The Book Of 1 John
The Book of 1 John is a letter though it contains no opening address or greeting typically found in a letter, which identifies the writer and the recipients to whom it was written. The Book of 1 John is not an essay or dissertation, but a teaching of God's Word in letter form. This is evident from the statement I write to you, which addresses the writer's recipients and readers (cf. 1 John 1:4; 2:1; 2:7,8; 2:12,13,14; 2:21; 2:26; 5:13).
Writer Of The First Letter Of John
The author did not identify himself in the letter by name. It has been stated that copies of the First Letter of John were in many churches by the end of the first century. Already then John's authorship and the letter's authority were beyond question. Quotations of the First Letter of John, as well as allusions to passages within it, date back to the earliest times. The letter was at once included in the New Testament canon by the early church.
The internal evidence within the First Letter of John supports John's authorship. The letter possesses the same upward spiraling structure found within the Gospel of John, as well as similarities in vocabulary and writing style. The letter states that its author was an eyewitness to Jesus' person and ministry (cf. 1 John 1:1-3).
For more information about the apostle John see the Overview Of The Gospel Of John.
Recipients Of The First Letter Of John
The recipients of John's first letter were most likely the Christians in Ephesus and its surrounding area. They were the same Christians to whom Paul wrote his Letter to the Ephesians. It also appears they were the same Christians to whom Peter wrote his first and second letters, namely those Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Some of the Christians would have been those of the churches John mentioned in Revelation 1:11: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The church of Colosse was within the vicinity of Asia Minor as well, which was the same Roman province in which the city of Ephesus was located. Colosse was not too distant from Laodicea, which city Paul mentioned in his Letter to the Colossians (cf. Colossians 2:1). The church of Colosse was started by Epaphras, who apparently learned the gospel from Paul in Ephesus. It seems probable, therefore, that John's first letter was also intended for the Christians in Colosse.
It appears relatively certain that John's first letter was a circular letter. John wrote it to strengthen and encourage the same Christians among whom Paul had labored on his first and third missionary journeys, and to whom Peter wrote from Rome. John was well known to those Christians, having ministered among them for many years. Thus John wrote to them with a bond of affection, addressing them as little children, children, and his beloved.
Place Where The First Letter Of John Was Written
Since John served the church during the later part of his life in Ephesus, that is the likely city in which John wrote his first letter.
Occasion And Purpose Of The First Letter Of John
John's first letter is highly polemical, that is, it speaks out vigorously against the false teachers whose heresies were attacking and undermining the true gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 2:18,19, 26; 4:1). The false teaching John attacked was gnosticism in its early form. Its proponent was Cerinthus, who was actively teaching in Ephesus.
It has been stated that Cerinthus was a former Jew from Egypt. He combined Jewish ideas, such as the retention of circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath Day, with his own ideas that brought forth the religion of gnosticism (knowledge). He rejected the gospels and the letters of Paul. He denied that Jesus was Christ, the Son of God, who had become man. He believed that Jesus was only an ordinary man born of Mary and Joseph. He asserted that Christ the Son of God entered the man Jesus at his baptism, occupied the man Jesus for the three years of his public ministry to impart his divine teachings and knowledge, but then departed from the man Jesus prior to his being crucified. In this manner Cerinthus denied that in the person of Jesus the Son of God died for mankind's sins to redeem and to reconcile everyone to God. He believed that the essential thing was, not the redeeming sacrifice of Christ for sins, but the teachings of Christ which imparted knowledge for a fulfilling life.
John wrote his first letter to uphold the true gospel that Christ, the Son of God, became true man in the person of Jesus. In refutation of Cerinthus, who held Christ entered Jesus at his baptism in water but departed from Jesus prior to his shedding his blood on the cross, John asserted in 1 John 5:6, This is the one who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. Since Cerinthus did not take sin seriously, John also wrote his first letter to declare the seriousness of sin as an offense against God and the need to live a holy life if one is to be in fellowship with God. Throughout his first letter John upheld the true faith that is to be believed, a true righteousness that is to be lived, and the true love that is to be shown to one another.
