1 John

Reading 0,16 - 5 Chapters - 105 verses - 2,523 words


  


Vital Statistics


 Purpose:  To reassure Christians in their faith and to counter false teachings 
 Author:  The apostle John 
 Original audience:  The letter is untitled and was written to no particular church. It was sent as a pastoral letter to several Gentile congregations  
 Date written:  Probably between A.D. 85 and 90 from Ephesus 
 Setting:  John was an older man and perhaps the only surviving apostle at this time. He had not yet been banished to the island of Patmos, where he would live in exile. As an eyewitness of Christ, he wrote authoritatively to give this new generation of believers assurance and confidence in God and in their faith 
 Key verse:  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (5:13)
 Key people:  John, Jesus 
 Special features:  John is the apostle of love, and love is mentioned throughout this letter. There are a number of similarities between this letter and John's Gospel - in vocabulary, style, and main ideas. John uses brief statements and simple words, and he features sharp contrasts - light and darkness, truth and error, God and Satan, life and death, and love and hate 


Author

    The author is John son of Zebedee (Mk 1:19-20) - the apostle and the author of the Gospel  and Revelation. He was a fisherman, one of Jesus' inner circle (together with James and Peter), and "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (Jn 13:23). He may have been a first cousin of Jesus (his mother may have been Salome, possibly a sister of Mary; cf. Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; 16:1; Jn 19:25 - this view assumes that "his mother's sister" in Jn 19:25 refers to Salome; some further  assume that "Mary the wife of Clopas" there stands in opposition to "his mother's sister," which would mean that this Mary and Salome were one and the same person).

    Unlike most NT letters, 1 John does not tell us who its author is. The earliest identification of him come from the church fathers: Irenaeus (c. A.D. 140-203), Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), Tertullian (c. 155-222) and Origen (c. 185-253) all designated the writer as the apostle John. As far as we know, no one else was suggested by the early church.
    This traditional identification is confirmed by evidence in the letter itself:

    1. The style of the Gospel of John is markedly similar to that of this letter. Both are written in simple Greek and use contrasting figures, such as light and darkness, life and death, truth and lies, love and hate.
    2. Similar phrases and expressions, such as those found in the following passages, are striking: 

 1 John Gospel of John
 1:1
1:4
1:6-7
2:7
3:8
3:14
4:6
4:9
5:9
5:12
1:1,14
16:24
3:19-21
13:34-35
8:44
5:24
8:47
1:14,18; 3:16
5:32,37
3:36 
   

    3. The mention of eyewitness testimony (1:1-4) harmonizes with the fact that John was a follower of Christ from the earliest days of his ministry.
    4. The authoritative manner that pervades the letter (seen in its commands, 2:15,24,28; 4:1; 5:21; its firm assertions, 2:6; 3:14; 4:12; and its pointed identification of error, 1:6,8; 2:4,22) is what would be expected from an apostle. 
    5. The suggestions of advanced age (addressing his readers as "children," 2:1,28; 3:7) agree with early church tradition concerning John's age when he wrote the books known to be his. 
    6. The description of the heretics as Antichrists (2:22) and children of the devil (3:10) is consistent with Jesus' characterization of John as a son of thunder (Mk 3:17).
    7. The indications of a close relationship with the Lord (1:1; 2:5-6:24,27-28) fit the descriptions of "the disciple whom Jesus loved" and the one who reclined "next to him" (Jn 13:23).


Date

    The letter is difficult to date with precision, but factors such as (1) evidence from early Christian writers (Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria), (2) the early from of Gnosticism reflected in the denunciations of the letter and (3) indication of the advanced age of John suggest the end of the first century. Since the author of 1 John seems to build on concepts and themes found in the fourth Gospel (see Jn 2:7-11), it is reasonable to date the letter somewhere between A.D. 85 and 95, after the writing of the Gospel, which may have been written c. 85.


