THE NEW TESTAMENT
The First Epistle from John
Introduction and Chapter One
This introduction is taken from the NKJV Personal Study Edition,
Thomas Nelson, 1990, 1995.
First John is a favorite among the General Epistles of the New
Testament.... It is called a "general" epistle because those to
whom it was addressed are not named.
AUTHOR AND DATE
Although the writer does not mention his own name, this
epistle, like the Gospel of John, was written by the apostle
John, son of Zebedee. Its readers were familiar with John's
message, testimony, and style.
John lived until about A.D.100. He thus survived the other
apostles and was viewed as the one remaining authentic voice of
our Lord. When doubts had arisen about the facts and
interpretation of Jesus' life and message, John wrote his Gospel
to anchor the faith of the believers. He then wrote this epistle
to establish the certainty of a personal experience of eternal
life in Jesus Christ. Irenaeus, a second-century church father,
quoted John's disciple, Polycarp, to confirm John's authorship of
The content of the epistle and the historical setting seem
to indicate a date between A.D.85 and 95. It had to be late in
John's ministry but most likely before he was exiled to Patmous
where he wrote the Book of the Revelation.
This letter was probably sent to a group of Christians
living in Asia Minor who were troubled by false teachers.
Although these teachers had left the church, they were trying to
persuade Christians to follow their false teaching. These
teachers denied that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God,
because they did not believe that God had really become a human
being. They seem to have claimed a higher revelation through
which they knew God directly. While claiming not to have sin,
they paid no attention to Christ's commandments, particularly His
command to love one another.
John's purpose is clearly stated in 5:13: "That you may
know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to
believe in the name of the Son of God." John writes to show that
no true knowledge of God is possible without commitment to the
divine-human Son of God and without receiving the forgiveness for
sin that His death provides. Fellowship with God will be
evidenced by faith in Christ, obedience to His commands, and love
for the brethren.
This letter emphasizes that God the Son truly became a
man in Jesus Christ. Through this divine-human Christ eternal
life is offered to humanity. His death has provided forgiveness
for our sins. His love expressed in dying for us is both the
pattern of, and power for, our fives. We receive this
forgiveness, love, and eternal life through trusting in Him as
the Son of God who became man. Thus we abide in Him and in the
Father. Our faith in Him rests on the witness of the apostles and
on the witness of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and in our hearts.
The Holy Spirit empowers us for love and holy living.
Because Christ has shown us that God is light or holiness, we
cannot live in Him and practice sin. The marks of the true
Christian are obedience, love, and continued faith in Christ.
Outline of 1 John
(I). God revealed in Christ.(1:1-4)
(II). Walking in the light.(1:5-2:2)
A. God is light.(1:5)
B. Christians walk in light.(1:6-10)
C. Forgiveness is available.(2:1,2)
(Ill). Evidences of salvation.(2:3-29)
A. Obedience to Christ's commands.(2:3-6)
B. Love for one another.(2:7-11)
C. Love for God.(2:12-17)
D. Loyalty to Christ.(2:18-25)
E. Guidance by the Spirit.(2:26,27)
F. Confidence at Christ's appearing.(2:28,29)
(IV). Characteristics of God's children.(3:1-24)
A. Likeness to God.(3:1-3)
B. Freedom from sin.(3:4-9)
C. Love for the brethren.(3:10-17)
D. Assurance of salvation.(3:18-24)
1. Confirmed by obedience.(3:18-22)
2. Witnessed by the Holy spirit.(3:23,24)
(V). Discernment and love.(4:1-21)
A. Tests for false teaching.(4:1-6)
1. Belief in the Son.(4:1-3)
2. Obedience to the gospel.(4:4-6)
B. Love for fellow Christians.(4:7-21)
1. The command to love.(4:7-12)
2. The power to love: abiding in Christ.(4:13-16)
3. The results of love.(4:17-21)
(VI). Faith in the Son of God.(5:1-17)
A. The source of spiritual birth.(5:1-5)
B. The ground of assurance.(5:6-17)
1. Witnessed to by God.(5:6-12)
2. Written by John.(5:13)
3. Tested in prayer.(5:14-17)
(Vll). A summary of Christian certainties.(5:18-21)
John starts by nailing home that Jesus Christ was not a
figment of a religious sect of Judaism. He gives witness that
Jesus was seen and heard and touched by the very apostles of the
first century, and He, Jesus was the very WORD of life, and in
HIM is eternal life, and it is true that Jesus was WITH the
Father and then DID come as a human person, to manifest the very
essence of God.