Date Of The First Letter Of John
John served in Ephesus from about A.D. 70 to A.D. 100. Cerinthus, the founder of gnosticism, was active in Ephesus and was a contemporary of Polycarp, a pupil of John's, who lived until about A.D. 150. This would place Cerinthus' activities in Ephesus late in John's life. It seems most appropriate to date the First Letter of John around A.D. 90 to A.D. 100.
Structure Of The First Letter Of John
John wrote his first letter with the same upward spiraling thought progression that characterizes his gospel. See the Overview Of The Gospel Of John for an explanation of John's spiraling thought progression. The spiraling nature of John's first letter is not conducive to outlining. The content of the letter is best grasped, not by concentrating on its structure, but by simply letting its contents lift one's spirit to meditate on its message.
Robert Law and Theodore v. Haering did develop a useful outline that aids one's understanding of the letter. Martin H. Franzmann included this outline in his book The Word Of The Lord Grows. Law and Haering saw the letter as a series of three tests that examine the genuine Christian life in view of the revelation God has given in his Son Jesus Christ. Their outline served as a basis for the outline that was developed for this Overview Of The Book Of 1 John to explain the theme of how we know we are Christians in fellowship with God.
Theme Of The First Letter Of John
By This Message We Know We Are Christians Who Have Fellowship With God.
This theme was developed on the basis of the following verses: 1 John 1:3; 1:5; 2:3; 2:12-14; 2:21; 2:24; 2:27; 2:29; 3:9-11; 3:14; 3:18,19; 3:24; 4:2,3; 4:6; 4:7,8; 4:12,13; 4:15,16; 5:1,2; 5:13; 5:18-20.
Outline Of The First Letter Of John
By This Message We Know We Are Christians Who Have Fellowship With God, 1 John 1:1-5:21
Part 1: The Message You Have Heard From Us Apostles Regarding The Incarnate Word Of Life, 1 John 1:1-4
A. We apostles are ear and eye witnesses! By first hand, personal experience we know what we proclaim about the Word of Life, 1 John 1:1
1. Who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, 1 John 1:3
2. Who is eternal, having been from the beginning, 1 John 1:1
3. Who, being the Word of Life, was God's personal, revelatory Word to us humans about life, 1 John 1:1
B. As actual eyewitnesses we testify that God's Word of Life, who is the divine essence of life itself and the source of life, appeared on earth among us in the person of Jesus Christ, 1 John 1:2
C. We apostles now proclaim to you, who have not heard and seen what we have heard and seen, this Word of Life who is eternal life itself, 1 John 1:2
D. We apostles proclaim to you what we have heard and seen of and about God's Word of Life who came to us, so by faith you may have fellowship with us apostles, and with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, the Word of Life, 1 John 1:3
E. We apostles write this message about Jesus Christ, God's Word of eternal life, so that through sharing this good news with you our joy may be complete, 1 John 1:4
Part 2: The Message You Have Heard From Us Apostles So You May Have Fellowship With God Is That God Is Light, 1 John 1:5-2:27
A. God is light. He is righteous and holy. No darkness of sin and evil of any kind is in him, 1 John 1:5
B. We know we are Christians who have fellowship with God when we walk in the light of God's righteousness, 1 John 1:6-2:6
1. We do not live in the darkness of sin but in the light of righteousness, and the blood of Jesus, God's Son, purifies us from our sinful slip ups, 1 John 1:6,7
2. We face up to our sinfulness, confessing our sins, so God forgives them. If we do not, we deceive ourselves, turn God into a liar who says we are sinners, and reject his Word of sin and grace, 1 John 1:8-10
3. We receive God the Father's forgiveness through Jesus Christ our high priest, who intercedes for us and who made the atoning sacrifice for the sins of us all, 1 John 2:1,2
4. Being forgiven sinners, we walk in the light of righteousness by obeying his commandments, by keeping his Word, and by walking in life as Jesus himself did, 1 John 2:3-6
C. We know we are Christians who have fellowship with God when we walk in the light of God's love, 1 John 2:7-17
1. The message you have heard from us apostles is the old, yet new, commandment given by Christ (cf. John 13:34) to love one another, 1 John 2:7
a. The truth of this command to love one another as seen in Christ himself, shines as the true light through us Christians who are passing out of the darkness of sin, 1 John 2:8
b. We live in God's light when we love our brother. Whoever hates his brother is walking in the darkness of sin, 1 John 2:9-11