Recipients

    1Jn 2:12-14,19; 3:1; 5:13 make it clear that this letter was addressed to believers. But the letter itself does not indicate who they were or where they lived. The fact that it mentions no one by name suggests it was a circular letter sent to Christians in a number of places. Evidence from early Christian writers places the apostle John in Ephesus during most of his later years (c. A.D 70-100). The earliest confirmed use of 1 John was in the Roman province of Asia (in modern Turkey), where Ephesus was located. Clement of Alexandria indicates that John ministered in the various churches scattered throughout that province. It may be assumed, therefore, that 1 John was sent to the churches of the province of Asia.


Gnosticism

    One of the most dangerous heresies of the first two centuries of the church was Gnosticism. Its central teaching was that spirit is entirely good and matter is entirely evil. From this unbiblical dualism flowed five important errors:

    1. The human body. which is matter, is therefore evil. It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.  
    2. Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge (the Greek word for "knowledge" is gnosis, hence Gnosticism).
    3. Christ's true humanity was denied in two ways: (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo ("to seem"), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman, Cerinthus. This views is the background of much of 1 John (1:1; 2:22; 4:2-3).
    4. Since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly. This ascetic form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (Col 2:21,23).
    5. Paradoxically, this dualism also led to licentiousness. The reasoning was that, since matter - and not the breaking of God's law (1Jn 3:4) - was considered evil, breaking his law was of no moral consequence. 

    The Gnosticism addressed the NT was an early form of the heresy, not the intricately developed system of the second and third centuries. In addition to that seen in Colossians and in John's letters, acquaintance with early Gnosticism is reflected in 1,2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Peter and perhaps 1 Corinthians.


Occasion and Purpose

    John's readers were confronted with an early form of Gnostic teaching of the Cerinthian variety. This heresy was also libertine, throwing off all moral restraints. 
    Consequently, John wrote this letter with two basic purpose in mind: (1) to expose false teachers (2:26) and (2) to give believers assurance of salvation (5:13). In keeping with his intention to combat Gnostic teachers, John specifically struck at their total lack of morality (3:8-10); and by giving eyewitness testimony to the incarnation, he sought to confirms his readers' belief in the incarnate Christ (1:3). Success in this would give the writer joy (1:4).   
    


How to read 1 John

    The “beloved disciple” who enjoyed intimate friendship with Jesus on the earth, has authority like none other to assure us of God’s love. His short letter is packed with powerful insights about the love of God. He calls us to live like we’re loved in our relationships with God and man. The key? Getting to know God more and more. Intimate revelation of his loving character is the foundation for transformation. John tells us “how great a love the Father has given to us” and then affirms that “we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” (1Jo 3:1-3).


    What does it look like to live life as God’s beloved? John describes the security, purity, humility, and sacrificial service to others that flows from a genuine, personal experience of God’s affection and commitment for you! John presents you with the wonderful fellowship you can have with God, confident that his “but perfect love casts out fear” (1Jo 4:18). This will equip you to live right by maintaining fellowship with the Lord.


    John weaves together several core elements (such as light, love, life, truth, and sin) in a beautiful, multi-faceted work of art. You can inspect it up close, or stand back to take in the whole thing at once, and you always see some new combination of the colors and themes. So take in the big picture as you read it through all at once. Pick up one section at a time to study it intently. You can come back again and again, always catching new glimpses of God’s mind and heart that will flood you with courage, faith, and deep affection!




1 John Interpretive Challenges


Theologians debate the precise nature of the false teachers’ beliefs in 1 John, because John does not directly specify their beliefs, but rather combats the heretic mainly through a positive restatement of the fundamentals of faith. The main feature of the heresy, as noted above, seems to be a denial of the incarnation, i.e., Christ had not come in the flesh. This was most likely an incipient or begining from of Gnosticism, as was pointed out.

The interpreter is also challenged by the rigidity of John’s theology. John presents the basics or fundamentals of the Christian life in absolute, not relative, terms. Unlike Paul, who presented exceptions, and dealt so often with believers’ failures to meet the divine standard, John does not deal with the “what if I fail” issues. Only in 2:1, 2 does he give some relief from the absolutes. The rest of the book presents truths in black and white rather than shades of gray, often through a stark contrast, e.g., “light” vs. “darkness” (1:5, 7; 2:8-11); truth vs. lies (2:21, 22; 4:1); children of God vs. children of the devil (3:10).