John says he and others like him, have and are declaring
Jesus as Messiah, and in so doing all may have fellowship
together, and even more important is that we can have fellowship
with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
You will note that there is not one word about another
personal being of the Holy Spirit. Why not if the Holy Spirit is
indeed a personal being separate from the Father and Son. The
simple and easy answer is that John did not mention a third
person to fellowship with, because the Holy Spirit is NOT a third
personal being. The Holy Spirit is the very NATURE and POWER that
emanates from both the Father and the Son. The truth about the
Holy Spirit is in other studies on this Website.
John writes so his readers can have joy that is full and
running over (verses 1-4).
John then quickly goes into the subject of LIGHT and
DARKNESS. He says God is LIGHT, and in Him there is NO darkness
at all. John is getting right at the trunk of the tree. By close
to the end of the first century A.D. there was already a movement
within the Christian Church of God, to DEPART from the true light
that was in Christ Jesus, a departing was under way from the true
teachings and doctrines of God, a departing from the COMMANDMENTS
of God, as John makes very plain in other verses and chapters of
John continues his bulls-eye talk. He shoots right from the
hip, fast and square center. If we try to say we have fellowship
with God and yet walk, live, practice our life living in
darkness, we are simply fooling ourselves and LYING to others as
well as ourselves. We are just NOT in the truth, period!
If on the other hand, we walk, live our lives, in the LIGHT,
just as God is in the light, then we can have fellowship with
each other, and as we are in the right humble and obedient mind-
set, then the mercy of God can be extended towards us, we can be
forgiven our sins through the blood of Christ Jesus (verses 5-7).
And that is indeed the key factor to having our sins
forgiven. It is being in an attitude of repentance - humble - and
having an outlook on Christian living that desires to live by
God's commandments. John throughout this epistle hits this true
godly mind-set time after time. My in-depth studies on being
saved by grace, and repentance, show the key importance of having
this attitude of mind.
Now, as John moves on in regards to the question of sin, it
becomes obvious that when he was writing, there was already a
false teaching being spread by some, that as children of God we
are sinless, or put another way, we DO NOT sin anymore, a kind of
grace in advance, which then leads to, do whatever you want,
because you are already forgiven. A very strange and destructive
teaching because it leads to the complete opposite mind-set you
need to have to be under the grace of God.
John asserts that if we say we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Once you come to see the
holiness of the Lord, and the perfectness and holiness of His
commandments, it is mind-blowing to think that some could
actually believe they do not sin, but it seems that was exactly
what some believed and taught.
The truth is that if we CONFESS our sins, He is faithful and
just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness (verses 8-9).
This reminds me of the parable Jesus gave about the self-
righteous Pharisee and the low-down sinner, as they went to pray
in the Temple. The self-righteous fellow, was thanking God he was
not like this sinful person and that sinful fellow. But the low-
down (in the world's estimation) man, was not filled with pomp
and vanity and self-righteousness. He just kept his head low and
simply said, "Father, forgiver me, I'm a sinner." Jesus said it
was that humble fellow that was justified, made clean, forgiven,
not the vain self-righteous one. Jesus did not give this parable
to teach we should go around always with our head down to the
ground, and feeling like we have just got out of the pig pen we
fell into. Jesus gave that parable to teach us to be humble, to
realize we are human, and although we are God's children, we do
still sin, and we need to ask for the forgiveness of our sins.
The moment we loose that perspective on life as a Christian, we
are in BIG TROUBLE!
Well, from verse 10, it seems that was not the only false
doctrine going around about sin and the Christian, or about sin
period. It would seem some were teaching WE HAVE NOT SINNED! That
idea of course would lead people to believe they needed no
Savior, hence there was no need for Jesus Christ, and a new
gospel, which was not THE gospel, was in the swing. And that kind
of teaching was about as contrary as you could get, away from the
truth of Jesus Christ, and from the truth that all the first
century apostles taught.
John did not WANT the spiritual children he was writing too,
to sin! No Christian in their right mind wants other Christians
to sin (John gives a definition of sin in chapter 3:4)....BUT IF
ANY PERSON DOES SIN .....
To be continued
Written October 2007