2. This message that I, John, write to you who are in fellowship with God through your knowledge of him whose Word lives in you is this: We Christians do not love the world with its evil desires and its boasting of what it has, for it and its desires are passing away. Rather, we love our heavenly Father and do his will, which he rewards by grace with eternal life, 1 John 2:12-17
D. We know we are Christians who have fellowship with God when we walk in the light of the truth regarding Jesus Christ, God's Son, 1 John 2:18-27
1. We know we are in the last hour before the end, 1 John 2:18
a. You have heard from us apostles previously that before the end the one great Antichrist would come, 1 John 2:18
b. Well, now many antichrists have come. They have severed their fellowship with us apostles and the true Christian faith, 1 John 2:18,19
2. You who are Christians have been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, who enables you to know the truth regarding Jesus Christ, 1 John 2:20,21
a. Unlike you Christians, the antichrists are liars who deny that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, who became man, 1 John 2:22
b. Through their denying that Jesus is the Christ, they deny both the Father and the Son, and thus have no fellowship with either of them, 1 John 2:22,23
c. But we who confess Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, have fellowship with both Christ the Son of God and the Father, 1 John 2:23
3. To remain Christians yourselves in the true faith, be sure that the message you have heard from the beginning from us apostles regarding Jesus Christ remains in you. Then you will remain in fellowship with the Son of God and the Father, who has promised us eternal life, 1 John 2:24,25
4. I, John, have written these things about these lying antichrists who are trying to lead you astray from your true faith and fellowship with God. So remain in fellowship with God, who has truly anointed you with the Holy Spirit to teach you all things, 1 John 2:26,27
Part 3: The Message You Have Heard From Us Apostles So You May Have Fellowship With God Is That You Are Now Children Of God, 1 John 2:28-4:6
A. Remain in Christ for the confidence of salvation. For in the greatness of the Father's love we are now children of God, 1 John 2:28; 3:1,2
B. We know we are children of God who have fellowship with him when we practice righteousness, 1 John 2:28; 3:3-10
1. Everyone who practices righteousness is born of God and purifies himself from sin, 1 John 2:228; 3:3
2. Christ, through whom we are the children of God, came to take away sin and to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:5,8
3. We children of God who remain in Christ do not willfully and intentionally sin. We practice righteousness and do not sin, because we are spiritually born of God and the seed of his Word dwells in us, 1 John 3:6,7,9
4. We know how to distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil. The children of God do what is right and do not sin. The children of the devil do what is sinful and do not practice righteousness, 1 John 3:7,9; 3:8a,10
C. We know we are children of God who have fellowship with him when we love one another, 1 John 3:11-24
1. The message you have heard from us apostles from the beginning is that we children of God should love one another, 1 John 3:11,12
2. Though the world may hate us, we know we are children of God, who have passed out of the spiritual death of sinning into the new spiritual life of doing what is right, because we love our brothers and do not hate a brother, 1 John 3:13-15
3. We know that love is sacrificing ourselves for the benefit of our brothers and using the material goods we have to help him who is in need, 1 John 3:16,17
4. We know we are true Christians living in the truth of what we have heard when the love of God fills our hearts to love our brothers through helpful deeds, 1 John 3:17b-19a
5. Loving our brothers in this manner calms our conscience when our heart condemns us for our many sins and makes us wonder if we are children of God, for we know God is greater than our hearts and does hold us as his dear children, whose prayers he answers because we keep his commandments to believe in Jesus and to love one another, 1 John 3:19b-23
6. We know that we who keep God's commandment to believe in Jesus and to love one another are children of God in fellowship with him, 1 John 3:24
D. We know we are children of God who have fellowship with him when we hold to the true faith in Jesus Christ, 1 John 4:1-6
1. Test the spirits of those whom you hear to see whether they are from God or are false prophets, 1 John 4:1
2. This is the test: You know someone has the Spirit of God when he confesses that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God, who became true man in the flesh. You know someone does not have the Spirit of God when he does not confess this about Jesus. This denier has the spirit of the antichrist, 1 John 4:2,3