Those who claim to be Christians must absolutely display the characteristics of genuine Christians: sound doctrine, obedience, and love. Those who are truly born again have been given a new nature, which gives evidence of itself. Those who do not display characteristics of the new nature don’t have it, so were never truly born again. The issues do not center (as much of Paul’s writing does) in maintaining temporal or daily fellowship with God but the application of basic tests in one’s life to confirm that salvation has truly occurred. Such absolute distinctions were also characteristic of John’s gospel.

In a unique fashion, john challenges the interpreter by his repetition of similar themes over and over to emphasize the basic truths about genuine Christianity. Some have likened John’s repetition to a spiral that moves outward, becoming larger and larger, each time spreading the same truth over a wider area and encompassing more territory.

Other have seen the spiral as moving inward, penetrating deeper and deeper into the same themes while expanding on his thoughts. However one views the spiraling pattern, John uses repetition of basis truths as a means to accentuate their importance and to help his readers understand and remember them.        




Outline



I. Introduction: The Reality of the Incarnation (1:1-4)


II. The Christian Life as Fellowship with the Father and the Son (1:5-2:28)

A. Ethical Tests of Fellowship (1:5-2:11)

  1. Moral likeness (1:5-7)

  2. Confession of sin (1:8-2:2)

  3. Obedience (2:3-6)

  4. Love for fellow believers (2:7-11)

B. Two Digressions (2:12-17)

C. Christological Test of Fellowship (2:18-28)

  1. Contrast: spostates versus believers (2:18-21)

  2. Person of Christ: the crux of the test (2:22-23)

  3. Persistent belief: key to continuing fellowship (2:24-28)

II. The Christian Life as Divine Sonship (2:29-4:6)

A. Ethical Tests of Sonship (2:29-3:24)

  1. Righteousness (2:29-3:10a)

  2. Love (3:10b-24)

B. Christological Tests of Sonship (4:1-6)

IV. The Christian Life as an Integration of the Ethical and the Christological (4:7-5:12)

A. The Ethical Test: Love (4:7-5:5)

  1. The source of love (4:7-16)

  2. The fruit of love (4:17-19)

  3. The relationship of love for God and love for one’s fellow Christian (4:20-5:1)

  4. Obedience: the evidence of love for God’s children (5:2-5)

B. The Christological Test (5:6-12)

V. Conclusion: Great Christian Certainties (5:13-21)





1 John Horizontal



1:1 - We proclaim eternal life


1:5 - Message: God is light


2:1 - Jesús: expiation for sins

Walk in

2:7 - True light / darkness

The Light

2:12 - Writing to you...


2:15 - Do not love world


2:18 - He who denies son


2:26 - Anointing you received

Abide  in Christ

2:28 - Abide in Him


3:1 - We are God’s children


3:4 - Sin is lawlessness

Live as a

3:11 - Love one another

Child of

3:19 - Commandment: believe, love

God

4:1 - Test the spirits


4:7 - The love of God


4:13 - Who abides in God

Love one another

5:1 - Keep commandments


5:6 - Testimony to son


5:13 - You have eternal life

Assurance of

5:18 - One born of God

Eternal Life

5:19 - We are of God


5:20 - Him who is true




God's character in 1 John


  1. God is faithful - 1:9
  2. God is just - 1:9
  3. God is light - 1:5
  4. God is loving - 2:15; 3:1; 4:8-10, 12, 16, 19
  5. God is promise keeper - 2:25
  6. God is true - 1:10; 5:10
  7. God is unified - 5:7

Christ in 1 John

    In this epistle, John combats Gnostic doctrine that denied the humanity of Jesus Christ. John proclaims the identity of Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God the Son into human flesh: "This is He who come by water and blood" (5:6). This verse describes the genuine life and death of Christ as the Son of Man. 



Notes