The primary theme is the assurance of the indwelling God through the abiding relationship with Him.
(1 John 2:28, 1 John 5:13)
Five purposes for John’s letter:
- To promote fellowship (1 John 1:3)
- To produce joy (1 John 1:4)
- To protect from sin (1 John 2:1)
- To prevent deception (1 John 2:26)
- To provide confidence (1 John 5:13)
There was false, gnostic teaching promoted by “antichrists” that John will give us context for by calling them false teachers.
“First John was also written to refute the destructive teachings of the Gnostics by stressing the reality of the Incarnation and the emptiness of profession without practice. These “antichrists” failed the three tests of righteous living, love for the brethren, and belief that Jesus is the Christ, the incarnate God-man.” (2.)
“John’s pen is a surgeon’s knife, not a philosopher’s quill.” (3.)
“If I were to boil down the message of this epistle into one sentence, it would be this: “Fellowship with God is the essence of eternal life.” Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7-14 that his relationship with God was the most important thing in his life—by far. John wrote this epistle to enable believers to appreciate their “fellowship with God,” and he wrote to deepen that fellowship.” (4.)
(Observe the chiasm) (5.)
A Prologue: Eternal Life (1 John 1:1-4)
B Three Witnesses (1 John 1:5—2:2)
C The love of God and the believer (1 John 2:3-17)
D False christs (1 John 2:18-27)
E Believer’s confidence (1 John 2:28—3:10)
F Love proves abiding (1 John 3:11-18)
E’ Believer’s confidence (1 John 3:19-24)
D’ False prophets (1 John 4:1-6)
C’ The love of God and the believer (1 John 4:7-21)
B’ Three Witnesses (1 John 5:1-12)
A’ Epilogue: Eternal life (1 John 5:13-21)
Remember, as you open any book of the Bible you’re looking for repetition!
- Love 20 x
- Sin 26 x
- Abide 22x
- If 20 x
- Commandment 14 x
- Children 14 x•Written / writing 13 x
- Practice(s) 8 x, a better translation would be “doing”
- Beloved 6 x (the use of the word beloved in this letter would be an excellent devotional)
- Fellowship 4 x
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 1 John 1:1-4
Notice: these verses parallel with John 1 and Genesis 1.
John says the objective is to have fellowship with “us” and then, also, with Christ.
What John is saying is that the Apostles were the chosen men that Jesus Christ manifested Himself to, revealed Himself to, and instructed to write these things as His revelation to us. Why?
If you don’t believe the Apostles were God’s chosen people to give us His Word, we’re off to a bad start. We can’t understand Christ if we won’t understand that He works through His people.
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” 1 John 2:12
Compare with: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25
He forgives your sins for His name’s sake. In the midst of this “woke” culture…are we “woke” about our sins? Do you and I transparently acknowledge our sin? Christians don’t like to talk about that but we have a God who loves us, who died on our behalf instead of us, to take care of those sins.
God welcomes us into what John calls “a fellowship relationship,” and the way He does that is by forgiving our sins completely when we place our trust in Christ and helping us moving forward.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17
In context: there are false teachers, antichrists, denying that Jesus is the Christ. As you and I become affected by messages from the world, we’re frogs in a kettle drinking the world’s philosophy. Sometimes the world’s philosophy isn’t wrong, but if it isn’t in line with the Word, it is wrong.
In trying to be loving and tolerant we can turn our back on the word of God, but these things will not stand. John tells us what stands forever: God’s Word.
“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”
1 John 2:19
There are lots of ways to spot false teaching. One: if they’re not super clear on the person and work of Jesus, take a step back. A teacher should be very clear on the main things.
“This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” 1 John 2:25
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed(write in your margin “given”)on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” 1 John 3:1
God’s given us many promises, but an important one is this: eternal life.
Since God has loved us so lavishly, we are to live accordingly:
(When you read “practice,” think “doing.”)
“Doing” righteousness or sin:
- 1 John 1:6 practice truth
- 1 John 2:29 practices righteousness
- 1 John 3:4 practices sin… lawlessness
- 1 John 3:7 practices righteousness
- 1 John 3:8 practices sin
- 1 John 3:9 practices sin
- 1 John 3:10 practice righteousness
To put it simply: children of God are to do the right thing.
The Love of God
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:8-10
First, We did not love God. We cannot love God apart from Christ’s work. He loved us. He loved us first. He showed us His love in that He sent Christ to die for us, in our place, on our behalf, to be buried to confirm His death, and to be resurrected on the third day.
John continues: if God loved us, we ought to love others. It’s easy to love people that are easy to love.
We are commanded to love even those who are difficult to love.
John’s Purpose Statement
He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:12-13
So that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:13, for some, is the most important verse in the Bible—not unlike John’s clear purpose in his gospel account:
John 20:31 “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Why did John write these words? So that you may know you have eternal life.
What do we do with this knowledge? We live in fellowship with God.
What is fellowship and how do we know if we’re in it?
(6.) Ask yourself:
- Am I confessing my sins? (1 John 1:9). This rounds off the passage that states if we live in sin, we are not in fellowship. If we confess sin, we are in fellowship.
- Am I walking in obedience to God’s Word? (1 John 2:4–5).
- Am I loving my brethren? (1 John 2:9–10).
- Edited from Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 483.
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 485–486.
- J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, 6:324
- Dr. Tom Constable’s Notes on 1 John, 2020 Edition, p.6
- Ron J. Bigalke, “Identity of the First Epistle of John: Context, Style, and Structure,” Journal of Dispensational Theology 17:50 (Spring 2013):43.
- Adapted from Wilkinson and Boa, 483.