3. You who have the Spirit of God, who enables you to hold to the true faith in Jesus, are from God. Through your faith God has enabled you to overcome the false spirits and prophets, because he is greater than the devil who is at work in the world, 1 John 4:4
4. We apostles and children of God who hold to the true faith in Jesus are from God. Those who listen to us know God. The false spirits and prophets in the world do not listen to us and are not from God. They are from the world, and therefore speak as ones from the world, to whom the world then listens, 1 John 4:5,6a
5. From what was just explained is how we know the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error and falsehood, 1 John 4:6b
Part 4: The Message You Have Heard From Us Apostles So You May Have Fellowship With God Is That God Is Love, 1 John 4:7-5:12
A. We know we are Christians who have fellowship with the God of love when we love one another, 1 John 4:7-12; 4:16-5:2
1. God is love. God showed his love for us by sending his one and only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, so that we would live through him, 1 John 4:8b-10
2. Since God so loved us, we who are Christians will love one another. All who love one another are Christians who have been born spiritually by God and know God. When we love one another, God himself lives in us and his love attains its goal in us, 1 John 4:7,11,12
3. We who are Christians know and believe God is love. We who live in love live in God, and God lives in us, 1 John 4:16
a. In this manner love attains its goal among us to give us confidence on the day of judgment, because we are like God is, 1 John 4:17
b. This perfect love drives out fear and being afraid of eternal punishment, 1 John 4:18
4. What motivates us Christians to love one another is God's love for us in Christ Jesus. We cannot love God without also loving our brother, 1 John 4:19-21
5. We who believe Jesus is the Christ are spiritually born of God. Being such we love God the Father and our fellow believers who are his children, 1 John 5:1,2
B. We know we are Christians who have fellowship with the God of love when we hold the true faith regarding Jesus, the Son of God, 1 John 4:13-15; 5:5-12
1. We know we live in God and he lives in us, because we have the Holy Spirit, whom God has given us, 1 John 4:13
2. Having the Spirit, we who are Christians have seen and testify that God the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world, 1 John 4:14
3. Every person who confesses the man Jesus is this Son of God is a Christian believer, who has God living in him and who lives in God, 1 John 4:15
4. We who are Christians overcome the world through believing the man Jesus is the true Son of God, 1 John 5:5
a. Jesus is the Christ, the true Son of God, as born out at his baptism with water and at his death with the shedding of his blood on the cross, 1 John 5:6a
b. The Spirit of truth also testifies to Jesus being the true Son of God, 1 John 5:6b
c. Thus all three testify that Jesus is the true Son of God: the Spirit, Jesus' baptism with water, and the shedding of Jesus' blood on the cross, 1 John 5:7,8
5. We who are Christians have God's testimony in our hearts about Jesus, his Son, 1 John 5:9,10
a. God has testified that he has given us eternal life in his Son Jesus, 1 John 5:11
b. We who believe in God's Son Jesus have this eternal life, 1 John 5:12
C. We know we are Christians who have fellowship with the God of love when we love him by obeying his commandments, 1 John 5:2b-5
1. Know that loving God means obeying his commandments, which are not a burden, 1 John 5:3
2. We who are Christians overcome this world of sin and gain the victory through our faith that believes the man Jesus is the Son of God, 1 John 5:4,5
Part 5: The Message You Have Heard From Us Apostles So You May Have Fellowship With God Is Filled With Assurances, 1 John 5:13-20
A. We Christians have the assurance of eternal life through faith in Jesus the Son of God, 1 John 5:13
B. We Christians have the assurance that our prayers are answered, 1 John 5:14-17
C. We Christians have the assurance that we are spiritually born children of God to live free of sin and the devil, 1 John 5:18,19
D. We Christians have the assurance that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding to know and to be in the one genuine God and his Son Jesus Christ for eternal life, 1 John 5:20
Keep yourselves from idols, namely from any Christ other than the Christ who was proclaimed to you as the Son of God who became the man Jesus, and from any God and Father other than the One Christ proclaimed to us, 1 John 5:21