakable. If in Revelation, the addresses are “to the seven assemblies”, we cannot overlook the pointed words “He that has an ear, let him hear” and “To him that overcomes”. Furthermore, the book ends as it begins, with a solemn appeal to “every one who hears” (Rev. 1: 4; 2: 7; 22: 18).
When John was led to put pen to paper, the halcyon days of the Assembly were long gone, and the clouds that were gathering on the horizon in Paul’s day were overhead and all around. “Little children” John warns, “it is [the] last hour” (1 John 2: 18). In the raging storm it becomes more imperative than ever to cling to the Lord and to cultivate our personal links with Him. In balmy days it is easy to be carried along by others, but in a day of declension a deep individual committal becomes a pressing urgency. If you are not prepared to stand alone, then you are not prepared to stand. Thank God for fellowship (John speaks much of it), but don’t depend on it. Your dependency must be on Christ. If thus faithful, you will not be forgotten: all deserted Paul before Caesar, but he had the distinctive comfort of his Master’s presence with him (2 Tim. 4: 17). May each of us, as individual Christians, be found in living, daily communion with our Lord.